Monthly Archives: December 2013

The NSA is Building the Foundation for a Global Police State

NSA spying is just the beginning, a far greater threat lies ahead

nsadatacenter3_f-400x236The US National Security Agency (NSA) is building the foundation for a global police state. This is not an exaggeration.

The lynch pin of the NSA system is the continuous gathering of all types of digital data on political leaders, economic institutions, and hundreds of millions of people around the world. Despite the recent revelations, the political leaders of the US government have never stated that such activities will stop.

However, the current massive cyber surveillance of the worlds’ people and institutions is only the beginning of the threat from the NSA and its allied US government agencies. Unrestricted information technology (IT) power in the hands of the US government is a future threat which dwarfs anything the NSA has done to date.

AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards

AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards

Moore’s law, a prediction originally formulated by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, states that microchips double in power and halve in price per unit power every two years. In the 47 years since this prediction appeared, it has always been validated, and experts expect this trajectory to continue for the foreseeable future.

By simple arithmetic of the 2x2x2x2x2 variety, we can see that ten years from now, chip power will be 32 times greater than today. The capabilities of a wide range of digital devices will also improve exponentially, as processing speed, memory capacity, sensors, and miniaturization are all linked to Moore’s law.

This upward leap will have massive negative consequences if the US government is permitted to retain its current ‘blank check’ on the use – and manipulation – of IT.

To begin with, the power to gather – and to automate – the scanning and manipulation of…the worlds data will grow exponentially. The NSA has already anticipated this development by constructing a gigantic new center in the US state of Utah. Finished at the end of 2013, it will house unimaginable amounts of data – amounts far greater than any it has so far gathered, at an estimated cost for construction plus hardware and software of 3.5 to 4 billion US dollars.

Second, the power of the NSA – and of other US government entities – to instantlycontrol or kill anyone or any institution anywhere in the world will also grow exponentially. IT-controlled pilot-less drone airplanes, currently used by the US government to murder people thousands of miles away in a number of countries, are but a small harbinger of what will be possible.

AFP Photo / Mario Tama AFP Photo / Mario Tama

One important development is what IT people call ‘the internet of things,’ something which is already under construction. The idea is to incorporate into the world network a large proportion of the inanimate objects which surround us. Grocery store products, appliances, vehicles, buildings, highways, factory systems, and machines, and more are all being added – or will be added – in various ways to the network. Many of these things, of course, already contain computer chips, and some are already networked.

Building backdoors and hacking – methods beloved by the NSA – into the chips, software, and network connections of this ‘world of things’ would turn everyday objects into potential drones.

Imagine, for example, a foreign government official is disliked by the US government – or just by the NSA. Or perhaps someone in the US posts something on the internet that the government really dislikes. Suddenly, that person is attacked by their toaster. Or they mysteriously lose control of their car. Or the airplane they’re flying in crashes. Or the friendly house-cleaning robot they recently bought suddenly turns mean.

On a larger scale, the same kinds of methods can be used to disrupt or put out of action a foreign country’s military systems, government systems, or economic enterprises.

What’s more, there is every possibility that the NSA or similar agencies will attempt to infiltrate their spying, and potential for disruption, into the emerging realm of augmented reality technologies. Augmented reality involves looking at a real-world environment through an IT-enhanced pair of glasses – glasses which simultaneously display the real world and some digital content such as images, pictures, text, video, or whatever. Moreover, these glasses are connected wirelessly to the internet, so the augmented realities can be shared.

To cite a very simple example, you might be looking at a real world table, but seeing flowers on the table that aren’t there. And you might be seeing and talking to people at the table who are actually in another place.

This isn’t science fiction; it’s on the way in various forms to widespread commercial availability in the next year or so from multiple IT companies – including Google, and several dozens more. Some experts believe that functions now done on computers, mobile phones, and other IT systems currently in use will ultimately ‘collapse’ into, or be absorbed into, this new technology.

AFP Photo / Hoang Dinh Nam  

AFP Photo / Hoang Dinh Nam

As wonderful as it may prove to be, augmented reality technology is also not without dangers. Bear in mind the recent revelation that the NSA has already infiltrated false ‘avatars’ and engaged in other covert activity in World of Warcraft and Second Life, two of the most popular multi-player computer game systems, in which users immerse into a ‘virtual world.’ Such games are are used by millions of people around the world.

Information technology – powered by Moore’s law – is, in fact, moving progressively closer to the human brain. From the post-WWII mainframe computers, to desktop computers, to notebooks and tablets, to smartphones, to augmented reality glasses.

What’s next? The logical step beyond the glasses is apt to be something like augmented reality operating through contact lenses, followed after that by augmented reality operating through actual visual and auditory implants behind the eyes and ears, thereby creating real world ‘augmented humans.’ Such technology might greatly increase the capabilities and even intelligence of users. But it also has a dystopian potential for unprecedented state spying and interference.

Under ever-worsening life conditions for the American people, there is a real danger that IT-enabled‘security’ – whether called the ‘NSA’ or something else – will increasingly be used for more illegal and unconstitutional surveillance and control of the population. Only a determined effort now to rein in the NSA – and the massive use of IT for so-called ‘security’ purposes – can help prevent this potential tragedy.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-nsa-is-building-the-foundation-for-a-global-police-state/5363186

Syria Insurgents are being Directed by NATO, Gulf Officers from a Secret Command HQ in Jordan

By Global Research News

Global Research, December 31, 2013
The National 28 December 2013

King-Abdullah-and-wife-no-dignity-e1388518041897A secret operations command centre in Jordan, staffed by western and Arab military officials, has given vital support to rebels fighting on Syria’s southern front, providing them with weapons and tactical advice on attacking regime targets.

Rebel fighters and opposition members say the command centre, based in an intelligence headquarters building in Amman, channels vehicles, sniper rifles, mortars, heavy machine guns, small arms and ammunition to Free Syrian Army units – although it has stopped short of giving them much coveted anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.

Officials in Amman denied the command centre exists. “We dismiss these allegations. Jordan is not a host or part of any cooperations against Syria. Jordan’s interest is to see a stable and secure Syria, one that is able to keep its problems inside its borders,” said Mohammad Al Momani, minister of media affairs.

“We will not do anything that will feed violence in Syria,” he said.

But Syrian opposition figures familiar with rebel operations in Deraa, about 75 kilometres north of Amman, said Jordan hosted the command centre and had tasked senior Jordanian intelligence officials to work with western and Arab states in helping rebels to plan missions and get munitions and fighters across the border.

The existence of a weapons bridge from Jordan to rebels inside Syria has been a poorly guarded secret since a New York Times expose in March, but few details of its workings have been revealed.

However, according to opposition figures, the command centre – known as “the operations room” – is a well-run operation staffed by high-ranking military officials from 14 countries, including the US, European nations and Arabian Gulf states, the latter providing the bulk of materiel and financial support to rebel factions.

The command centre gets advance notice from the FSA of upcoming military assaults against forces loyal to Bashar Al Assad, Syria’s president, and only hands over weapons if officials at the centre approve of the attacks.

“When we want to make an operation, we arrange for one of our men to have an informal meeting with a military liaison officer from the operations room and they meet up, in a hotel or somewhere in Amman, and talk through the plan,” said an FSA officer involved in the system.

“If the liaison officer likes our idea, he refers it to a full meeting of the operations room and a few days later we go there and make a formal presentation of the plan,” the FSA official said.

Then, western and Arab military advisers at the command centre make adjustments to tactics and help determine when and how the operation should go ahead.

They also allocate weapons needed for the attack and, with the plan approved, set up supplies to ensure the FSA has them.

“We run through all the numbers, what we need in terms of men and weapons, and when we’ll get it. It’s all detailed, it’s done in a very exact way,” the FSA official said.

Islamist factions outside of the FSA, including groups aligned to Al Qaeda, are not involved with the operations room and do not directly receive weapons or military advice.

Not all FSA operations in Deraa are approved by the command centre. Sometimes FSA units do not even approach it for support, preferring to carry out operations alone using whatever resources they have.

If they do not have the weapons they need, or if an attack is more complicated to plan, FSA officers will seek support from the command centre.

“We cooperate with one another, they do not control us and we don’t always do as they tell us. It’s more like they give us advice and sometimes we take it and sometimes we don’t,” said another FSA commander involved in the system.

Yet another FSA officer with knowledge of rebel operations in Deraa said units had been supplied with modern Austrian-made rifles – fitted with transparent ammunition magazines – tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition for heavy calibre machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar-firing tubes and bombs.

In the past two months, FSA units have also been receiving vehicles, equipped with heavy machine guns mounted on the rear bed, and rebel solders have been sent to Saudi Arabia for training, FSA officers said.

“There were 80 fighters sent to Saudi last month for training in military communications. In total there have been a few hundred getting training. They come back fully equipped – each with a personal weapon, a pickup lorry for every squad of five men, a heavy machine gun for each squad, plus clothing, boots and that kind of thing,” said an FSA commander.

“There was training before but it is getting better now,” he said

A western diplomat based in the Middle East said the US and European countries were not supplying munitions to rebels but did have liaison officers in regular contact with the FSA.

“Saudi and Qatari-supplied weapons are going across the border from Jordan but not going in the sort of volume that will change the balance of power on the ground.

“Short of an all-out effort involving the US supplying weapons, it will not be enough to topple Assad and it doesn’t come close to offsetting the military support Assad is getting from the Russians,” the diplomat said.

FSA units in Deraa said the international backing came with too many restrictions and was not sufficient to let them make major advances.

“In the summer there was a meeting with the operations room and all of the FSA units in Deraa and we were told very clearly what the rules are. They [the command centre] said we are not to attack major regime military installations without approval, that we are only to engage in hit-and-run operations and should not try to hold territory because the regime’s air power means it can hit us if we do,” said an FSA fighter briefed on the talks.

FSA units also had to pledge they would not transfer weapons to militant Islamist groups, including Jabhat Al Nusra, which has a small but powerful presence on Syria’s southern front.

“The command centre has been good for us, it has helped a lot, but we’d like more commitment from them. They don’t really share intelligence information with us, they don’t give us enough weapons to do the job,” said an FSA commander.

“We all think they want to keep Assad stronger than us, they want to keep a balance – we get enough to keep going but not to win,” he said.

The Assad regime has accused Jordan of hosting rebels and helping to prepare an army for an assault on Damascus.

FSA factions in Deraa said that the majority of their supplies – sometimes as much as 80 per cent – was channelled to them via the command centre. But they also described an often complex supply chain, frequently opaque even to those involved, with intelligence agents, private donors and shadowy proxy organisations all moving munitions around.

“It gets very complicated, everyone lies to each other, everyone is trying to control everyone else,” said an FSA commander.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-insurgents-are-being-directed-by-nato-gulf-officers-from-a-secret-command-hq-in-jordan/5363238

Don’t Plan on Retiring Work Until You’re Dead?

By Mike Whitney

December 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “Counterpunch” –  Millions of older Americans say they will never be able to retire. They simply don’t have the savings. According to CNN, “Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings…50% have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all….” (“76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck“, CNN Money)

“No savings at all”?

That’s right. So retirement is out of the question. A sizable chunk of the adult population is going to punch a clock until they keel-over in the office parking lot and get hauled off in the company dumpster. And those are the lucky ones, the so called baby boomers. By the time we get to the millennials it’ll be even worse because the economy will have been ravaged by 25 or 30 years of austerity leaving the proles to scrape by on hardtack and gruel. Pensions are already being looted, Social Security is under fire, and any small stipend that supports the poor, the unemployed, or the infirm is going to be terminated. That’s why everyone is so down-in-the-mouth, because their expectations of the future are so bleak. Check this out from Business Insider:

“For millennials, the situation is even more grim. Compared to their parents at their age, the under-30 set is worth only half as much. And while this is a sobering reminder of the scale of the Great Recession’s impact on younger generations, it’s not the whole story. These households were actually falling behind even before the stock market and housing crash, researchers found.

Young people not only saw their wages stagnate or drop but also suffered a rise in fixed costs. They leave college with an average $27,000 debt load and have a harder time finding jobs that pay well, while facing more expensive health care and housing costs.

“If these generations cannot accumulate wealth, they will be less able to support themselves when unexpected emergencies arise or when they eventually retire,” the study authors said. “This financial uncertainty could reverberate throughout the economy, since entrepreneurial activity, saving, and investment tend to build on a base of confidence and growing wealth.”(“AMERICA IN DECLINE: Young People Are Much Worse Off Than Their Parents Were At That Age“, Business Insider)

An entire generation of young people have been raped and discarded by their government and all the author cares about is the impact it will have on personal consumption.

Go figure. And there’s a larger point here too, which is that Americans have always believed that their children would enjoy a higher standard of living than their own. Until now, that is. Now most people think things are going to get worse, much worse. You see it in all the surveys. Expectations have changed, the future looks darker than ever before, and people are scared. Check this out from CNN:

“Things appear to be looking up for the economy.

On Wednesday the Federal Reserve felt confident enough to begin slowly withdrawing the huge economic stimulus the central bank has been pumping into the economy.

Unemployment is the lowest in five years. Economic growth picked up recently. The housing sector — which got us into this mess in the first place — is bouncing back. Home sales, prices and construction are all on the rise.

Auto sales recently had their strongest growth since 2006. Gas prices have fallen dramatically this year, and the stock market has risen sharply.

And there’s some reason to be hopeful for next year too. The Fed announced a slightly improved outlook for unemployment in 2014.

But things aren’t always as good as they seem. For many Americans, all the good news in the larger economy isn’t translating over to everyday life. Only 24% of the public believe economic conditions are improving, while nearly four-in-ten say the nation’s economy is actually getting worse, according to a recent CNN poll.” (“Is the economy as good as it looks?“, CNN Money)

That’s right; no one is buying the “recovery” crappola any more. They all know it’s BS. And a closer look at the CNN survey tells you why.

“Looking specifically at the economy, 39% feel that the economy is still in a downturn, up six points from April. Only 24% believe that an economic recovery is under way. Thirty-six percent are in the middle – they don’t think we’re in a recovery but they believe conditions have stabilized.” (CNN Politics)

So, 3 out of 4 people think we’re either still in a severe slump or running in place.(stagnation) That’s your recovery in a nutshell. And it explains why people hate bankers, Wall Street, and Congress. It also explains why millennials have given up on Obama after finally acknowledging that the man is a bumptious blowhard who’s never lifted a finger to help the people who shoehorned his worthless keister into office. Take a look at this from Policy Mic:

“Debt-weary millennials are disillusioned with Obama’s performance with regard to the economy, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, his handling of foreign relations”…

A new poll conducted by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics has revealed that young Americans’ support for President Barack Obama has reached the lowest point yet. According to the poll, only 41% of Americans aged 18-29 approve of Obama’s performance in office, an 11% drop since April.” (“Millennials officially hate Obama. Here’s why“, policymic)

Ahhh, so people are finally waking up to what an unprincipled phony this guy is. Good!

Unfortunately, ripping Obama won’t pay the bills, which is why so many people are making painful adjustments in their own lives to make ends meet. Aside from cutting back on trips to the doctor and setting the thermostat on “Off”, America’s plenteous graybeards are staying on the job longer than ever. Here’s a clip from an article in Forbes:

“An alarming 37% of middle class Americans believe they’ll work until they’re too sick or until they die.

Another 34% believes retirement will come at the ripe age of 80…

It’s a grim look at the state of retirement which seems to be getting worse for middle class Americans.

Wells Fargo WFC -0.09% interviewed 1,000 Americans between age 25 and 75 and with household income ranging between $25,000 and $99,000. More than half (59%) said their top day-to-day financial concern is paying the monthly bills; that’s up from 52% who said the same last year.

“We do this survey every year and for the past three years, the struggle to pay bills is a growing concern and the prospect of saving for retirement looks dim, particularly for those in their prime saving years,” Laurie Nordquist, head of Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust, says in the report.

And here’s something for leaders in Washington DC to consider: One third of those surveyed said their primary source of retirement income will come from social security. That figure gets even bigger for those who make less than $50,000–48% of those earners say social security is going to be their primary retirement income.” (“Work Until You Die? More Middle Class Americans Say They Can Never Retire“, Halah Touryalai, Forbes)

How do you like that, eh? So nearly half the people who make less than $50,000 are counting on Social Security as their “primary retirement income.” At the same time, our old buddy Obama is planning to cut Social Security to keep his criminal friends on Wall Street happy.

That means a whole lot of us are going to be stuck bussing tables at Olive Garden until they carry us out feet first.

Your doing a hechuva job, Barry!

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37266.htm

Life in the Emerging American Police State: It’s Time for a Second American Revolution.

By John W. Whitehead

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”—George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Vol. 1

December 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House – In Harold Ramis’ classic 1993 comedyGroundhog Day, TV weatherman Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) is forced to live the same day over and over again until he not only gains some insight into his life but changes his priorities. Similarly, as I illustrate in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, we in the emerging American police state find ourselves reliving the same set of circumstances over and over again—egregious surveillance, strip searches, police shootings of unarmed citizens, government spying, the criminalization of lawful activities, warmongering, etc.—although with far fewer moments of comic hilarity.

What remains to be seen is whether 2014 will bring more of the same or whether “we the people” will wake up from our somnambulant states. Indeed, when it comes to civil liberties and freedom, 2013 was far from a banner year. The following is just a sampling of what we can look forward to repeating if we don’t find some way to push back against the menace of an overreaching, aggressive, invasive, militarized government and restore our freedoms.

Government spying. It’s hard to understand how anyone could be surprised by the news that the National Security Agency has been systematically collecting information on all telephone calls placed in the United States, and yet the news media have treated it as a complete revelation. Nevertheless, such outlandish government spying been going on domestically since the 1970s, when Senator Frank Church (D-Ida.), who served as the chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence that investigated the NSA’s breaches, warned the public against allowing the government to overstep its authority in the name of national security. Church recognized that such surveillance powers “at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.” Recent reports indicate that the NSA, in conjunction with the CIA and FBI, has actually gone so far as to intercept laptop computers ordered online in order to install spyware on them.

Militarized police. With almost 13,000 agencies in all 50 states and four U.S. territories participating in a military “recycling” program, community police forces across the country continue to be transformed into outposts of the military, with police agencies acquiring military-grade hardware—tanks, weaponry, and other equipment designed for the battlefield—in droves. Keep in mind that once acquired, this military equipment, which is beyond the budget and scope of most communities, finds itself put to all manner of uses by local law enforcement agencies under the rationale that “if we have it, we might as well use it”—the same rationale, by the way, used with deadly results to justify assigning SWAT teams to carry out routine law enforcement work such as delivering a warrant.

Police shootings of unarmed citizens. Owing in large part to the militarization of local law enforcement agencies, not a week goes by without more reports of hair-raising incidents by police imbued with a take-no-prisoners attitude and a battlefield approach to the communities in which they serve. Sadly, it is no longer unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later, such as the 16-year-old teenager who skipped school only to be shot by police after they mistook him for a fleeing burglar. Then there was the unarmed black man in Texas “who was pursued and shot in the back of the neck by Austin Police… after failing to properly identify himself and leaving the scene of an unrelated incident.” And who could forget the 19-year-old Seattle woman who was accidentally shot in the leg by police after she refused to show her hands? The lesson to be learned: this is what happens when you take a young man (or woman), raise him on a diet of violence, hype him up on the power of the gun in his holster and the superiority of his uniform, render him woefully ignorant of how to handle a situation without resorting to violence, train him well in military tactics but allow him to be illiterate about the Constitution, and never stress to him that he is to be a peacemaker and a peacekeeper, respectful of and subservient to the taxpayers, who are in fact his masters and employers.

The erosion of private property. If the government can tell you what you can and cannot do within the privacy of your home, whether it relates to what you eat or what you smoke, you no longer have any rights whatsoever within your home. If government officials can fine and arrest you for growing vegetables in your front yard, praying with friends in your living room, installing solar panels on your roof, and raising chickens in your backyard, you’re no longer the owner of your property. If school officials can punish your children for what they do or say while at home or in your care, your children are not your own—they are the property of the state. If government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family, your property is no longer private and secure—it belongs to the government. Likewise, if police can forcefully draw your blood, strip search you, and probe you intimately, your body is no longer your own, either. This is what a world without the Fourth Amendment looks like, where the lines between private and public property have been so blurred that private property is reduced to little more than something the government can use to control, manipulate and harass you to suit its own purposes, and you the homeowner and citizen have been reduced to little more than a tenant or serf in bondage to an inflexible landlord.

Strip searches and the loss of bodily integrity. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended to protect the citizenry from being subjected to “unreasonable searches and seizures” by government agents. While the literal purpose of the amendment is to protect our property and our bodies from unwarranted government intrusion, the moral intention behind it is to protect our human dignity. Unfortunately, court rulings undermining the Fourth Amendment and justifying invasive strip searches have left us powerless against police empowered to forcefully draw our blood, strip search us, and probe us intimately. For example, during a routine traffic stop, Leila Tarantino was allegedly subjected to two roadside strip searches in plain view of passing traffic, while her two children—ages 1 and 4—waited inside her car. During the second strip search, presumably in an effort to ferret out drugs, a female officer “forcibly removed” a tampon from Tarantino. No contraband or anything illegal was found.

Invasion of the drones. As corporations and government agencies alike prepare for their part in the coming drone invasion—it is expected that at least 30,000 drones will occupy U.S. airspace by 2020, ushering in a $30 billion per year industry—it won’t be long before Americans discover first-hand that drones—unmanned aerial vehicles—come in all shapes and sizes, from nano-sized drones as small as a grain of sand that can do everything from conducting surveillance to detonating explosive charges, to middle-sized copter drones that can deliver pizzas to massive “hunter/killer” Predator warships that unleash firepower from on high. Police in California have already begun using Qube drones, which are capable of hovering for 40 minutes at heights of about 400 ft. to conduct surveillance on targets as far as 1 kilometer away. Michael Downing, the LAPD deputy chief for counter-terrorism and special operations, envisions drones being flown over large-scale media events such as the Oscars, using them to surveil political protests, and flying them through buildings to track criminal suspects.

Criminalizing childish behavior. It wouldn’t be a week in America without another slew of children being punished for childish behavior under the regime of zero tolerance which plagues our nation’s schools. Some of the most egregious: the 9-year-old boy suspended for allegedly pointing a toy at a classmate and saying “bang, bang”; two 6-year-old students in Maryland suspended for using their fingers as imaginary guns in a schoolyard game of cops and robbers; the ten-year-old Pennsylvania boy suspended for shooting an imaginary “arrow” at a fellow classmate, using nothing more than his hands and his imagination; the six-year-old Colorado boy suspended and accused of sexual harassment for kissing the hand of a girl in his class whom he had a crush on; and the two seventh graders in Virginia suspended for the rest of the school year for playing with airsoft guns in their own yard before school.

Common Core. There are several methods for controlling a population. You can intimidate the citizenry into obedience through force, relying on military strength and weaponry such as SWAT team raids, militarized police, and a vast array of lethal and nonlethal weapons. You can manipulate them into marching in lockstep with your dictates through the use of propaganda and carefully timed fear tactics about threats to their safety, whether through the phantom menace of terrorist attacks or shooting sprees by solitary gunmen.  Or you can indoctrinate them into compliance from an early age through the schools, discouraging them from thinking for themselves while rewarding them for regurgitating whatever the government, through its so-called educational standards, dictates they should be taught. When viewed in light of the government’s ongoing attempts to amass power at great cost to Americans—in terms of free speech rights, privacy, due process, etc.—the debate over Common Core State Standards, which would transform and nationalize school curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade, becomes that much more critical. These standards, which were developed through a partnership between big government and corporations and are being rolled out in 45 states and the District of Columbia, will create a generation of test-takers capable of little else, molded and shaped by the federal government and its corporate allies into what it considers to be ideal citizens.

The corporate takeover of America. The corporate buyout of the American political bureaucracy is taking place at every level of government, from the White House all the way to the various governors’ mansions, and even local city councils. With Big Business and Big Government having fused into a corporate state, the president and his state counterparts—the governors, have become little more than CEOs of the Corporate State, which day by day is assuming more government control over our lives. The average American has no access to his or her representatives at any but the lowest level of government, and even then it’s questionable how much really gets through. Never before have average Americans had so little say in the workings of their government and even less access to their so-called representatives. Yet one of the key ingredients in maintaining democratic government is the right of citizens to freely speak their minds to those who represent them. In fact, it is one of the few effective tools we have left to combat government corruption and demand accountability. But now, even that right is being chipped away by laws and court rulings that weaken our ability to speak freely to the politicians who govern us.

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, put it best: “Take alarm,” he warned, “at the first experiment with liberties.” Anyone with even a casual knowledge about current events knows that the first experiment on our freedoms happened long ago. Worse, we have not heeded the warnings of Madison and those like him who understood that if you give the government an inch, they will take a mile. Unfortunately, the government has not only taken a mile, they have taken mile after mile after mile after mile with seemingly no end in sight for their power grabs.

If you’re in the business of making New Year’s resolutions, why not resolve that 2014 will be the year we break the cycle of tyranny and get back on the road to freedom. As I’ve said before, it’s time for a second American revolution.

Copyright 2013 © The Rutherford Institute

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37267.htm

And The Country Posing The Greatest Threat to Peace as 2013 Ends is …

By Patrick Goodenough

December 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  CNSNews – The past year witnessed bloodshed in Syria and Iraq, turmoil in Egypt, anarchy in Central Africa, threats by a nuclear-armed North Korea and Chinese military posturing, but as 2013 ends a global poll finds that the country seen as representing the greatest threat to peace today is … the United States.

Not only did the U.S. top the list with an aggregate of 24 percent, but the runner-up threat country, Pakistan, was way behind at eight percent. China was third at six percent, followed by North Korea, Iran and Israel at five percent each.

The survey of opinions across 65 countries by pollster Win/Gallup International recorded some of the strongest anti-American sentiment, predictably, in countries widely regarded as rivals, led by Russia (where 54 percent of respondents said the U.S. was the greatest threat to peace) and China (49 percent).

But the view that the U.S. poses the greatest threat to peace was also strongly held in some purported U.S. allies – such as NATO partners Greece and Turkey (45 percent each), and Pakistan (44 percent), which is also a top recipient of U.S. aid.

Two other countries where strongly negative opinion of the U.S. was found were Bosnia, a candidate for European Union membership (49 percent), and, closer to home, Argentina (46 percent).

Elsewhere in Latin America the U.S. topped the list of threats to peace for a significant number of respondents in Mexico (37 percent), Brazil (26 percent) and Peru (24 percent).

Paradoxically, just because people view the U.S. as the biggest threat doesn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t like to move there if they could.

The pollsters also asked, “If there were no barriers to living in any country of the world, which country would you like to live in?” Some countries where the U.S.-as-greatest-threat view holds strong are also those where America would be a prized destination as a new home country.

That pattern was especially evident for Greece, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico, where the U.S. topped the list of places where people would like to live if they could.

Among Islamic countries polled, the U.S. and Israel generally vied for the top place as world’s greatest threat: Algerian respondents picked U.S. (37 percent) followed by Israel (22 percent); Indonesians named the U.S. (34 percent), followed by Israel (27 percent), as did Malaysians – the U.S. (25 percent), then Israel (22 percent).

For Iraqis the greatest threat came from Israel (24 percent), then the U.S. (21 percent); Lebanese selected Israel by a large margin (41 percent), followed by the U.S. (23 percent), as did Moroccan respondents – Israel (45 percent), then the U.S. (17 percent), and those in Tunisia – Israel (38 percent), followed by the U.S. (27 percent).

Neither Iran nor Egypt were among the countries polled by Win/Gallup International.

European views mixed

Rather surprisingly, in Ukraine, which is often described as being deeply divided between pro-Russian and pro-Western camps, the U.S. did not fare well – 33 percent of respondents choose the U.S. as the greatest danger, compared to just five percent who picked Russia.

Ukraine has been gripped by pro-Europe/anti-Russian street demonstrations since the second half of November, triggered by the government’s decision to spurn a landmark agreement with the E.U. in favor of closer ties with Russia.  The Ukraine segment of the survey was conducted in October.

There was better news for the U.S. from France, where a decade after the Iraq War soured ties public sentiment appears to have shifted considerably. French respondents in the poll chose Syria as the greatest threat (14 percent), followed by Iran (13 percent), with the U.S. lagging far behind (three percent).

Among Poles polled, Russia topped the global threat stakes (18 percent), followed by Iraq (12 percent) and North Korea (10 percent). At less than one percent, the U.S. did not make the list in Poland.

Germans were more ambivalent, with the U.S. selected as the greatest threat (17 percent), just ahead of Iran (16 percent); as were British respondents, who put the U.S. and Iran in joint first place among threats to peace (15 percent each).

In Spain – while not in the same league as Greece – respondents also had a dim view of the U.S., with 25 percent picking it as the greatest danger, compared to just 11 percent for North Korea and 10 percent for Iran.

Other findings of interest:

–American respondents named Iran as the greatest threat to peace (20 percent), followed by Afghanistan (14 percent). North Korea (13 percent) – and the U.S. itself (13 percent).

–Against the backdrop of the decades-old Indo-Pakistan rivalry, Indian respondents predictably named their Muslim neighbor as posing the greatest danger (25 percent), but for Pakistanis the U.S. easily beat India as the biggest threat (44 percent compared to 15).

–Afghan respondents put Pakistan at the top of the list of biggest threats (26 percent), followed by the U.S. (21 percent) and Israel (18 percent).

–Georgians clearly haven’t forgotten Russia’s 2008 invasion, which came after the Georgian government tried to rein in two pro-Moscow separatist regions. Thirty-three percent of Georgian respondents said Russia is the greatest threat to peace, followed by Iran (17 percent).

–Beijing’s belligerent conduct in support of territorial claims in the East and South China Sea does not appear to have won it many friends in the three main countries it at loggerheads with. China was named as the greatest threat to peace by respondents in Japan (38 percent), Vietnam (54 percent) and Philippines (22 percent).

The question on the greatest threat to peace were part of an annual WIN-Gallup International survey of global opinions and outlook for the coming year. It has been conducted in the latter part of the year since 1977, and this year national probability samples of around 1,000 people were surveyed in each of the 65 countries polled, a total of 66,806 respondents.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37264.htm

Saudi ‘Gift’ to Hide its Terror Hand

By Finian Cunningham

December 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House – Saudi largesse is throwing money again – in a bid to cover up its bloodstained hands in violence hitting the Middle East and beyond.

The latest public relations gimmick is the “donation” of $3 billion to the Lebanese army made by Saudi King Abdullah at the weekend.

The Saudi cash – twice the national military budget of Lebanon – is being regaled in the Western media as a noble offer to secure Lebanon from recent terror attacks.

The announcement was made during a visit to Riyadh by French President Francois Hollande, who met the Saudi king and the latter’s Lebanese proxy, Saad Hariri.

The new Saudi military aid to Lebanon is tied to the condition that it must be spent on purchasing French weaponry.

Already, the outlines of a sleazy deal are emerging. The above political actors have done much to destabilize Lebanon with violence, which is now being blamed on the wrong people – Shia Hezbollah – thanks to the deft finger work of billionaire Paris-exile Hariri.

One of the main protagonists of terrorism – Saudi Arabia – now steps in with a military aid “gift” that will allow it to influence the Lebanese army to go after Saudi enemy Hezbollah.

Such an insidious interference by Saudi Arabia in the internal affairs of Lebanon can only but incite further sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shia in that country, which is still recovering from a 15-year civil war.

On top of this, the other main advocate of regional subversion and terrorism – France – stands to receive a handsome payback in weapons sales to the tune of $3 billion.

And all the while, the Western media give this despicable charade a veneer of respectability. It really is astounding how Western media can get away with such distortion.

Saudi blood money and sponsorship of terrorism are carrying out demonic work in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Pakistan and even it could be added in Iran’s peripheral southeast region.

Moreover, the Saudi terror connection can also be traced to the weekend double bombing in the southern Russian city of Volgograd where more than 30 people were killed.

In October, a suicide bomber killed six also in a bus attack in Volgograd. Other cities have also been hit with deadly attacks in Russia’s Dagestan in recent months.

The likely Chechen perpetrators behind those attacks – led by Saudi-linked Doku Umarov – are also involved in waging the Saudi-financed terror war in Syria.

Recall, too, that Saudi spymaster Prince Bandar only a few months ago made veiled threats to Russian leader Vladimir Putin that the Sochi Winter Olympic Games were at risk to acts of sabotage. The Games are set to open on 7 February 2014.

Nevertheless, against this appalling background of provable Saudi-sponsored mayhem – stretching from the Mediterranean to the Russian Caucasus – we have this latest ridiculous Saudi public relations stunt.

Saudi King Abdullah, we are told, is to “grant” $3 billion to “help” the Lebanese army to “beef up its security”. France 24, among others, reported that the military boost “would help the Lebanese army fight … groups like Hezbollah, which has caused a wave of violence in the country.”

The latter claim by France 24 is a risible distortion of the facts. Lebanon has indeed witnessed a wave of violence in recent months, but the main victims of the attacks have been Hezbollah and Shia communities in southern Beirut and Baalbek in the east of the country.

The primary source of this bloodshed in Lebanon is groups linked to Saudi, Israeli and Western intelligence.

For example, the double suicide bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut on 19 November, which killed at least 23 including Iranian cultural attaché [to Beirut Hojjatoleslam] Ebrahim Ansari, was claimed by the Saudi-backed al-Qaeda group known as Abdullah Azzam Brigade.

The Saudi king’s act of generosity to “improve security” in Lebanon should therefore be scoffed at by media instead of praised. But this is the Western media performing its dutiful function of inverting reality.

King Abdullah’s show of magnanimity came two days after a prominent Lebanese Sunni politician, Mohamad Shatah, was assassinated in a massive bomb blast that targeted his car in the capital Beirut on Friday morning.

Western media were quick to highlight claims by Saudi-backed Lebanese political leader Saad Hariri that the perpetrators of Shatah’s murder were Hezbollah. The Syrian government of President Bashar al Assad was also implicated for the killing.

There is no evidence to attribute Shatah’s murder to Hezbollah, other than politicized conjecture. Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian allies all categorically condemned the killing.

However, there is strong circumstantial evidence that Shatah may have been liquidated by his geopolitical allies as a nefarious means of triggering further sectarian violence inside Lebanon.

The execution of his murder would have required split-second timing and confidential information of his itinerary. He was on his way to meet members of the Hariri-led March 14 group.

This pattern of fomenting sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia, as well as Christian, has been a staple of Saudi, Israeli and Western intelligence operating to destabilize Syria and Iraq over the past three years.

The splurging of $3 billion by Saudi Arabia to “increase Lebanon’s security” is merely cynical public relations to cover up the real source of violence in that country, as well as providing Riyadh military leverage to go after Hezbollah within Lebanon.

It follows the much bigger precedent of $100 million that Saudi Arabia doled out to the United Nations Anti-Terrorism Center last August.

That donation was made at the end of the Holy Muslim Month of Ramadan as “a gift from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques of Islam”.

In the previous four weeks before that “gift”, some 1,000 Iraqis were killed in terror attacks mainly committed by the Saudi-bankrolled al-Qaeda franchise known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.

This same group has been engaging in similar atrocities in neighboring Syria, along with [so-called] al-Nusra Front, [so-called] Liwa al-Tawhid and [so-called] Ahrar al-Sham – all of them Saudi-sponsored.

The simple fact is that the sectarian bloodshed inundating Syria and Iraq, and increasingly now in Lebanon, as well as in countries as far apart as Yemen and Russia, would not be happening if it were not for the blood money flowing from Saudi Arabia.

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. 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 nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.

This article was originally published at Press TV

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37263.htm

NYT Backs Off Its Syria-Sarin Analysis

By Robert Parry

Global Research, December 30, 2013
Consortiumnews 29 December 2013

disinformation

For months, the “slam-dunk” evidence “proving” Syrian government guilt in the Aug. 21 Sarin attack near Damascus was a “vector analysis” pushed by the New York Times showing where the rockets supposedly were launched. But the Times now grudgingly admits its analysis was flawed.

The New York Times has, kind of, admitted that it messed up its big front-page story that used a “vector analysis” to pin the blame for the Aug. 21 Sarin attack on the Syrian government, an assertion that was treated by Official Washington as the slam-dunk proof that President Bashar al-Assad ga

But you’d be forgiven if you missed the Times’ embarrassing confession, since it was buried on page 8, below the fold, 18 paragraphs into a story under the not-so-eye-catching title, “New Study Refines View Of Sarin Attack in Syria.”ssed his own people.

Secretary of State John Kerry (center) testifies on the Syrian crisis before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Sept. 3, 2013. At the left of the photo is Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. and on the right is Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. No senior U.S. intelligence official joined in the testimony. U.S. State Department photo)

Photo (right): Secretary of State John Kerry (center) testifies on the Syrian crisis before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Sept. 3, 2013. At the left of the photo is Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. and on the right is Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. No senior U.S. intelligence official joined in the testimony. U.S. State Department photo)

But this Times article at least acknowledges what has been widely reported on the Internet, including at Consortiumnews.com, that the Times’ “vector analysis” – showing the reverse flight paths of two missiles intersecting at a Syrian military base – has collapsed, in part, because the range of the rockets was much too limited.

There were other problems with the “vector analysis” that was pushed by the Times and Human Rights Watch, which has long wanted the U.S. military to intervene in the Syrian civil war against the Syrian government.

The analytical flaws included the fact that one of the two missiles – the one landing in Moadamiya, south of Damascus – had clipped a building during its descent making a precise calculation of its flight path impossible, plus the discovery that the Moadamiya missile contained no Sarin, making its use in the vectoring of two Sarin-laden rockets nonsensical.

But the Times’ analysis ultimately fell apart amid a consensus among missile experts that the rockets would have had a maximum range of only around three kilometers when the supposed launch site is about 9.5 kilometers from the impact zones in Moadamiya and Zamalka/Ein Tarma, east of Damascus.

The Times’ front-page “vectoring” article of Sept. 17 had declared: “One annex to the report [by UN inspectors] identified azimuths, or angular measurements, from where rockets had struck, back to their points of origin. When plotted and marked independently on maps by analysts from Human Rights Watch and by The New York Times, the United Nations data from two widely scattered impact sites pointed directly to a Syrian military complex.”

An accompanying map on the Times’ front page revealed the flight-path lines intersecting at an elite Syrian military unit, the 104th Brigade of the Republican Guard, based northwest of Damascus, near the Presidential Palace. This “evidence” was then cited by U.S. politicians and pundits as the in-your-face proof of the Syrian government’s guilt.

The Times/HRW analysis was especially important because the Obama administration, in making its case against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, had refused to release any evidence that could be independently evaluated. So, the “vector analysis” was almost the only visible nail in Assad’s coffin of guilt.

Short-Range Rockets

In Sunday’s article – the one below the fold on page 8 – the Times reported that a new analysis by two military experts concluded that the Aug. 21 rockets had a range of about three kilometers, or less than one-third the distance needed to intersect at the Syrian military base northwest of Damascus.

The report’s authors were Theodore A. Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Richard M. Lloyd, an analyst at the military contractor Tesla Laboratories.

The Times noted that “the authors said that their findings could help pinpoint accountability for the most lethal chemical warfare attack in decades, but that they also raised questions about the American government’s claims about the locations of launching points, and the technical intelligence behind them. … The analysis could also lead to calls for more transparency from the White House, as Dr. Postol said it undermined the Obama administration’s assertions about the rockets’ launch points.”

Finally, in the article’s 18th paragraph, the Times acknowledged its own role in misleading the public, noting that the rockets’ estimated maximum range of three kilometers “would be less than the ranges of more than nine kilometers calculated separately by The New York Times and Human Rights Watch in mid-September. … Those estimates had been based in part on connecting reported compass headings for two rockets cited in the United Nations’ initial report on the attacks.”

In other words, the much-ballyhooed “vector analysis” had collapsed under scrutiny, knocking the legs out from under Official Washington’s certainty that the Syrian government carried out the Aug. 21 attack which may have killed several hundred civilians including many children.

The Times article on Sunday was authored by C.J. Chivers, who along with Rick Gladstone, was a principal writer on the now-discredited Sept. 17 article.

The erosion of that “vector analysis” article has been underway for several months – through reporting at Web sites such as WhoGhouta and Consortiumnews.com – but few Americans knew about these challenges to the Official Story because the mainstream U.S. news media had essentially blacked them out.

When renowned investigative reporter Seymour Hersh composed a major article  citing skepticism within the U.S. intelligence community regarding the Syrian government’s guilt, he had to go to the London Review of Books to get the story published. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Deceiving the US Public on Syria.”]

Even Ake Sellstrom, the head of the United Nations mission investigating chemical weapons use in Syria, challenged the vector analysis during a Dec. 13 UN press conference, citing expert estimates of the missiles’ range at about two kilometers, but his remarks were almost entirely ignored. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “UN Inspector Undercuts NYT on Syria.”]

A Replay of Iraqi WMD

Besides the deaths from the Sarin itself, perhaps the most troubling aspect of this episode has been how close the U.S. government came to going to war with Syria based on such flimsy and dubious evidence. It seems as if Official Washington and the U.S. mainstream news media have learned nothing from the disastrous rush to war in Iraq a decade ago.

Just as false assumptions about Iraq’s WMD set off a stampede over that cliff in 2003, a similar rush to judgment regarding Syria brought the U.S. government to the edge of another precipice of war in 2013.

The New York Times and other major U.S. news outlets propelled the rush to judgment in both cases, rather than questioning the official stories and demanding better evidence from U.S. government officials. In September 2002, the Times famously fronted an article linking Iraq’s purchase of some aluminum tubes to a secret nuclear weapons program, which — as Americans and Iraqis painfully learned later – didn’t exist.

In the case of Syria, another potential catastrophe was averted only by a strong opposition to war among the American public, as registered in opinion polls, and President Barack Obama’s last-minute decision to seek congressional approval for military action and then his openness to a diplomatic settlement brokered by Russia.

To defuse the crisis, the Syrian government agreed to destroy all its chemical weapons, while still denying any role in the Aug. 21 attack, which it blamed on Syrian rebels apparently trying to create acasus belli that would precipitate a U.S. intervention.

With very few exceptions, U.S. news outlets and think tanks mocked the notion of rebel responsibility and joined the Obama administration in expressing virtual certainty that the Assad regime was guilty.

There was almost no U.S. media skepticism on Aug. 30 when the White House stoked the war fever by posting on its Web site what was called a “Government Assessment,” a four-page white paper that blamed the Syrian government for the Sarin attack but presented zero evidence to support the conclusion.

Americans had to go to Internet sites to see questions raised about the peculiar presentation, since normally a decision on war would be supported by a National Intelligence Estimate containing the judgments of the 16 intelligence agencies. But an NIE would also include footnotes citing dissents from analysts who disputed the conclusion, of which I was told there were a number.

The Dogs Not Barking

As the war frenzy built in late August and early September, there was a striking absence of U.S. intelligence officials at administration briefings and congressional hearings. The dog-not-barking reason was that someone might have asked a question about whether the U.S. intelligence community was in agreement with the “Government Assessment.”

But these strange aspects of the Obama administration’s case were not noted by the major U.S. news media. Then, on Sept. 17 came the New York Times front-page article citing the “vector analysis.” It was the Perry Mason moment. The evidence literally pointed right at the “guilty” party, an elite unit of the Syrian military.

Whatever few doubts there were about the Syrian government’s guilt disappeared. From the triumphant view of Official Washington, those of us who had expressed skepticism about the U.S. government’s case could only hang our heads in shame and engage in some Maoist-style self-criticism.

For me, it was like a replay of Iraq-2003. Whenever the U.S. invading force discovered a barrel of chemicals, trumpeted on Fox News as proof of WMD, I’d get e-mails calling me a Saddam Hussein apologist and demanding that I admit that I had been wrong to question President George W. Bush’s WMD claims. Now, there were ugly accusations that I had been carrying water for Bashar al-Assad.

But – as John Adams once said – “facts are stubborn things.” And the smug certainty of Official Washington regarding the Syrian Sarin case gradually eroded much as a similar arrogance crumbled a decade ago when Iraq’s alleged WMD stockpiles never materialized.

While it’s still not clear who was responsible for the Aug. 21 deaths outside Damascus – whether a unit of the Syrian military, some radical rebel group or someone mishandling a dangerous payload – the facts should be followed objectively, not simply arranged to achieve a desired political outcome.

Now, with the New York Times’ grudging admission that its “vector analysis” has collapsed, the pressure should build on the Obama administration to finally put whatever evidence it has before the world’s public.

[For more details on this issue, see Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Replays Its Iraq Fiasco in Syria.” For more of our early reporting on the Syrian chemical weapons attack, see: “A Dodgy Dossier on Syrian War”; “Murky Clues From UN’s Syria Report”; “Obama Still Withholds Syria Evidence”; “How US Pressure Bends UN Agencies”; “Fixing Intel Around the Syria Policy.”]

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 barnesandnoble.com). 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.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/nyt-backs-off-its-syria-sarin-analysis/5363023

The Mainstream Now Admits that the Syrian Rebels Have Chemical Weapons

By Global Research News

Global Research, December 30, 2013
Levant Report 14 December 2013

syriafree-army1Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh wrote an extensive investigative piece last week featured in the London Review of Books, which details the Obama administration’s “cherry-picking” of intelligence related to the August 21 Damascus chemical attack. “Whose sarin?” was originally intended for the Washington Post, but neither the Post nor Hersh’s usual New Yorker Magazine published it – presumably because its allegations and conclusions are too explosive and embarrassing for those already heavily invested in the accepted narrative of D.C. official sources. Read the following bombshell revelation from the first paragraph:

Most significant, he [Obama] failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

Hersh goes on to detail an intelligence community revolt, involving high-level officers, against the administration claim that only the Assad regime could have been responsible for the August 21 incident. Hersh has extensive intelligence and military contacts based on his decades long career covering war going back to Vietnam (it was Hersh that exposed theMy Lai Massacre). His reporting of intelligence community push-back begins with the following:

But in recent interviews with intelligence and military officers and consultants past and present, I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence. One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote.

In mid-November, Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer who writes on foreign and defense affairs for The American Conservative first broke the story of a threatened mass resignation by top intelligence analysts over Syria chemical weapons claims. “Quitting Over Syria,” while written by an insider who keeps extensive intel community contacts, got no exposure in major network news, failing to reach the mass of Americans. Giraldi’s reporting was consistent with Hersh’s recent revelations:

With all evidence considered, the intelligence community found itself with numerous skeptics in the ranks, leading to sharp exchanges with the Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. A number of analysts threatened to resign as a group if their strong dissent was not noted in any report released to the public, forcing both Brennan and Clapper to back down. This led to the White House issuing its own assessment, completely divorcing the process from any direct connection to the intelligence community. The spectacle of CIA Director George Tenet sitting behind Secretary of State Colin Powell in the United Nations, providing him with credibility as Powell told a series of half-truths, would not be repeated.

The American public had no knowledge of this internal conflict and dissent within the intelligence community while it was happening, and few know of it today.

More surprising is that while the ongoing UN investigation was center stage throughout September, the final UN findings on chemical weapons usage in Syria were published this last Thursday (12/12), yet received little focus in major American media reporting or analysis. While major media has perhaps “moved on” – the UN report contains some damning information related to the rebels and chem weapons: “The United Nations Mission remains deeply concerned that chemical weapons were used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arabic Republic, which has added yet another dimension to the continued suffering of the Syrian people,” the report says [emphasis LR’s].

The report states that chemical weapons were “probably used” at five sites in Syria during the two-and-a-half year long conflict. Most significant is that at two sites, the victims were Syrian government soldiers, and at another, the victims were regime soldiers and civilians (for initial BBC reporting go here). While the purpose of the investigation was not to establish the culprit in each attack, the report identifies the victims in three out of the five incidents as regime soldiers. This is a tacit UN admission that the rebels possess and have used chemical weapons.

Even the generally pro-rebel and very establishment New York Times had to admit the following on Thursday:

Chemical weapons were used repeatedly in the Syria conflict this year, not only in a well-documented Aug. 21 attack near Damascus but also in four other instances, including two subsequent attacks that targeted soldiers, the United Nations said in a report released Thursday.

And concerning the first reported usage of chemical weapons in the entirety of the Syrian conflict, the NYT admits that Syrian soldiers were on the receiving end:

The report said the panel had corroborated “credible allegations” that chemical weapons were used in the first reported attack — a March 19 episode involving soldiers and civilians in Khan al-Assal in the country’s north.

For those that did their homework while questions of Syria chemical attacks were the hot topic in August and September, credible allegations of rebel chemical weapons are nothing new. Last May, Carla Del Ponte, a top UN human rights investigator and former UN Chief Prosecutor and veteran International Criminal Court prosecutor – was the first to accuse the rebels using Sarin gas against regime forces and civilians (see herehere, and here). Del Ponte’s assertions, based upon her information gathering team on the ground, caused a row in Europe, but it seems the only major American outlet to cover the story was the LA Times. During a Swiss-Italian TV interview, she was convinced enough to be very blunt in her assessment, saying, “I was a little bit stupefied by the first indication of the use of nerve gas by the opposition.”

Revelations of the deep divide within the U.S. intelligence community over the August 21 chemical attack and Obama’s push for intervention, along with the just release UN report confirming that CW were used against regime troops in the majority of attack sites, should get common sense Americans questioning everything they were ever told by establishment sources concerning chemical weapons and Syria.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-mainstream-now-admits-that-the-syrian-rebels-have-chemical-weapons/5363039

Citizens Have Become Subjects

2014 Will Bring More Social Collapse

By Paul Craig Roberts

December 30, 2013 “Information Clearing House – 2014 is upon us. For a person who graduated from Georgia Tech in 1961, a year in which the class ring showed the same date right side up or upside down, the 21st century was a science fiction concept associated with Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” To us George Orwell’s 1984 seemed so far in the future we would never get there. Now it is 30 years in the past.

Did we get there in Orwell’s sense? In terms of surveillance technology, we are far beyond Orwell’s imagination. In terms of the unaccountability of government, we exceptional and indispensable people now live a 1984 existence. In his alternative to the Queen’s Christmas speech, Edward Snowden made the point that a person born in the 21st century will never experience privacy. For new generations the word privacy will refer to something mythical, like a unicorn.

Many Americans might never notice or care. I remember when telephone calls were considered to be private. In the 1940s and 1950s the telephone company could not always provide private lines. There were “party lines” in which two or more customers shared the same telephone line. It was considered extremely rude and inappropriate to listen in on someone’s calls and to monopolize the line with long duration conversations.

The privacy of telephone conversations was also epitomized by telephone booths, which stood on street corners, in a variety of public places, and in “filling stations” where an attendant would pump gasoline into your car’s fuel tank, check the water in the radiator, the oil in the engine, the air in the tires, and clean the windshield. A dollar’s worth would purchase 3 gallons, and $5 would fill the tank.

Even in the 1980s and for part of the 1990s there were lines of telephones on airport waiting room walls, each separated from the other by sound absorbing panels. Whether the panels absorbed the sounds of the conversation or not, they conveyed the idea that calls were private.

The notion that telephone calls are private left Americans’ consciousness prior to the NSA listening in. If memory serves, it was sometime in the 1990s when I entered the men’s room of an airport and observed a row of men speaking on their cell phones in the midst of the tinkling sound of urine hitting water and noises of flushing toilets. The thought hit hard that privacy had lost its value.

I remember when I arrived at Merton College, Oxford, for the first term of 1964. I was advised never to telephone anyone whom I had not met, as it would be an affront to invade the privacy of a person to whom I was unknown. The telephone was reserved for friends and acquaintances, a civility that contrasts with American telemarketing.

The efficiency of the Royal Mail service protected the privacy of the telephone. What one did in those days in England was to write a letter requesting a meeting or an appointment. It was possible to send a letter via the Royal Mail to London in the morning and to receive a reply in the afternoon. Previously it had been possible to send a letter in the morning and to receive a morning reply, and to send another in the afternoon and receive an afternoon reply.

When one flies today, unless one stops up one’s ears with something, one hears one’s seat mate’s conversations prior to takeoff and immediately upon landing. Literally, everyone is talking nonstop. One wonders how the economy functioned at such a high level of incomes and success prior to cell phones. I can remember being able to travel both domestically and internationally on important business without having to telephone anyone. What has happened to America that no one can any longer go anywhere without constant talking?

If you sit at an airport gate awaiting a flight, you might think you are listening to a porn film. The overhead visuals are usually Fox “News” going on about the need for a new war, but the cell phone audio might be young women describing their latest sexual affair.

Americans, or many of them, are such exhibitionists that they do not mind being spied upon or recorded. It gives them importance. According to Wikipedia, Paris Hilton, a multimillionaire heiress, posted her sexual escapades online, and Facebook had to block users from posting nude photos of themselves. Sometime between my time and now people ceased to read 1984. They have no conception that a loss of privacy is a loss of self. They don’t understand that a loss of privacy means that they can be intimidated, blackmailed, framed, and viewed in the buff. Little wonder they submitted to porno-scanners.

The loss of privacy is a serious matter. The privacy of the family used to be paramount. Today it is routinely invaded by neighbors, police, Child Protective Services (sic), school administrators, and just about anyone else.

Consider this: A mother of six and nine year old kids sat in a lawn chair next to her house watching her kids ride scooters in the driveway and cul-de-sac on which they live.

Normally, this would be an idyllic picture. But not in America. A neighbor, who apparently did not see the watching mother, called the police to report that two young children were outside playing without adult supervision. Note that the next door neighbor, a woman, did not bother to go next door to speak with the mother of the children and express her concern that they children were not being monitored while they played. The neighbor called the police.http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/mom-sues-polices-she-arrested-letting-her-kids-134628018.html

“We’re here for you,” the cops told the mother, who was carried off in handcuffs and spent the next 18 hours in a cell in prison clothes.

The news report doesn’t say what happened to the children, whether the father appeared and insisted on custody of his offspring or whether the cops turned the kids over to Child Protective Services.

This shows you what Americans are really like. Neither the neighbor nor the police had a lick of sense. The only idea that they had was to punish someone. This is why America has the highest incarceration rate and the highest total number of prison inmates in the entire world. Washington can go on and on about “authoritarian” regimes in Russia and China, but both countries have far lower prison populations than “freedom and democracy” America.

I was unaware that laws now exist requiring the supervision of children at play. Children vary in their need for supervision. In my day supervision was up to the mother’s judgment. Older children were often tasked with supervising the younger. It was one way that children were taught responsibility and developed their own judgment.

When I was five years old, I walked to the neighborhood school by myself. Today my mother would be arrested for child endangerment.

In America punishment falls more heavily on the innocent, the young, and the poor than it does on the banksters who are living on the Federal Reserve’s subsidy known as Quantitative Easing and who have escaped criminal liability for the fraudulent financial instruments that they sold to the world. Single mothers, depressed by the lack of commitment of the fathers of their children, are locked away for using drugs to block out their depression. Their children are seized by a Gestapo institution, Child Protective Services, and end up in foster care where many are abused.

According to numerous press reports, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 year-old children who play cowboys and indians or cops and robbers during recess and raise a pointed finger while saying “bang-bang” are arrested and carried off to jail in handcuffs as threats to their classmates. In my day every male child and the females who were “Tom boys” would have been taken to jail. Playground fights were normal, but no police were ever called. Handcuffing a child would not have been tolerated.

From the earliest age, boys were taught never to hit a girl. In those days there were no reports of police beating up teenage girls and women or body slamming the elderly. To comprehend the degeneration of the American police into psychopaths and sociopaths, go online and observe the video of Lee Oswald in police custody in 1963. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FDDuRSgzFk  Oswald was believed to have assassinated President John F. Kennedy and murdered a Dallas police officer only a few hours previously to the film. Yet he had not been beaten, his nose wasn’t broken, and his lips were not a bloody mess. Now go online and pick from the vast number of police brutality videos from our present time and observe the swollen and bleeding faces of teenage girls accused of sassing overbearing police officers.

In America today people with power are no longer accountable. This means citizens have become subjects, an indication of social collapse.

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

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37258.htm

Seize the Moment

By Sen. Bernie Sanders

December 30, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  The Congress has just ended one of the worst and least productive sessions in the history of our country. At a time when the problems facing us are monumental, Congress is dysfunctional and more and more people (especially the young) are, understandably, giving up on the political process. The people are hurting. They look to Washington for help. Nothing is happening.

In my view, the main cause of congressional dysfunction is an extreme right-wing Republican party whose main goal is to protect the wealthy and powerful. There is no tax break for the rich or large corporations that they don’t like. There is no program which protects working families — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, affordable housing, etc. — that they don’t want to cut.

But the Democrats (with whom I caucus as an Independent) are most certainly not without fault. In the Senate, they have tolerated Republican obstructionism for much too long and allowed major legislation to fail for lack of 60 votes. They have failed to bring forth a strong and consistent agenda which addresses the economic crises facing the vast majority of our struggling population, and have not rallied the people in support of that agenda.

As we survey our country at the end of 2013, I don’t have to tell you about the crises we face. Many of you are experiencing them every day.

– The middle class continues to decline, with median family income some $5,000 less than in 1999.
– More Americans, 46.5 million, are now living in poverty than at any time in our nation’s history. Child poverty, at 22 percent, is the highest of any major country.
– Real unemployment is not 7 percent. If one includes those who have given up looking for work and those who want full-time work but are employed part-time, real unemployment is over 13 percent – and youth unemployment is much higher than that.
– Most of the new jobs that are being created are part-time and low wage, but the minimum wage remains at the starvation level of $7.25 per hour.
– Millions of college students are leaving school deeply in debt, while many others have given up on their dream of a higher education because of the cost.
– Meanwhile, as tens of millions of Americans struggle to survive economically, the wealthiest people are doing phenomenally well and corporate profits are at an all-time high. In fact, wealth and income inequality today is greater than at any time since just before the Great Depression. One family, the Walton family with its Wal-Mart fortune, now owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans. In recent years, 95 percent of all new income has gone to the top 1 percent.
– The scientific community has been very clear: Global warming is real, it is already causing massive problems and, if we don’t significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the planet we leave to our kids and grandchildren will be less and less habitable.

Clearly, if we are going to save the middle class and protect our planet, we need to change the political dynamics of the nation. We can no longer allow the billionaires and their think tanks or the corporate media to set the agenda. We need to educate, organize and mobilize the working families of our country to stand up for their rights. We need to make government work for all the people, not just the 1 percent.

When Congress reconvenes for the 2014 session, here are a few of the issues that I will focus on. (By the way, I’d love to hear from you as to what your priorities are).

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37257.htm

WEALTH AND INCOME INEQUALITY: A nation will not survive morally or economically when so few have so much, while so many have so little. It is simply not acceptable that the top 1 percent owns 38 percent of the financial wealth of the nation, while the bottom 60 percent owns all of 2.3 percent. We need to establish a progressive tax system which asks the wealthy to start paying their fair share of taxes, and which ends the outrageous loopholes that enable one out of four corporations to pay nothing in federal taxes.

JOBS: We need to make significant investments in our crumbling infrastructure, in energy efficiency and sustainable energy, in early childhood education and in affordable housing. When we do that, we not only improve the quality of life in our country and combat global warming, we also create millions of decent-paying new jobs.

WAGES: We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. We should pass the legislation, which will soon be on the Senate floor, to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, but we must raise that minimum wage even higher in the coming years. We also need to expand our efforts at worker-ownership. Employees will not be sending their jobs to China or Vietnam when they own the places in which they work.

RETIREMENT SECURITY: At a time when only one in five workers in the private sector have a defined benefit pension plan; half of Americans have less than $10,000 in savings; and two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for more than half of their income, we must expand and protect Social Security so that every American can retire with dignity.

WALL STREET: During the financial crisis, huge Wall Street banks received more than $700 billion in financial aid from the Treasury Department and more than $16 trillion from the Federal Reserve because they were “too big to fail.” Yet today, the largest banks in this country are much bigger than they were before taxpayers bailed them out. It’s time to break up these behemoths so that they cannot cause another recession that could wreck the global economy.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM: We are not living in a real democracy when large corporations and a handful of billionaire families can spend unlimited sums of money to elect or defeat candidates. We must expand our efforts to overturn the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision and move this country to public funding of elections.

SOCIAL JUSTICE: While we have made progress in recent years in expanding the rights of minorities, women and gays, these advances are under constant attack from the right-wing. If the United States is to become the non-discriminatory society we want it to be, we must fight to protect the rights of all Americans.

CIVIL LIBERTIES: Frankly, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies are out of control. We cannot talk about America as a “free country” when the government is collecting information on virtually every phone call we make, when it is intercepting our emails and monitoring the websites we visit. Clearly, we need to protect this country from terrorism, but we must do it in a way that does not undermine the Constitution.

WAR AND PEACE: With a large deficit and enormous unmet needs, it is absurd that the United States continues to spend almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. The U.S. must be a leader in the world in nuclear disarmament and efforts toward peace, not in the sale of weapons of destruction.

This is a tough and historical moment in American history. Despair is not an option. We must stand together as brothers and sisters and fight for the America our people deserve.

Follow Sen. Bernie Sanders on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SenSanders

Mexican Vigilantes Stand Up Against Crime

Video

The state of Guerrero (which means “warrior”) is one of the poorest in Mexico and the site of some of the worst violence in the battle between the drug cartels and Mexican authorities. As a result of the violence, hundreds of civillians have armed themselves with machetes, rifles, and shotguns, put masks on, and decided to police their own communities, effectively taking justice into their own hands.

Posted December 30, 2013

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37262.htm

Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty: What They Aren’t Telling You!

Video – Stefan Molyneux

Phil Robertson, a star of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty,” has been suspended indefinitely after slamming gays in a recent magazine interview.

Posted December 30, 2013

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37253.htm

Sunni Monarchs Back YouTube Hate Preachers:

Anti-Shia propaganda threatens a sectarian civil war which will engulf the entire Muslim world

There is now a pool of jihadis willing to fight and die anywhere

By Patrick Cockburn

December 30, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “The Independent” – Anti-Shia hate propaganda spread by Sunni religious figures sponsored by, or based in, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, is creating the ingredients for a sectarian civil war engulfing the entire Muslim world. Iraq and Syria have seen the most violence, with the majority of the 766 civilian fatalities in Iraq this month being Shia pilgrims killed by suicide bombers from the al-Qa’ida umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis). The anti-Shia hostility of this organisation, now operating from Baghdad to Beirut, is so extreme that last month it had to apologise for beheading one of its own wounded fighters in Aleppo – because he was mistakenly believed to have muttered the name of Shia saints as he lay on a stretcher.

At the beginning of December, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula killed 53 doctors and nurses and wounded 162 in an attack on a hospital in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, which had been threatened for not taking care of wounded militants by a commentator on an extreme Sunni satellite TV station. Days before the attack, he announced that armies and tribes would assault the hospital “to take revenge for our brothers. We say this and, by the grace of Allah, we will do it”.

Skilled use of the internet and access to satellite television funded by or based in Sunni states has been central to the resurgence of al-Qa’ida across the Middle East, to a degree that Western politicians have so far failed to grasp. In the last year, Isis has become the most powerful single rebel military force in Iraq and Syria, partly because of its ability to recruit suicide bombers and fanatical fighters through the social media. Western intelligence agencies, such as the NSA in the US, much criticised for spying on the internet communications of their own citizens, have paid much less attention to open and instantly accessible calls for sectarian murder that are in plain view. Critics say that this is in keeping with a tradition since 9/11 of Western governments not wishing to hold Saudi Arabia or the Gulf monarchies responsible for funding extreme Sunni jihadi groups and propagandists supporting them through private donations.

Satellite television, internet, YouTube and Twitter content, frequently emanating from or financed by oil states in the Arabian peninsula, are at the centre of a campaign to spread sectarian hatred to every corner of the Muslim world, including places where Shia are a vulnerable minority, such as Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Malaysia. In Benghazi, in effect the capital of eastern Libya, a jihadi group uploaded a video of the execution of an Iraqi professor who admitted to being a Shia, saying they had shot him in revenge for the execution of Sunni militants by the Iraqi government.

YouTube-inspired divisions are not confined to the Middle East: in London’s Edgware Road there was a fracas this summer when a Salafi (Sunni fundamentalist) cleric held a rally in the face of objections from local Shia shopkeepers. Impelled by television preachers and the social media, sectarian animosities are deepening among hitherto moderate Sunni and Shia, with one Shia figure in the UK saying that “Even in London you could open the address books of most Sunni without finding any Shia names, and vice versa.”

The hate propaganda is often gory and calls openly for religious war. One anti-Shia satellite television station shows a grouping of Shia clerical leaders, mostly from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, labelled as “Satan’s assistants”. Another asks “Oh Sunni Muslims, how long will you wait when your sons are led to be hanged in Iraq? Is it now time to break the shackles?” A picture of a woman in black walking between what appear to be two militiamen is entitled “Shia men in Syria rape Sunni sisters”, and another shows the back of a pick-up truck heaped with dead bodies in uniform, titled “The destiny of Syrian Army and Shia soldiers”. Some pictures are intended to intimidate, such as one showing an armed convoy on a road in Yemen, with a message addressed to the Shia saying: “Sunni tribes are on the way”.

Sectarian animosities between Sunni and Shia have existed down the centuries, but have greatly intensified since the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the eight-year Iran-Iraq war that followed it. Hatreds increased after the US invasion of Iraq and the takeover of what had been a Sunni-run state under Saddam Hussein by the majority Shia community, which generated a ferocious sectarian civil war that peaked in 2006-07 and ended with a Shia victory. Opposition to Iran and the new Shia-run state of Iraq led to Sunni rulers emphasising the Shia threat. Shia activists point in particular to the establishment in 2009 of two satellite channels, Safa TV and Wesal TV, which they accuse of having strong anti-Shia bias. They say that Saudi clerics have shown great skill in communicating extreme sectarian views through modern communications technology such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, giving them a much wider audience than they had previously enjoyed.

An example of the inflammatory views being pumped out over YouTube is a sermon by Nabil al-Awadi, a cleric in Kuwait, who has 3.4 million followers on Twitter. His speech is devoted to “exposing the biggest conspiracy the Muslim world faces”, which turns out to be a plot “conceived in Qom [the Shia holy city in Iran], and handled by sayyids and chiefs in Tehran, to get rid of the nation of Islam, aiming to desecrate the Kaaba [the building in Mecca that is Islam’s most sacred site] brick by brick”.

Mr Awadi relates that Iraq fell to an enemy whom he does not name, but he clearly means the Shia, often referred to as Safavids after the Iranian dynasty of that name. He says that in Iraq “they were killing the imams with drills in their heads until they are dead and they put the bodies in acid to burn until they died”. But the speaker looks forward to a holy war or jihad in Syria, where a great battle for the future of Islam will be fought and won. He warns that “they did not know that jihad is staying and will put fear in their hearts even if they are in Washington, even if they are in London, even if they are in Moscow”.

In Egypt, the Shia are only a small minority, but a cleric named Mohamed Zoghbi reacted furiously to the suggestion that they appear on satellite television to debate religious differences. “We would cut off their fingers and cut off their tongues,” he said. “I must cut off the Shia breath in Egypt.” Bloodthirsty threats like this have great influence on ordinary viewers, since many Egyptians watch religious channels continuously and believe the opinions expressed on them. An example of what this kind of incitement can mean for Shia living in communities where Sunni are the overwhelming majority was demonstrated in June in the small village of Zawyat Abu Musalam, in Giza governorate in Egypt. Some 40 Shia families had previously lived in the village until an enraged mob, led by Salafist sheikhs, burned five houses and lynched four Shia, including a prominent local figure.

Video films of the lynching, which took place in daylight, show the savage and merciless attacks to which Shia minorities in many countries are now being subjected.

Hazem Barakat, an eyewitness and photojournalist, minutely recorded what happened and recorded it on Twitter in real time. “For three weeks, the Salafist sheikhs in the village have been attacking the Shias and accusing them of being infidels and spreading debauchery,” he told Ahram Online. Film of the incident shows a man, who looks as if he may already be dead, being dragged through a narrow street in the village by a mob. Among the four dead was 66-year-old Hassan Shehata, a well-known Shia leader who had been twice jailed under Hosni Mubarak for “contempt for religion”. Police came to the village but arrived late. “They were just watching the public lynching like everyone else and did not stop anything,” said Mr Barakat.

A significant sign of the mood in Egypt is that immediately after the lynchings, a TV host said that Mr Shehata had been killed because he had insulted the Prophet Mohamed’s relatives. Several Salafist and conservative Facebook pages are cited by Ahram Online as having lauded the murders, saying that this was the beginning of eliminating all the three million Shia in Egypt.

Given that Shia make up between 150 and 200 million of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, they are a small and usually vulnerable minority in all countries aside from Iran and Iraq, though they are numerous in Lebanon, Pakistan and India. In Tunisia last year, a pro-Palestinian march by Shia in the city of Gabes was attacked by Salafists chanting, “There is no god but Allah and the Shia are the enemies of God.” Tunisian eyewitnesses cite the influence of Egyptian and Saudi religious channels, combined with the Salafists claiming to be the last defence against an exaggerated threat of a takeover by Iran and the Shia.

The propaganda war became more intense from 2006 on, when there were mass killings of Sunni in Baghdad which, having previously been a mixed city, is now dominated by the Shia, with Sunnis confined to  enclaves mostly in the west of the city. The Sunni community in Iraq started a protest movement against persecution and denial of political, social and economic rights in December 2012. As the Iraqi government failed to conciliate the Sunni with concessions, a peaceful protest movement mutated into armed resistance.

The enhanced prestige and popularity of the Shia paramilitary movement Hezbollah, after its success against Israel’s air and ground assault in 2006, may also be a reason why Sunni governments tolerated stepped-up sectarian attacks on the Shia. These often take the form of claims that Iran is seeking to take over the region. In Bahrain, the Sunni monarchy repeatedly asserted that it saw an Iranian hand behind the Arab Spring protests in early 2011, though its own international inquiry later found no evidence for this. When President Obama said in September that Bahrain, along with Iraq and Syria, suffered from sectarian tensions, the Bahraini government furiously denied that any such thing was true.

Social media, satellite television, Facebook and YouTube, which were praised at the start of the Arab Spring as the means for a progressive breakthrough for freedom of expression, have turned into channels for instilling hatred and fear. Fighters in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and other countries beset by violence often draw their knowledge of the world from a limited number of fanatical internet preachers and commentators calling for holy war by Sunni against Shia; often such people are crucial in sending young volunteers to fight and die in Syria and Iraq.

A recent study of dead rebel fighters in Syria by Aaron Y Zelin of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation indicates that jihadi death notices revealing country of origin show that 267 came from Saudi Arabia, 201 from Libya, 182 from Tunisia and 95 from Jordan. The great majority had joined Isis and the al-Nusra Front, both of which are highly sectarian organisations. A deeply dangerous development is that the foreign fighters, inspired by film of atrocities and appeals to religious faith, may sign up to go to Syria but often end up as suicide bombers in Iraq, where violence has increased spectacularly in the past 12 months.

There is now a fast-expanding pool of jihadis willing to fight and die anywhere. The Saudis and the Gulf monarchies may find, as happened in Afghanistan 30 years ago, that, by funding or tolerating the dissemination of Sunni-Shia hate, they have created a sectarian Frankenstein’s monster of religious fanatics beyond their control.

© independent.co.uk

See also –

Syria’s Assad urges fight against Saudi religious ideology: Syria’s President Bashar Assad Monday called for a battle against Wahhabism, the political and religious ideology embraced by the Saudi government, a key backer of the uprising against his regime.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37261.htm

Volgograd Bombings: NATO, Bandar Bush Main Suspects?

Video By RT

The suicide bombings also follow the pattern of NATO Operation Gladio B, and fall in line with NATO protection of Chechen terrorists.
James Corbett joins RT to discuss these developments

Posted December 30, 2013

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37259.htm

The World’s Blatant Double Standard – in Israel’s Favor

By Larry Derfner

December 30, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  The American Studies Association may be singling out Israel for boycott, but if you look at the serious, painful punishments the world metes out to oppressor nations, Israel is not being singled out, it’s being let off the hook.

As of Friday at noon, a Google search of “human rights sanctions” turns up over 40 million results. There are human rights sanctions and other punishments against ChinaRussiaIranSyria,ZimbabweSudanYemenBelarusCubaNorth Korea and lots of other countries. And these sanctions weren’t put in place by some minor academic group like the American Studies Association, but by the United States of America, the European Union and/or the United Nations Security Council. Furthermore, these sanctions hurt those countries quite a bit more than the ASA’s boycott of Israeli colleges is likely to hurt Israel.

Yet you would think from the reaction to the recent ASA boycott that no other country in the world is being punished for its human rights violations. Everybody’s jumping on ASA president Curtis Marez’s quote on why the organization was going after Israel instead of other, far worse malefactors: “One has to start somewhere,” he told The New York Times. But while the ASA may be starting with Israel, the powers-that-be in the world have gone after any number of human-rights violating countries – yet still haven’t gotten to Israel and its 46-year military dictatorship over the Palestinians.

If you look at the serious, painful punishments the world metes out to oppressor nations, Israel is not being singled out, it’s being let off the hook.

Would Israel’s defenders like to see the world treat this country like it treats Iran – by “bringing it to its knees” with “crippling sanctions,” not to mention the clamor from some quarters to bomb its nuclear facilities?

Or would they like Israel to be treated like Syria – by freezing its foreign assets and denying entry to any Israeli involved in the occupation? Would they want the U.S. to arm some of the groups fighting Israel? Would they have preferred Israel being one step away from getting bombed by the U.S.? Would they rather that the world powers destroy Israel’s chemical weapons – or would they choose the ASA boycott?

Or if not like Syria, would Israel’s advocates want this country to be treated like China – with the U.S. vetoing its international loan applications and the U.S. and EU imposing an arms embargo on it? By the way, lots of countries are faced with arms embargoes by the U.S., EU and/or the UN, including Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Israel, by contrast, gets $3 billion worth of arms from America every year.

And how about Zimbabwe; would Alan Dershowitz have Israel trade the ASA boycott for Zimbabwe’s punishments? Not only does the African nation face an embargo on arms, it’s up against one on international loans, too. Its fearless leader Robert Mugabe has been made radioactive – anybody who has dealings with him stands to have his assets frozen and his entry barred to the U.S. and EU.

Even big, powerful Russia has it worse than Israel – 18 Russian officials said to be involved in the prison killing of dissident lawyer Sergei Magnitzky in 2009 have had their assets frozen and their entry barred to the U.S., and there are constant calls for the EU to follow suit. How many Palestinians have been killed wrongfully by Israeli soldiers, police, Shin Bet agents and settlers during the occupation; are the U.S. and EU punishing any of them or their superiors for that?

And now, because of its anti-gay laws and statements and the gay-bashing climate they’ve encouraged, Russia is facing boycotts far more powerful than the one imposed by the ASA. Gay bars around the world are boycotting Russian vodka. And the movement to boycott next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi is booming. Here’s an irony: Bibi Netanyahu himself just agreed to join other world leaders, starting with Obama, in boycotting the Games. Do Obama, Cameron, Hollande and their colleagues boycott any Israeli showcase event because of the occupation, which is an incomparably worse crime than Russia’s anti-gay laws and harassment?

The Western powers can punish Russia, they can punish China, they can lay in to Iran, Syria, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Sudan and the like – but they won’t touch Israel (the European Union’s wussy “guidelines” notwithstanding). Indeed, the strongest country in the world not only won’t punish Israel for its near half-century of tyranny over the Palestinians, it keeps feeding it arms while shielding it in the UN. America coddles Israel, the world’s last outpost of colonialism, like few countries have ever been coddled by a superpower in history.

The occupation is not, by any means, a human rights violation on the scale of Assad’s butchery, or the Congo’s, or Sudan’s, or Zimbabwe’s, for example. But it is a greater one than, for example, Iran’s nuclear program, or Cuba’s communism, or Russia’s killing of Sergei Magnitzky and its anti-gay policy – yet Israel gets off scot-free.  The world doesn’t punish this country unfairly – it doesn’t punish this country at all, while America rewards it lavishly.

The ASA boycott, like the rest of the BDS movement’s achievements, are not examples of the world’s double standard against Israel – they’re  Quixotic, rearguard actions against the world’s blatant double standard in Israel’s favor.  If this country were treated with a minuscule fraction of the severity the West ordinarily visits on human rights violators,  the occupation would have ended long ago.

Larry Derfner. I was a columnist and feature writer for The Jerusalem Post, as well as the correspondent in Israel for the U.S. News and World Report, for many years. I wrote feature articles for the Sunday Times of London during the second intifada, and have been writing for American Jewish publications since 1990. More…

Politically, I would describe myself as an ultra-liberal Zionist; as journalist Bradley Burston put it, I’m “probably as far left as a centrist can be.” I was born in New York, grew up in Los Angeles and moved to Israel in 1985.

© 2010 – 2013 +972 Magazine

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37252.htm

Oligarchs, Demagogues and Mass Revolts … against Democracy

By Prof. James Petras

Global Research, December 29, 2013

petrasIn ancient Rome, especially during the late Republic, oligarchs resorted to mob violence to block, intimidate, assassinate or drive from power the dominant faction in the Senate. While neither the ruling or opposing factions represented the interests of the plebeians, wage workers, small farmers or slaves, the use of the ‘mob’ against the elected Senate, the principle of representative government and the republican form of government laid the groundwork for the rise of authoritarian “Caesars” (military rulers) and the transformation of the Roman republic into an imperial state.

Demagogues, in the pay of aspiring emperors, aroused the passions of a motley array of disaffected slum dwellers, loafers and petty thieves (ladrones) with promises, pay-offs and positions in a New Order. Professional mob organizers cultivated their ties with the oligarchs ‘above’ and with professional demonstrators ‘below’. They voiced ‘popular grievances’ and articulated demands questioning the legitimacy of the incumbent rulers, while laying the groundwork for the rule by the few.

Usually, when the pay-master oligarchs came to power on a wave of demagogue-led mob violence, they quickly suppressed the demonstrations, paid off the demagogues with patronage jobs in the new regime or resorted to a discrete assassination for ‘street leaders’ unwilling to recognize the new order’. The new rulers purged the old Senators into exile, expulsion and dispossession, rigged new elections and proclaimed themselves ‘saviors of the republic’. They proceeded to drive peasants from their land, renounce social obligations and stop food subsidies for poor urban families and funds for public works.

The use of mob violence and “mass revolts” to serve the interests of oligarchical and imperial powers against democratically-elected governments has been a common strategy in recent times.

Throughout the ages, the choreographed “mass revolt” played many roles: (1) it served to destabilize an electoral regime; (2) it provided a platform for its oligarch funders to depose an incumbent regime; (3) it disguised the fact that the oligarchic opposition had lost democratic elections; (4) it provided a political minority with a ‘fig-leaf of legitimacy’ when it was otherwise incapable of acting within a constitutional framework and (5) it allowed for the illegitimate seizure of power in the name of a pseudo ‘majority’, namely the “crowds in the central plaza”.

 Some leftist commentators have argued two contradictory positions: One the one hand, some simply reduce the oligarchy’s power grab to an ‘inter-elite struggle’ which has nothing to do with the ‘interests of the working class’, while others maintain the ‘masses’ in the street are protesting against an “elitist regime”. A few even argue that with popular, democratic demands, these revolts are progressive, should be supported as “terrain for class struggle”. In other words, the ‘left’ should join the uprising and contest the oligarchs for leadership within the stage-managed revolts!

What progressives are unwilling to recognize is that the oligarchs orchestrating the mass revolt are authoritarians who completely reject democratic procedures and electoral processes. Their aim is to establish a ‘junta’, which will eliminate all democratic political and social institutions and freedoms and impose harsher, more repressive and regressive policies and institutions than those they replace. Some leftists support the ‘masses in revolt’ simply because of their ‘militancy’, their numbers and street courage, without examining the underlying leaders, their interests and links to the elite beneficiaries of a ‘regime change’.

All the color-coded “mass revolts” in Eastern Europe and the ex-USSR featured popular leaders who exhorted the masses in the name of ‘independence and democracy’ but were pro-NATO, pro-(Western) imperialists and linked to neo-liberal elites. Upon the fall of communism, the new oligarchs privatized and sold off the most lucrative sectors of the economy throwing millions out of work, dismantled the welfare state and handed over their military bases to NATO for the stationing of foreign troops and the placement of missiles aimed at Russia.

 The entire ‘anti-Stalinist’ left in the US and Western Europe, with a few notable exceptions, celebrated these oligarch-controlled revolts in Eastern Europe and some even participated as minor accomplices in the post-revolt neo-liberal regimes. One clear reason for the demise of “Western Marxism” arose from its inability to distinguish a genuine popular democratic revolt from a mass uprising funded and stage-managed by rival oligarchs!

One of the clearest recent example of a manipulated ‘people’s power’ revolution in the streets to replace an elected representative of one sector of the elite with an even more brutal, authoritarian ‘president’ occurred in early 2001 in the Philippines. The more popular and independent (but notoriously corrupt) President Joseph Estrada, who had challenged sectors of the Philippine elite and current US foreign policy (infuriating Washington by embracing Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez), was replaced through street demonstrations of middle-class matrons with soldiers in civvies by Gloria Makapagal-Arroyo. Mrs. Makapagal-Arroyo, who had close links to the US and the Philippine military, unleashed a horrific wave of brutality dubbed the ‘death-squad democracy’. The overthrow of Estrada was actively supported by the left, including sectors of the revolutionary left, who quickly found themselves the target of an unprecedented campaign of assassinations, disappearances, torture and imprisonment by their newly empowered ‘Madame President’.

Past and Present Mass Revolts Against Democracy: Guatemala, Iran, and Chile

The use of mobs and mass uprisings by oligarchs and empire builders has a long and notorious history. Three of the bloodiest cases, which scarred their societies for decades, took place in Guatemala in 1954, Iran in 1953, and Chile in 1973.

Democratically-elected Jacobo Árbenz was the first Guatemalan President to initiate agrarian reform and legalize trade unions, especially among landless farm workers. Árbenz’s reforms included the expropriation of unused, fallow land owned by the United Fruit Company, a giant US agro-business conglomerate. The CIA used its ties to local oligarchs and right-wing generals and colonels to instigate and finance mass-protests against a phony ‘communist-takeover’ of Guatemala under President Arbenz. The military used the manipulated mob violence and the ‘threat’ of Guatemala becoming a “Soviet satellite”, to stage a bloody coup. The coup leaders received air support from the CIA and slaughtered thousands of Arbenz supporters and turned the countryside into ‘killing fields’. For the next 50 years political parties, trade unions and peasant organizations were banned, an estimated 200,000 Guatemalans were murdered and millions were displaced.

 In 1952 Mohammed Mossadegh was elected president of Iran on a moderate nationalist platform, after the overthrow of the brutal monarch. Mossadegh announced the nationalization of the petroleum industry. The CIA, with the collaboration of the local oligarchs, monarchists and demagogues organized ‘anti-communist’ street mobs to stage violent demonstrations providing the pretext for a monarchist- military coup. The CIA-control Iranian generals brought Shah Reza Pahlavi back from Switzerland and for the next 26 years Iran was a monarchist-military dictatorship, whose population was terrorized by the Savak, the murderous secret police.

 The US oil companies received the richest oil concessions; the Shah joined Israel and the US in an unholy alliance against progressive nationalist dissidents and worked hand-in-hand to undermine independent Arab states. Tens of thousands of Iranians were killed, tortured and driven into exile. In 1979, a mass popular uprising led by Islamic movements, nationalist and socialist parties and trade unions drove out the Shah-Savak dictatorship. The Islamists installed a radical nationalist clerical regime, which retains power to this day despite decades of a US-CIA-funded destabilization campaign which has funded both terrorist groups and dissident liberal movements.

 Chile is the best-known case of CIA-financed mob violence leading to a military coup. In 1970, the democratic socialist Dr. Salvador Allende was elected president of Chile. Despite CIA efforts to buy votes to block Congressional approval of the electoral results and its manipulation of violent demonstrations and an assassination campaign to precipitate a military coup, Allende took office.

During Allende’s tenure as president the CIA financed a variety of “direct actions” –from paying the corrupt leaders of a copper workers union to stage strikes and the truck owners associations to refuse to transport goods to the cities, to manipulating right-wing terrorist groups like the Patria y Libertad (Fatherland and Liberty) in their assassination campaigns. The CIA’s destabilization program was specifically designed to provoke economic instability through artificial shortages and rationing, in order to incite middle class discontent.

This was made notorious by the street demonstrations of pot-banging housewives. The CIA sought to incite a military coup through economic chaos. Thousands of truck owners were paid not to drive their trucks leading to shortages in the cities, while right-wing terrorists blew up power stations plunging neighborhoods into darkness and shop owners who refused to join the ‘strike’ against Allende were vandalized.

On September 11, 1973, to the chants of ‘Jakarta’ (in celebration of a 1964 CIA coup in Indonesia), a junta of US-backed Chilean generals grabbed power from an elected government. Tens of thousands of activists and government supporters were arrested, killed, tortured and forced into exile. The dictatorship denationalized and privatized its mining, banking and manufacturing sectors, following the free market dictates of Milton Friedman-trained economists (the so-call “Chicago Boys”). The dictatorship overturned 40 years of welfare, labor and land-reform legislation which had made Chile the most socially advanced country in Latin America. With the generals in power, Chile became the ‘neo-liberal model’ for Latin America. Mob violence and the so-called “middle class revolt”, led to the consolidation of oligarchic and imperial rule and a 17-year reign of terror under General Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. The whole society was brutalized and with the return of electoral politics, even former ‘leftist’ parties retained the dictatorship’s neo-liberal economic policies, its authoritarian constitution and the military high command. The ‘revolt of the middle class’ in Chile resulted in the greatest concentration of wealth in the hands of the oligarchs in Latin America to this day!

The Contemporary Use and Abuse of “Mass Revolts”: Egypt, Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, and Argentina

 In recent years “mass revolt” has become the instrument of choice when oligarchs, generals and other empire builders seeking ‘regime change’. By enlisting an assortment of nationalist demagogues and imperial-funded NGO ‘leaders’, they set the conditions for the overthrow of democratically elected governments and stage-managed the installment of their own “free market” regimes with dubious “democratic” credentials.

 Not all the elected regimes under siege are progressive. Many ‘democracies’, like the Ukraine, are ruled by one set of oligarchs. In Ukraine, the elite supporting President Viktor Yanukovich, decided that entering into a deep client-state relationship with the European Union was not in their interests, and sought to diversify their international trade partners while maintaining lucrative ties with Russia. Their opponents, who are currently behind the street demonstrations in Kiev, advocate a client relationship with the EU, stationing of NATO troops, and cutting ties with Russia. In Thailand, the democratically-elected Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, represents a section of the economic elite with ties and support in the rural areas, especially the North-East, as well as deep trade relations with China. The opponents are urban-based, closer to the military-monarchists and favor a straight neo-liberal agenda linked to the US against the rural patronage-populist agenda of Ms. Shinawatra.

 Egypt’s democratically-elected Mohamed Morsi government pursued a moderate Islamist policy with some constraints on the military and a loosening of ties with Israel in support of the Palestinians in Gaza. In terms of the IMF, Morsi sought compromise. The Morsi regime was in flux when it was overthrown: not Islamist nor secular, not pro-worker but also not pro-military. Despite all of its different pressure groups and contradictions, the Morsi regime permitted labor strikes, demonstrations, opposition parties, freedom of the press and assembly. All of these democratic freedoms have disappeared after waves of ‘mass street revolts’, choreographed by the military, set the conditions for the generals to take power and establish their brutal dictatorship – jailing and torturing tens of thousands and outlawing all opposition parties.

 Mass demonstrations and demagogue-led direct actions also actively target democratically elected progressive governments, like Venezuela and Argentina, in addition to the actions against conservative democracies cited above. Venezuela, under Presidents Hugo Chavez and Vicente Maduro advance an anti-imperialist, pro-socialist program. ‘Mob revolts’ are combined with waves of assassinations, sabotage of public utilities, artificial shortages of essential commodities, vicious media slander and opposition election campaigns funded from the outside.

In 2002, Washington teamed up with its collaborator politicians, Miami and Caracas-based oligarchs and local armed gangs, to mount a “protest movement” as the pretext for a planned business-military coup. The generals and members of the elite seized power and deposed and arrested the democratically-elected President Chavez. All avenues of democratic expression and representation were closed and the constitution annulled. In response to the kidnapping of ‘their president’, over a million Venezuelans spontaneously mobilized and marched upon the Presidential palace to demand the restoration of democracy and Hugo Chavez to the presidency.

Backed by the large pro-democracy and pro-constitution sectors of the Venezuelan armed forces, the mass protests led to the coup’s defeat and the return of Chavez and democracy. All democratic governments facing manipulated imperial-oligarchic financed mob revolts should study the example of Venezuela’s defeat of the US-oligarch-generals’ coup. The best defense for democracy is found in the organization, mobilization and political education of the electoral majority. It is not enough to participate in free elections; an educated and politicized majority must also know how to defend their democracy in the streets as well as at the ballot box.

The lessons of the 2002 coup-debacle were very slowly absorbed by the Venezuelan oligarchy and their US patrons who continued to destabilize the economy in an attempt to undermine democracy and seize power. Between December 2002 and February 2003, corrupt senior oil executives of the nominally ‘public’ oil company PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela) organized a ‘bosses’ lockout stopping production, export and local distribution of oil and refined petroleum produces. ,Corrupt trade union officials, linked to the US National Endowment for Democracy, mobilized oil workers and other employees to support the lock-out, in their attempt to paralyze the economy. The government responded by mobilizing the other half of the oil workers who, together with a significant minority of middle management, engineers and technologists, called on the entire Venezuelan working class to take the oil fields and installations from the ‘bosses’. To counter the acute shortage of gasoline, President Chavez secured supplies from neighboring countries and overseas allies. The lockout was defeated. Several thousand supporters of the executive power grab were fired and replaced by pro-democracy managers and workers.

Having failed to overthrow the democratic government via “mass revolts”, the oligarchs turned toward a plebiscite on Chavez rule and later called for a nation-wide electoral boycott, both of which were defeated. These defeats served to strengthen Venezuela’s democratic institutions and decreased the presence of opposition legislators in the Congress. The repeated failures of the elite to grab power led to a new multi-pronged strategy using:

(1) US-funded NGO’s to exploit local grievances and mobilize residents around community issues;

(2) clandestine thugs to sabotage utilities, especially power, assassinate peasant recipients of land reform titles, as well as prominent officials and activists;

(3) mass electoral campaign marches, and (4) economic destabilization via financial speculation, illegal foreign exchange trading, price gouging and hoarding of basic consumer commodities.

The purpose of these measures is to incite mass discontent, using their control of the mass media to provoke another ‘mass revolt’ to set the stage for another US-backed ‘power grab’. Violent street protests by middle class students from the elite Central University were organized by oligarch-financed demagogues. ‘Demonstrations’ included sectors of the middle class and urban poor angered by the artificial shortages and power outages.

The sources of popular discontent were rapidly and effectively addressed at the top by energetic government measures: business owners engaged in hoarding and price gouging were jailed; prices of essential staples were reduced; hoarded goods were seized from warehouses and distributed to the poor; the import of essential goods were increased and saboteurs were pursued. The Government’s effective intervention resonated with the mass of the working class, the lower-middle class and the rural and urban poor and restored their support. Government supporters took to the streets and lined up at the ballot box to defeat the campaign of destabilization. The government won a resounding electoral mandate allowing it to move decisively against the oligarchs and their backers in Washington.

The Venezuelan experience shows how energetic government counter-measures can restore support and deepen progressive social changes for the majority. This is because forceful progressive government intervention against anti-democratic oligarchs, combined with the organization, political education and mobilization of the majority of voters can decisively defeat these stage-managed mass revolts.

Argentina is an example of a weakened democratic regime trying to straddle the fence between the oligarchs and the workers, between the combined force of the agro-business and mining elites and working and middle class constituencies dependent on social policies. The elected-Kirchner-Fernandez government has faced “mass revolts” in the a series of street demonstrations whipped up by conservative agricultural exporters over taxes; the Buenos Aires upper-middle class angered at ‘crime, disorder and insecurity’, a nationwide strike by police officials over ‘salaries’ who ‘looked the other way’ while gangs of ‘lumpen’ street thugs pillaged and destroyed stores. Taken altogether, these waves of mob action in Argentina appear to be part of a politically-directed destabilization campaign by the authoritarian Right who have instigated or, at least, exploited these events. Apart from calling on the military to restore order and conceding to the ‘salary’ demands of the striking police, the Fernandez government has been unable or unwilling to mobilize the democratic electorate in defense of democracy. The democratic regime remains in power but it is under siege and vulnerable to attack by domestic and imperial opponents.

Conclusion

Mass revolts are two-edged swords: they can be a positive force when they occur against military dictatorships like Pinochet or Mubarak, against authoritarian absolutist monarchies like Saudi Arabia, a colonial-racist state like Israel, and imperial occupations like against the US in Afghanistan. But they have to be directed and controlled by popular local leaders seeking to restore democratic majority rule.

 History, from ancient times to the present, teaches us that not all ‘mass revolts’ achieve, or are even motivated by, democratic objectives. Many have served oligarchs seeking to overthrow democratic governments, totalitarian leaders seeking to install fascist and pro-imperial regimes, demagogues and authoritarians seeking to weaken shaky democratic regimes and militarists seeking to start wars for imperial ambitions.

 Today, “mass revolts” against democracy have become standard operational procedure for Western European and US rulers who seek to circumvent democratic procedures and install pro-imperial clients. The practice of democracy is denigrated while the mob is extolled in the imperial Western media. This is why armed Islamist terrorists and mercenaries are called “rebels” in Syria and the mobs in the streets of Kiev (Ukraine) attempting to forcibly depose a democratically-elected government are labeled “pro-Western democrats”.

The ideology informing the “mass revolts” varies from “anti-communist” and “anti-authoritarian” in democratic Venezuela, to “pro-democracy” in Libya (even as tribal bands and mercenaries slaughter whole communities), Egypt and the Ukraine.

 Imperial strategists have systematized, codified and made operational “mass revolts” in favor of oligarchic rule. International experts, consultants, demagogues and NGO officials have carved out lucrative careers as they travel to ‘hot spots’ and organize ‘mass revolts’ dragging the target countries into deeper ‘colonization’ via European or US-centered ‘integration’. Most local leaders and demagogues accept the double agenda: ‘protest today and submit to new masters tomorrow’. The masses in the street are fooled and then sacrificed. They believe in a ‘New Dawn’ of Western consumerism, higher paid jobs and greater personal freedom … only to be disillusioned when their new rulers fill the jails with opponents and many former protestors, raise prices, cut salaries, privatize state companies, sell off the most lucrative firms to foreigners and double the unemployment rate.

When the oligarchs ‘stage-manage’ mass revolts and takeover the regime, the big losers include the democratic electorate and most of the protestors. Leftists and progressives, in the West or in exile, who had mindlessly supported the ‘mass revolts’ will publish their scholarly essays on ‘the revolution (sic) betrayed” without admitting to their own betrayal of democratic principles.

If and when the Ukraine enters into the European Union, the exuberant street demonstrators will join the millions of jobless workers in Greece, Portugal, and Spain, as well as millions of pensioners brutalized by “austerity programs” imposed by their new rulers, the ‘Troika’ in Brussels. If these former demonstrators take to the streets once more, in disillusionment at their leaders’ “betrayal”, they can enjoy their ‘victory’ under the batons of “NATO and European Union-trained police” while the Western mass media will have moved elsewhere in support of ‘democracy’.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/oligarchs-demagogues-and-mass-revolts-against-democracy/5362923

How the IAEA Basically Helped Assassinate Iranian Nuclear Scientists

Global Research, December 29, 2013
Fars News Agency 30 December 2013

Yukiya-Amano-e1388353164329Iran once again blasted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for breaching confidentiality in protecting the country’s sensitive nuclear information.

“We have always protested at the Agency for its lack of necessary care in protecting the secret information,” Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Seyed Abbas Araqchi said on Sunday.

Araqchi, a senior member of the Iranian team of negotiators in the talks with the six world powers, further complained that the IAEA’s careless handling of Iran’s secret information has caused a leak in the list of the names of Iran’s nuclear scientists and their assassination by the Zionist regime of Israel.
The Israeli and Western spy agencies, collaborated by the terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), have assassinated several Iranian scientists in the last four years.

In the fifth attack of its kind, terrorists killed a 32-year-old Iranian scientist, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, and his driver on January 11, 2012.

The blast took place on the second anniversary of the martyrdom of Iranian university professor and nuclear scientist, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, who was also assassinated in a terrorist bomb attack in Tehran in January 2010.

The assassination method used in the bombing was similar to the 2010 terrorist bomb attacks against the then university professor, Fereidoun Abbassi Davani – the former head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization – and his colleague Majid Shahriari. While Abbasi Davani survived the attack, Shahriari was martyred.

Another Iranian scientist, Dariush Rezaeinejad, was also assassinated through the same method on 23 July 2011.

Iran announced late June that its intelligence forces have identified and arrested all terrorist elements behind the assassination of the country’s nuclear scientists.

“All the elements involved in the assassinations of the country’s nuclear scientists have been identified and arrested,” Iran’s Intelligence Ministry announced in a statement at the time.

A number of countries, whose territories and facilities had been misused by the Mossad-backed terrorist teams, have provided Iranian officials with relevant information, the statement added.

Over the course of the investigations, all other elements behind the assassination of Iranian scientists Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, Majid Shahriari and Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan as well as Reza Qashqaei (Roshan’s driver) have been apprehended, the statement read.

Some of the perpetrators of the assassination of Dr. Fereydoun Abbasi are among those arrested, the ministry added.

The statement said Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has detected some of Mossad’s bases within the territories of one of Iran’s Western neighbors, which provided training and logistic support to the terrorist networks.

Also in June, former Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi had announced that the country’s security forces have arrested at least 20 terrorists behind the assassination of Iran’s nuclear scientists.

Moslehi stated that the arrests were made following the identification of two terrorist groups and through multiple sting operations across the country.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-iaea-basically-helped-assassinate-iranian-nuclear-scientists/5362939

Could Edward Snowden Get A Fair Trial In The U.S.?

Video

NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and Edward Snowden’s legal advisor Jesselyn Radack explain why they believe the NSA leaker wouldn’t get a fair hearing in the United States.

Posted December 29, 2013

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37244.htm

What If? A New Years Dream

By Emanuel E. Garcia

What if

The President of the United States of America
Got up one Tuesday morning, brushed his teeth,
Met with his advisors and decided
To stand down his Drones
Adding, before the session broke,
That he would abdicate the role of
Judge-jury-executioner
Effective immediately?

What if

The President ensured that
No-one, ever, anywhere,
Could be seized and held without charge,
Or denied due process and the
Presumption of innocence
No matter what the allegation?

What if

The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
Of the United States of America
Took military action only in
Wars formally declared by Congress?

And, finally, what if

Mr. President went to battle
Against secrecy in government
And commanded that each
Meeting, council, caucus, courtroom and committee
Be televised and recorded
For the citizenry?

Emanuel E. Garcia is a Philadelphia-born poet, novelist and physician who now resides in New Zealand.

December 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House –

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37248.htm

Put the NSA on Trial

With potential perjury by top officials, and new questions about spying, let’s stop assuming everything is legal

By David Sirota

December 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “When the president does it that means it is not illegal.” These infamous words from Richard Nixon appear to summarize the public legal justification for the Obama administration’s unprecedented mass surveillance operation. Perhaps worse, Permanent Washington would have us believe that this rationale is unquestionably accurate and that therefore the National Security Administration’s surveillance is perfectly legal.

For example, Richard Haas of the Council on Foreign Relations said of Edward Snowden: “‘Whistleblower’ is person who reveals wrongdoing, corruption, illegal activity. none of this applies here even if you oppose U.S. government policy.” Likewise, the Boston Globe’s Bryan Bender insists, “I wish media would stop calling Snowden a whistleblower — it maligns those who truly reveal corrupt or illegal activity.” And the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin definitively states: “These were legally authorized programs.”

The idea here, which has quickly become the standard talking point for partisans trying to defend the NSA program and the Obama administration, is that while you may object to the NSA’s mass surveillance system, it is nonetheless perfectly legal as is the conduct surrounding it. Therefore, the logic goes, Snowden isn’t an honorable “whistle-blower” he’s a traitorous “leaker,” and the only criminal in this case is Snowden and Snowden alone.

The first — and most simple — way to debunk this talking point is to simply behold two sets of testimony by Obama administration national security officials. In one, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper categorically denies that the government “collect(s) any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” In another, the Guardian reports that NSA Director General Keith Alexander “denied point-blank that the agency had the figures on how many Americans had their electronic communications collected or reviewed.”

Both of those claims, of course, were exposed as lies by Snowden’s disclosures. So at minimum Snowden deserves the title “whistle-blower” (and the attendant protections that are supposed to come with such a title) because his disclosures outed Clapper and Alexander’s statements as probable cases of illegal perjury before Congress. In other words, in terms of perjury, the disclosures didn’t expose controversial-but-legal activity, they exposed illegal behavior.

That’s not some technicality, by the way; the whole reason perjury before Congress is considered a serious crime is because if executive branch officials like Clapper and Alexander are permitted to lie to the legislative branch, then that branch cannot exercise its constitutional oversight responsibilities. Harsh punishment for perjury is considered a necessary deterrent to such deception.

There’s also the issue of whether the NSA’s surveillance itself is legal, and whether Snowden’s disclosures show the NSA is continuing to break U.S. federal statutes (we’ll get to the Constitution in a second). Yes, you read that right: The word “continuing” is appropriate because back in 2009, NSA officials admitted they were breaking the law.

As the New York Times reported at the time, the agency “intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress.” Additionally, the Times noted that “several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed” about the illegal activity “described the practice as significant and systemic.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.,yesterday declared that his review of the program proved it violates federal statutes.

“When I saw what was being done, I felt it was so out of sync with the plain language of the law,” he told MSNBC.

In light of the NSA itself already admitting it broke the law in “systemic” fashion; in light of a prominent senator saying the program is illegal; and in light of the “Boundless Informant” disclosure showing the NSA may be broadly surveilling domestic (rather than exclusively foreign) communications as statutes are supposed to curtail: In light of all that, why would anyone simply assume at face value that the program Snowden exposed is perfectly legal?

Finally, over and above whether the NSA program is complying with federal statutes, there’s the issue of the program’s constitutionality — aka the ultimate definition of “legality.”

Permanent Washington and Obama partisans who support the NSA surveillance program cite the Patriot Act and the fact that NSA obtained a FISA warrant as proof that the program is legal and as a way to ignore the constitutional questions. They would have us not only ignore the NSA’s own aforementioned admissions of illegal behavior, but additionally have us believe the constitutionality of NSA’s unprecedented surveillance and of such a broad-sweeping “ongoing” FISA warrant has already been definitively established, even though, of course, it hasn’t. Not even close.

Four cases are particularly relevant here. In the first two (ACLU vs. NSA and the al-Haramain charity case), district courts ruled for plaintiffs in their arguments that the NSA’s warrantless surveillance is illegal. There was also the Clapper vs. Amnesty International case, which challenged the constitutionality of the underlying FISA law, which authorizes the kind of surveillance that Snowden’s disclosures document. And, according to Mother Jones, there is “an 86-page court opinion that determined that the government had violated the spirit of federal surveillance laws and engaged in unconstitutional spying.” In that latter case, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence actually admits that the NSA has engaged in behavior that is “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment” and that “circumvented the spirit of the law.”

In the first three cases, technicalities won the day when they were all eventually overturned not on grounds that the NSA’s mass surveillance is constitutional, but on grounds that the plaintiffs supposedly didn’t have standing. Summing it up, Reuters reports, to date, “The (Supreme Court) has refused to review government surveillance practices adopted since the attacks of September 11, 2001.”

Why weren’t all these plaintiffs granted standing, you ask? As legal expert Marcy Wheeler notes, it’s all related to — you guessed it! — secrecy.

“The government has gone to great lengths to say because this is all secret, no one can prove they’ve been surveilled, so (plaintiffs) can’t make a harm argument,” she said.

Put another way, it’s difficult to prove a case against the government when the government is allowed to keep case-critical information classified.

Meanwhile, on the fourth case reported by Mother Jones, the government is still fighting to keep the court ruling secret.

All of that brings us back to Snowden’s disclosure. With his whistle-blowing, more germane details about the NSA’s entire surveillance operation are now public, meaning other plaintiffs may now have access to information necessary to achieve standing. And there are, indeed, already other plaintiffs: For instance, Sen. Rand Paul (R) is promising to mount a Supreme Court challenge to the constitutionality of the broad FISA warrant at issue in Snowden’s disclosure (at issue will be the yet-to-be-adjudicated question of whether such an “ongoing” warrant that allows spying on millions of Americans really comports with the Fourth Amendment’s “probable cause” precept). Similarly, the Electronic Frontier Foundation already has a case against NSA surveillance pending.

Those cases coupled with the information from Snowden could, in turn, compel an explicit Supreme Court ruling on the entire surveillance system’s legality.

Looked at from a constitutional perspective, then, we shouldn’t simply assume Snowden’s disclosures are about a controversial-but-legal NSA program, as NSA defenders and Obama loyalists assert. Instead, it’s quite possible they may help definitively prove the illegality of the surveillance operations.

No doubt, all these statutory and constitutional questions surrounding the NSA’s surveillance operations are why when publicly claiming that the program is perfectly legal, Obama officials also, according to Businessweek, refuse to make public their jurisprudential justifications for such a claim. They clearly fear that when subjected to scrutiny, the program will be shown to be, as Sen. Merkley put it, “Out of sync with the plain language of the law.”

Thus, the administration’s strategy is to at once stonewall on the details and insist ad nauseam that everything is perfectly legal, when that assertion is, at best, a fact-free assumption, and more likely a devious misdirect. That Permanent Washington and so many Obama loyalists would nonetheless echo such a misdirect is a commentary on how political self-interest and partisanship now trumps everything else — even the law of the land.

David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and the best-selling author of the books “Hostile Takeover,” “The Uprising” and “Back to Our Future.” E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37242.htm

I Worked On The US Drone Program. The Public Should Know What Really Goes On

Few of the politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue how it actually works (and doesn’t)

By Heather Linebaugh

December 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “The Guardian” – Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them some questions. I’d start with: “How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” And: “How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” Or even more pointedly: “How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road inAfghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicle] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”

Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.

I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from mosque.

The US and British militaries insist that this is such an expert program, but it’s curious that they feel the need to deliver faulty informationfew or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs. These specific incidents are not isolated, and the civilian casualty rate has not changed, despite what our defense representatives might like to tell us.

What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is a far cry from clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited clouds and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?” I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle.

It’s also important for the public to grasp that there are human beings operating and analysing intelligence these UAVs. I know because I was one of them, and nothing can prepare you for an almost daily routine of flying combat aerial surveillance missions over a war zone. UAV proponents claim that troops who do this kind of work are not affected by observing this combat because they are never directly in danger physically.

But here’s the thing: I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.

Of course, we are trained to not experience these feelings, and we fight it, and become bitter. Some troops seek help in mental health clinics provided by the military, but we are limited on who we can talk to and where, because of the secrecy of our missions. I find it interesting that the suicide statistics in this career field aren’t reported, nor are the data on how many troops working in UAV positions are heavily medicated for depression, sleep disorders and anxiety.

Recently, the Guardian ran a commentary by Britain’s secretary of state for defence Philip Hammond. I wish I could talk to him about the two friends and colleagues I lost, within one year leaving the military, to suicide. I am sure he has not been notified of that little bit of the secret UAV program, or he would surely take a closer look at the full scope of the program before defending it again.

The UAV’s in the Middle East are used as a weapon, not as protection, and as long as our public remains ignorant to this, this serious threat to the sanctity of human life – at home and abroad – will continue.

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37241.htm

New Iran Sanctions Bill Could Drive Wedge Between Israel Lobby, U.S. Public

One big difference between looming clash and previous AIPAC-Administration showdowns: Americans couldn’t care less about AWACs – but are dead set against war with Iran.

By Chemi Shalev

December 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “Haaretz” – The Huffington Post headline “Saboteur Sen. Launching War Push” on December 19 and the enraged Jewish reactions to it escaped intense scrutiny because of end-of-the-year vacations and the media’s need to sum up 2013. The incendiary headline, however, should serve as a shot across the bow, intended or not, about the malevolent maelstrom that could engulf the American Jewish establishment in the wake of its unequivocal and nearly unanimous support for new sanctions on Iran.

Under the headline, in the middle of the homepage of the most-widely read news site in the world, was a picture of New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one of the main sponsors of the proposed Nuclear Iran Prevention Bill 2013. He was speaking from a podium, behind a lectern on which the name and emblem of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC was boldly displayed.

The message couldn’t be clearer: Menendez was a warmonger. And the people backing him, inspiring him and/or pushing him belonged to AIPAC and the pro-Israel community.

Jewish reactions were fast and furious: David Harris of the American Jewish Committee was “appalled” by the “shameful attack” on Menendez. The Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman wrote in a letter to the editor published on the Huffington Post website that the photo of Menendez speaking at an AIPAC event “implies that he was trying to ‘sabotage’ the administration’s efforts on Iran for reasons related to Israel under pressure from American Jews. We are shocked that a version of the anti-Semitic theme that ‘Jews manipulate the U.S. Government’ was boldly featured on your site.”

Foxman also disputed the basic premise of the disputed headline: “We and many in the U.S. and around the world believe that setting the table now for future sanctions against Iran that would kick in if diplomacy fails to achieve a nuclear accord will enhance the likelihood for reaching that agreement without the need for military action.”

This is not the view of the Administration, which has warned with varying degrees of insistence and alarm that the sanctions bill could derail nuclear talks with Iran and thus, inevitably, increase the chances of a military confrontation. American Jewish leaders privately go so far as to suspect that the inspiration for the kind of incendiary headline that Huffington Post chose was the direct result of background briefings and prodding by Administration officials.

Whether it was or it wasn’t, it is the kind of insinuation that Jewish groups should be bracing for, many times over, as the battle over the sanctions bill is bound to escalate as soon as the 113th Congress reconvenes for its Second Session next week. Given that all of the major Jewish groups – with the exception of J-Street – have spoken out publicly and unequivocally in support of a position that is so staunchly rejected by the Administration, the stage is being set for a showdown that more than justifies comparisons to similar face-offs in the past, including the 1981 skirmish with the Reagan Administration over the sale of early-warning AWACS aircraft to Saudi Arabia and the 1991 clash with George H Bush over settlements and loan guarantees.

The pro- Israel lobby lost both of those campaigns, but those defeats didn’t kill it – they only made the lobby stronger. As JJ Goldberg recounts in his book “Jewish Power” the campaign against the AWACS sale galvanized the Jews, consolidated AIPAC’s standing in Washington and convinced the Reagan Administration that it was a force to be reckoned with and, if possible, enlisted on the Administration’s side. In 1992, the loan guarantees for Soviet immigrant absorption remained frozen until Yitzhak Rabin replaced Yitzhak Shamir as Israeli prime minister, but George Bush went on to lose the November elections, thus creating the unspoken myth that even a president could pay with his job if he tangled too strongly with those powerful Jews and their allies.

Win or lose, however, there is one stark difference between those two renowned altercations and the current situation vis-a-vis Iran: U.S. public opinion couldn’t care less about AWACS and loan guarantees, one way or another, but a military engagement with Iran is something that the American people worry about, and largely – and sometimes vehemently – oppose. A campaign in support of the Senate’s Iran sanctions bill could pit the Jewish establishment not only against the Administration, but also put it on a dangerous collision course with large segments of US public opinion, mostly on the left, and with the American media as well.

But even that altercation would pale in comparison to the unprecedented and untenable situation that the Jewish leadership might find itself in if the Administration loses the sanctions fight, despite a presidential veto, and if its worst case scenarios of an Iranian walkout and an escalation in military tensions are borne out.

Supporters of sanctions, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jewish groups that support the current Senate bill, maintain that Iran has its back against a wall of economic hardships created by the current sanctions and that the threat of even more sanctions would only increase Tehran’s willingness to make nuclear concessions.

There are those – including the editors of the Huffington Post, evidently – who view this line of reasoning as disingenuous and its proponents as seeking to lead the US to a military confrontation. But even if one ignores such skepticism, supporters of the sanctions bill cannot rule out the possibility that the Iranian regime will either feel compelled to break off talks because of internal pressure by Iranian hardliners, or might even view a new sanctions bill as a unique opportunity to drive a huge wedge between Israel and its lobby, on the one hand, and the Administration and large parts of the American public on the other.

After all, the Administration is already coming close to claiming that legislation of new sanctions, even if they are conditional and set to kick in only in the future, is tantamount to a violation of the November 24 interim nuclear accord signed in Geneva. Iran might very well decide to break off talks, to pin the blame on Congress and the Jews, to cite the Administration’s own statements as corroborating evidence and to leave the P5+1 countries, their politicians and their publics to bicker and recriminate among themselves.

Some people might compare this situation to the 2003 Iraq War, in which Israel and right-wing American Jews were also accused of pushing America to war. In that case, however, the war enjoyed sizeable public support, at least at the outset, Israel and organized Jewry played only a minor public role in prodding the Administration to act and the Administration itself had no history of suspicion and ill will with Israel or its supporters and no interest in pinning the blame on either.

Iran, it should be clear, is no Iraq, in any way, shape or form. Whatever one’s view of the Iranian talks and of the wisdom of new sanctions legislation, it would be foolhardy to ignore the precarious predicament that U.S. Jews may soon find themselves in – one in which headlines alluding to warmongering senators and their Jewish supporters will be much more the rule than the exception but may also be the least of Jewish worries.

© Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd. All Rights Reserved

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37239.htm

Syrian Rebels Get Arms and Advice Through Secret Command Centre in Amman

By Phil Sands and Suha Maayeh

December 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “The National” – A secret operations command centre in Jordan, staffed by western and Arab military officials, has given vital support to rebels fighting on Syria’s southern front, providing them with weapons and tactical advice on attacking regime targets.

Rebel fighters and opposition members say the command centre, based in an intelligence headquarters building in Amman, channels vehicles, sniper rifles, mortars, heavy machine guns, small arms and ammunition to Free Syrian Army units – although it has stopped short of giving them much coveted anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.

Officials in Amman denied the command centre exists. “We dismiss these allegations. Jordan is not a host or part of any cooperations against Syria. Jordan’s interest is to see a stable and secure Syria, one that is able to keep its problems inside its borders,” said Mohammad Al Momani, minister of media affairs.

“We will not do anything that will feed violence in Syria,” he said.

But Syrian opposition figures familiar with rebel operations in Deraa, about 75 kilometres north of Amman, said Jordan hosted the command centre and had tasked senior Jordanian intelligence officials to work with western and Arab states in helping rebels to plan missions and get munitions and fighters across the border.

The existence of a weapons bridge from Jordan to rebels inside Syria has been a poorly guarded secret since a New York Times expose in March, but few details of its workings have been revealed.

However, according to opposition figures, the command centre – known as “the operations room” – is a well-run operation staffed by high-ranking military officials from 14 countries, including the US, European nations and Arabian Gulf states, the latter providing the bulk of materiel and financial support to rebel factions.

The command centre gets advance notice from the FSA of upcoming military assaults against forces loyal to Bashar Al Assad, Syria’s president, and only hands over weapons if officials at the centre approve of the attacks.

“When we want to make an operation, we arrange for one of our men to have an informal meeting with a military liaison officer from the operations room and they meet up, in a hotel or somewhere in Amman, and talk through the plan,” said an FSA officer involved in the system.

“If the liaison officer likes our idea, he refers it to a full meeting of the operations room and a few days later we go there and make a formal presentation of the plan,” the FSA official said.

Then, western and Arab military advisers at the command centre make adjustments to tactics and help determine when and how the operation should go ahead.

They also allocate weapons needed for the attack and, with the plan approved, set up supplies to ensure the FSA has them.

“We run through all the numbers, what we need in terms of men and weapons, and when we’ll get it. It’s all detailed, it’s done in a very exact way,” the FSA official said.

Islamist factions outside of the FSA, including groups aligned to Al Qaeda, are not involved with the operations room and do not directly receive weapons or military advice.

Not all FSA operations in Deraa are approved by the command centre. Sometimes FSA units do not even approach it for support, preferring to carry out operations alone using whatever resources they have.

If they do not have the weapons they need, or if an attack is more complicated to plan, FSA officers will seek support from the command centre.

“We cooperate with one another, they do not control us and we don’t always do as they tell us. It’s more like they give us advice and sometimes we take it and sometimes we don’t,” said another FSA commander involved in the system.

Yet another FSA officer with knowledge of rebel operations in Deraa said units had been supplied with modern Austrian-made rifles – fitted with transparent ammunition magazines – tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition for heavy calibre machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar-firing tubes and bombs.

In the past two months, FSA units have also been receiving vehicles, equipped with heavy machine guns mounted on the rear bed, and rebel solders have been sent to Saudi Arabia for training, FSA officers said.

“There were 80 fighters sent to Saudi last month for training in military communications. In total there have been a few hundred getting training. They come back fully equipped – each with a personal weapon, a pickup lorry for every squad of five men, a heavy machine gun for each squad, plus clothing, boots and that kind of thing,” said an FSA commander.

“There was training before but it is getting better now,” he said

A western diplomat based in the Middle East said the US and European countries were not supplying munitions to rebels but did have liaison officers in regular contact with the FSA.

“Saudi and Qatari-supplied weapons are going across the border from Jordan but not going in the sort of volume that will change the balance of power on the ground.

“Short of an all-out effort involving the US supplying weapons, it will not be enough to topple Assad and it doesn’t come close to offsetting the military support Assad is getting from the Russians,” the diplomat said.

FSA units in Deraa said the international backing came with too many restrictions and was not sufficient to let them make major advances.

“In the summer there was a meeting with the operations room and all of the FSA units in Deraa and we were told very clearly what the rules are. They [the command centre] said we are not to attack major regime military installations without approval, that we are only to engage in hit-and-run operations and should not try to hold territory because the regime’s air power means it can hit us if we do,” said an FSA fighter briefed on the talks.

FSA units also had to pledge they would not transfer weapons to militant Islamist groups, including Jabhat Al Nusra, which has a small but powerful presence on Syria’s southern front.

“The command centre has been good for us, it has helped a lot, but we’d like more commitment from them. They don’t really share intelligence information with us, they don’t give us enough weapons to do the job,” said an FSA commander.

“We all think they want to keep Assad stronger than us, they want to keep a balance – we get enough to keep going but not to win,” he said.

The Assad regime has accused Jordan of hosting rebels and helping to prepare an army for an assault on Damascus.

FSA factions in Deraa said that the majority of their supplies – sometimes as much as 80 per cent – was channelled to them via the command centre. But they also described an often complex supply chain, frequently opaque even to those involved, with intelligence agents, private donors and shadowy proxy organisations all moving munitions around.

“It gets very complicated, everyone lies to each other, everyone is trying to control everyone else,” said an FSA commander.

psands@thenational.ae

* Suha Maayeh reported from Amman

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37246.htm

Egypt’s Pinochet

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research, December 28, 2013

sisi11Junta power runs Egypt. It reflects the worst of fascism writ large. General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi rules as strongman. He heads the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

He’s Washington’s man in Cairo. Since August 2012, he’s been top military commander.

He’s Defense and Military Production Minister. He’s a 1977 Egyptian Military Academy graduate. He got US training. He’s a US War College graduate.

He maintains close Pentagon ties. Washington manipulated Mubarak’s ouster. It was complicit in toppling Mohamed Morsi.

It deplores democracy. It opposes it at home and abroad. It’s governed by a homeland police state apparatus.

It backs pro-Western fascist despots globally. Doing so reflects business as usual.

Egyptian civilian officials have no legitimacy. They’re appointed. They’re figureheads. They’re puppets. They’re convenient stooges.

Elections when held won’t matter. Brute force runs Egypt. Ousting Morsi on July 3 was reminiscent of September 11, 1973. Chileans old enough to remember won’t forget.

A reign of terror followed. Pinochet’s “Caravan of Death” reflected it. A climate of fear included mass arrests, disappearances, torture and murder.

Opposition government officials, academics, union heads, independent journalists, student leaders, activists, and other suspected regime opponents were targeted.

US citizens Charles Horman, Frank Teruggi, Boris Weisfeiler and Ronni Moffit were killed.

Horman’s death was the subject of a 1982 Hollywood film. It was titled “Missing.” He and thousands of others were Caravan of Death victims.

Nixon vowed to make Chile’s economy scream. Kissinger was his national security advisor. He and CIA operatives orchestrated Salvador Allende’s ouster.

After his 1970 election, Kissinger said:

“I don’t see why we need to stand idly by and let a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

Allende was a progressive democratic leader. He was no communist. Junta head General Augusto Pinochet put General Sergio Arellano in charge of assuring provincial commanders complied with hard-line policies.

He was told to establish a uniform criteria of justice. He later explained, saying:

“With no concern for the guise of legality, as in the case of some War Councils, prisoners were taken out and shot under the cover of night. Most executions were attributed to attempts to escape.”

Retired Lt. Col. Marcos Herrera Aracena said:

“General Arellano informed me that what Pinochet wanted was to bring an end to the remaining legal processes. In other words, finish with them once and for all.”

Death squad justice was instituted. At issue was terrorizing Chileans. Instilling fear and crushing resistance were prioritized. Military commanders were ordered to go all out to solidify junta power.

Victims were buried in unmarked graves. Some were mutilated before being executed. General Joaquin Lagos explained why he didn’t return some bodies to family members, saying:

“I was ashamed to see them. They were torn into pieces. So I wanted to put them together, at least leave them in a human form.”

“Yes, their eyes were gouged out with knives, their jaws broken, their legs broken.”

“At the end, they gave them the coup de grace. They were merciless. The prisoners were killed so that they would die slowly.”

“In other words, sometimes they shot them by parts. First, the legs, then the sexual organs, then the heart. In that order, the machine guns were fired.”

Death squads killed thousands. Chile remains one of Latin America’s most unequal societies. Chicago School fundamentalism creates wastelands.

Chile remains a model of economic unfairness. Crony capitalism reflects out-of-control corruption, inequality and injustice.

General el-Sisi is Egypt’s Pinochet. Since usurping power, he instituted reign of terror justice. Sweeping crackdowns continue.

Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members are targeted. So are supporters and others challenging junta authority. Thousands were arrested. Others were disappeared, tortured and murdered.

Over 1,000 nonviolent street protesters were killed. Everyone suspected of supporting MB is threatened. So are activists demanding democracy.

President Morsi is charged with murder, treason, espionage, and sponsoring terrorism. He’s accused of collaborating with Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and anti-regime groups. Bogus charges claim he did so to destabilize Egypt.

Kangaroo court justice awaits him. He faces possible capital punishment. Around three dozen other MB officials face similar charges.

Morsi remains in maximum security prison confinement. He’s held incommunicado. Attorneys and family members are denied access. Some MB co-defendants remain at large.

On December 25, Egypt’s so-called cabinet declared MB a terrorist organization. It did so unconscionably.

It did it following Dakahlia Governate’s Security Directorate headquarters bombing. Sixteen died. MB officials denied involvement.

A group named Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) claimed responsibility. Crackdowns on MB members continue. According to journalist Shahira Amin:

“This is a new escalation in a long-running feud between the security state and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

“What they are trying to achieve is to crush the Islamist group altogether and not to leave any room for that group to enter into political life again.”

“Declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terror group will mean criminalizing their activities, criminalizing their financing, and also criminalizing their membership.”

“Their protests are already outlawed. Their leaders are already behind bars and thousands of their supporters languish in prisons.”

IKHWAN WEB is MB’s official English language web site. On December 27, it headlined ’Muslim Brotherhood Legal Committee: Classifying Group as Terrorist Legally Null and Void.”

“This classification came without investigation, without evidence.”

“No entity should be so classified or disbanded, except through legal procedures.”

“Thus naming the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization is completely groundless in the absence of any evidence to prove this description which is vehemently rejected by the group.”

“(T)he decision is invalid and illegal, because so far no court made any definitive judgments about the group and its leaders.”

“The Brotherhood’s Legal Committee is considering an appeal of this decision. It will announce its course of action and legal position later.”

Egypt Court of Cassation is its highest judicial authority. Seven appeals courts are next in importance.

Tanta Court of Appeals Judge Walid el Shaf’i called designating MB a terrorist organization illegal. If challenged in court, it’ll be declared so, he said.

He cited Article 86 of Egypt’s Penal Law. It can only be enforced by court order. Egypt’s cabinet acted by executive decision. Doing so is illegal, he added.

On Thursday, dozens more MB members were arrested nationwide. Their land, funds, and other resources were confiscated.

Egypt’s Islamic Medical Association hospitals are affected. An MB leader established them in the 1970s. They serve over two million patients annually.

They’re mostly in poor neighborhoods. They’re highly regarded. They considered preferred alternatives to poorly run government hospitals.

Since Morsi’s ouster, government funding was cut. Admissions at Cairo’s Nasr City district Central Hospital dropped by half. Many people fear seeking treatment. Doing so might suggest MB support.

Other network hospitals were forced to reduce services to save money. Central Hospital director Medhat Omar expressed concern, saying:

“If it goes on like this, we won’t be able to take on any patients.” Funds aren’t available to pay salaries or other expenses.

Egypt’s “war on terrorism” targets its own. It does so ruthlessly. It does it lawlessly. It aims to terrorize Egyptians into submission.

El-Sisi vowed to eradicate everyone challenging his power from “the face of the earth. Don’t let these treacherous terrorist incidents affect your spirits,” he said.

He referred to several recent bombings. “We’re on the side of pronounced righteousness,” he claimed.

Many, perhaps most, Egyptians believed it last July. Fewer do today. Police state viciousness makes everyone fearful.

Public demonstrations are banned. Anyone criticizing government policies risks arrest and imprisonment.

Dozens handing out pro-MB leaflets were arrested. One death was reported. During a Thursday army graduation ceremony, el-Sisi said:

“Egypt will stand firm in confronting terrorism and the people will never be afraid as long as the army is present.”

Anyone charged with supporting MB “verbally or in writing” faces five years imprisonment. US expressed concern is too muted to matter.

Washington endorses coup d’etat harshness. A previous article asked when is a coup not one? It’s when US officials suggest otherwise.

Reign of terror ruthlessness is official Egyptian policy. Rule of law principles don’t matter. Government by diktat rules. No ones is safe from rampaging government forces.

MB officials risk being disappeared, tortured and murdered. Others face potential life in prison. So does anyone providing funding. Supporting MB publicly is considered terrorism.

Regular protests continue. People involved do so at great risk. One MB supporter perhaps spoke for others, saying: “People don’t have anything to lose.”

Rights can’t be gotten without sustained struggle. Conditions today are far worse than under Mubarak.

State terror more than ever is official policy. Anyone challenging regime authority is vulnerable. Pinochet’s ghost resides in Egypt. Same old, same old repeats.

London Guardian editors headlined ”Egypt: back with a vengeance,” saying:

“The skies are darkening over Egypt…How miserably different this is from” what most Egyptians hoped for.

Revolutionary change “is now being torn up by its roots…Mubarak regime (opponents) are now being victimized by its successor.”

Egypt’s rulers “are determined” to stamp out all opposition. “It is now evident that the Egyptian military, behind its unconvincing civilian facade, is ready to be as hard on its secular as on its religious opponents.”

Mubarak’s removal changed nothing. Junta power bided its time. It “gr(ew) a new head,” said Guardian editors. “(N)ow (it’s) back, quite literally, with a vengeance.”

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/egypts-pinochet/

Christmas versus Xmas: A Political Reading

By Prof. James Petras

Global Research, December 28, 2013

chreistmasshIntroduction

            The transformation of Christmas from a story about a migrant working-class family fleeing state persecution, in the search for a safe haven and receiving support and solidarity to the biggest capitalist commercial bonanza of the year – has far-reaching political consequences.

 Taking Christ out of Christmas

            The fundamental ‘change’, engineered by the capitalist class in pursuit of profits, was to take the ‘Christ Story’ out of Christmas and to convert the weeks before and after into a consumer orgy.  Aided and abetted by “secularist allies”, the capitalist class succeeded in eliminating any reference to the Christmas story, including the nativity scene and carols commemorating it, from public spaces.  The significant social message, embedded in the Christmas story, is diluted by well-meaning cultural diversity-promoters, who demand ‘equal time for ‘Hanukah’ (a Jewish narrative celebrating war, conquest and the slaughter of ‘apostate-assimilated-Hellenized’ Jews by traditionalists-fundamentalists – an event not even mentioned in the Hebrew Bible) and “Kwanzaa” (a holiday invented in the 1960’s by a cultural black nationalist preaching “self-help”).  In place of the Christmas story, we have been given anachronistic ‘Nordic tales of tree worship’ and ‘gift giving’ by an obese bearded sweat-shop owner employing stunted slave workers *(‘Hi Ho, Hi Ho! It’s off to work we go; we work all day, we get no pay! Hi Ho, Hi Ho!’).  This has become the dominant mythology driving the consumerist – profiteering of the global commercial – capitalist production chain.

            Over time, it came to pass that ‘Christmas’ commercial sales became the centerpiece of capital accumulation.  New and powerful sectors of capital entered the field.  Finance capital, particularly credit card companies charging debtors usurious, interest rates over 20% per year, became central to and the principal beneficiaries of the great transformation of the Christmas story.

             The new, modern, secular monetized, relativized Christmas story redefined the entire meaning of the holiday.

             First, there was the language ‘excision’; the prefix was altered.  Christ-mas became Xmas. The X symbol left out what constituted the original narrative and circumstances surrounding the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

            Once the original class origins of the Christmas story were erased and the conflict between the absolutist state and civil society were abolished, the capitalist class inserted its own ‘props’ into the story:  the Xmas tree became the site for consumer ‘gifts’; the Xmas ‘stocking’ had to be filled with consumer goods; the Xmas day image required the “happy family” opening up boxes of consumer goods – bought on credit at 20% interest rates.

            The driving force behind the phony props and imagery is a command headquarters composed of capitalist manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, market analysts, publicists, consultants, advertisers, investors, factory owners employing a vast army of low paid workers in Asian manufacturing sweatshops and huge corporate retail outlets with minimum wage salespeople. Christmas sales are the major profit maximizing occasion for the entire year:  The success or failure of commercial capitalism rides on the profits accrued between November 30 and January 7.  The entire capitalist edifice rests on the notion that “Xmas” is about large-scale buying and selling of consumer goods; it is about ensuring that class inequalities and racial divisions are temporarily blurred; that repressive police state intrusions into the privacy of family life are forgotten and that social solidarity is replaced by an orgy of individual consumerism.

             ‘Xmas’ is a time to celebrate massive profiteering, based on the indebtedness of the ‘masses’.  It is a time for downsized workers to buy imported goods on credit from manufacturers who had relocated to low wage regions:  Price consciousness replaces class consciousness.  Picketing US retailers, who import from Bangladesh sweatshop death traps, where workers ‘earn’ $25 a month, goes against the ‘Xmas spirit’.  ‘Buy and feel free’!  It’s a time to be jolly!

            The new secular, monetized ‘Xmas’ is a consumer-driven commercial event motivated by profits, advertisement and the mindless worship of ‘the market’.  Family and neighborly relations are now tied to the cash nexus:  Who buys or receives the most expensive gifts experiences the greatest gratification.  ‘Gift giving’ is based on ‘consumer spending’; who could imagine any alternative!

             Millions of atomized individuals compete to buy the most commodities that their credit/debit cards can cover.  ‘Virtue’ becomes ‘success’ in the frantic engagement with the market.  From the perspective of political power, individual consumerist consciousness means submission to ‘the market’ as well as submission to the ruling class, which dominates ‘market relations’.

             The entire ‘Xmas’ period highlights the fact that market relations between wage-earning/salaried individuals and commercial/financial elites take precedence over productive (and state) relations between capital and labor.  In “the market” the struggle is between consumers over commodities, overseen by commercial capital.  In the new Xmas story the consumer is the centerpiece; the market is the mediator of all social relations. The ‘Christ story’ has been relegated to a periphery, if not totally excluded. At most, the story is reduced to a birth scene witnessed by cows, sheep and three ‘Kings’.

            The conversion of Christmas into the massive Xmas-market event broadens its consumer appeal, increases sales and profits.  Potential consumers from all religions (and the non-religious) can join the consumer orgy.  It is not about values, ethics or beliefs – it’s about buying, selling, debt and accumulation. To be a successful commercial event ‘Christians’ must suppress the politics and ethics of the Christ story, which is dramatically opposed to the immersion in the marketplace.

The Politics of the Christmas Story

The protagonists of the Christmas story, Joseph and Mary, are a working class household living at a subsistence level.  Joseph, a carpenter, is partially out of work and earns a minimum wage.  They live frugally, spend their meager earnings on essentials and travel cheaply on a donkey.  To escape a repressive government they migrate in search of security, hoping to find a new home.  The pregnant Mary and her unemployed husband Joseph look for sympathy and solidarity among the poor.  They knock on doors but the landlords send them away.  Only a poor farmer offers them a place – they can share a barn with the sheep and cows.

            In the face of an uncertain future and a troubled present, Mary and Joseph receive material support from local residents in Bethlehem .  Three wise men (the Magi or mathematicians from Persia ) are internationalists who travel to greet the new family.  They show great concern for the new born baby Jesus by perhaps offering hiss family a scholarship so he can study mathematics and science….  The coming together of local neighborhood people and the three educated “outsiders” to celebrate the birth of Christ and offer support to the homeless family, dispossessed migrants, has been an event for wonder and celebration.

 Community solidarity, the sharing of food, shelter, learning and fraternal good cheer, in the face of persecution by a criminal state and an avaricious ruling class, defines the spirit of Christmas.  The Christmas story affirms the virtues of social solidarity and not individual consumerism.  It defines a moment in which the deep bonds of humanity displace the shallow comfort of commodities.  It is the celebration of a moment in which the values and virtues of breaking bread in a fraternal community take precedence over the accumulation of wealth.

             The Christmas story, the trials and travails of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus resonate with millions of American workers today:  especially those who have lost employment and been dispossessed of their homes.  The Christmas story resonates with the tens of millions of immigrants persecuted and jailed by tyrannical states.  The Christmas story resonates with the millions of people of color who are “stopped and frisked” by a militarized police.

The Christmas story does not resonate with the owners, investors and publicists of big commercial enterprises who have converted the multitude into worshipers of their little plastic cards.  Taking ‘Christ out of Christmas’ and destroying the joy and fellowship and solidarity of shared humanity embodied in the celebration of the birth of Christ is essential in order to continue to accumulate wealth.  Putting the ‘Christ story’ back into Christmas is a step toward defeating consumerist consciousness and recreating social solidarity, so necessary for ending injustice.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/christmas-versus-xmas-a-political-reading/5362844

Keiser Report: When law breaking becomes basis for GDP (E542)

Japanese PM Revives Militarist Traditions. “Japan Closely Integrated into US War Preparations against China”

By Peter Symonds

Global Research

japanmilJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit yesterday to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine to the country’s war dead is another provocative step towards the revival of Japanese militarism that has exacerbated already sharp regional tensions. China and South Korea, which were both subject to Japan’s brutal wartime rule, immediately condemned the visit—the first by an incumbent prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi went to the shrine in 2006.

The Yasukuni Shrine is not simply a war memorial, but a potent symbol of Japanese militarism in the 1930s and 1940s. It symbolically interns many of Japan’s war dead, including 14 “Class A” war criminals convicted by an Allied tribunal. In its incendiary character, Abe’s visit to Yasukuni is comparable to a government leader in Germany deciding to pay homage at the graves of Nazi leaders.

Abe’s visit marked one year since his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government came to power. He cynically claimed that he went to the shrine to renew “the pledge that Japan must never to wage war again.” But over the past year his government has boosted military spending for the first time in a decade, stoked up tensions with China over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, and integrated Japan more closely into the US war preparations against China.

Abe’s visit is part of an ongoing campaign to whip up nationalism to counter deeply rooted anti-war sentiment, particularly in the working class. In an essay in Bungei Shunju just before assuming office last December, Abe declared he was in “a fight to free the Japanese nation from the postwar history”—that is, from any acknowledgement of the military’s war crimes. This ideological campaign is bound up with ending the restraints of the country’s post-war constitution to enable Japanese imperialism to wage war in pursuit of its economic and strategic interests.

While the US embassy in Tokyo expressed “disappointment” over Abe’s visit, the Obama administration bears prime responsibility for encouraging the re-emergence of Japanese militarism. During his first term as prime minister in 2006–2007, Abe sought to mend relations with China that had been fraught under his predecessor Koizumi, not least as a result of the latter’s trips to the Yasukuni Shrine. Over the past four years, however, Obama has implemented his “pivot to Asia”, aimed at undermining China diplomatically and encircling it militarily. This has encouraged US allies, especially Japan, to take a more aggressive stance against China.

The Obama administration had a direct hand in the 2010 removal of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who, while reaffirming the US alliance, had sought closer ties with China. Hatoyama’s successors from the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)—Naoto Kan and Yoshihiko Noda—both took a hard line against Beijing, particularly over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Noda “nationalised” the rocky islets in September 2010, escalating the standoff with China and opening the door for Abe and his right-wing LDP to win last year’s election.

Tensions flared again last month when China announced the establishment of an Air Defence Identification Zone in the East China Sea that included the disputed islands. The US immediately challenged Chinese authority by flying nuclear-capable B-52 bombers into the zone unannounced. Japan followed suite with its own warplanes. China responded by scrambling fighters, raising the danger that a miscalculation or error could provoke a clash. Just weeks later, American and Chinese vessels avoided a near collision in the South China Sea as a US cruiser provocatively shadowed a Chinese naval exercise.

As the anniversary of the outbreak of World War I approaches, the world today bears a chilling similarity to one hundred years ago. Then, amid a deepening crisis of world capitalism, the major powers were engaged in a high stakes game of diplomatic intrigue, provocation and military intervention that produced one “war scare” after another. In the end, a seemingly minor incident—the assassination of an Austrian archduke—precipitated an unparalleled bloodbath to determine which of the major powers would dominate the globe.

A quarter century later, the world was again plunged into war on an even vaster scale. In Asia, the Japanese economy had been hard hit by the Great Depression, fuelling desperation in ruling circles. The Japanese elite sought to overcome the crisis through wars of colonial conquest—with the invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and China as whole in 1937. Ultimately, Japan’s ambitions to become the dominant power in Asia brought it into head-on conflict with US imperialism, leading to the eruption of the Pacific War in 1941.

Today, five years after the eruption of the 2008 global financial crisis, the world capitalist system remains mired in slump and recession. Over the past three decades, Asia has become the cheap labour platform of the world, making it the focus for global rivalries. Obama’s “pivot to Asia” is above all aimed at offsetting the relative decline of American capitalism by using its military might to ensure US imperialism remains the dominant power in the region. In doing so, Washington has encouraged a more aggressive Japanese imperialism that is also desperate to prevent its eclipse as a major power.

The ruling classes in Japan, China and throughout the world are again pumping out the poisonous fumes of nationalism as they prepare for war. The only means for halting this drive to war is the abolition of the social order that has already produced two world wars. Capitalism is wracked by the same fundamental contradictions—between global economy and the outmoded nation-state system, and between socialised production and the private ownership of the means of production—as it was one hundred years ago. The only social force capable of overthrowing the profit system is the international working class, through a unified struggle of workers in China, Japan, the US and the world on the basis of a socialist and internationalist program.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/japanese-pm-revives-militarist-traditions/5362767

Power struggle intensifies in Turkey

By Justus Leicht and Stefan Steinberg 

28 December 2013

The struggle between rival camps in the Turkish political elite reached a highpoint on December 25 with the resignation of three senior ministers, followed hours later by a major cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The three ministers who resigned headed the key Interior, Economics and Environment ministries. They handed in their notices following the arrests of members of their families by prosecuting authorities investigating allegations of corruption relating to business contracts and banking operations. Among the leading businessmen arrested by police in recent days is the CEO of the state-run Halkbank, which has extensive dealings with Iran. Also arrested was an Iranian businessman Riza Sarraf, who trades in gold and has close links with the bank.

The Minister for European Union Affairs refused to resign and was sacked by Erdogan, who also replaced another six of his ministers. This means that a total of ten ministers have been replaced in the country’s 26-seat cabinet. The minister for Environment and Urban Planning complained he had been pressured to resign and declared, “All of the construction projects were approved by me on the instructions of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister should therefore also resign.”

The wave of resignations and subsequent cabinet reshuffle represents a major crisis for the Erdogan government, which has held power since 2003. The prime minister reacted swiftly by dismissing or transferring dozens of police officers and attorneys involved in the corruption investigations, while at the same time claiming that “dark foreign powers” were conspiring against his government.

Last weekend Erdogan was more explicit, suggesting that the US Ambassador in Ankara, Francis Ricciardone, was involved in provocations against his government and could be expelled from the country.

Erdogan also referred to an “illegal gang operating inside the state.” This is generally regarded as a reference to the movement headed by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is based in the United States.

A week ago four pro-government dailies ran the same story, claiming that Ricciardone had told a group of European ambassadors that Turkey had failed to respect the US sanctions regime against Iran. Ricciardone reportedly told the assembled ambassadors, “You are now watching the collapse of an empire,” referring to the corruption investigations in Turkey.

Suspicions of US involvement in the Turkish government crisis were reinforced by the arrival in Ankara some days ago of the US Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David Cohen.

The turmoil at the summits of the Turkish ruling elite comes amid a broad political crisis provoked by sudden shifts in US imperialism’s Middle East policy. In September, Washington decided to postpone its war plans against Syria—which the Erdogan government pushed for aggressively—and instead seek a broad settlement with the Iranian regime, Syria’s main regional ally. Negotiations with Iran are still continuing, with Washington offering Iran only limited relief to sanctions that have devastated its oil industry and economy.

Turkey buys large quantities of oil and gas from Iran, which it has traditionally paid for in gold. As part of its sanctions offensive against Iran, the US expressly banned gold exports to Iran in July of this year, seriously impacting on Turkish trade with its eastern neighbor. Iran’s main intermediary with Turkey for payments was the Halkbank, whose activities have now been severely disrupted by the latest arrests.

The precise role played in the latest crisis by the Hizmet movement led by Fethullah Gülen remains unclear. However, what is certain is that the Islamic preacher exercises considerable influence within the Turkish judicial system and police from his base in the US state of Pennsylvania.

The Gülen community is one of the most influential Islamic groups in Turkey, with hundreds of thousands of followers. It runs a network of private schools in 140 countries across the globe and has a major presence in Turkey’s educational system. Measures to be introduced at the start of the new year by the Erdogan government to curtail the activities of secondary schools are largely aimed at reining in the influence of Gülen, who relies on his network of schools in Turkey for influence and financial support.

Hizmet also has its own media empire, including the Turkish-languageZaman (Time), the English language Today’s Zaman and Samanyolu TV. Gülen’s movement is also alleged to have played a leading role in the Ergenekon affair, which resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of a broad layer of the Turkish military elite together with a number of journalists critical of the government.

Fethullah Gülen’s organization is right-wing, ardently nationalist, and anti-communist. For a time Gülen was an ally of Erdogan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), with both movements sharing similar roots in rising layers of the Anatolian bourgeoisie. In 1998, Gülen fled Turkey following charges of subversion made by a Turkish prosecutor. Gülen was able to enter the US, where he quickly established a broad network of schools funded in part by leading US business figures.

Gülen has repeatedly sought to stress his pro-US positions; he has been able to increase his influence in these circles in recent years as Erdogan’s own previously close relations with the West and the US have come under increasing strain.

Relations between the AKP and Gülen deteriorated rapidly in 2010, when the latter criticized the Turkish-led aid flotilla for Palestinian refugees for refusing to seek an accord with Israel before attempting to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip. Erdogan, for his part, criticized the Israeli assault on the unarmed flotilla which cost the lives of nine Turkish citizens.

Since then, Gülen has more faithfully followed the twists and turns of US policy in the Middle East, distancing himself both from Erdogan’s uncritical support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Turkish premier’s repeated calls for Western military intervention in Syria.

Gülen has also criticised the negotiations the Erdogan government has conducted with the Kurdish nationalist PKK and of Erdogan’s hardline position against peaceful protesters this summer in Gezi Park.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/12/28/turk-d28.html

India’s Supreme Court re-criminalizes homosexuality

By Kranti Kumara 

28 December 2013

India’s Supreme Court has struck down a 2009 Delhi High Court ruling that declared unconstitutional a section of the Indian penal code, adopted in 1860, that criminalized private consensual sex among gay men and women, as well as some sexual acts between men and women. As a result of the Supreme Court ruling, men and women alleged to have engaged in homosexual acts can be arrested and prosecuted and, if found guilty, could be liable to life imprisonment.

The ruling upholding the constitutionality of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was issued by a two-judge panel of the Supreme Court in response to a legal challenge to the Delhi High Court ruling launched by Hindu, Muslim, and Christian groups.

In affirming the constitutionality of Section 377 and its claim that homosexual acts are “against the order of nature,” India’s highest court is encouraging unbridled anti-homosexual bigotry on the part of backward social layers. It is also exposing India’s gays to the danger of harassment, arrest, and blackmail from India’s police, which are notorious for their corruption and use of arbitrary beatings and torture.

That such dangers are far from hypothetical was strikingly displayed by a September raid mounted by Andhra Pradesh police on a party of gay men. Although the Delhi High Court ruling had made Section 377 inoperative, the police justified their raid in the name of stopping “illegal and obscene” acts.

In Malaysia, a similar provision—based on the colonialist British Indian penal code and also known as Section 377—was used by Malaysian authorities to jail the former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, after he had a falling out with the country’s longtime prime minister, Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamed.

Section 377 was included in the Penal Code imposed on India by British colonial authorities in the early 1860s, as London sought to strengthen its control in the aftermath of the 1857-58 “Mutiny,” a mass rebellion against British rule that engulfed much of northern India.

In addition to proscribing homosexual acts, Section 377 declared a long list of heterosexual acts, including oral sex, criminal.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court, invoking as legal precedent court-rulings in several western countries, found this Victorian-era, colonialist law to be in violation of articles 14, 15 and 21 of India’s constitution, which guarantee equality before law, prohibition against discrimination, and protection of life and personal liberty.

In striking down the Delhi High Court decision, the two-justice Supreme Court panel advanced the specious claim that Section 377 could not be found to be discriminatory because it does not exclusively target homosexuals, since it also outlaws some sexual acts between heterosexuals.

“It is relevant to mention here,” wrote Justice Sanghvi, “that Section 377 … does not criminalize a particular people or identity or orientation. It merely identifies certain acts, which if committed, would constitute an offence. Such prohibition regulates sexual conduct regardless of gender identity and orientation.”

In other words, India’s highest court continues to insist that the state has the legal-constitutional power to regulate the private sexual activities of consenting adults, including declaring some activities criminal.

Knowing full well that their decision would be met with widespread opposition and outrage, the Supreme Court justices said parliament has the legislative power to eliminate Section 377. In the context of their ruling, however, this admission only serves to underline their upholding of the state’s power to regulate consensual sexual activity.

Four years ago, the Delhi High Court ruling was widely hailed by both Indian and international gay rights organizations and much of the corporate media. They were euphoric over the fact that the judgment finally removed the stigma associated with homosexuality in a country where the ruling elite has long encouraged and buttressed sexual repression to the point where heterosexuals kissing in public or on the cinema screen is condemned.

However, India’s judiciary, as the Supreme Court ruling over Section 377 has again demonstrated, is no ally in the fight to extend democratic rights. On the contrary, over the last two decades and in lockstep with the Indian bourgeoisie’s turn ever further to the right, open celebration of mounting social inequality and demand for the abolition of all regulatory impediments on profit-making, India’s Supreme Court has issued one reactionary judgment after another—judgments in which the court has pandered to Hindu fundamentalists and communalist reaction and attacked the democratic rights of the working class.

To recall just a few of the most significant:

By refusing to take a firm stand against violent Hindu fundamentalists, the court essentially countenanced the 1992 destruction of the Babri Masjid (mosque) in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh—an act that provoked the worst communal bloodletting in Indian since Partition. The senior leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), especially then party leader L.K. Advani, openly exhorted mobs of communalists to raze the historic mosque; yet to this day none of the BJP leaders and their allies in the leadership of the Hindu supremacist VHP and RSS have been called to account for violating the Court’s own injunction prohibiting any attack on the Masjid.

Three years later, the Supreme Court bestowed a stamp of respectability onHindutva, the termed coined by the Hindu supremacist ideologue V.D. Savarkar and used by the BJP and its allied organizations to refer to their noxious communalist ideology. The court claimed that Hindutva was not at odds with the secular values propounded in India’s constitution; it merely signifies a broader “Indian culture” that supposedly subsumes Muslim, Sikh, Christian and other minority religions.

Giving credence to religious mumbo-jumbo, the court in 2007 claimed that the natural chain of limestone shoals between the coast of India and Sri Lanka could have been “built by the ancients” in a case concerning a plan to deepen the channel between the two countries so as to facilitate shipping. The VHP (World Hindu Council) had been agitating against the project, not because of the environmental damage it would cause, but on the grounds that the limestone shoals were in fact a bridge built by an army of monkeys as depicted in the Hindu mythical classic Ramayana and hence “holy”.

India’s Supreme Court has also repeatedly issued authoritarian judgments. In 2003 it sanctioned the Tamil Nadu government’s efforts to break a state employees’ strike through mass arrests and firings, ruling that public sector workers have no right to strike. In 2007, it declared “bandhs”—24- or 48-hour political general strikes—illegal.

That same year, it issued a sweeping ban on protests and even public debate concerning the dangers shipyard workers would be subjected to if they were made to dismantle the toxic-laden, retired French aircraft carrierClemenceau. [See HYPERLINK “http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2006/02/indi-f18.html” Indian Supreme Court imposes sweeping ban on public debate on toxic warship]

Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of Section 377 and re-criminalizing homosexuality has been hailed by the Official Opposition BJP and by various religious organizations including Muslim and Christian groups.

The behavior of India’s Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government has, on the other hand, been utterly dishonest and duplicitous.

While the government reacted with silence to the 2009 Delhi High Court ruling, Congress Party leaders, including party President Sonia Gandhi, her son and the presumptive Congress Prime Ministerial candidate, Rahul Gandhi, and Finance Minister Chidambaram have all criticized the Supreme Court decision. But the government has no intention of legislating Section 377 out of existence, fearing such action might damage its electoral chances. Instead, it intends to mount a legal challenge, appealing for the Supreme Court to rehear the case, a process that could drag on for years, during which Section 377 will remain in force. Moreover, given the court’s long record of sanctioning attacks on democratic rights and pandering to the Hindu right there is no guarantee whatsoever that the whole court will not endorse the reactionary ruling of the two-judge panel.

This ambivalent response is in keeping with the two-faced attitude that the Congress and the government have taken all along. The UPA’s Additional Solicitor-General, P.P. Malhotra, argued before the Supreme Court that as per the government homosexual sex is “highly immoral and against the social order” and furthermore it is “against nature and spreads HIV”.

Only after a firestorm of criticism from gay activists and politically liberal commentators did the UPA backtrack and claim that Malhotra’s statement did not reflect the government’s views.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/12/28/indi-d28.html

Egyptian junta intensifies crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood

By Johannes Stern 

28 December 2013

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s bomb blast in front of the Daqahliya Security Directorate in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura—in which at least 16 were killed and 134 wounded—Egypt’s military junta is widening its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and, ultimately, on all opposition to its dictatorial regime.

On Friday, security forces arrested 265 MB members and crushed protests called by the MB-led National Alliance for Legitimacy in Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Sohag, Fayoum, Bani Souef, Damietta, Behaira and other parts of the country. At least three people were reported killed.

In the Upper Egyptian city of Luxor, police dispersed protesters with teargas. In Cairo’s Zeitoun district, security forces prevented protesters from marching to the Al-Qoba presidential palace. At Al-Azhar University’s Nasr City campus, police attacked university students protesting outside their hostels in solidarity with a classmate killed the day before.

On Thursday, scores of MB members were arrested. Fifteen were detained in Alexandria, sixteen in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqiya, and eleven in Zagazig on charges of belonging to a “terrorist organization” and “inciting violence against the army and the police”. The same day, the junta blocked the MB’s Freedom and Justice Newspaper from publication. It also froze the MB’s funds and those of social and charitable organizations it accused of having MB ties.

Immediately after the bombing, the regime and media blamed the MB for the attack. Speaking at the scene, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim claimed that the MB was retaliating for massacres at two Islamist protest camps on August 14, when security forces shot hundreds of Islamist opponents of the July 3 military coup that toppled MB President Mohamed Mursi.

The MB—Egypt’s largest Islamist organization, which has faced a massive crackdown since the coup, including the killing of thousands of members and the arrest of its top leadership—denied any connection to the attack. Issuing a statement from its London office, the MB condemned the blast as “a direct attack on the unity of the Egyptian people.” It demanded an “inquiry so that the perpetrators of this crime may be brought to justice.”

An Egyptian Islamist militant group, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the bombings. A statement published Wednesday boasted that the attack had been carried out by a suicide bomber named “Abu Maryam”.

Under the cover of its so-called “fight against terrorism,” the junta is seeking to annihilate the MB and restore the military-police state as it existed prior to the mass uprising that overthrew former dictator Hosni Mubarak in early 2011. In the past weeks the junta issued an anti-protest law and drafted anew constitution effectively enshrining military dictatorship.

On Wednesday, Hossam Eisa, deputy prime minister and minister of higher education, announced at a news conference “Egypt’s cabinet has decided to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization subject to Article 86 of the penal law.”

Eisa said, “Punishments of terrorism acts stated by the law would be applied to anyone participating in the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood group or organization, anyone promoting it verbally or by writing, and everyone financing it. Punishments would be applied to anyone who joins the Muslim Brotherhood group or organization, or continues to be a member of both since the declaration.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif threatened on state television that from now on, anyone taking part in MB-protests will be jailed for five years. Jail terms for those accused of belonging to a terrorist organization could stretch up to life imprisonment. “The sentence could be death for those who lead this organization,” he added.

Speaking at an army graduation ceremony on Thursday, coup leader and de facto dictator General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi vowed to intensify the crackdown. He declared that “freedom and stability” will not come easily and demanded that Egyptians “put their trust in God, the army and the police.” He threatened that the “Egyptian army will sacrifice itself for Egypt and Egyptians, and those who harm you will vanish from the face of the earth.”

The junta is trying to impose an atmosphere of fear and terror to pre-empt a new eruption of mass protests in the working class, the main force behind the revolution. Recent months have seen several significant industrial actions, including October’s strike by Mahalla textile workers and this month’s protests by temp gold miners at the Sukhari mine, demanding permanent contracts. The miners were attacked and dispersed by police on December 15.

The junta is also launching a reactionary crackdown on students, youth movements, and pseudo-left parties—the April 6 Youth, the Revolutionary Socialists (RS), and various NGOs and human rights groups linked to them.

On Friday the High Council of Universities banned all student protests during midterm exams and said police would be deployed on campuses to enforce the ban. Anti-government protests have swept across Egyptian universities this semester, often organized by pro-MB students. Many students have been killed by the security forces.

Last Sunday a misdemeanor court sentenced the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel and Ahmed Douma to three years in jail for violating the anti-protest law and allegedly assaulting police officers. On December 18, heavily-armed security forces stormed the offices of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights and detained Mohamed Adel, another leading April 6 member.

Arrest warrants were reportedly also issued earlier this month for RS member Haitham Mohamadein and Sharif al-Roubi, a leader of the 6 April Democratic Front group.

These arrests are an indictment of the bankrupt, counterrevolutionary politics of the April 6 Youth and the RS. They worked with the Tamarod (“Rebel”) political coalition that backed the July 3 coup—supporting the installation of the junta that is now moving against them—in order to channel mass anger in the working class with Mursi and the MB behind the army.

They are now assembling a so-called Revolutionary Path Front, together with the Islamist Strong Egypt Party, promoting a reactionary perspective of reconciliation between the junta and the MB. The aim of this maneuver is to build a better mechanism to suppress an independent movement of the working class.

Strong Egypt Party spokesman Ahmed Imam warned that labeling the MB as terrorist “leaves the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters only one choice, which is violence.” He complained that both sides are showing “a great deal of stupidity”. While blaming the MB for failing to strongly distance itself from violence, he blamed the government for closing the doors to reconciliation.

The reactionary character of the affluent middle class milieu in Egypt is most openly expressed by the liberal and “left” organizations that are applauding the junta’s steps to tighten its grip over the country.

The Tamarod movement praised the junta’s labeling the MB a terrorist organization, saying it was “better late than never”.

The liberal Free Egyptians Party funded by billionaire tycoon Naguib Sawiris welcomed the “historic decision” that puts an end to “one of the most horrible fascist and racist groups.”

Former presidential candidate and Nasserite leader Hamdeen Sabahi cynically described “the blood of the Mansoura martyrs” as an invitation “to unite on a comprehensive strategy to uproot terrorism.”

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/12/28/egyp-d28.html

The Iraq War is Not Over: US Prepares for Direct Military Intervention, Drone Airstrike Campaign

By Bill Van Auken

Global Research, December 27, 2013

Two years after President Barack Obama declared that his administration had ended the catastrophic US war in Iraq “responsibly… leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant” government, the US has rushed emergency shipments of Hellfire missiles to Baghdad and appears to be preparing for a possible renewal of direct military intervention in the form of drone missile attacks.

These measures are a response to an appeal from the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the New York Times reported Thursday, and come in the face of a rise in violence to a level not seen since the US military “surge” of 2008, with over 8,000 Iraqis having lost their lives over the last year.

A shipment of 75 Hellfire missiles arrived in Iraq last week, according to the Times report. The Pentagon is also set to deliver dozens of reconnaissance drones to the Baghdad regime in the coming year, along with F-16 fighters and Apache helicopter gunships. US intelligence is also providing targeting information for Iraqi air strikes.

Military experts cited by the Times, however, expressed skepticism that the Iraqi military, even with such material assistance, will prove capable of defeating a growing Al Qaeda-affiliated insurgency in the country’s predominantly Sunni Anbar province.

The prospect for a more direct US military intervention through the launching of a drone airstrike campaign has been raised in recent months by Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari.

Last Sunday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki signaled the escalating US involvement in Iraq, declaring that Al Qaeda-connected insurgents were “seeking to gain control of territory inside the borders of Iraq” and describing these elements as the “common enemy of the United States and the Republic of Iraq, and a threat to the greater Middle East region.”

This “threat,” however, is one of Washington’s own making, and the “common enemy” in Iraq has been the de facto proxy force of US imperialism’s war for regime-change in neighboring Syria.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known by the initials ISIS, has claimed responsibility for some of the latest terrorist attacks inside Iraq, including the bombing on Monday of two television stations in Baghdad in which five journalists died. The group was suspected of being behind the horrific Christmas Day bombings in Christian areas of the Iraqi capital that killed at least 38 on Wednesday, including 24 who died from a bomb that went off as they left Christmas mass.

The ISIS had its origins in Iraq during the US military occupation of the country. Its resurgence has come as a byproduct of the US-backed war for regime-change in Syria, across Iraq’s eastern border, where it has battled forces loyal to the Syrian government and seized swathes of territory. Last month, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) described the ISIS, which includes thousands of foreign jihadis from as far away as Russia and Western Europe, as “the strongest group in Northern Syria.”

From Syria, the group has dispatched suicide bombers to attack government targets in Iraq as well as Shia and Christian communities.

The group has also revived its training camps and hideouts in the western desert of Anbar province. In an ambush there last Saturday, it killed some 18 Iraqi military personnel, including a major general who commanded the local army division and several other senior officers.

On Tuesday, the Iraqi government ordered the military to close the country’s border with Syria as part of a major military operation against Al Qaeda-associated forces in the area dubbed “Avenge the Leader Mohammed,” after Maj. Gen. Mohammad al-Karawi, the division commander killed in last Saturday’s attack.

Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari told the AFP news agency that the military had detected “the arrival of weapons and advanced equipment from Syria to the desert of western Anbar and the border of Nineveh province.” He added that intelligence indicated that “whenever there is pressure on armed groups in Syria, they withdraw to Iraq … to regroup and then carry out terrorist operations in the two countries.”

The US aid to the counterinsurgency operation by the Iraqi military is being carried out in conjunction with the reconfiguration of US policy toward the Syrian civil war in the wake of the Obama administration’s pullback from direct US military intervention last September and its reaching of agreements both on the chemical disarmament of the Syrian regime and the Iranian nuclear program.

Washington has also been forced to confront the rout of the so-called “moderate” forces of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which it had officially been backing against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, and the growing dominance of Islamists of various stripes among the so-called “rebels.” Earlier this month, the Obama administration cut off aid to the Syrian armed opposition after Islamist guerrillas of the recently formed Islamic Front overran a compound and a dozen weapons warehouses of the FSA’s Supreme Military Council in Babisqa, just south of the strategic Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey. US-backed commander Gen. Salim Idriss, the titular head of the FSA, was sent fleeing across the border into Turkey.

With the FSA and its political arm, the National Coalition, exposed as representing virtually nothing outside of a clique of Syrian exiles tied to the CIA and other western intelligence agencies, the Obama administration instructed its Syrian envoy Robert Ford to make contact with the Islamic Front in the hope of developing it as a Western-aligned “third force” between Al Qaeda and the Syrian regime.

Of immediate concern is next month’s US-Russian brokered talks, known as “Geneva II,” in which representatives of the Syrian government have agreed to sit down with opposition delegates. The negotiators for both sides are supposed to be named today, December 27. The problem confronting the US and the other Western powers is that the forces they have backed are being exposed as having virtually no support within Syria itself, either among those carrying out attacks against the regime or in the society at large.

The Islamic Front, which is apparently funded by Saudi Arabia, rejected the US overtures and has reportedly established a close working relationship with the ISIS and the Al Nusra Front, another Al Qaeda-associated force in Syria.

In backing the Iraqi regime, which has aligned itself with the Assad government in Syria and the Iranian government against the Sunni Islamists, the Obama administration is attempting to at least contain the catastrophic sectarian civil war it has unleashed upon Syria. There remain deep divisions in Washington over how to handle this debacle, with some elements still denouncing Obama for failing to make good on his vow that Assad would be toppled, and others arguing that Assad staying in power would be preferable to the fall of Syria to the jihadists.

In aiding the corrupt, sectarian and dictatorial government of al-Maliki, however, Washington is only deepening the crisis in the region. Al Qaeda’s resurgence in Iraq is driven by not only the US-backed war in neighboring Syria, but also by the political marginalization of and heavy-handed repression against Iraq’s Sunni minority.

In launching the latest offensive in Anbar, Prime Minister al-Maliki issued a simultaneous threat to unleash a bloodbath against an ongoing sit-in protest in Ramadi, Anbar’s largest city. In a statement broadcast on Iraqi television last Sunday, al-Maliki declared that the sit-in “has turned into a headquarters for the leadership of Al Qaeda.” He demanded that all those not involved in “sabotage” evacuate the protest camp “so that Al Qaeda stays alone,” adding that protesters had a “very short period” in which they could escape the implied threat of repression.

Last April, the army raided a similar Sunni protest encampment in Hawija, west of Kirkuk, leaving at least 42 people dead and 153 wounded. In clashes that followed over the next two days, hundreds more were killed.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-iraq-war-is-not-over-us-prepares-for-direct-military-intervention-drone-airstrike-campaign/5362764

The NSA Paid to Steal Your Private Data

By Alfredo Lopez

December 27, 2013 “Information Clearing House –   As the people of this country, and much of the world, observe the year-end holidays, we can look back on 2013 as the year when any illusion of genuine democracy was dashed by the remarkable revelations about the police-state surveillance that watches us. Last week, we saw a deeply disturbing stroke added to that incrementally developing picture.

In the ever-expanding and groan-provoking saga of the NSA’s attack on our privacy, it was revealed that the agency paid a major Internet security firm to insert a flawed encryption formula into the company’s software. The news, sparked by leaks from Edward Snowden and first reported by Reuters, raises serious questions about the security of popular encryption programs and indicates that the U.S. government was consciously involved in massive and very destructive fraud.

The revelations indicate that the NSA paid $10 million to RSA, one of the most prominent encrytion software companies in the world, to include the NSA’s own encryption formula in a very popular and heavily used encryption product called “Bsafe”. While Bsafe offers several encryption options, the default option (the one you use if you don’t specifically choose any) is the NSA’s own code.

The massive attack on encryption by the NSA has been reported before but this recent revelations about payments made demonstrate an intentionality to defraud and a complete disregard for the law, honesty and people’s rights. RSA offered a partial and fairly weak statement of defense. The NSA has yet to comment.

“Encryption” is a computerized function, ubiquitous on the Internet, that scrambles data so it can’t be read unless the reader has a “key”, a small piece of computer code that the encryption program uses to “decrypt” the data and render it readable. Some of us use it to encrypt email, do Internet chat or voice-over-IP communications (an Internet telephone protocol). Most of us have probably used it to send data like credit card numbers when we purchase something. It’s the thing that makes private communications on the Internet private.

Nothing revealed indicates that encryption itself doesn’t work. In fact, the NSA’s attack on encryption is proof of strong encryption’s usefulness and security. The agency didn’t “crack” encryption; it apparently can’t. Rather it developed its own, faulty encryption code that allowed it to read data encrypted using that code. Then it paid RSA to use that code in its products. To understand how this works, we have to understand RSA standard encryption.

The fact that it’s called RSA encryption shows how prominent the products of this company are. RSA encryption uses a two-key system. When you start working with the encryption program, it generates your public key (a string of numbers and letters) and an accompanying “private key”. You let everyone know your public key; mine is on my business card. You *never* let anyone know your private key.

If I want to send you an encrypted message, I get your public key and use software that will encrypt the data using that key — encryption software lets me keep a library of people’s public keys so it can do the encryption automatically. You receive what I sent and then apply your private key (which is stored on your server or computer) to decrypt the data and read it. All of this happens in seconds and it is absolutely foolproof — unless, of course, the company that made the software uses a key generating method that allows it to decrypt the message without having anyone’s private key.

It’s like building door locks that can all be opened with a special key. That’s what the NSA designed and it paid RSA to include that “backdoor” in its software and offer that version of the encryption scheme as the default on its Bsafe programs.

What’s disturbing is that millions of computers use Bsafe (and many more use some RSA-based encryption method). What is even more disturbing is that many of the programs that use “Bsafe” are for Androids and other cell phones: devices rapidly becoming the information device of choice for many people all over the world. But what’s most disturbing is that this piece of technological flim-flam may not be limited to Bsafe or even to RSA programs. Other companies that build widely-used encryption include Symantec, McAfee, and Microsoft and experts now suspect the NSA may have bribed them as well.

“You think they only bribed one company in the history of their operations?” asked Bruce Schneier, one of the world’s premier information security experts. “What’s at play here is that we don’t know who’s involved. You have no idea who else was bribed, so you don’t know who else you can trust.”

The NSA has frequently said its only purpose in data capture and analysis is to catch criminals and terrorists. Most Americans would consider that a legitimate, even laudatory, goal of law enforcement. But when you capture information on everyone to catch the criminal, law enforcement is operating like a police state. Captured information is usually stored and having information on everyone’s communications is against the law and there’s a reason for that. When a government decides that legal activity you’re involved in is now illegal, it can use that data to repress that activity and the history of governments is that they will frequently declare illegal such activities as organizing against their policies.

That’s why the Constitution stricty forbids this type of data gathering under the First and Fourth amendments: the states that united to approve the constitution didn’t trust a central government with the power to intrusively and massively gather information on its citizens.

The use of encryption means that the intent of the data exchange, particularly with email, is to be private. People speak to each other in privacy all the time and nobody would argue that a private communication means that there is illegal activity. Moreover, privacy is our right and why we go private is not the business of anyone but the people we are speaking with privately. It’s certainly not the government’s business. In fact, this concept of “privacy” has long been a pillar of Internet communications which is why encryption programs are so popular on-line.

But this a step beyond the “capture all information” programs the NSA has admitted to and been sharply criticized for: the subject of the recent report by the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies that found that the NSA had “over-stepped” its mandate and rights.

Devising a fraudulent system of encryption, building a back-door into it and then paying companies to offer this to the public as a fool-proof, default assurance of privacy is hardly over-stepping. It’s a conscious, cynical, fraudulent and extremely dangerous attack on the principle of Internet privacy, reflecting our government’s complete disdain for our rights.

It also demonstrates the dangers of relying on corporate-developed encryption when there are several free and open source alternatives costing nothing and involving the work of developers whose only purpose is their commitment to a free Internet. Brad Chacos of PC World wrote an article last September with several excellent suggestions but finding solutions is really a matter of doing Internet searches for this. Using those solutions now becomes not a choice but a necessity.

This article was originally published at ThisCantBeHappening

Copyright © 2013 This Can’t Be Happening!.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37230.htm

Postcard from the End of America: Marcus Hook

By Linh Dinh

December 27, 2013 “Information Clearing House – First settled by Europeans in 1640, Marcus Hook was once called Chammassungh , Finland then Marrites Hoeck, from which the present name derives. The Hook, however, does serendipitously evoke its pirate past, when Blackbeard plied the Delaware , and one of his mistresses, Margaret, lived here, in a plank house still preserved.

This town’s peak posterity came much later, however, in the legitimate business of oil refining, plus there was a steel mill just down the road. Though its population never surpassed 5,000, Marcus Hook had 36 taverns at one point, including three openly gay bars. This, in a heavily Catholic region with many Irish, Italians and Poles. Though Market Street is only a mile long, it had 12 bars.

The steel mill and an oil refinery have shut down, with the surviving one operating at much reduced capacity. Only 2,397 people live here now, and there are only six bars left, with only Keyote’s kind of gayish. The town is still clean and orderly, though, and on a recent visit, I saw that many residents had, as usual, arrayed Christmas decorations on their tiny lawns. Many of these wooden, plastic, nylon or cement figurines were rather beaten up, however, with one Santa Claus a deflated mess with his face smudgy and featureless, and his legs severed, as if blown away by an improvised explosive device. Next to him, two faded and chipped deer nestled in a dirt-filled bathtub. At 11th and Washington , though, I saw an extravaganza of inflated nylon and many-colored lights, with even a green and red “HOLLY COPTER” on the roof. (Just wondering, but shouldn’t it be “HOLY COPTER”?) Through a brilliantly lit door, I glimpsed an old woman carrying a casserole dish as she walked from kitchen to living room, but it’s probably time to scoot, I thought, for earlier I had seen this sign, on a different house, “THIS PROPERTY PROTECTED BY THE SECOND AMENDMENT.” Next morning, the headline in the Delco Times could read, “Prowling Victor Charlie Shot by Vigilant Mrs. Claus.”

Real military hardware can be found elsewhere in Marcus Hook. Just to the side of the elementary school, there are two pieces of artillery, and by the river, there is another big gun next to the Delaware County Vietnam Memorial. Beneath 183 names, there is a curious inscription, “THIS MEMORIAL IS ALSO DEDICATED TO THOSE VIETNAM VETERANS THAT WERE KILLED IN VIETNAM, BUT WHO DIED AT HOME.” I’m assuming that this is a reference to Agent Orange and suicides, but what else? There are so many ways to die years later from a war. As for Agent Orange, it was manufactured primarily by Monsanto and DuPont, with the latter headquartered in Wilmington , DE , a 10-minute drive from Marcus Hook. Your brother could work for DuPont, as DuPont killed you.

Altogether, there are nine war memorials in Marcus Hook, and this is hardly unusual in small town America . Across the river, the center ofGloucester , NJ , is dominated by a cluster of war memorials, with a large slab commemorating the death of just one soldier, Corporal Marc T. Ryan, who died in Iraq at the age of 25. On the polished granite are three images of him: as a football player, then soldier in full combat gear, plus a smiling head shot. Ryan’s father and grandfather were Marines, and Ryan was only killed on his second deployment to Iraq . He had also spent a year in Afghanistan . Before his last mission, Ryan had applied to be a state trooper, but was not hired.

For much of 2013, dozens of banners hung from utility poles on Gloucester ‘s Broadway Street . On each is an image of a native son lost in a war, going to back to World War I. The portraits are large and mostly in colors. William Bernard Hamacher was only 18 when he was killed in Quang Tri , South Vietnam . Daniel Gilbert Booth was buried at sea in World War II. On and on it went. Next to Gloucester , tiny Brooklawn, with less than 2,000 souls, has three pieces of artillery in its center. In many towns, you may even find a tank or two. Such a militarization of the landscape is so common in America , many may even assume that it is a universal tendency.

With our citizens being told endlessly that America is constantly threatened, our flag now appears everywhere as a kind of talisman against attack or national disintegration. In Gloucester , the Venezuelan-owned Citgo gas station flaunts three large stars and stripes, and across the street, the Coastal station has a small flag, plus a sign, “GOD BLESS AMERICA.” Flags drape in private yards and porches, and in the window of Twisted Delights, a pretzel bakery, there is an elaborate patriotic display with images of the Statue of Liberty, an eagle and the Lincoln Memorial, all over a flag background, with “GOD BLESS AMERICA” on top. Such an insistent, even strident, manifestation of patriotism betrays a siege mentality, but this is encouraged and orchestrated from the top down.

Troops are now routinely inserted into ball games, and news broadcasts often feature footage of a returning soldier surprising his or her family in a variety of settings. In Minnesota, a soldier came back to his wife and four kids as a scuba-diving Santa Claus at a shopping mall aquarium, and at a hockey game in Detroit, another greeted his parents and girlfriend on the Jumbotron, before suddenly appearing in person, behind them, and as the crowd wildly cheered, he got on one knee to propose to his sweetheart while Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” played over the sound system. On YouTube, most of the comments gush sentimentality and patriotism, as expected, but there was one user with an Arabic name who merely left, “This video failed,” to which another responded, “sorry it didn’t blow up, you muslim.” At a Devil Rays game, a soldier’s young daughter was invited to throw out the first pitch, except that she didn’t know the catcher was actually her dad, whom she thought was still in Afghanistan . With mask thrown off, they had a tearful reunion in front of cameras and crowd. With so many well-staged scenes as these, one has to assume there is a Pentagon unit dedicated to such theatrical propaganda. Notice that the troops featured in these touching reunions are never visibly damaged, as in missing one or several limbs, an eyeball or part of a brain, etc., for that would scare off future recruits. At the last Eagles game, the honored soldier was a sexy ex-cheerleader of the team itself. In photos released to the press, Rachel Washburn is positively glamorous even as she totes an M-4 carbine. Born into a military family, Washburn now has two Afghan tours behind her, yet she will re-enlist, then study to become a human rights lawyer, so all the bases are covered, for she’s attractive, smart, selfless, brave and, most importantly, conscientious. After honorably participating in Enduring Freedom, Washburn will nobly defend human rights, so America ‘s open-ended war must not, cannot, be immoral. Plus, if even a hot cheerleader is willing to charge into battle to engage terrorists over there, what does that make of all the lame-assed doofuses lounging about over here, with their XBox, fantasy football and porn addictions? So get off your fat asses already and enlist to kill, and be killed, for your elite’s access to oil, natural gas and opium!

Many Americans oppose not just any war, but even the concept of violent resistance against attack or oppression. In short, they don’t even believe in using force to survive. A much larger percentage, however, support just about any of their nation’s wars. Since one’s forefathers had their battle experiences, one must fight in the war(s) of one’s generation. In various disguises, organized violence is an American rite of passage, so any boy who shuns the football team, gang or Army is considered a hollowed out, pussified geek with a moist handshake who won’t even defend himself, much less his country.

The water tower in Gloucester has the familiar POW/MIA flag painted on it, and in Marcus Hook, this image flutters outside the post office, the idle Sunoco refinery and at some private homes, among other places. Inside a circle, a large Caucasian head is seen in profile, with a watchtower in the distance. To indicate captivity, there is a strand of barbwire, and beneath everything is this caption: “YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN.” To make sure his neighbors don’t forget about America ‘s many wars, Mark Lane has even set up a military museum inside his wife’s thrift store, Andrea’s Attic. I had called ahead to make sure it was open, and before I walked in, I noticed a sign in the window, “I SUPPORT HELPING THE NEEDY. I OPPOSE FUNDING THE LAZY,” then in the vestibule, I was greeted by the photocopied faces of about 40 local criminals, with transgressions ranging from child sexual molestation to burglary, to assault. As far as crimes go, Marcus Hook is a very tame place now, a Mr. Roger’s neighborhood or petting zoo, as compared to when it was dominated by the Pagans, a 1% motorcycle gang that cooked meth, warred with the Mafia and chased the Hell’s Angels out of Philly. They also provided other useful social services such as making sure pharmaceuticals were available to penned-in and pent-up Amish kids, and babysitting teenaged girls rounded up from the MacDade Mall in Ridley Township . After school activities included bareback buckling, mattress swimming and (sort of) synchronized gymnastic. In honor of Shakespeare, perhaps, there was also the two-backed beast relay “drill” team, which broke out at frequent intervals in between beer runs. Seeing a middle-aged woman at the cash register, I assumed that it was Andrea, but she introduced herself as Lesley, then warmly said that her husband, Mark, would show me the museum.

In a space no bigger than a reasonably large bathroom was crammed military uniforms, helmets, bayonets, swords, newspaper clippings and, most interestingly, panoramas featuring toy soldiers, with some housed in small aquariums. There were no tags, so the viewer had to decipher each scene by himself, although Mark was right there to answer questions. A depiction of the Cu Chi Tunnel showed a GI, tiger and snake above ground in a jungle setting, then below the earth’s surface, here made of cardboard, I saw a Viet Cong and an American “tunnel rat.” Suffering frightfully high casualties, tunnel rats were small, slim men who had volunteered to go underground to flush out the VC. Their motto was “Non Gratum Anus Rodentum,” “Not Worth a Rat’s Ass.”

“Were you in the service?” Mark asked me.

“No, no,” I smiled. “How about you?”

“Actually, no. I registered, but never enlisted, and then the draft was over.”

“There are lots of Vietnam vets in this town. Do they ever come in here?”

“No.”

“How about kids? Do you have classes in here?”

“Well, sometimes a kid or two would come in, but this space is really too small for a class. I can’t keep an eye on them all, and these little kids might just break everything.”

“This museum is fascinating. This is, like, the highlight of Marcus Hook! Do you want more people to come in?”

“Well, I’m not sure, because I have to be here to show anyone around. I work a regular job, you know, in Chester .”

“What do you do over there?”

“I work for a paper company. We make cardboard stuff.”

Mark never rushed me as I looked around, and I took my time examining everything. Inside a bombed church , a wounded Nazi clutched a wine bottle. Above him, pigeons nestled in the destroyed ceiling. Wearing a keffiyeh, bandolier, rope belt and armed with made-in-China plastic M-16 and scimitar, an Arab soldier had been plopped in front of an American Hummer with a bullet hole in its windshield. Barely hidden lampshades kept parachutes abloom as paratroopers dangled. Sporting a mohawk, a member of the 101st Airborne spied on a Nazi and a Japanese soldier. When Mark asked if I was Japanese, I said, “No, Vietnamese,” so he brought out a Vietnam-era ammo belt, “I’ve been meaning to ask someone about this. Can you read this for me?”

“This is Chinese, Mark. It’s not Vietnamese.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, Vietnamese use the alphabet, with these accent marks on them. This is definitely Chinese.”

“This is from the Vietnam War, so I thought maybe it was used by the South Vietnamese.”

“The South Vietnamese would use American gear, and since this is Chinese-made, I’m pretty certain that it was used by the Viet Cong, so this is a Chinese belt used by either the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese.”

Marcus Hook doesn’t even have a Chinese restaurant, much less a Vietnamese one, so there’s no Vietnamese writing on any local menu for Mark to detect should he want to try a bowl of rice vermicelli with grilled lemongrass beef, etc., and in many Hollywood Vietnam movies, Vietnamese writing has been erased from the landscape. I’ll get to that later, so hang tight! Meanwhile, Mark responded, “Hmmm, I think you’re right! Boy, am I glad you came in today. You taught me something, so thank you!”

“No, thank you for taking the time to show me your museum. This place is wonderful!”

And I really meant that. I’m a sucker for any eccentric project. After a while, Lesley came in to say hello, and she was just open as her husband. From Lesley, I found out that Andrea in the store’s name refers to her daughter from another marriage, “We are a non-profit organization. We give out free books, furniture and clothes. We also have a food bank. And I’m doing all this in honor of my daughter, who was killed.”

“Wow, this is amazing! And I thought it was just a regular thrift store. How did your daughter die?

“Her boyfriend killed her. Andrea was a senior at San Diego State . She was the director of the Women’s Resource Center . She also did ceramics and fashion design. She taught martial art and volunteered as a conditioning trainer for the football team. My daughter did so much in her 27 years, and this asshole just killed her! He stabbed her! And you know how I found out? Four days after he had killed her, he had the balls to call me collect, and I had no idea why he was calling me. He said, ‘Andrea and I got into a fight,’ so I said, ‘What do you want me to do about it? You want me to take your side?! You work it out with her.’

“So what did he say?”

“He didn’t really say anything, then he said, ‘I didn’t really mean to hurt her,’ and that’s when I thought something serious may have happened. Before he hung up, he managed to say, ‘I think I may have broken Andrea’s neck,’ so I called Andrea to leave her a message, then I called her landlord, and that’s when I finally found out.”

“So the boyfriend lied about the broken neck, because he had actually stabbed her?”

“No, first he broke her neck by strangling her, then he stabbed her, then he tied a cord around her neck, then he put a plastic bag around her head. When they found my daughter, she was unrecognizable! And you know something else? He wasn’t even supposed to be there! After dating for 18 months, they had broken up for two weeks, but Andrea let him stay while he looked for another apartment, and during this time, he even ran up her credit card.”

“Wow, what a total asshole! So is this guy locked up for good?”

“No. We did get him convicted for murder one, but before the sentencing, he hanged himself in prison. That’s the best possible outcome, because now I don’t have to worry about going to California every few years for his parole hearing. Everything I do now, though, is in honor of my daughter. I want to continue Andrea’s legacy, because she was such a giving person. If a person can buy a pair of jeans for $2 at my store, instead of paying $25 somewhere else, then I’m doing it in the spirit of my daughter. As for the food bank, I don’t just give everyone the same box. I figure out what each person needs, so nothing is going to waste. You don’t want to give people something that they don’t even like, or don’t know how to prepare. Everyone is different. I also make sure I give it to people who really need it, because if you’re sitting in a bar all day, and can afford another tattoo on your damn neck, then you shouldn’t be coming to me.

The other day, this guy came in and said he had just had open heart surgery, so I asked him, ‘Which hospital was it at?’ and he was like, ‘Uh, uh, uh,’ so I just told him to get the hell out of here! I know him, too. He’s a child molester. I have his picture up there on the wall as you walk in.”

Before I left Andrea’s Attic, Lesley wanted to give me a loaf of bread to take home, but I had to decline, since I didn’t want to take from someone who really needed it. Moments later, I didn’t turn down several pints of beer sent my way by complete strangers at Connely’s Pub, however, for that would be very bad manners. “Why is everyone so nice here?” I asked the bartender, Jenny.

“That’s just how we roll,” she cheerfully said.

Granted, it was Christmas Eve, but the friendliness here was exceptional, and I was included in it all even as an outsider. Presently, a man offered me a stick of beef jerky, and Santa Claus came barging through the door to hand me, and everyone else, a cane candy. This was only my second time here. Neither too dark nor too loud, this cheap bar is a very pleasant place to pass the hours. On my first visit a few days earlier, I had met Jim. After four years in the Army, spent in Texas , Virginia and North Carolina , he has worked 35 years for Fed Ex, and plans to retired in two years at age 50. He’ll move to the country to be left alone, he said, and to hunt and to fish. Divorced, he has three daughters aged 18, 19 and 20, with one in college and one in nursing school, “And just think, I never even finished high school!”

I exchanged a few words with a man named Cowboy, so called because he had owned a horse as a teen. Now an electrician, Cowboy made $12 an hour at his first job 40 years ago, when he was 17. “That would be a good wage for any age nowadays,” I said.

“I agree. It’s not as easy as it used to be. Now you can’t even bend the facts on your resume. They’ll find out on the computer!”

Wearing a camouflaged hat, a man showed off a wooden carving that had “LIVE FREE OR DIE. DON’T TREAD ON ME” over a gun that doubled as a pipe. Another man wore a hat that said, “ Bite Me. ”

The bartender had quite an emphatic figure so one of the guys asked her to turn to the side a bit, “Boy, you do have one heck of a profile!”

“It’s the padded bra,” she laughed.

“It pushes you up,” the man shouted to general merriment.

Some middle-aged cat named Gatto walked in to buy a tall can of Ice to go. “This keeps me young,” he grinned at the bartender, who didn’t laugh. I did, though, which cheered him up, and Gatto told me he had a date that night. Taking out his Samsung tab, he showed me a sitting woman in a dreamy pose, “That’s my lady. Ain’t she hot?”

“Yes, she is,” and she really was, at least from my angle and in that dim light.

Showing me another lady, Gatto continued, “I’m dating this one too, and I’m going to get her,” meaning the bartender who was only about half his age. Oh, the desperate optimism of so many middle-aged men! We’ll have our first stroke or even a triple bypass thinking we still have it, though many of us barely had any at any point in our lives. (Mind you, whenever I mention a medical term or procedure, it’s strictly from hearsays, as I’ve never had health insurance in my life, Obamacare be damned!)

I chatted longest with John, a 67-seven-year-old Vietnam vet, “I was there for 2 ½ years. My brother also served. He got hit by a mine. My youngest brother also wanted to go, but by then the war was over.”

“Your brother didn’t die?”

“No, he came back and worked in the post office for 35 years.”

“That’s miraculous! He didn’t lose anything?

“No, they patched him up good. He was fine.”

“Why did you sign up again? You were only supposed to be there for one year, right?”

“The money! They paid you good if you went over again, so I went back twice.”

“How much extra money did you make?”

“I sent some of it home for my mom to keep, but she gave it to my sister for her wedding, so I only ended up with $6,500 when I got out. Still, that was a lot of money then, enough for me to buy a Corvette. What I always wanted!”

Since John served on a swift boat, I mentioned Kerry, but he said, “What are you talking about?”

“John Kerry. Didn’t he serve on a swift boat also?”

“I don’t know, but I wouldn’t trust anything these politicians say!”

Changing the subject, John declared, “I may be retired, but I still work a little, just to do something. Every day, I spend two hours cleaning up this bar.”

“You do look in excellent shape!”

“That’s because I’m active. I don’t just sit around.”

“Why don’t you travel? Take a trip somewhere?”

“Nah, nah.”

“If I had the money, I would travel all the time.”

“It’s not that I can’t afford it, but I’m just not into that. Plus, they don’t like us Americans overseas.”

“Where?”

“In Europe . A couple of my friends came back and said they hated us over there.”

“Oh, c’mon!”

“They can’t stand us in France .”

“That’s not true! That’s way exaggerated! Ethnically, what are you, John?”

“I’m Irish.”

“Then why don’t you go to Ireland ? Drink some good beer! I’ve been to England and Scotland but never Ireland . I’d love to go to Ireland .”

“You go. I stay here!”

During his Navy days, John visited Tokyo , Singapore , Bangkok and Sidney , so it’s not like he hasn’t been anywhere. The ladies Down Under were the most expensive, but they were also the most disease-free, according to John, so it was worth it, “You get what you pay for.” Discharged, he spent a week in San Francisco before going home, where he’s been ever since.

“Did you like San Francisco ?”

“Not at all!”

“You didn’t find it beautiful? I think San Francisco is very beautiful.”

“All I know is I went into a bar, and there were nothing but men there, and one said to me,” and here John switched to a swishy voice, complete with a queer hand motion, “‘How are you doing?’”

“Well, did you go to another bar?”

“I went to two more, and they were all the same!”

“So you were in a gay neighborhood, then.”

“The entire city was a gay neighborhood! I couldn’t wait to get out of there! Then at the airport, some Hare Krishna called me a baby killer!”

I don’t know if people with an unhappy upbringing wander more, but my dismal childhood has left me with no fond memory of home, negates its very concept, although, paradoxically, I try to make each alien pit stop my instant casa, if only in my mind. In Marcus Hook, a car slowed down to ask me for directions, which pleased me enormously, and I could barely refrain from giving the lady (wrong) directions. With deep regrets, remorse and infinite self-pity, I painfully informed her that I was not from there. Though permanently homeless in the figurative sense, perhaps I emit some at-home signals with my gait or posture, for I have been asked for directions even in foreign cities like Florence and Seoul .

Unlike in beer commercials, American bars tend to be almost exclusively black or white, but Connely’s was well-integrated, with the regulars greeting their white and black friends equally warmly as they came in. At one point, though, all the black patrons sat at one end, and whites at the other, while I, yellow as ever, was the odd one there, not that it mattered. On television, however, there was a horde of yellow guys doing some frightful shit to their own kind, as in bayoneting children, crushing a boy’s head with a boot and mowing down hundreds of unarmed villagers with machine guns. As these Mongoloid monsters committed gleeful carnage, a Caucasian man could be seen trying to save two Asiatic tots. No movie buff, I had no idea what I was watching until I saw Sylvester Stallone, which cued me in that it was one of the Rambo flicks.

It’s only incidental that Burma is the context of Rambo IV, for what’s shown is a Barbaric Other that should be killed en masse as well as, paradoxically, saved from itself. For more than a decade now, this plot has been applied most feverishly to Muslims, but it can suddenly be shifted to any other group, or a subgroup with this country. The empire’s media mesmerize, stultify and brainwash through a fairly transparent magic, but if it works, why change? Take Apocalypse Now , considered by many to be not just a great Vietnam War film, but one of the greatest films ever. No one here cringed when Coppola pompously declared that his baby “is not about Vietnam —it is Vietnam .” Imagine a foreigner making a film about the US without speaking parts for Americans, and where written English is glimpsed but for a few seconds, yet declaring, “My film is not about the United States . It is the United States .” Reviewing the redux version in 2001, I wrote :

“In Apocalypse Now , Vietnam is more or less one continuous jungle, with corpses casually dangling from trees, and arrows and spears flying out of the foliage. The arrow attack scene is lifted straight from Heart of Darkness , where a black river boat pilot is impaled by a spear. The phoniness of this is breathtaking. The NVA and Viet Cong did not win a modern war with arrows and spears. But a scene from a 1901 book has to be shoehorned into a 1979 movie because of Coppola’s fascination with savages. As Willard’s boat travels up the Nung River , the only signs of civilization are two US army bases and a French plantation. This has nothing to do with the Vietnam of reality. As anyone who has been there will tell you, Vietnam is (and was during the war) grossly overpopulated. Rivers and roads are lined with settlements. The US , by comparison, is more wild. Another thing a visitor to Vietnam can readily see is the ubiquity of the written language— that is, of civilization. Signs and banners are everywhere. None of this is apparent in any of the panoramic shots of Apocalypse Now . Coppola hasn’t just withheld speech from the Vietnamese, he has also banned them from writing.”

Similarly, in The Deer Hunter , another Hollywood Vietnam War “classic,” the realism is strictly reserved for the white characters, especially on their home turf, in a Pennsylvania town not too unlike Marcus Hook. The Vietnamese, on the other hand, are deranged, cartoonish screamers who get a great thrill out of gambling with other people’s lives. Jungle-dwelling Commies or living in Saigon , they’re all the same. Though there is no record of Vietnamese playing Russian Roulette with anybody, much less Americans, it is this movie’s central metaphor. Factual error aside, Deer Hunter fits neatly within the racism and war-justifying mythology that’s pushed constantly by this empire’s media, that only Americans are real, fleshed-out people with a psychology and range of emotions, unlike these shadowy, hateful, subhuman and funny-looking foreigners who deserve to be shot, over and over.

Sorry about the little detour through Hollywood, perhaps my least favorite (crime) precinct on this earth, but it does help to explain, I think, how someone as good, generous and sober as Lesley Lane can be so indiscriminating when it comes to supporting our military, how she can not see that, conditioned to unleash great violence with sanctimony, these armed men and women have destroyed many families worldwide.

OK, so before we leave Marcus Hook, let’s just say hello to its just deposed mayor, James Schirilo. Jay, as he is commonly known, used to strut about town with a stogie jutting from his maw, for it’s good to be a puffed up fish in this wee puddle. Granted, the pay wasn’t all that, but life isn’t just about cash, but respect and stature. As mayor, Jay was looked at differently, and the shouted greetings became much heartier whenever he stepped into the Star Hotel, Lefty’s or Connely’s. Though Republican, Jay went to Obama’s second inauguration, and why not? It was a fine party. Jay’s stance for gun control was somewhat unpopular, but he didn’t want slugs to bounce around Marcus Hook, like they routinely did in adjacent Chester or Wilmington . All was well until February, when Jay could no longer suppress a certain sensation surging up from below. Divorced, Jay was free sexually, except that the object of his desire was male, and underage, too, though only by a year. OK, OK, I’ll cut to the chase. As his teenaged daughter slept upstairs, 38-year-old Jay Schiliro plied a 20-year-old man with wine, then asked his young buddy, between 20 and 30 times, if he would consent to be sucked. To show that his passion was true, Jay waved his gun around, then pointed it at his own head when he was firmly rebuffed, before discharging (the 9mm handgun) into the wall.

Now, you can’t live more than a few days without racking up a few ghastly sets of bones in your closet, so I’m not retelling Jay’s lapsed moment to shame but to applaud him, for here, finally, is a model politician. While others will suck you dry through unfunded wars, bad laws and Wall Street, Jay is actually willing to back up his (covert) actions with his (open) mouth. No hypocrite, Jay Schiliro should be the next President of the United States , for if we can’t have a leader who looks out for our interests, we should at least have a representative one. With, say, Monica Lewinsky as Veep, it should be an unbeatable ticket. For Schiliro’s campaign slogan, I suggest, simply, “JAY SUCKS!” Just like our government, though only one is even half amusing.

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 .

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37231.htm

Torture Inc. Americas Brutal Prisons

Savaged by dogs, Electrocuted With Cattle Prods, Burned By Toxic Chemicals, Does such barbaric abuse inside U.S. jails explain the horrors that were committed in Iraq?

By Deborah Davies

They are just some of the victims of wholesale torture taking place inside the U.S. prison system that we uncovered during a four-month investigation for Channel 4 . It’s terrible to watch some of the videos and realise that you’re not only seeing torture in action but, in the most extreme cases, you are witnessing young men dying.

First posted March 28, 2005

Torture Inc. Americas Brutal Prisons

Savaged by dogs, Electrocuted With Cattle Prods, Burned By Toxic Chemicals, Does such barbaric abuse inside U.S. jails explain the horrors that were committed in Iraq?

By Deborah Davies

They are just some of the victims of wholesale torture taking place inside the U.S. prison system that we uncovered during a four-month investigation for BBC Channel 4 . It’s terrible to watch some of the videos and realise that you’re not only seeing torture in action but, in the most extreme cases, you are witnessing young men dying.

The prison guards stand over their captives with electric cattle prods, stun guns, and dogs. Many of the prisoners have been ordered to strip naked. The guards are yelling abuse at them, ordering them to lie on the ground and crawl. ‘Crawl, motherf*****s, crawl.’

If a prisoner doesn’t drop to the ground fast enough, a guard kicks him or stamps on his back. There’s a high-pitched scream from one man as a dog clamps its teeth onto his lower leg.

Another prisoner has a broken ankle. He can’t crawl fast enough so a guard jabs a stun gun onto his buttocks. The jolt of electricity zaps through his naked flesh and genitals. For hours afterwards his whole body shakes.

Lines of men are now slithering across the floor of the cellblock while the guards stand over them shouting, prodding and kicking.

Second by second, their humiliation is captured on a video camera by one of the guards.

The images of abuse and brutality he records are horrifyingly familiar. These were exactly the kind of pictures from inside Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad that shocked the world this time last year.

And they are similar, too, to the images of brutality against Iraqi prisoners that this week led to the conviction of three British soldiers.

But there is a difference. These prisoners are not caught up in a war zone. They are Americans, and the video comes from inside a prison in Texas

They are just some of the victims of wholesale torture taking place inside the U.S. prison system that we uncovered during a four-month investigation for Channel 4 that will be broadcast next week.

Our findings were not based on rumour or suspicion. They were based on solid evidence, chiefly videotapes that we collected from all over the U.S.

In many American states, prison regulations demand that any ‘use of force operation’, such as searching cells for drugs, must be filmed by a guard.

The theory is that the tapes will show proper procedure was followed and that no excessive force was used. In fact, many of them record the exact opposite.

Each tape provides a shocking insight into the reality of life inside the U.S. prison system – a reality that sits very uncomfortably with President Bush’s commitment to the battle for freedom and democracy against the forces of tyranny and oppression.

In fact, the Texas episode outlined above dates from 1996, when Bush was state Governor.

Frank Carlson was one of the lawyers who fought a compensation battle on behalf of the victims. I asked him about his reaction when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke last year and U.S. politicians rushed to express their astonishment and disgust that such abuses could happen at the hands of American guards.

‘I thought: “What hypocrisy,” Carlson told me. ‘Because they know we do it here every day.’

All the lawyers I spoke to during our investigations shared Carlson’s belief that Abu Ghraib, far from being the work of a few rogue individuals, was simply the export of the worst practices that take place in the domestic prison system all the time. They pointed to the mountain of files stacked on their desks, on the floor, in their office corridors – endless stories of appalling, sadistic treatment inside America’s own prisons.

Many of the tapes we’ve collected are several years old. That’s because they only surface when determined lawyers prise them out of reluctant state prison departments during protracted lawsuits.

But for every ‘historical’ tape we collected, we also found a more recent story. What you see on the tape is still happening daily.

It’s terrible to watch some of the videos and realise that you’re not only seeing torture in action but, in the most extreme cases, you are witnessing young men dying.

In one horrific scene, a naked man, passive and vacant, is seen being led out of his cell by prison guards. They strap him into a medieval-looking device called a ‘restraint chair’. His hands and feet are shackled, there’s a strap across his chest, his head lolls forward. He looks dead. He’s not. Not yet.

The chair is his punishment because guards saw him in his cell with a pillowcase on his head and he refused to take it off. The man has a long history of severe schizophrenia. Sixteen hours later, they release him from the chair. And two hours after that, he dies from a blood clot resulting from his barbaric treatment.

The tape comes from Utah – but there are others from Connecticut, Florida, Texas, Arizona and probably many more. We found more than 20 cases of prisoners who’ve died in the past few years after being held in a restraint chair.

Two of the deaths we investigated were in the same county jail in Phoenix, Arizona, which is run by a man who revels in the title of ‘America’s Toughest Sheriff.’

His name is Joe Arpaio. He positively welcomes TV crews and we were promised ‘unfettered access.’ It was a reassuring turn of phrase – you don’t want to be fettered in one of Sheriff Joe’s jails.

We uncovered two videotapes from surveillance cameras showing how his tough stance can end in tragedy.

The first tape, from 2001, shows a man named Charles Agster dragged in by police, handcuffed at the wrists and ankles. Agster is mentally disturbed and a drug user. He was arrested for causing a disturbance in a late-night grocery store. The police handed him over to the Sheriff’s deputies in the jail. Agster is a tiny man, weighing no more than nine stone, but he’s struggling.

The tape shows nine deputies manhandling him into the restraint chair. One of them kneels on Agster’s stomach, pushing his head forward on to his knees and pulling his arms back to strap his wrists into the chair.

Bending someone double for any length of time is dangerous – the manuals on the use of the ‘restraint chair’ warn of the dangers of ‘positional asphyxia.’

Fifteen minutes later, a nurse notices Agster is unconscious. The cameras show frantic efforts to resuscitate him, but he’s already brain dead. He died three days later in hospital. Agster’s family is currently suing Arizona County.

His mother, Carol, cried as she told me: ‘If that’s not torture, I don’t know what is.’ Charles’s father, Chuck, listened in silence as we filmed the interview, but every so often he padded out of the room to cry quietly in the kitchen.

The second tape, from five years earlier, shows Scott Norberg dying a similar death in the same jail. He was also a drug user arrested for causing a nuisance. Norberg was severely beaten by the guards, stunned up to 19 times with a Taser gun and forced into the chair where – like Charles Agster – he suffocated.

The county’s insurers paid Norberg’s family more than £4 millions in an out-of-court settlement, but the sheriff was furious with the deal. ‘My officers were clear,’ he said. ‘The insurance firm was afraid to go before a jury.’

Now he’s determined to fight the Agster case all the way through the courts. Yet tonight, in Sheriff Joe’s jail, there’ll probably be someone else strapped into the chair.

Not all the tapes we uncovered were filmed by the guards themselves. Linda Evans smuggled a video camera into a hospital to record her son, Brian. You can barely see his face through all the tubes and all you can hear is the rhythmic sucking of the ventilator.

He was another of Sheriff Joe’s inmates. After an argument with guards, he told a prison doctor they’d beaten him up. Six days later, he was found unconscious of the floor of his cell with a broken neck, broken toes and internal injuries. After a month in a coma, he died from septicaemia.

‘Mr Arpaio is responsible.’ Linda Evans told me, struggling to speak through her tears. ‘He seems to thrive on this cruelty and this mentality that these men are nothing.’

In some of the tapes it’s not just the images, it’s also the sounds that are so unbearable. There’s one tape from Florida which I’ve seen dozens of times but it still catches me in the stomach.

It’s an authorised ‘use of force operation’ – so a guard is videoing what happens. They’re going to Taser a prisoner for refusing orders.

The tape shows a prisoner lying on an examination table in the prison hospital. The guards are instructing him to climb down into a wheelchair. ‘I can’t, I can’t!’ he shouts with increasing desperation. ‘It hurts!’

One guard then jabs him on both hips with a Taser. The man jerks as the electricity hits him and shrieks, but still won’t get into the wheelchair.

The guards grab him and drop him into the chair. As they try to bend his legs up on to the footrest, he screams in pain. The man’s lawyer told me he has a very limited mental capacity. He says he has a back injury and can’t walk or bend his legs without intense pain.

The tape becomes even more harrowing. The guards try to make the prisoner stand up and hold a walking frame. He falls on the floor, crying in agony. They Taser him again. He runs out of the energy and breath to cry and just lies there moaning.

One of the most recent video tapes was filmed in January last year. A surveillance camera in a youth institution in California records an argument between staff members and two ‘wards’ – they’re not called prisoners.

One of the youths hits a staff member in the face. He knocks the ward to the floor then sits astride him punching him over and over again in the head.

Watching the tape you can almost feel each blow. The second youth is also punched and kicked in the head – even after he’s been handcuffed. Other staff just stand around and watch.

We also collected some truly horrific photographs.

A few years ago, in Florida, the new warden of the high security state prison ordered an end to the videoing of ‘use of force operations.’ So we have no tapes to show how prison guards use pepper spray to punish prisoners.

But we do have the lawsuit describing how men were doused in pepper spray and then left to cook in the burning fog of chemicals. Photographs taken by their lawyers show one man has a huge patch of raw skin over his hip. Another is covered in an angry rash across his neck, back and arms. A third has deep burns on his buttocks.

‘They usually use fire extinguishers size canisters of pepper spray,’ lawyer Christopher Jones explained. ‘We have had prisoners who have had second degree burns all over their bodies.

‘The tell-tale sign is they turn off the ventilation fans in the unit. Prisoners report that cardboard is shoved in the crack of the door to make sure it’s really air-tight.’

And why were they sprayed? According to the official prison reports, their infringements included banging on the cell door and refusing medication. From the same Florida prison we also have photographs of Frank Valdes – autopsy pictures. Realistically, he had little chance of ever getting out of prison alive. He was on Death Row for killing a prison officer. He had time to reconcile himself to the Electric Chair – he didn’t expect to be beaten to death.

Valdes started writing to local Florida newspapers to expose the corruption and brutality of prison officers. So a gang of guards stormed into his cell to shut him up. They broke almost every one of his ribs, punctured his lung, smashed his spleen and left him to die.

Several of the guards were later charged with murder, but the trial was held in their own small hometown where almost everyone works for, or has connection with, the five prisons which ring the town. The foreman of the jury was former prison officer. The guards were all acquitted.

Meanwhile, the warden who was in charge of the prison at the time of the killing – the same man who changed the policy on videoing – has been promoted. He’s now the man in charge of all the Florida prisons.

How could anyone excuse – still less condone – such behaviour? The few prison guards who would talk to us have a siege mentality. They see themselves outnumbered, surrounded by dangerous, violent criminals, so they back each other up, no matter what.

I asked one serving officer what happened if colleagues beat up an inmate. ‘We cover up. Because we’re the good guys.’

No one should doubt that the vast majority of U.S. prison officers are decent individuals doing their best in difficult circumstances. But when horrific abuse by the few goes unreported and uninvestigated, it solidifies into a general climate of acceptance among the many.

At the same time the overall hardening of attitudes in modern-day America has meant the notion of rehabilitation has been almost lost. The focus is entirely on punishment – even loss of liberty is not seen as punishment enough. Being on the restraint devices and the chemical sprays.

Since we finished filming for the programme in January, I’ve stayed in contact with various prisoners’ rights groups and the families of many of the victims. Every single day come more e-mails full of fresh horror stories. In the past weeks, two more prisoners have died, in Alabama and Ohio. One man was pepper sprayed, the other tasered.

Then, three weeks ago, reports emerged of 20 hours of video material from Guantanamo Bay showing prisoners being stripped, beaten and pepper sprayed. One of those affected is Omar Deghayes, one of the seven British residents still being held there.

His lawyer says Deghayes is now permanently blind in one eye. American military investigators have reviewed the tapes and apparently found ‘no evidence of systematic abuse.’

But then, as one of the prison reformers we met on our journey across the U.S. told me: ‘We’ve become immune to the abuse. The brutality has become customary.’

So far, the U.S. government is refusing to release these Guantanamo tapes. If they are ever made public – or leaked – I suspect the images will be very familiar.

Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo – or even Texas. The prisoners and all guards may vary, but the abuse is still too familiar. And much is it is taking place in America’s own backyard.

Deborah Davies is a reporter for Channel 4 Dispatches. Her investigation, Torture: America’s Brutal Prisons, was shown on Wednesday, March 2, at 11.05pm.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article8451.htm

Is The U.S. A Police State?

Video

From the workplace to our private lives, American society is starting to resemble a police state.

Posted December 27, 2013

How Every Part of American Life Became a Police Matter

From the workplace to our private lives, American society is starting to resemble a police state.

By Chase Madar

If all you’ve got is a hammer, then everything starts to look like a nail. And if police and prosecutors are your only tool, sooner or later everything and everyone will be treated as criminal. This is increasingly the American way of life, a path that involves “solving” social problems (and even some non-problems) by throwing cops at them, with generally disastrous results. Wall-to-wall criminal law encroaches ever more on everyday life as police power is applied in ways that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.

By now, the militarization of the police has advanced to the point where “the War on Crime” and “the War on Drugs” are no longer metaphors but bland understatements. There is the proliferation of heavily armed SWAT teams, even in small towns; the use of shock-and-awe tactics to bust small-time bookies; the no-knock raids to recover trace amounts of drugs that often result in the killing of family dogs, if not family members; and in communities where drug treatment programs once were key, the waging of a drug version of counterinsurgency war. (All of this is ably reported on journalist Radley Balko’s blog and in his book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop.) But American over-policing involves far more than the widely reported up-armoring of your local precinct. It’s also the way police power has entered the DNA of social policy, turning just about every sphere of American life into a police matter.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline

It starts in our schools, where discipline is increasingly outsourced to police personnel. What not long ago would have been seen as normal childhood misbehavior—doodling on a desk, farting in class, a kindergartener’s tantrum—can leave a kid in handcuffs, removed from school, or even booked at the local precinct. Such “criminals” can be as young as seven-year-old Wilson Reyes, a New Yorker who was handcuffed and interrogated under suspicion of stealing five dollars from a classmate. (Turned out he didn’t do it.)

Though it’s a national phenomenon, Mississippi currently leads the way in turning school behavior into a police issue. The Hospitality State hasimposed felony charges on schoolchildren for “crimes” like throwing peanuts on a bus. Wearing the wrong color belt to school got one child handcuffed to a railing for several hours. All of this goes under the rubric of “zero-tolerance” discipline, which turns out to be just another form of violence legally imported into schools.

Despite a long-term drop in youth crime, the carceral style of education remains in style. Metal detectors—a horrible way for any child to start the day—are installed in ever more schools, even those with sterling disciplinary records, despite the demonstrable fact that such scanners provide no guarantee against shootings and stabbings.

Every school shooting, whether in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, or Littleton, Colorado, only leads to more police in schools and more arms as well. It’s the one thing the National Rifle Association and Democratic senators can agree on. There are plenty of successful ways to run an orderly school without criminalizing the classroom, but politicians and much of the media don’t seem to want to know about them. The “school-to-prison pipeline,” a jargon term coined by activists, is entering the vernacular.

Go to Jail, Do Not Pass Go

Even as simple a matter as getting yourself from point A to point B can quickly become a law enforcement matter as travel and public space are ever more aggressively policed. Waiting for a bus? Such loitering just got three Rochester youths arrested. Driving without a seat belt can easily escalate into an arrest, even if the driver is a state judge. (Notably, all four of these men were black.) If the police think you might be carrying drugs, warrantless body cavity searches at the nearest hospital may be in the offing—you will be sent the bill later.

Air travel entails increasingly intimate pat-downs and arbitrary rules that many experts see as nothing more than “security theater.” As for staying at home, it carries its own risks as Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates found out when a Cambridge police officer mistook him for a burglar and hauled him away—a case that is hardly unique.

Overcriminalization at Work

Office and retail work might seem like an unpromising growth area for police and prosecutors, but criminal law has found its way into the white-collar workplace, too. Just ask Georgia Thompson, a Wisconsin state employee targeted by a federal prosecutor for the “crime” of incorrectly processing a travel agency’s bid for state business. She spent four months in a federal prison before being sprung by a federal court. Or Judy Wilkinson, hauled away in handcuffs by an undercover cop for serving mimosas without a license to the customers in her bridal shop. Or George Norris, sentenced to 17 months in prison for selling orchids without the proper paperwork to an undercover federal agent.

Increasingly, basic economic transactions are being policed under the purview of criminal law. In Arkansas, for instance, Human Rights Watch reports that a new law funnels delinquent (or allegedly delinquent) rental tenants directly to the criminal courts, where failure to pay up can result in quick arrest and incarceration, even though debtor’s prison as an institution was supposed to have ended in the nineteenth century.

And the mood is spreading. Take the asset bubble collapse of 2008 and the rising cries of progressives for the criminal prosecution of Wall Street perpetrators, as if a fundamentally sound financial system had been abused by a small number of criminals who were running free after the debacle. Instead of pushing a debate about how to restructure our predatory financial system, liberals in their focus on individual prosecution are aping the punitive zeal of the authoritarians. A few high-profile prosecutions for insider trading (which had nothing to do with the last crash) have, of course, not changed Wall Street one bit.

Criminalizing Immigration

The past decade has also seen immigration policy ingested by criminal law. According to another Human Rights Watch report—their US division is increasingly busy—federal criminal prosecutions of immigrants for illegal entry have surged from 3,000 in 2002 to 48,000 last year. This novel application of police and prosecutors has broken up families and fueled the expansion of for-profit detention centers, even as it has failed to show any stronger deterrent effect on immigration than the civil law system that preceded it. Thanks to Arizona’s SB 1070 bill, police in that state are now licensed to stop and check the papers of anyone suspected of being undocumented—that is, who looks Latino.

Meanwhile, significant parts of the US-Mexico border are now militarized (as increasingly is the Canadian border), including what seem to resemble free-fire zones. And if anyone were to leave bottled water for migrants illegally crossing the desert and in danger of death from dehydration, that good Samaritan should expect to face criminal charges, too. Intensified policing with aggressive targets for arrests and deportations are guaranteed to be a part of any future bipartisan deal on immigration reform.

Digital Over-Policing

As for the Internet, for a time it was terra nova and so relatively free of a steroidal law enforcement presence. Not anymore. The late Aaron Swartz, a young Internet genius and activist affiliated with Harvard University, was caught downloading masses of scholarly articles (all publicly subsidized) from an open network on the MIT campus. Swartz was federally prosecuted under the capacious Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for violating a “terms and services agreement”—a transgression that anyone who has ever disabled a cookie on his or her laptop has also, technically, committed. Swartz committed suicide earlier this year while facing a possible 50-year sentence and up to a million dollars in fines.

Since the summer, thanks to whistleblowing contractor Edward Snowden, we have learned a great deal about the way the NSA stops and frisks our (and apparently everyone else’s) digital communications, both email and telephonic. The security benefits of such indiscriminate policing arefar from clear, despite the government’s emphatic but inconsistent assurances otherwise. What comes into sharper focus with every volley of new revelations is the emerging digital infrastructure of what can only be called a police state.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37232.htm

The Landfill Harmonic Orchestra

3 Minute Video

The world sends us garbage. We send back music.

Posted December 27, 2013

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37237.htm

Oligarchs, Demagogues, and Mass Revolts against Democracy

By James Petras

December 27, 2013 “Information Clearing House – In ancient Rome, especially during the late Republic, oligarchs resorted to mob violence to block, intimidate, assassinate or drive from power the dominant faction in the Senate. While neither the ruling or opposing factions represented the interests of the plebeians, wage workers, small farmers or slaves, the use of the ‘mob’ against the elected Senate, the principle of representative government and the republican form of government laid the groundwork for the rise of authoritarian “Caesars” (military rulers) and the transformation of the Roman republic into an imperial state.

Demagogues, in the pay of aspiring emperors, aroused the passions of a motley array of disaffected slum dwellers, loafers and petty thieves (ladrones) with promises, pay-offs and positions in a New Order. Professional mob organizers cultivated their ties with the oligarchs ‘above’ and with professional demonstrators ‘below’. They voiced ‘popular grievances’ and articulated demands questioning the legitimacy of the incumbent rulers, while laying the groundwork for the rule by the few. Usually, when the pay-master oligarchs came to power on a wave of demagogue-led mob violence, they quickly suppressed the demonstrations, paid off the demagogues with patronage jobs in the new regime or resorted to a discrete assassination for ‘street leaders’ unwilling to recognize the new order’. The new rulers purged the old Senators into exile, expulsion and dispossession, rigged new elections and proclaimed themselves ‘saviors of the republic’. They proceeded to drive peasants from their land, renounce social obligations and stop food subsidies for poor urban families and funds for public works.

The use of mob violence and “mass revolts” to serve the interests of oligarchical and imperial powers against democratically-elected governments has been a common strategy in recent times.

Throughout the ages, the choreographed “mass revolt” played many roles: (1) it served to destabilize an electoral regime; (2) it provided a platform for its oligarch funders to depose an incumbent regime; (3) it disguised the fact that the oligarchic opposition had lost democratic elections; (4) it provided a political minority with a ‘fig-leaf of legitimacy’ when it was otherwise incapable of acting within a constitutional framework and (5) it allowed for the illegitimate seizure of power in the name of a pseudo ‘majority’, namely the “crowds in the central plaza”.

Some leftist commentators have argued two contradictory positions: One the one hand, some simply reduce the oligarchy’s power grab to an ‘inter-elite struggle’ which has nothing to do with the ‘interests of the working class’, while others maintain the ‘masses’ in the street are protesting against an “elitist regime”. A few even argue that with popular, democratic demands, these revolts are progressive, should be supported as “terrain for class struggle”. In other words, the ‘left’ should join the uprising and contest the oligarchs for leadership within the stage-managed revolts!

What progressives are unwilling to recognize is that the oligarchs orchestrating the mass revolt are authoritarians who completely reject democratic procedures and electoral processes. Their aim is to establish a ‘junta’, which will eliminate all democratic political and social institutions and freedoms and impose harsher, more repressive and regressive policies and institutions than those they replace. Some leftists support the ‘masses in revolt’ simply because of their ‘militancy’, their numbers and street courage, without examining the underlying leaders, their interests and links to the elite beneficiaries of a ‘regime change’.

All the color-coded “mass revolts” in Eastern Europe and the ex-USSR featured popular leaders who exhorted the masses in the name of ‘independence and democracy’ but were pro-NATO, pro-(Western) imperialists and linked to neo-liberal elites. Upon the fall of communism, the new oligarchs privatized and sold off the most lucrative sectors of the economy throwing millions out of work, dismantled the welfare state and handed over their military bases to NATO for the stationing of foreign troops and the placement of missiles aimed at Russia.

The entire ‘anti-Stalinist’ left in the US and Western Europe, with a few notable exceptions, celebrated these oligarch-controlled revolts in Eastern Europe and some even participated as minor accomplices in the post-revolt neo-liberal regimes. One clear reason for the demise of “Western Marxism” arose from its inability to distinguish a genuine popular democratic revolt from a mass uprising funded and stage-managed by rival oligarchs!

One of the clearest recent example of a manipulated ‘people’s power’ revolution in the streets to replace an elected representative of one sector of the elite with an even more brutal, authoritarian ‘president’ occurred in early 2001 in the Philippines. The more popular and independent (but notoriously corrupt) President Joseph Estrada, who had challenged sectors of the Philippine elite and current US foreign policy (infuriating Washington by embracing Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez), was replaced through street demonstrations of middle-class matrons with soldiers in civvies by Gloria Makapagal-Arroyo. Mrs. Makapagal-Arroyo, who had close links to the US and the Philippine military, unleashed a horrific wave of brutality dubbed the ‘death-squad democracy’. The overthrow of Estrada was actively supported by the left, including sectors of the revolutionary left, who quickly found themselves the target of an unprecedented campaign of assassinations, disappearances, torture and imprisonment by their newly empowered ‘Madame President’.

Past and Present Mass Revolts Against Democracy: Guatemala, Iran, and Chile

The use of mobs and mass uprisings by oligarchs and empire builders has a long and notorious history. Three of the bloodiest cases, which scarred their societies for decades, took place in Guatemala in 1954, Iran in 1953, and Chile in 1973.

Democratically-elected Jacobo Árbenz was the first Guatemalan President to initiate agrarian reform and legalize trade unions, especially among landless farm workers. Árbenz’s reforms included the expropriation of unused, fallow land owned by the United Fruit Company, a giant US agro-business conglomerate. The CIA used its ties to local oligarchs and right-wing generals and colonels to instigate and finance mass-protests against a phony ‘communist-takeover’ of Guatemala under President Arbenz. The military used the manipulated mob violence and the ‘threat’ of Guatemala becoming a “Soviet satellite”, to stage a bloody coup. The coup leaders received air support from the CIA and slaughtered thousands of Arbenz supporters and turned the countryside into ‘killing fields’. For the next 50 years political parties, trade unions and peasant organizations were banned, an estimated 200,000 Guatemalans were murdered and millions were displaced.

In 1952 Mohammed Mossadegh was elected president of Iran on a moderate nationalist platform, after the overthrow of the brutal monarch. Mossadegh announced the nationalization of the petroleum industry. The CIA, with the collaboration of the local oligarchs, monarchists and demagogues organized ‘anti-communist’ street mobs to stage violent demonstrations providing the pretext for a monarchist- military coup. The CIA-control Iranian generals brought Shah Reza Pahlavi back from Switzerland and for the next 26 years Iran was a monarchist-military dictatorship, whose population was terrorized by the Savak, the murderous secret police.

The US oil companies received the richest oil concessions; the Shah joined Israel and the US in an unholy alliance against progressive nationalist dissidents and worked hand-in-hand to undermine independent Arab states. Tens of thousands of Iranians were killed, tortured and driven into exile. In 1979, a mass popular uprising led by Islamic movements, nationalist and socialist parties and trade unions drove out the Shah-Savak dictatorship. The Islamists installed a radical nationalist clerical regime, which retains power to this day despite decades of a US-CIA-funded destabilization campaign which has funded both terrorist groups and dissident liberal movements.

Chile is the best-known case of CIA-financed mob violence leading to a military coup. In 1970, the democratic socialist Dr. Salvador Allende was elected president of Chile. Despite CIA efforts to buy votes to block Congressional approval of the electoral results and its manipulation of violent demonstrations and an assassination campaign to precipitate a military coup, Allende took office.

During Allende’s tenure as president the CIA financed a variety of “direct actions” –from paying the corrupt leaders of a copper workers union to stage strikes and the truck owners associations to refuse to transport goods to the cities, to manipulating right-wing terrorist groups like the Patria y Libertad (Fatherland and Liberty) in their assassination campaigns. The CIA’s destabilization program was specifically designed to provoke economic instability through artificial shortages and rationing, in order to incite middle class discontent. This was made notorious by the street demonstrations of pot-banging housewives. The CIA sought to incite a military coup through economic chaos. Thousands of truck owners were paid not to drive their trucks leading to shortages in the cities, while right-wing terrorists blew up power stations plunging neighborhoods into darkness and shop owners who refused to join the ‘strike’ against Allende were vandalized. On September 11, 1973, to the chants of ‘Jakarta’ (in celebration of a 1964 CIA coup in Indonesia), a junta of US-backed Chilean generals grabbed power from an elected government. Tens of thousands of activists and government supporters were arrested, killed, tortured and forced into exile. The dictatorship denationalized and privatized its mining, banking and manufacturing sectors, following the free market dictates of Milton Friedman-trained economists (the so-call “Chicago Boys”). The dictatorship overturned 40 years of welfare, labor and land-reform legislation which had made Chile the most socially advanced country in Latin America. With the generals in power, Chile became the ‘neo-liberal model’ for Latin America. Mob violence and the so-called “middle class revolt”, led to the consolidation of oligarchic and imperial rule and a 17-year reign of terror under General Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. The whole society was brutalized and with the return of electoral politics, even former ‘leftist’ parties retained the dictatorship’s neo-liberal economic policies, its authoritarian constitution and the military high command. The ‘revolt of the middle class’ in Chile resulted in the greatest concentration of wealth in the hands of the oligarchs in Latin America to this day!

The Contemporary Use and Abuse of “Mass Revolts”: Egypt, Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, and Argentina

In recent years “mass revolt” has become the instrument of choice when oligarchs, generals and other empire builders seeking ‘regime change’. By enlisting an assortment of nationalist demagogues and imperial-funded NGO ‘leaders’, they set the conditions for the overthrow of democratically elected governments and stage-managed the installment of their own “free market” regimes with dubious “democratic” credentials.

Not all the elected regimes under siege are progressive. Many ‘democracies’, like the Ukraine, are ruled by one set of oligarchs. In Ukraine, the elite supporting President Viktor Yanukovich, decided that entering into a deep client-state relationship with the European Union was not in their interests, and sought to diversify their international trade partners while maintaining lucrative ties with Russia. Their opponents, who are currently behind the street demonstrations in Kiev, advocate a client relationship with the EU, stationing of NATO troops, and cutting ties with Russia. In Thailand, the democratically-elected Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, represents a section of the economic elite with ties and support in the rural areas, especially the North-East, as well as deep trade relations with China. The opponents are urban-based, closer to the military-monarchists and favor a straight neo-liberal agenda linked to the US against the rural patronage-populist agenda of Ms. Shinawatra.

Egypt’s democratically-elected Mohamed Morsi government pursued a moderate Islamist policy with some constraints on the military and a loosening of ties with Israel in support of the Palestinians in Gaza. In terms of the IMF, Morsi sought compromise. The Morsi regime was in flux when it was overthrown: not Islamist nor secular, not pro-worker but also not pro-military. Despite all of its different pressure groups and contradictions, the Morsi regime permitted labor strikes, demonstrations, opposition parties, freedom of the press and assembly. All of these democratic freedoms have disappeared after waves of ‘mass street revolts’, choreographed by the military, set the conditions for the generals to take power and establish their brutal dictatorship – jailing and torturing tens of thousands and outlawing all opposition parties.

Mass demonstrations and demagogue-led direct actions also actively target democratically elected progressive governments, like Venezuela and Argentina, in addition to the actions against conservative democracies cited above. Venezuela, under Presidents Hugo Chavez and Vicente Maduro advance an anti-imperialist, pro-socialist program. ‘Mob revolts’ are combined with waves of assassinations, sabotage of public utilities, artificial shortages of essential commodities, vicious media slander and opposition election campaigns funded from the outside. In 2002, Washington teamed up with its collaborator politicians, Miami and Caracas-based oligarchs and local armed gangs, to mount a “protest movement” as the pretext for a planned business-military coup. The generals and members of the elite seized power and deposed and arrested the democratically-elected President Chavez. All avenues of democratic expression and representation were closed and the constitution annulled. In response to the kidnapping of ‘their president’, over a million Venezuelans spontaneously mobilized and marched upon the Presidential palace to demand the restoration of democracy and Hugo Chavez to the presidency. Backed by the large pro-democracy and pro-constitution sectors of the Venezuelan armed forces, the mass protests led to the coup’s defeat and the return of Chavez and democracy. All democratic governments facing manipulated imperial-oligarchic financed mob revolts should study the example of Venezuela’s defeat of the US-oligarch-generals’ coup. The best defense for democracy is found in the organization, mobilization and political education of the electoral majority. It is not enough to participate in free elections; an educated and politicized majority must also know how to defend their democracy in the streets as well as at the ballot box.

The lessons of the 2002 coup-debacle were very slowly absorbed by the Venezuelan oligarchy and their US patrons who continued to destabilize the economy in an attempt to undermine democracy and seize power. Between December 2002 and February 2003, corrupt senior oil executives of the nominally ‘public’ oil company PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela) organized a ‘bosses’ lockout stopping production, export and local distribution of oil and refined petroleum produces. ,Corrupt trade union officials, linked to the US National Endowment for Democracy, mobilized oil workers and other employees to support the lock-out, in their attempt to paralyze the economy. The government responded by mobilizing the other half of the oil workers who, together with a significant minority of middle management, engineers and technologists, called on the entire Venezuelan working class to take the oil fields and installations from the ‘bosses’. To counter the acute shortage of gasoline, President Chavez secured supplies from neighboring countries and overseas allies. The lockout was defeated. Several thousand supporters of the executive power grab were fired and replaced by pro-democracy managers and workers.

Having failed to overthrow the democratic government via “mass revolts”, the oligarchs turned toward a plebiscite on Chavez rule and later called for a nation-wide electoral boycott, both of which were defeated. These defeats served to strengthen Venezuela’s democratic institutions and decreased the presence of opposition legislators in the Congress. The repeated failures of the elite to grab power led to a new multi-pronged strategy using: (1) US-funded NGO’s to exploit local grievances and mobilize residents around community issues; (2) clandestine thugs to sabotage utilities, especially power, assassinate peasant recipients of land reform titles, as well as prominent officials and activists; (3) mass electoral campaign marches, and (4) economic destabilization via financial speculation, illegal foreign exchange trading, price gouging and hoarding of basic consumer commodities. The purpose of these measures is to incite mass discontent, using their control of the mass media to provoke another ‘mass revolt’ to set the stage for another US-backed ‘power grab’. Violent street protests by middle class students from the elite Central University were organized by oligarch-financed demagogues. ‘Demonstrations’ included sectors of the middle class and urban poor angered by the artificial shortages and power outages. The sources of popular discontent were rapidly and effectively addressed at the top by energetic government measures: business owners engaged in hoarding and price gouging were jailed; prices of essential staples were reduced; hoarded goods were seized from warehouses and distributed to the poor; the import of essential goods were increased and saboteurs were pursued. The Government’s effective intervention resonated with the mass of the working class, the lower-middle class and the rural and urban poor and restored their support. Government supporters took to the streets and lined up at the ballot box to defeat the campaign of destabilization. The government won a resounding electoral mandate allowing it to move decisively against the oligarchs and their backers in Washington.

The Venezuelan experience shows how energetic government counter-measures can restore support and deepen progressive social changes for the majority. This is because forceful progressive government intervention against anti-democratic oligarchs, combined with the organization, political education and mobilization of the majority of voters can decisively defeat these stage-managed mass revolts.

Argentina is an example of a weakened democratic regime trying to straddle the fence between the oligarchs and the workers, between the combined force of the agro-business and mining elites and working and middle class constituencies dependent on social policies. The elected-Kirchner-Fernandez government has faced “mass revolts” in the a series of street demonstrations whipped up by conservative agricultural exporters over taxes; the Buenos Aires upper-middle class angered at ‘crime, disorder and insecurity’, a nationwide strike by police officials over ‘salaries’ who ‘looked the other way’ while gangs of ‘lumpen’ street thugs pillaged and destroyed stores. Taken altogether, these waves of mob action in Argentina appear to be part of a politically-directed destabilization campaign by the authoritarian Right who have instigated or, at least, exploited these events. Apart from calling on the military to restore order and conceding to the ‘salary’ demands of the striking police, the Fernandez government has been unable or unwilling to mobilize the democratic electorate in defense of democracy. The democratic regime remains in power but it is under siege and vulnerable to attack by domestic and imperial opponents.

Conclusion

Mass revolts are two-edged swords: they can be a positive force when they occur against military dictatorships like Pinochet or Mubarak, against authoritarian absolutist monarchies like Saudi Arabia, a colonial-racist state like Israel, and imperial occupations like against the US in Afghanistan. But they have to be directed and controlled by popular local leaders seeking to restore democratic majority rule.

History, from ancient times to the present, teaches us that not all ‘mass revolts’ achieve, or are even motivated by, democratic objectives. Many have served oligarchs seeking to overthrow democratic governments, totalitarian leaders seeking to install fascist and pro-imperial regimes, demagogues and authoritarians seeking to weaken shaky democratic regimes and militarists seeking to start wars for imperial ambitions.

Today, “mass revolts” against democracy have become standard operational procedure for Western European and US rulers who seek to circumvent democratic procedures and install pro-imperial clients. The practice of democracy is denigrated while the mob is extolled in the imperial Western media. This is why armed Islamist terrorists and mercenaries are called “rebels” in Syria and the mobs in the streets of Kiev (Ukraine) attempting to forcibly depose a democratically-elected government are labeled “pro-Western democrats”.

The ideology informing the “mass revolts” varies from “anti-communist” and “anti-authoritarian” in democratic Venezuela, to “pro-democracy” in Libya (even as tribal bands and mercenaries slaughter whole communities), Egypt and the Ukraine.

Imperial strategists have systematized, codified and made operational “mass revolts” in favor of oligarchic rule. International experts, consultants, demagogues and NGO officials have carved out lucrative careers as they travel to ‘hot spots’ and organize ‘mass revolts’ dragging the target countries into deeper ‘colonization’ via European or US-centered ‘integration’. Most local leaders and demagogues accept the double agenda: ‘protest today and submit to new masters tomorrow’. The masses in the street are fooled and then sacrificed. They believe in a ‘New Dawn’ of Western consumerism, higher paid jobs and greater personal freedom … only to be disillusioned when their new rulers fill the jails with opponents and many former protestors, raise prices, cut salaries, privatize state companies, sell off the most lucrative firms to foreigners and double the unemployment rate.

When the oligarchs ‘stage-manage’ mass revolts and takeover the regime, the big losers include the democratic electorate and most of the protestors. Leftists and progressives, in the West or in exile, who had mindlessly supported the ‘mass revolts’ will publish their scholarly essays on ‘the revolution (sic) betrayed” without admitting to their own betrayal of democratic principles.

If and when the Ukraine enters into the European Union, the exuberant street demonstrators will join the millions of jobless workers in Greece, Portugal, and Spain, as well as millions of pensioners brutalized by “austerity programs” imposed by their new rulers, the ‘Troika’ in Brussels. If these former demonstrators take to the streets once more, in disillusionment at their leaders’ “betrayal”, they can enjoy their ‘victory’ under the batons of “NATO and European Union-trained police” while the Western mass media will have moved elsewhere in support of ‘democracy’.

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books).

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37235.htm

Congress Must Not Cede Its War Power to Israel

By Sheldon Richman

December 27, 2013 “Information Clearing House – The American people should know that pending right now in Congress is a bipartisan bill that would virtually commit the United States to go to war against Iran if Israel attacks the Islamic Republic. “The bill outsources any decision about resort to military action to the government of Israel,” Columbia University Iran expert Gary Sick wrote to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in protest, one of the bill’s principal sponsors.

The mind boggles at the thought that Congress would let a foreign government decide when America goes to war, so here is the language (PDF):

If the government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people and existence.

This section is legally nonbinding, but given the clout of the bill’s chief supporter outside of Congress — the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC [PDF]), leader of the pro-Israel lobby — that is a mere formality.

Since AIPAC wants this bill passed, it follows that so does the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes American negotiations with Iran and has repeatedly threatened to attack the Islamic Republic. Against all evidence, Netanyahu insists the purpose of Iran’s nuclear program is to build a weapon with which to attack Israel. Iran says its facilities, which are routinely inspected, are for peaceful civilian purposes: the generation of electricity and the production of medical isotopes.

The bill, whose other principal sponsors are Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), has a total of 26 Senate cosponsors. If it passes when the Senate reconvenes in January, it could provoke a historic conflict between Congress and President Obama, whose administration is engaged in negotiations with Iran at this time. Aside from declaring that the U.S. government should assist Israel if it attacks Iran, the bill would also impose new economic sanctions on the Iranian people. Obama has asked the Senate not to impose additional sanctions while his administration and five other governments are negotiating with Iran on a permanent settlement of the nuclear issue.

A six-month interim agreement is now in force, one provision of which prohibits new sanctions on Iran. “The [Menendez-Schumer-Kirk] bill allows Obama to waive the new sanctions during the current talks by certifying every 30 days that Iran is complying with the Geneva deal and negotiating in good faith on a final agreement,” Ali Gharib writes at Foreign Policy magazine. That would effectively give Congress the power to undermine negotiations. As Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, told Time magazine, if Congress imposes new sanctions, even if they are delayed for six months, “The entire deal is dead. We do not like to negotiate under duress.”

Clearly, the bill is designed to destroy the talks with Iran, which is bending over backward to demonstrate that its nuclear program has no military aims.

Netanyahu and Israel’s American supporters in and out of Congress loathe the prospect of an American-Iranian rapprochement after 34 years of U.S.-Israeli covert and proxy war against Iran, whose 1979 Islamic revolution followed a quarter-century of brutality at the hands of a U.S.-backed monarch. The Israeli government, AIPAC, and the Republicans and Democrats who do their bidding in Congress are on record opposing any agreement that would leave intact Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, even at low levels for peaceful civilian purposes. But insisting that Iran cease all enrichment of uranium is equivalent to obliterating any chance of a peaceful settlement with Iran and making war more likely. That’s what this bill is all about.

Americans should refuse to let Congress give Israel the power to drag the United States into war. American and Israeli intelligence agencies say repeatedly that Iran has no nuclear-weapons program. Though Iran champions the Palestinians, who live under Israeli occupation, it has not threatened Israel, which, remember, is itself a nuclear power.

But even if Iran were a threat to Israel, that would not warrant letting any foreign government dictate when we go to war.

Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF’s monthly journal, Future of Freedom.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37228.htm

War Games in Cyberspace: NATO’s Cyber Defense Exercises Coincide with “Anonymous” Cyber Attacks against Ukraine

NATO Cyber Defense Center in Tallinn, Estonia features a fusion of modern technology with outdated cold war ideology

By Peter Adams

Global Research, December 26, 2013

cybercommandBarely acknowledged by the mainstream media, NATO launched in late November its largest-ever cyber defense exercises  “Cyber Coalition 2013″  to test the Alliance ability to defend its networks from attacks.

The exercises involved some 500 experts – more than 100 participants from the NATO Cyber Defense Center for Excellence and over 300 cyber defense experts from 32 states-members and partners of the Alliance, who worked remotely.

Cyber Coalition 2013 continued the line of NATO exercises Steadfast Jazz 2013, which were held in Poland and the Baltic states in the beginning of November.

Coincidence?

Besides repulsion of aggression against Estonia from an imaginary state Botnia, the exercises also featured testing NATO cyber defense mechanisms. By an amazing coincidence, in the very beginning of the exercises a number of Ukrainian, Russian, Polish and Baltic state sites underwent an attack . Even the site of NATO Cyber Defense Center in Tallinn was down for some hours.

 OBSCURE GUESSWORK.

It’s not still clear who was behind the attack, though there were some reports of a notorious hacker group Anonymous Ukraine, who cracked some NATO servers in 2011, claiming responsibility for it.

The day before the attack Anonymous Ukraine published a video to announce the beginning of the “Independence”  operation against both Russian and European options for Ukraine integration. Up to here everything seems quite clear. However, it’s strange that after the Estonian authorities lost control of the Ministry of Defense site for almost 24 hours (!), they decided not to conduct an investigation of the incident under the pretext of major expenses necessary. Quiet a strange statement to come from a country which hosts NATO Cyber Defense Center, which was created to defend Estonia against cyber attacks.

In Ukraine, things were different. The hacked sites of Ukrainian government bodies (the Prosecutor General, SBU medical service, etc.) featured a banner of NATO Cyber Defense Center in Tallinn warning that the sites didn’t correspond to NATO security standards. Despite the hype in the social networks, there was no official reaction to the incident. Obviously, Kiev decided to swallow that to avoid “unnecessary consequences”.

It’s clear that Yanoukovich didn’t have enough guts to accuse NATO of cyber terrorism or conduct an independent investigation. By the way, while some Polish, Latvian and Estonian sites were also attacked, only Anonymous Ukraine managed to give an appropriate reaction.

Brussels, naturally, denied any involvement in the incidents. In the midst of the exercises NATO Cyber Defense Center in Tallinn officially announced that someone just used its name to discredit the work of the alliance. However, the perpetrator was never named (https://www.ccdcoe.org/453.html).

What is not possible for the official bodies becomes real with the help of the expert community, namely, the International Center for defense studies in Tallinn (again) under the direction of a notorious informational provocations specialist, a retired U.S. diplomat and political scientist Matthew Bryza. Piret Pernik, an expert of the Center, made a thorough chronological research of the Steadfast Jazz 2013 incidents only to come to a staggering conclusion: the trace goes to Russia.

On the one hand, it’s quite clear that from the Estonian point of view Russia is the only possible perpetrator. On the other hand, there should be at least some evidences. Pernik is sure that she has it.

In her opinion, the basic evidence is that Russian journalists reporting on this unfortunate incident dared to came with a hypothesis of what happened. Since Pernik is sure that Russia media are controlled by the FSB, their hypothesis is, evidently, a product of the Russian special services, which were certainly involved in the hack. A wonderful example of impeccable logic.

In fact, Russian media only proposed the evident – the attack was deliberately or non-deliberately executed by NATO in the course of the Steadfast Jazz 2013 exercises which tested the Alliance cyber defense capabilities. This conclusion becomes obvious after viewing the hacked sites, which displayed a banner claiming that the resource didn’t correspond to NATO cyber security standards. The banner also included the logo of NATO Cyber Defense Center in Tallinn and telephone numbers of the contact persons.

Also, possessing some internet search skills proves to be enough to check that the “FSB-controlled” Russian media reports were, in fact, secondary information, since they provided only a digest of the wide discussion on blogs and forums.

Pernik also believes that the attack on Ukrainian and NATO sites was carried out from a Georgian IP-address. In her opinion, it provides yet another evidence of Russian trace. Well, firstly, what a Georgian IP has to do with Russia? Secondly, there was no investigation. That’s why Pernik cites an anonymous cyber expert, and it sounds as ridiculous as “FSB-controlled Russian media”. There was no explanation of the origin of the IP and it’s not clear why the IP is mentioned by an independent expert, while the NATO Center remains silent.

 A HUMILATING REPROACH FOR TALLINN

As it happens, some Ukrainian experts we contacted on conditions of anonymity are absolutely sure, that the sites of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General and SBU were attacked from an Estonian IP-address. The experts say that this is why the Ukrainian authorities had to keep silence. Naturally, Kiev saw the attack as a warning send by NATO Cyber Center to its state-partners to inform them about the vulnerability of their internet resources.

Pernik also tries to prove Russian involvement by saying that the incidents got a wide coverage only in Russian media. That’s just not true, and anyone can check it after a bit of googling. It is hard to miss a publication of Jane’s Defence  magazine, which points out that the incident is a humiliations for a country which started to receive huge financial support to develop cyber security after a serious cyber attack in 2007.

It should be noted that Tallinn was chosen as the NATO Cyber Defense Center HQ due to Estonian pressing requests to ensure its cyber security, caused by an outspread of computer attacks after the popular protest followed the dismantling of a Soviet Soldier monument in 2007. At that time, Estonian government also blamed Russia and demanded NATO to defend the country against the cyber attacks.

So, who is the real culprit behind the attacks on Ukrainian, Russian and Baltic sites in November? The cyber security experts agree that it is very difficult to investigate the activities of hacker groups and individuals. Cyber wars are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and it’s almost impossible to check, confirm or disprove the information on the internet. That’s why the state special services are collaborating with hackers or acting on their part.

Thanks to Edward Snowden the world is now aware of the illegal actions of the American special services, including computer piracy, stealing of personal information and hacking foreign state and private informational resources. As a matter of fact, the U.S. Cyber Command and NSA don’t care about keeping their work secret anymore – it’s enough to remember the speech delivered by Keith Alexander in Florida in the summer of 2013.

A SPUR TO HACKERS

As mentioned above, the cyber incidents got a wide coverage in the Ukrainian social networks and specialized hacker forums. The popular opinion is that Anonymous Ukraine is a pseudonym for some special service, probably even NSA or NATO Cyber Security Center itself. It is also believed that the cyber attacks were in fact carried out as training for NATO Center experts in the course of the Steadfast Jazz 2013 exercises, which aimed at testing the methods on “dummies”, who could not provide an adequate response.

Another version states that the attack that involved NATO Cyber Center could have happen due to a computer mistake. Finally, it may well be that NATO cyber security experts executed a prepared scenario in cooperation with their counterparts from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Estonia.

It is likely that we would never know who was behind these attacks – Ukrainian hackers, NATO cyber security experts or someone else. However, there is a general impression of a wide-scoped and sophistically planned provocation, carried out by two centers in Estonia in order to display Russia as an insidious cyber aggressor, draw some attention to its activity and provide a reason for increasing NATO cyber security budget.

Meanwhile, Russia is still behind the U.S. and other NATO members in the sphere of cyber security. The announced formation of cyber units is still to happen and there is no news about cyber security exercises.

It is not a coincidence that Russia promoted an UN initiative of limitation of the arms race in the informational sphere and offered other countries to join the Convention of International Informational Security.

While the U.S. and NATO are paying great attention to cyber warfare and refusing to treat other countries as equals, they, in fact, only encourage the interest of terrorist organization in asymmetric response and spur hackers all over the world. On that background, Tallinn centers blaming Russia seems as a failed attempt of shifting responsibility for strategic errors, technological mistakes and wrong choice of partners. As for the eloquence of the Estonian analysts, it is probably explained by an uneasy conscience, which, as it is known, betrays itself.

Peter Adams <freelance5media@gmail.com>

http://www.globalresearch.ca/war-games-in-cyberspace-natos-cyber-defense-exercises-coincide-with-anonymous-cyber-attacks-against-ukraine/5362734

Edward Snowden: Power, Privacy and the Public Good

By Colin Todhunter

Global Research, December 26, 2013

For many years in Britain, the Queen’s Christmas Day message has been broadcast on TV and watched by millions across the world. This year, the monarch discussed the birth of a new royal, the 60thanniversary of her being on the throne and took time to reflect on next year’s Commonwealth Games in Scotland. While her anodyne annual Christmas message is eagerly watched by many Brits and is regarded as part and parcel of modern-day Christmas ‘tradition’, there are others who purposively avoid such pap.

Since 1993, Channel 4 in Britain has broadcast an ‘alternative’ Christmas message, sometimes humorous, at other times serious. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was given the opportunity to convey his message in 2008. This year, it was the turn of former National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

While a fossilized remnant of Empire delivered her message by a Christmas tree in Buckingham Palace’s Blue Drawing Room, Snowden’s setting was sober and devoid of the trappings of privilege or connotations of a violent colonial past. His message concerned the US and British governments’ mass surveillance and the erosion of personal privacy. He stated that a child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all, and they will never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves – an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. This is because, according to Snowden, a system of worldwide mass surveillance has been created.

Snowden referred to George Orwell. He stated that Orwell warned us about the dangers of microphones, video cameras and TVs that watch us, but concluded that these are nothing compared to what is used to infringe our personal privacy today.

He went on to say that a child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all – they will never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. This matters because Snowden feels that privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.

Snowden finished his message by arguing that the conversation occurring today about mass surveillance will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it.

Back in June, British Foreign Secretary William Hague tried to dismiss Snowden and the concerns he was raising about mass surveillance by saying that if you are a law abiding citizen, going about your business and your personal life, you have nothing to fear. The message was clear: trust us, the government.

But why should we?

Stephen Lawrence was a young black man who was lawfully ‘going about his business’ in London during April 1993. White racists murdered him while he was waiting for a bus. Four London Metropolitan police officers were deployed to spy on the Lawrence family and Stephen’s friends. The Lawrence family were just ‘law-abiding citizens going about their business’. Undercover police were used to smear the Lawrence family’s fight for justice. Also in Britain, there are the numerous publicized cases of the police and/or intelligence agencies infiltrating legitimate campaign and protest groups and ‘investigating’ political parties or prominent figures in order to subvert or discredit them. Let us not forget too the massive police cover ups, perhaps none more bigger than the ‘Hillsborough case’, where the police lied for two decades in an attempt to blame totally innocent football supporters for 96 deaths in order to hide their own incompetence, negligence and guilt.

Notwithstanding the lies, disinformation and misinformation used to elicit the public’s support for illegal military campaigns in the likes of Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, only the foolish (or the ignorant) would eagerly place their trust in officialdom and believe that we have ‘nothing to fear’ from it.

Much of the illegal surveillance exposed by Snowden is spuriously justified by the likes of William Hague on the basis of the bogus ‘war on terror’ in a futile attempt to stop any discussion on surveillance in its tracks. However, ordinary people need to turn the tables by holding the powerful to account. It should not be the case of them stripping away our privacy. We need to strip away their secrecy and privacy, not to blithely acquiesce to their needs as Hague advocates.

We need to do this to help guarantee our safety, our privacy, our freedoms and threats to democracy. We need greater transparency within government to ensure decisions are properly scrutinized and genuinely open to pubic debate. In the absence of this, we have free trade deals being hammered out behind closed doors and the revolving door between government and big business, which makes a complete mockery of the term ‘democracy’.

In the absence of genuine democracy, we have food safety/regulation authorities being hijacked by corporate interests. We have armaments companies using politicians as their sales lackeys. We have police and intelligence agencies infiltrating and harassing legitimate groups that have every right to protest. And we have a wide range of powerful players that buy political influence, manipulate markets, impose ‘austerity’ and salt away their stolen wealth in tax havens.

The reality is that ‘public servants’ fool us into thinking they serve us, while all the time bowing down to elite interests. We are told that the ‘fourth estate’ mainstream media, the self-proclaimed protector of democracy, is credible even though it largely serves a corporate agenda. A media that too often has little to say about exposing the privacy surrounding the back room stitch ups which take place in banks, boardrooms and the corridors of power – because it involves ‘sensitive’ information; but a media that is readily on hand to support policies that result in the curtailment of the privacy and freedoms of ordinary folk – because its for our own good.

If Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have shown us anything, it is that the official line can never and should never be taken at face value. It is for that reason that Assange remains incarcerated in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and Snowden remains exiled in Moscow.

Snowden says that privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be. Ultimately, as the Lawrence family and many others already know, it affords us the autonomy to hold power to account.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/edward-snowden-power-privacy-and-the-public-good/5362744

Noam Chomsky: The Race War of Drug Prohibition

Video Interview

Noam Chomsky speaks with Stefan Molyneux about the race war of drug prohibition, the prison-industrial complex, the erosion of civil liberties under Barack Obama, moral inconsistencies within government, the removal of media gatekeepers and the reinforcement of societal norms through social ostracism.
Posted December 26, 2013

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37225.htm

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