Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?

Global Research, March 31, 2014
El Diario-La Prensa, New York and Global Research 10 March 2008

prison2-400x300Human rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where they say a prison population of up to 2 million – mostly Black and Hispanic – are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.

There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.

What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners?

“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”

The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. “This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors.”

According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.

CRIME GOES DOWN, JAIL POPULATION GOES UP

According to reports by human rights organizations, these are the factors that increase the profit potential for those who invest in the prison industry complex:

. Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs. Federal law stipulates five years’ imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession of 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin, and 10 years for possession of less than 2 ounces of rock-cocaine or crack. A sentence of 5 years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams – 100 times more than the quantity of rock cocaine for the same sentence. Most of those who use cocaine powder are white, middle-class or rich people, while mostly Blacks and Latinos use rock cocaine. In Texas, a person may be sentenced for up to two years’ imprisonment for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana. Here in New York, the 1973 Nelson Rockefeller anti-drug law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life for possession of 4 ounces of any illegal drug.

. The passage in 13 states of the “three strikes” laws (life in prison after being convicted of three felonies), made it necessary to build 20 new federal prisons. One of the most disturbing cases resulting from this measure was that of a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences.

. Longer sentences.

. The passage of laws that require minimum sentencing, without regard for circumstances.

. A large expansion of work by prisoners creating profits that motivate the incarceration of more people for longer periods of time.

. More punishment of prisoners, so as to lengthen their sentences.

HISTORY OF PRISON LABOR IN THE UNITED STATES

Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the 1861-1865 Civil War, a system of “hiring out prisoners” was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments (cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest) or petty thievery – which were almost never proven – and were then “hired out” for cotton picking, working in mines and building railroads. From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of “hired-out” miners were Black. In Mississippi, a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972.

During the post-Civil War period, Jim Crow racial segregation laws were imposed on every state, with legal segregation in schools, housing, marriages and many other aspects of daily life. “Today, a new set of markedly racist laws is imposing slave labor and sweatshops on the criminal justice system, now known as the prison industry complex,” comments the Left Business Observer.

Who is investing? At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum. And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” At those rates, it is no surprise that inmates find the pay in federal prisons to be very generous. There, they can earn $1.25 an hour and work eight hours a day, and sometimes overtime. They can send home $200-$300 per month.

Thanks to prison labor, the United States is once again an attractive location for investment in work that was designed for Third World labor markets. A company that operated a maquiladora (assembly plant in Mexico near the border) closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the services of prisoner-workers from the private Lockhart Texas prison, where circuit boards are assembled for companies like IBM and Compaq.

[Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that “there won’t be any transportation costs; we’re offering you competitive prison labor (here).”

PRIVATE PRISONS

The prison privatization boom began in the 1980s, under the governments of Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr., but reached its height in 1990 under William Clinton, when Wall Street stocks were selling like hotcakes. Clinton’s program for cutting the federal workforce resulted in the Justice Departments contracting of private prison corporations for the incarceration of undocumented workers and high-security inmates.

Private prisons are the biggest business in the prison industry complex. About 18 corporations guard 10,000 prisoners in 27 states. The two largest are Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut, which together control 75%. Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one. According to Russell Boraas, a private prison administrator in Virginia, “the secret to low operating costs is having a minimal number of guards for the maximum number of prisoners.” The CCA has an ultra-modern prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia, where five guards on dayshift and two at night watch over 750 prisoners. In these prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for “good behavior,” but for any infraction, they get 30 days added – which means more profits for CCA. According to a study of New Mexico prisons, it was found that CCA inmates lost “good behavior time” at a rate eight times higher than those in state prisons.

IMPORTING AND EXPORTING INMATES

Profits are so good that now there is a new business: importing inmates with long sentences, meaning the worst criminals. When a federal judge ruled that overcrowding in Texas prisons was cruel and unusual punishment, the CCA signed contracts with sheriffs in poor counties to build and run new jails and share the profits. According to a December 1998 Atlantic Monthly magazine article, this program was backed by investors from Merrill-Lynch, Shearson-Lehman, American Express and Allstate, and the operation was scattered all over rural Texas. That state’s governor, Ann Richards, followed the example of Mario Cuomo in New York and built so many state prisons that the market became flooded, cutting into private prison profits.

After a law signed by Clinton in 1996 – ending court supervision and decisions – caused overcrowding and violent, unsafe conditions in federal prisons, private prison corporations in Texas began to contact other states whose prisons were overcrowded, offering “rent-a-cell” services in the CCA prisons located in small towns in Texas. The commission for a rent-a-cell salesman is $2.50 to $5.50 per day per bed. The county gets $1.50 for each prisoner.

STATISTICS

Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. It is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country’s 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-prison-industry-in-the-united-states-big-business-or-a-new-form-of-slavery/8289

Noam Chomsky “Spending Money Is Not Speech” 

Video

‘Let’s Forget Any Pretense of Being a Democratic Society’

Posted March 31, 2014

March 31, 2014 “Information Clearing House –  On the day McCutcheon v FEC was heard before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), I sat down for an interview with Noam Chomsky to ask him about the case and a host of other issues.

Imagine David and Charles Koch or George Soros stepping into any political race and directly showering their pet candidate with however much money it will take them to win. The result would be an assortment of politicians utterly enthralled by the ultra wealthy. It is a nightmare scenario for our democratic republic.

Since the five Justices remain on the Court who decided a corporation’s right to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns is protected by the 1st Amendment in Citizens United v FEC, there is reason to believe that in their impending decision in McCutcheon v FEC, SCOTUS will proceed on the grounds of free speech to do away with any limits on donations directly to parties and candidates. Whatever pretense of free and fair U.S. elections is still intact would disappear in another decisive victory for the .1 percent.

Yet there is a spark of hope in my soul that the Justices will realize this danger and decide that siding with Shaun McCutcheon would be a step too far. Perhaps Justice Kennedy will repent.

One way or the other it’s going to be a huge story. Big headlines will be printed proclaiming that either the 1 or the 99 percent have won a major victory. Pundits will pontificate about what it means for the future of Democrats and Republicans until some tragedy or celebrity drama pushes it out of the spotlight. It’ll be talked about in platitudes during the run up to election day, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, that talk is not going to change who gets elected. The McCutcheon decision will bring either outrage or joy, but either way it will fade out of awareness except in the minds of good governance advocates.

The problem is whichever way the Supreme Court goes with this decision, the bigger story that’s never in the headlines is the same. Even if McCutcheon’s complaint is denied, we will remain in a post-Citizens United world in which corporations and their 1 percent masters have enormous sway in elections. Even before Citizens United, the story was the same. Money talks in our political system. The public is ignored. At this point it’s so obvious that we just accept it.

Our only real hope for democracy is that we get the money out of politics entirely and establish a system of publicly funded elections. In a world with an unbiased and independent media befitting our 1st Amendment, the big story would not be who won in the McCutcheon case, it would be that there are ways of creating a democratic society, and it would use this case to demonstrate if and how we are failing or succeeding to that end.

This is the real irony of the situation. Free speech has been used by the Supreme Court to give immense power to the wealthiest members of our society. Meanwhile the “free press” fails miserably to meet the civic responsibility enshrined in the 1st Amendment. Let’s not hold our breath waiting for this to change. The money in politics is a cash cow for the media.

The irony and blame do not belong solely to the media, of course. The citizens, we the people of the United States of America, could stand to exercise our 1st Amendment rights to a greater extent, too.

We have the numbers. Let us freely assemble, muster our forces, and occupy politics from the bottom up. Put your name in the hat for city or town council. Start a blog, plan street theater, get arrested and be heard. By all means, we should start by reversing the effects of Citizens United. Municipal and statewide resolutions calling on Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to say that corporations aren’t people and political campaign spending isn’t protected speech can get the ball rolling. Amending State Constitutions via voter initiative or legislative referendum to this same effect as I have proposed in Rhode Island is another step. Whatever else, let us not cede the political sphere to the corporations, whether they are people in the eyes of the Supreme Court or not.

Copyright © 2014 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38115.htm

U.S. “Stock Market Is Rigged”

Video

Steve Kroft reports on a new book from Michael Lewis, “Flash Boys,” that reveals how a group of unlikely characters discovered how some high speed traders work the stock market to their advantage.

 U.S. stock ownership is at a record low and less than half of Americans trust banks and financial services. And in the last two weeks, the New York attorney general and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission in Washington have both launched investigations into high-frequency computerized stock trading that now controls more than half the market.

March 31, 2014

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38113.htm

Western Looting Of Ukraine Has Begun

By Paul Craig Roberts

March 31, 2014 “Information Clearing House – It is now apparent that the “Maiden protests” in Kiev were in actuality a Washington organized coup against the elected democratic government. The purpose of the coup is to put NATO military bases on Ukraine’s border with Russia and to impose an IMF austerity program that serves as cover for Western financial interests to loot the country. The sincere idealistic protesters who took to the streets without being paid were the gullible dupes of the plot to destroy their country.

Politically Ukraine is an untenable aggregation of Ukrainian and Russian territory, because traditional Russian territories were stuck into the borders of the Ukraine Soviet Republic by Lenin and Khrushchev. The Crimea, stuck into Ukraine by Khrushchev, has already departed and rejoined Russia. Unless some autonomy is granted to them, Russian areas in eastern and southern Ukraine might also depart and return to Russia. If the animosity displayed toward the Russian speaking population by the stooge government in Kiev continues, more defections to Russia are likely.

The Washington-imposed coup faces other possible difficulties from what seems to be a growing conflict between the well-organized Right Sector and the Washington-imposed stooges. If armed conflict between these two groups were to occur, Washington might conclude that it needs to send help to its stooges. The appearance of US/NATO troops in Ukraine would create pressure on Putin to occupy the remaining Russian speaking parts of Ukraine.

Before the political and geographical issues are settled, the Western looting of Ukraine has already begun. The Western media, doesn’t tell any more truth about IMF “rescue packages” than it does about anything else. The media reports, and many Ukrainians believe, that the IMF is going to rescue Ukraine financially by giving the country billions of dollars.

Ukraine will never see one dollar of the IMF money. What the IMF is going to do is to substitute Ukrainian indebtedness to the IMF for Ukrainian indebtedness to Western banks. The IMF will hand over the money to the Western banks, and the Western banks will reduce Ukraine’s indebtedness by the amount of IMF money. Instead of being indebted to the banks, Ukraine will now be indebted to the IMF.

Now the looting can begin. The IMF loan brings new conditions and imposes austerity on the Ukrainian people so that the Ukraine government can gather up the money with which to repay the IMF. The IMF conditions that will be imposed on the struggling Ukraine population will consist of severe reductions in old-age pensions, in government services, in government employment, and in subsidies for basic consumer purchases such as natural gas. Already low living standards will plummet. In addition, Ukrainian public assets and Ukrainian owned private industries will have to be sold off to Western purchasers.

Additionally, Ukraine will have to float its currency. In a futile effort to protect its currency’s value from being driven very low (and consequently import prices very high) by speculators ganging up on the currency and short-selling it, Ukraine will borrow more money with which to support its currency in the foreign exchange market. Of course, the currency speculators will end up with the borrowed money, leaving Ukraine much deeper in debt than currently.

The corruption involved is legendary, so the direct result of the gullible Maiden protesters will be lower Ukrainian living standards, more corruption, loss of sovereignty over the country’s economic policy, and the transfer of Ukrainian public and private property to Western interests.

If Ukraine also falls into NATO’s clutches, Ukraine will also find itself in a military alliance against Russia and find itself targeted by Russian missiles. This will be a tragedy for Ukraine and Russia as Ukrainians have relatives in Russia and Russians have relatives in Ukraine. The two countries have essentially been one for 200 years. To have them torn apart by Western looting and Washington’s drive for world hegemony is a terrible shame and a great crime.

The gullible dupes who participated in the orchestrated Maiden protests will rue it for the rest of their lives.

When the protests began, I described what the consequences would be and said that I would explain the looting process. It is not necessary for me to do so. Professor Michel Chossudovsky has explained the IMF looting process along with much history here:http://www.globalresearch.ca/regime-change-in-ukraine-and-the-imfs-bitter-economic-medicine/5374877

One final word. Despite unequivocal evidence of one country after another being looted by the West, governments of indebted countries continue to sign up for IMF programs. Why do governments of countries continue to agree to the foreign looting of their populations? The only answer is that they are paid. The corruption that is descending upon Ukraine will make the former regime look honest.

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 books are, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and How America Was Lost. http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38111.htm

Iraq Nation Destroyed, Oil Riches Confiscated. Surviving Population Impoverished

Iraqis who survived U.S. genocide still poor and oppressed. U.S.-created puppet government spawns lethal insurgency.

By Asad Ismi

March 31, 2014 “Information Clearing House – On the 11th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (launched in March 2003), it is important to emphasize the true motives for this attack and occupation and its horrendously destructive impact that continues today. Both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars stem from the needs of U.S. and Western capitalism for resources and markets.

 Capitalism has inflicted war on most of humanity for centuries to acquire the world’s resources and markets. The establishment of capitalism as a global economic system by European imperialists has killed more than a billion people, most of them in the Global South. 

Since 1945, the United States has presided over the killing of more than 46 million people in the Global South through wars and neocolonialism in order to maintain Western economic dominance. This strategy has failed. In spite of the genocide, the U.S. has declined as an economic power, which has only made it more war-like as it tries to substitute military force for economic prowess  Washington’s European partner countries are now following its descent into economic stagnation.

The U.S.-led coalition has been unable to compete economically with China and India, the rapidly rising Asian capitalist powers, which are acquiring more and more global resources and markets. The Iraq and Afghanistan invasions are wars of Western capitalist and imperial decline. The Western capitalist answer to the Asian challenge has been to launch these two wars, both of which have been aimed at the forcible acquisition of crucial oil and gas deposits, markets, and military bases, in an attempt to impose Western domination on China and India. Similar motives are behind the direct and proxy Western attacks on Libya, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan. This attempt at domination has clearly failed, as China and India continue to become increasingly powerful.

 The major reason for the U.S. invasion in March 2003 was to get control of Iraq’s oil. A related factor was the intention of the ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, to sell Iraq’s oil in Euros rather than U.S. dollars, which would have encouraged other oil producers to do the same, thereby endangering the dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency, which is crucial to the U.S.’s economic viability. The genocidal invasion and preceding sanctions killed three million Iraqis, including half a million children, and totally destroyed a relatively advanced developing country whose people were largely prosperous.

Close to five million Iraqis were displaced by the invasion out of a population of 31 million, andfive million Iraqi children became orphans. Women suffered the greatest losses in education, professions, child care, nutrition, and safety. More than one-fourth of Iraq’s population died, became disabled, or fled the country as refugees.

  Yanar Mohammed is president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, headquartered in Baghdad, which is aimed at protecting and empowering Iraqi women to resist the capitalist élite created by the U.S. invasion. According to her, “The U.S. military’s intent was to kill at least hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and that mission was accomplished. Millions of Iraqi men, women, children, and babies were killed, and 30 million people were terrorized.

“I feel that somebody needs to be held accountable for making us lose our welfare, accountable for the millions of Iraqis who have been killed, and also for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost to illnesses and by the radiation from depleted uranium.  George W. Bush needs to go to court as a war criminal, along with all the American presidents who have served during the war on Iraq because what has happened to us in Iraq is no less than a holocaust.”

Successful Iraqi resistance compelled the U.S. to withdraw most of its forces from the country in 2011, exposing the military failure of the invasion. However, the U.S. still has not withdrawn all its forces from Iraq. Washington claims that the Iraq war has ended, but this is untrue. The insurgency in Iraq continues, with an average of 95 people being killed every week. A major bombing or shooting happens there about twice a week. Nine thousand U.S. mercenaries and hundreds of U.S. troops remain in Iraq, which also has the largest American embassy in the world staffed with 11,000 personnel. So, militarily, the U.S. is still highly involved in Iraq, training its repressive security forces and still not ruling out the re-deployment of more American troops there.

  Washington has also waged an economic war against Iraq by creating a capitalist élite to rule the country, represented by the puppet government it has installed which is led by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. Maliki is a corrupt and brutal dictator and head of an Islamic fundamentalist party. Under U.S. dictates, much of the Iraqi economy has been privatized, which ensures that Iraqis do not benefit from their resources, especially oil, money from which now goes to U.S. and other Western multinational corporations and to the Maliki regime.

According to Yanar Mohammed, “It is an economic war directed against millions of people in the working class, through the economies of impoverishment and of starving the people, giving them salaries that are not enough to put proper meals on the table. The U.S. has written the laws and has created the Iraqi capitalist ruling class to be their partners.

 “This ruling class safeguards U.S. interests and makes sure that the Iraqi people will not get any of their oil. The profits go into the pockets of the Iraqi officials and British Petroleum and Halliburton, and other companies.”

Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia. This highly valuable resource has been handed over mainly to the U.S. companies ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum, to British Petroleum from England, and to Royal Dutch Shell from Holland and England. Iraq’s oil has not yet been formally privatized due to massive public opposition, but a de facto privatization has taken place.

Says oil industry analyst Antonia Juhasz, “ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell were among the oil companies that played the most aggressive roles in lobbying their governments to ensure that the invasion would result in an Iraq open to foreign oil companies.  They succeeded. They are all back in [Iraq].” Juhasz, author of The Tyranny of Oil and The Bush Agenda, adds that U.S. and other Western oil companies have landed “production contracts for some of the world’s largest remaining oil fields under some of the world’s most lucrative terms.”

 Iraq’s Oil Law, which enforces formal privatization, has not been passed by its Parliament due to massive public opposition, so instead the government has signed contracts with companies that benefit the latter immensely at a huge loss to the country.  Explains Juhasz, “The contracts are enacting a form of privatization without public discourse and essentially at the butt of a gun. These contracts have all been awarded during a foreign military occupation, with the largest contracts going to companies from the foreign occupiers’ countries.

 “It seems that democracy and equity are the two largest losers in this oil battle… The majority of Iraqis want their oil and its operations to remain in Iraqi hands. It has required a massive foreign military invasion and occupation to give the foreign oil companies the access they have achieved so far.” However, as Greg Muttitt, author of Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, puts it: “In fact, any oil company victory in Iraq is likely to prove as temporary as George W. Bush’s [military] triumph in 2003.”

According to Muttitt, the economic gains secured by the invasion for Western oil companies are not likely to last, either.  As he points out, “In 2009, the Maliki government… began awarding contracts without an oil law in place. As a result, the victory of Big Oil is likely to be a temporary one. The present contracts are illegal, and so they will last only as long as there’s a government in Baghdad that supports them.”

 Muttitt emphasizes the shaky nature of the Maliki government which, according to him, “has little control over anything.”  Under Maliki, Iraq has been ripped apart by a civil war involving both sectarian violence and nationalist resistance. In recent months, insurgents have taken control of sections of Fallujah and Ramadi, two major Iraqi cities.

As Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, explains:

“The U.S.-backed Iraqi regime is dominated by sectarian Shia Muslim parties which have discriminated against the Sunni Muslim minority [about 60% of Iraqis are Shias and 40% are Sunnis — the two major sects of Islam]. The combination of government repression and armed insurgency resulted in the deaths of nearly 8,000 civilians last year alone.

“Until the U.S. invasion, Iraq had maintained a long-standing history of secularism and a strong national identity among its Arab population, despite sectarian differences.” Sectarianism has been deliberately fostered by the U.S. in Iraq as part of its divide-and-rule strategy through which it has attempted to dominate the country.

Zunes adds that, before the U.S. invasion, even some of the war’s “intellectual architects” acknowledged that it would unleash major sectarianism: “In a December 1996 paper, prior to becoming major figures in the Bush foreign policy team, David Wurmser, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith predicted that a post-Saddam Iraq would likely be ‘ripped apart’ by sectarianism and other cleavages, but called on the United States to ‘expedite’ such a collapse anyway.”

Zunes makes clear that the Iraqi resistance to the Maliki government is largely nationalist-inspired and not sectarian: “Sunni opposition to Shia dominance does not stem from resentment at losing a privileged position in Iraqi political life under Saddam. Indeed, Saddam suppressed his fellow Sunni Arabs along with Shia Arabs. However, most of Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, regardless of its feelings about Saddam’s regime, has long identified with Arab nationalism. Most of the armed resistance that emerged following Saddam’s removal by U.S. forces largely came from the Sunni Arab community. The insurgency has also targeted the Shia-dominated Iraqi government, which came to power as a result of the U.S. invasion and which many see as being puppets of the U.S.”

Before the invasion, Iraq’s oil had been nationalized for 40 years, and with it Iraq had created a welfare state for its people, providing them with free education, medical care, subsidies, and a relatively high standard of living. All these crucial gains have now been wiped out. Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq hanged by the U.S., was a brutal dictator, but he ensured that Iraq’s oil benefited its people. Maliki is a dictator, too, brought to power by the U.S, invasion, but he doesn’t provide any economic benefits to the Iraqi people and instead is involved in looting the country’s oil wealth along with multinational corporations.

As Yanar Mohammed puts it, “Under Saddam, there was a state that was taking care of the education of the people, of the health of the people, and there was a socialist economy in which the people had some ability to enjoy a prosperous life — and at this point all of that is being lost. We are learning what free enterprise is. All we see is poverty, and the government has enacted laws which prevent the organizing of workers and of unions so as to claim their rights.”

The U.S. has long considered Middle Eastern oil a vital economic and military interest, especially since it imports more than half its oil requirements. State-owned oil companies control 90% of the world’s oil reserves, while corporate oil companies control only 4%. With these reserves declining and being subject to competition from the large energy consumers China and India, an economically weakening U.S. has to turn increasingly to military options to ensure its access to oil.

The oil factor is not just about access, but also about controlling other countries, economically and militarily.As Professor Michael T. Klare, author of Resource Wars, explains, one of the main objectives of the Bush administration in invading Iraq stems from the analysis made by Vice-President Dick Cheney in 1990, when he made clear that “Whoever controls the flow of Persian Gulf oil has a stranglehold not only on our economy. but also on that of most of the other nations of the world.”

So, by being the major imperialist country in the Middle East, the U.S. can attempt to maintain a stranglehold over the economies of other nations. Klare adds that control over Persian Gulf oil is also consistent with the Bush administration’s declared goal of attaining permanent military superiority over all other nations.

Bush administration officials and U.S. military leaders have admitted that the invasion of Iraq was done to take the country’s oil. These men include Paul Wolfowitz, the U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary; General John Abizaid, head of the Pentagon’s Central Command which is focused on the Middle East; Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve; and Paul O’Neill, Bush’s first Treasury Secretary.

The decision to invade Iraq was made only one month after Bush took office in February 2001, according to Ron Suskind, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the author of a book on Paul O’Neill. O’Neill revealed that, just days after Bush’s inauguration in January 2001, his advisors planned how to invade Iraq and divide up its oil wealth. According to O’Neill, Bush’s first National Security Council meeting included a discussion of invading Iraq, and Bush wanted to find a way to do this. There was even a map for Iraq’s post-war occupation, showing how the country’s oil fields would be carved up.

U.S. and other Western oil companies had been shut out of Iraq before the invasion. In 2001, oil company executives encouraged the Bush administration to invade Iraq by warning it in a report that, as long as Saddam Hussein was in power, the U.S. would remain “a prisoner of its energy dilemma… suffering on a recurring basis from the negative consequences of sporadic energy shortages. These consequences can include recession, social dislocation of the poorest Americans, and, at the extremes, a need for military intervention.”

The report called Iraq a destabilizing influence to the flow of oil to international markets. The document was compiled by David O’Reilly, chief executive of ChevronTexaco, Luis Giusti, a director of Shell Corporation, and John Manzoni, regional president of British Petroleum.

Also benefiting from the Iraq War have been the corporations Lockheed Martin (military) and Bechtel (construction). As John Gibson, co-founder of Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI) and a Lockheed Martin executive, said in 2003: “We hope Iraq will be the first domino, and that Libya and Iran will follow. We don’t like being kept out of markets because it gives our competitors an unfair advantage.” CLI was founded in 2002, also by Robert Jackson, another Lockheed Martin executive who wrote the Republican Party foreign policy platform in 2000 when George W. Bush was fraudulently “elected” President.

Jackson formed the CLI while at Lockheed, and advocated aggressively for Saddam Hussein’s overthrow. The chairman of CLI was George Schultz, former U.S. Secretary of State and a Bechtel executive. In a 2002 Washington Post article, Schultz urged the U.S. to “act now. The danger is immediate. Saddam must be removed.” The article called for an immediate attack on Iraq, stating that, “If there is a rattlesnake in the yard, you don’t wait for it to strike before you take action in self-defense.”  After the invasion, Lockheed Martin got more than an $11 billion increase in sales and contracts worth $5.6 million with the U.S. Air Force in Iraq. Bechtel was given about $3 billion in Iraq reconstruction contracts.

 The website Business Pundit identifies “The 25 Most Vicious Iraq War Profiteers” as being (in this order):

Halliburton (military/oil—Dick Cheney was its Chairman),

Veritas Capital Fund/DynCorp (military/finance),

Washington Group International (military/oil),

Environmental Chemical (military), Aegis (military),

International American Products (electricity),

Erinys (oil/military), Fluor (water/sewage),

Perini (environmental cleanup), URS (military/environmental),

Parsons (military/construction),

First Kuwaiti General (construction),

Armor Holdings (military),

L3 Communications (military),

AM General (military),

HSBC Bank (third largest financial institution globally),

Cummins (electricity),

MerchantBridge (financial),

GlobalRisk Strategies (financial/military),

ControlRisks (military), CACI (military),

Bechtel, Custer Battles (military),

Nour USA (oil), and

General Dynamics (military).

 While these companies have collectively made billions of dollars out of the Iraq War, the country’s people have yet to obtain basic electricity and water services 11 years after the invasion. Just one of these corporations illustrates the incredible incompetence and corruption which characterized the U.S. occupation and its aftermath: “Parsons reportedly mismanaged the construction of a police academy so poorly that human waste dripped from its ceilings. Far from being an isolated incident, reports from [U.S.] federal government auditors revealed lackluster work on 13 of the 14 Iraq projects [of] Parsons. That hasn’t stopped the firm from making off with $540 million in U.S. government funds for the poorly executed reconstruction projects at Iraq’s health care centres and fire stations.

“This is the lens through which Iraqis will now see America,” remarked U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (Democrat-California). “Incompetence. Profiteering. Arrogance. And human waste oozing out of ceilings as a result.”

Asad Ismi is the CCPA Monitor’s international affairs correspondent and has written extensively on U.S. imperialism in the Middle East. His latest radio documentary is “Capitalism is the Crisis” which has been aired on 42 radio stations in Canada, the U.S. and Europe reaching an audience of 33 million people. For his publications visit www.asadismi.ws.

Copyright © Asad Ismi,  Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Monitor

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38114.htm

Climate Change Could Make Humans Extinct, Warns Health Expert

By Deborah Snow, Peter Hannam

March 31, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “SMH“-  The Earth is warming so rapidly that unless humans can arrest the trend, we risk becoming ”extinct” as a species, a leading Australian health academic has warned.

Helen Berry, associate dean in the faculty of health at the University of Canberra, said while the Earth has been warmer and colder at different points in the planet’s history, the rate of change has never been as fast as it is today.

”What is remarkable, and alarming, is the speed of the change since the 1970s, when we started burning a lot of fossil fuels in a massive way,” she said. ”We can’t possibly evolve to match this rate [of warming] and, unless we get control of it, it will mean our extinction eventually.”

Professor Berry is one of three leading academics who have contributed to the health chapter of a Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report due on Monday. She and co-authors Tony McMichael, of the Australian National University, and Colin Butler, of the University of Canberra, have outlined the health risks of rapid global warming in a companion piece for The Conversation, also published on Monday. The three warn that the adverse effects on population health and social stability have been ”missing from the discussion” on climate change.

”Human-driven climate change poses a great threat, unprecedented in type and scale, to wellbeing, health and perhaps even to human survival,” they write.

They predict that the greatest challenges will come from undernutrition and impaired child development from reduced food yields; hospitalisations and deaths due to intense heatwaves, fires and other weather-related disasters; and the spread of infectious diseases.

They warn the ”largest impacts” will be on poorer and vulnerable populations, winding back recent hard-won gains of social development programs.

Projecting to an average global warming of 4 degrees by 2100, they say ”people won’t be able to cope, let alone work productively, in the hottest parts of the year”.

They say that action on climate change would produce ”extremely large health benefits”, which would greatly outweigh the costs of curbing emission growth.

A leaked draft of the IPCC report notes that a warming climate would lead to fewer cold weather-related deaths but the benefits would be ”greatly” outweighed by the impacts of more frequent heat extremes. Under a high emissions scenario, some land regions will experience temperatures four to seven degrees higher than pre-industrial times, the report said.

While some adaptive measures are possible, limits to humans’ ability to regulate heat will affect health and potentially cut global productivity in the warmest months by 40 per cent by 2100.

Body temperatures rising above 38 degrees impair physical and cognitive functions, while risks of organ damage, loss of consciousness and death increase sharply above 40.6 degrees, the draft report said.

Farm crops and livestock will also struggle with thermal and water stress. Staple crops such as corn, rice, wheat and soybeans are assumed to face a temperature limit of 40-45 degrees, with temperature thresholds for key sowing stages near or below 35 degrees, the report said.

Copyright © 2014 Fairfax Media

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38109.htm

Syria’s Victory, Setback For US-NATO, Turning Point For Western Global Hegemony

Global Research, March 31, 2014

usukflagSince 2011, Syria has been the target of an attempted foreign-backed regime change. Riding on the momentum of the US-engineered “Arab Spring,” protesters took to the streets across Syria, serving as cover for armed militants the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia – on record – had been preparing since at least as early as 2007.

It was in Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s 2007 article, The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” that prophetically stated (emphasis added): 

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

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Syria’s destabilization was ongoing alongside other Arab nations, including Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. In Tunisia and Egypt, the fallout was political, with limited street violence. In Libya, the fallout was absolute – the nation utterly decimated by so-called “freedom fighters” later revealed as Al Qaeda militants of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). 

The West’s blitzkrieg across North Africa and the Middle East took many nations by surprise. Their inability to respond effectively to orchestrated “color revolution” have resulted in 3 years of regional destabilization, regime change, and even war.

In Syria however, the government and the people held on, and then, began fighting back.

It was clear by January 2013 that Syria’s security forces had turned the tide against the foreign-backed militants who had for 2 years been flowing across their border and sowing deadly chaos across the Middle Eastern nation. Irreversible gains were being made everywhere from the north near Syria’s largest city Aleppo, all along the Lebanese border, and particularly in the southern city of Daraa, the so-called “birthplace” of  the “uprising.” 

The Western media continued portraying the situation in Syria as fluid, with the Syrian government teetering and their militant proxies on the verge of making a breakthrough. In reality, desperation had set in across Washington, London, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv. Attempts to provoke a wider war with direct Israeli attacks on Syrian territory were carried out but with no effect, and by August of 2013, the West had grown so desperate to directly intervene to salvage their floundering proxy forces, they even staged a false-flag chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus. Much to the West’s dismay, the false-flag attack not only failed to provide them with the pretext needed for direct intervention, it severely and perhaps irreparably hobbled their credibility and international standing.

Syria’s Triumph Hidden No More

Recent gains by Syria against the West’s proxy militant invaders could be seen most clearly in Yabroud this month, 80 kilometers northwest of Damascus and a strategic city for militant campaigns carried out against both Syrians and Lebanese across the nearby border. The city of Yabroud was considered firmly in the hands of militants throughout the duration of conflict. With the restoration of order in Yabroud, and with militant factions folding en masse, it appears that large-scale military operations against Syria have largely drawn to a close and are shifting instead toward a low-intensity terrorist campaign.

The West is unable to portray their militant proxies as a viable opposition force, politically, socially, and now strategically. Syrian forces have pushed the militants to the very borders of Syria.

Just today, Turkey resorted to firing on, and claims to have shot down a Syrian warplane as Syrian forces battled militants along the border. In the southern city of Daraa near the Syrian-Jordanian border, the so-called “Southern Front” comprised of allegedly 49 militant factions and claiming to have up to 30,000 fighters in its rank, had doubt cast on it even from Western sources calling the force, “an alliance on paper.”

242341The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace provided a disturbing report of continued military support for terrorists flooding into Syria from Jordan, armed and funded by the United States and Saudi Arabia – even as both feigned chastisement recently of Qatar for doing the very same. In its report titled, “Does the “Southern Front” Exist?” it claimed: 

According to several sources, there has still been an uptick in support to rebels in the south since late February, with large amounts of money spent on rebel salaries and Saudi trucks moving cargo toward the Jordan-Syria border. But without a major increase in support and, probably, the addition of qualitative weapons like antiair missiles, it is hard to imagine that the rebels can advance very far—or that they will be able to unite around a single leadership.

It appears to be the last desperate push by a depleted force against a well entrenched and capable Syrian military. While the West is no doubt still trying to fuel unrest in Syria, it appears that gains by the Syrian military have reached a tipping point that no amount of indirect support can turn back. Short of direct large-scale military intervention by Western forces, the proxy war has been effectively lost.

What Syria’s Victory Means for Western Hegemony

The modern pursuit of Western hegemony stems back to the end of the Cold War when Wall Street and London believed it was possible to reorder the planet under their control in the absence of any significant opposing superpower. Color revolutions across Eastern Europe, the plundering of Russia in the 1990′s, the first Iraq War, and the breakup of the Balkans seemed to suggest this reordering was well underway. However, Russia, China, India, and other developing nations sprung back too quickly and the West’s ambitions were slowly put in check.

Today, with the West ousted from Iraq, mired in Afghanistan, its machinations revealed in Libya as marauding aggressors, and confounded in both Syria and Ukraine, not only does it seem Western ambitions are in check, but may in fact be in danger of being reversed altogether.

The failure of the West in Syria sends a message to other targets of Western meddling. There is no need to compromise nor negotiate, nor any need to pander to the conventions the West has put in place to tie the hands of their intended targets. In fact, by doing so, a nation only makes itself more vulnerable as they attempt to adhere to rules the West insists others follow but willfully violates itself.

While the West compounds its growing impotence globally by insisting on the continued pursuit of its failed unipolar model built on achieving global hegemony, nations like Russia and China insist on mutual partnerships with other nations in a multipolar world – neither dictating nor violating the sovereignty of any nation beyond its borders.

The West’s failure in Syria is an indicator that its power and influence is on the decline and provides a modern illustration of the dangers historically faced by empire as it overreaches. Even if the West was able to overturn its failures in Syria, its reputation and legitimacy has been hobbled to such a degree that any geopolitical push beyond Syria would be all but impossible.

The West’s columnists and policy scribes lament over the “retreat” of Western primacy – but it is only in “retreat” because it chooses to be a belligerent in the first place. A nation playing a positive, constructive role internationally can still be influential if it respects those it is interacting with and effects change by setting an appealing example. For the West and its centuries of subjugating others, this concept is not only alien, but apparently less preferable than the collapsing order they are currently presiding over.

Syria’s emerging victory means that while the West may despoil other nations in the near and intermediate future, the vector sum of its power and influence will be perpetual decline.

For Syria and other nations facing the same potential destabilization within their own borders, a costly lesson has been learned about attempting to appease and accommodate Western ambitions. Establishing the moral high-ground early on, and having the means through domestic media targeting international audiences like Iran’s Press TV or Russia’s RT to tell their side of the story to the world, allows a targeted nation the ability to stand its ground, and if necessary, fight back. Attempting to use the very system the West put in place to achieve global primacy – including the UN, its human rights racket, and the international media – is to play the West’s game, by their rules, and entirely on their terms at a clear and immense disadvantage.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”

http://www.globalresearch.ca/syrias-victory-setback-for-us-nato-turning-point-for-western-global-hegemony/5376001

Australian government reintroduces imperial honours system

By Patrick O’Connor

31 March 2014

Prime Minister Tony Abbott last week announced that on his recommendation, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was amending the Order of Australia official honours system to bring back knights and dames.

The titles were abolished in 1986 by the Labor government of Bob Hawke. Not even arch-monarchist John Howard thought it viable to revive them during his 11-year term in office between 1996 and 2007. Now, however, Abbott has declared that “this is an important grace note in our national life.” He explained that up to four knights or dames may be created each year, with the first two titles to be bestowed on the outgoing and incoming governors-general, Quentin Bryce and Peter Cosgrove.

The announcement has been widely mocked. Sydney Morning Heraldcommentator Tony Wright wrote: “Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart [mining magnates], you’d imagine, would be holding their breath for the announcement that His Grace Tony the Abbott, Duke of Australia, has quietly decided there should be a new title for Lord and Lady Wardens of the Iron and Coal Ports.”

The Greens complained that the Liberal-National government was attempting to create a “Bunyip aristocracy.” Labor Senator Sam Dastyari delivered a sarcastic speech in parliament welcoming “the Game of Tones”, in which “together we will stop the moats” and promote the “carriage industry” as an alternative to the auto sector.

Elements within the government were similarly derisive, most notably Abbott’s colleague and leadership rival, Malcolm Turnbull the former head Australian Republican Movement and current communications minister.

The ridicule, however, only serves to trivialise the issue and obscure the definite political calculations behind the prime minister’s move. Just months before the centenary of World War I, which is being accompanied by an extraordinary campaign promoting militarism and war, the government has revived the central elements of the old imperial honours system as another means of glorifying the army and its commanders.

Both the Labor Party, which initiated the preparations to glorify Australian involvement in World War I before it lost office last year, and the Greens have no differences whatsoever with the Abbott government over this agenda. This “people’s celebration” involving an expenditure of more than half a billion dollars will mark every Australian military action in the imperialist slaughter in which 62,000 Australian troops were killed.

The entire parliamentary apparatus is on board as the government seeks to condition public opinion, especially young people, in preparation for predatory new wars alongside the US in the Asia-Pacific and internationally.

The first new knighthood is being awarded to the incoming Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, former chief of the military. Cosgrove’s elevation as effective head of state, being the formal representative of the British Queen in Australia, was coordinated by the Abbott government as part of its celebrations of World War I. Cosgrove, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, was elevated to public life in 1999, when he led the imperialist takeover of East Timor. He subsequently led the Australian military’s participation in the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, establishing a record of unconditional support for the US alliance.

Abbott declared that for governors-general, knighthoods would “add dignity and stature to what is a very important office.”

The Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM) organisation claimed credit for Abbott’s move, explaining that it was “the culmination of a long campaign” they waged. ACM head David Flint also emphasised the military aspect of the new awards in an interview on ABC television’s “7.30” program last Tuesday. Flint declared that knighthoods were previously “the sort of thing that was awarded to the greatest general in the First World War—General [John] Monash was knighted on the battlefield by the King himself.” The first Australian damehood also derives from World War I, with Flora Reid, wife of fourth Australian PM George Reid, given the title for assisting wounded Australian soldiers being treated in London.

Flint went on to insist that Peter Cosgrove ought to have been knighted in 1999, following the “liberation of Timor.” These remarks point to the enduring significance of the Australian intervention in East Timor and the political calculations behind the promotion of Cosgrove as a national hero. The neo-colonial operation in 1999 was centrally driven by the then Howard government’s aim of maintaining Canberra’s illegal control over lucrative oil and gas deposits following the downfall of the Indonesian dictator Suharto.

The pseudo-left organisations, however, provided the “humanitarian” rationale, organising “troops in” demonstrations to demand that the Australian military intervene to “save lives” in East Timor threatened by Indonesian forces. This marked a major turning point, with the ruling class enthusiastically hailing what it saw as the end of the “Vietnam syndrome”, that is, the intense public hostility generated by Australian involvement in the US war in Vietnam.

The intervention of East Timor paved the way for the subsequent build-up of the Australian military, the stepped up promotion of Anzac Day and other militarist touchstones, and Australia’s participation in the US-led imperialist interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Timor operation will undoubtedly serve as a reference guide as the US and its allies seek to ratchet up the pressure on China, and manipulate public opinion at home, on the cynical basis of defending the human rights and “self-determination” of different ethnic minorities within China.

Abbott has now declared that he is considering also changing military honours, dropping the Australian medals introduced in 1975 in favour of the old British imperial honours system.

The government is seeking to glorify the sordid history of Australia’s repeated military contributions to the maintenance of the British colonial empire, including the Maori wars in New Zealand, Sudan, the Boer War, the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion in China, as well as World War I. After switching its allegiance to the US during World War II, Australian forces have committed just as many crimes in US-led wars aimed at ensuring American imperialism’s global hegemony.

Abbott has spoken of his belief in a strategic “Anglosphere”, an alliance of English-speaking countries led by the US. His government, following in lockstep with its Labor predecessor, is now actively working with Washington to diplomatically isolate and militarily encircle China. The Obama administration, identifying Beijing as a threat to US geostrategic domination of East Asia and the Pacific, is preparing for a potential war in the region.

All of Abbott’s celebrations of the first world war, and revival of old British imperial traditions like knight and dame honours, are a part of conscious efforts to foster a climate of reaction and militarism ahead of the outbreak of war.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/31/dame-m31.html

New evidence of US intelligence links to Boston Marathon bomber

By Nick Barrickman

31 March 2014

Last Friday, lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect charged with detonating pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of last year’s Boston Marathon, alleged in a court statement that FBI agents had attempted to force Dzhokhar’s older brother Tamerlan to inform on the Chechen and Muslim community in the Boston area, contributing to the latter’s decision to carry out the attacks on April 15 last year.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is facing capital charges in connection with the bombing, which killed three people and wounded an estimated 264 others. His older brother Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police four days after the bombings.

“The FBI… asked [Tamerlan Tsarnaev] to be an informant, reporting on the Chechen and Muslim community,” said defense lawyer David Bruck, adding that he had “reason to believe that Tamerlan misinterpreted the visits and discussions with the FBI as pressure [that had] amounted to a stressor that increased his paranoia and distress.”

Bruck based his allegations “on information from our client’s family and other sources that the FBI made more than one visit to talk with (Tamerlan’s parents) and Tamerlan, questioned Tamerlan about his Internet searches, and asked him to be an informant.” The attorneys for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev added that Tamerlan had previously been under investigation by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force due to a warning sent by Russian intelligence officials in 2011 concerning the older brother’s links to Islamic extremists.

Just days prior to this legal brief from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorneys, the House Committee on Homeland Security released a report noting that Russian officials had urged the “mandatory” detention of Tamerlan Tsarnaev should he attempt either to leave or reenter the US. The report states that this warning was ignored by federal officials.

Lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev requested all information pertaining to the FBI’s investigation of Tamerlan as well as attempts to recruit the older Tsarnaev brother as an informant. The government is objecting to any release of such documents to the defense.

These developments, adding to evidence pointing to extensive contacts between US intelligence and security agencies and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, have come in the aftermath of both federal and Florida state reports released last week whitewashing the FBI in the May 22, 2013 killing of Ibragim Todashev, a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and, like Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen.

Todashev was shot multiple times and killed by an FBI agent [whose name has never been released] who was interrogating Todashev in the latter’s Florida apartment (see: “Florida prosecutor’s report whitewashes FBI killing of Ibragim Todashev”).

The US government seized on the Boston Marathon bombing and the police manhunt for the suspects to impose a lockdown and virtual martial law on Boston and its surrounding communities. In a chilling dry run for the establishment of a dictatorship, civil liberties were effectively suspended, residents were ordered to stay in their homes, and police conducted house-to-house searches of entire neighborhoods without warrants. For several days, Boston was occupied by thousands of troops and riot police, accompanied by machine gun-mounted armored vehicles and police helicopters.

FBI officials have denied the claims made by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers. The bureau released a statement reiterating a talking point from a memo issued last year, declaring that “Members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force did not know their [the two bombing suspects’] identities until shortly after Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s death, when they fingerprinted the corpse.”

The allegation that the FBI sought to recruit the older Tsarnaev brother as an informant provides a highly plausible explanation for an otherwise inexplicable—and to date unexplained—failure of federal, state or local authorities to monitor the activities of the Tsarnaevs in the run-up to the marathon, an international event that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators to downtown Boston—a prime target for a potential terrorist attack.

It also would explain the failure of the FBI, the CIA and the Homeland Security Department to heed the urgent calls from Russian authorities in 2011 to prevent Tamerlan Tsarnaev from leaving the US. In early 2012, Tsarnaev was allowed to travel unhindered to Dagestan in Russia’s North Caucasus region, where he made contact with known Islamist separatist terrorist leaders. He was allowed to return to the US without being stopped or questioned later in the year. This was despite his being named on a US government terrorist watch list.

There is also the official claim that the FBI investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 but could find no derogatory information and gave him a clean bill of health. But the FBI also claims, in connection with the killing of Todashev, that both Todashev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were involved in a triple slaying in the Boston suburb of Waltham, Massachusetts that occurred on September 11, 2011. There has been no attempt by officials to square these contradictory claims.

The Tsarnaev brothers also had family connections to both Chechen rebels and the US intelligence apparatus through an uncle, Ruslan Tsarni. For years, Tsarni ran an organization that funneled funds and equipment to Islamist separatists in Russia’s Caucasus region. Tsarni based his operation in the home of Graham Fuller, former vice-chairman of the US National Intelligence Council and ex-CIA station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Last May, the Boston police commissioner and a top Massachusetts Homeland Security official told a congressional panel that local and state police were never informed by the FBI or the federal Homeland Security Department in the lead-up to the April 15 marathon of the FBI investigation of the Tsarnaevs or the warnings from Russian intelligence. This was despite the presence of the Boston police commissioner and Massachusetts state police officials on a joint terrorism task force alongside FBI officials.

The author also recommends:

FBI, Homeland Security withheld information on Boston bombing suspects from local, state police
[11 May 2013]

Questions mount about Boston bombers’ links to US intelligence agencies
[26 April 2013]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/31/tsar-m31.html

UK benefits claimants victimised and driven into destitution

By Barry Mason

31 March 2014

The British government has greatly increased the number of sanctions against benefit claimants, resulting in their benefits being “stopped.”

The figure for jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) for the year to September 30, 2013 was 874,850, the highest since the benefit was introduced in 1996 by the Conservative government of John Major.

The sanctions figure for Employment Support Allowance (ESA), claimed by sick and disabled people, was 22,840, the highest since October 2008.

Officially, the government Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) claims there are no targets for applying sanctions to claimants. However, anecdotal evidence would suggest otherwise.

This led the Citizens Advice Bureau in the Manchester area to undertake research as they “had become concerned about the increase in the number of clients they were seeing who had sanctions against them and the duration of these sanctions … (and) how claimants who were already on very restricted incomes coped with the further reductions made.”

CAB published the report, “Punishing Poverty” based on their research in October last year. Since 2012 claimants deemed to have broken the rules can be sanctioned for up to three years. The report found that of those sanctioned, 60 percent had been in receipt of JSA but that 33 percent had been in receipt of ESA.

Other findings were:

• The average duration of the sanction was eight weeks.

• Two-thirds had been left with no income.

• Those with children reported they only had child benefit and child tax credits.

• The sanction had a severe impact on the mental and physical health of many respondents. A number said they attempted suicide or felt suicidal.

Often JSA claimants were unsure why they had been sanctioned (23 percent). Twenty-nine percent of those aware of a reason were told it was because they had not done enough to find work. In many cases the rules were applied narrowly or unfairly. One claimant explained, “I was supposed to apply for seven jobs a week, I applied for 10 one week and five the next week, so they sanctioned me for a week.”

While claimants who are sanctioned are supposed to be informed of their right to appeal, just over half of those covered by the report said they had been given no information about how to appeal. Approximately 20 percent of those who appealed were successful, and some were awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

The CAB report concluded that sanctions targets definitely existed, stating, “Despite initial Government denials, it is clear that recently some JobCentres have been set targets for sanctioning claimants, with DWP staff creating ‘league tables’ based on the number of sanctions issued by individual JobCentres.”

Depriving claimants of their benefits is leaving them in desperate circumstances. A recent report by the think-tank Policy Exchange concluded that some 70,000 job seekers have had their benefits withdrawn unfairly. The report’s author, Guy Miscampbell, stated, “Four weeks without any money is driving people to desperate measures including a reliance on food banks.”

A public health specialist, Professor Elizabeth Dowler of Warwick University, recently stated that families in extreme poverty unable to buy sufficient food had become the most urgent public health concern—overshadowing the issue of unhealthy eating.

A recent BBC television Panorama documentary, “Hungry Britain?” highlighted the impact of stopping benefits for those already living in dire financial straits.

It began by stating tens of thousands of people in Britain were losing their benefit entitlement as a result of sanctions. Part of its report was filmed in the city of Bristol in southwest England, considered to be a relatively prosperous area. Yet it has 50 sites within the city providing free food to needy people. Over 8,000 people in the city had to resort to getting free food from food banks last year.

The Trussell Trust, which runs the majority of food banks nationally, told the programme that it is now feeding hundreds of thousands of people and that demand had tripled since 2012. In 2012 there were 9.8 million living in relative poverty. Relative poverty is defined as living on less than 60 percent of the average income.

Professor Dowler, interviewed for the programme, stated bluntly that there are “so many more food banks in the UK because so many more people are in need.”

She explained that food prices had risen 30 percent in the last year while wages had remained the same or had fallen.

The manager of one of the Bristol food banks told Panorama the biggest driver of the surge in numbers turning to food banks was the changes to the benefits system. People are going hungry because they simply have no money, and 23 percent of clients coming to his food bank had had their benefits stopped. Food banks report the same story across the country.

Claimants whose benefits are stopped can apply for hardship grants, which have to be paid back, but these can take up to two weeks to come through, leaving no money for food in the meantime.

According to government figures, in the last 11 months 133,000 sanction decisions had been overturned after appeal—400 a day. However, it can take weeks to challenge sanctions and get the money restored, and in the meantime people are left with no or little money.

Dr. David Webster, social scientist at Glasgow University, has done research on the figures of those wrongly subjected to benefit sanctions. He told the programme, “People who start poor are going to be driven into complete destitution.” Panorama also featured evidence of sanctions being target-driven. It showed a wall chart that had been displayed in a job centre in the town of Grantham last year. It highlighted the “savings” to be made by applying sanctions. One entry noted a savings of over £900 from a three-month sanction period.

Panorama highlighted how food banks are becoming more and more integrated into the welfare state structure. It reported that around 140 local government authorities now provided funding direct to food banks, amounting to nearly £3 million in the last two years. Day by day the model of the British welfare state system is coming to resemble that found in Victorian Britain.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/31/bene-m31.html

New Snowden documents detail political and corporate espionage by US, UK

By Thomas Gaist

31 March 2014

The US National Security Agency (NSA) and British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have been engaged in aggressive surveillance operations against Germany’s political and corporate establishment and against more than 100 heads of state around the world, secret documents disclosed by Der Spiegel and the Intercept show.

The classified files leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden to the two publications show that the NSA targeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel and more than 100 other leaders of foreign governments as part of a program known as “Nymrod.”

Heads of state listed on on the leaked files include, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf, Peruvian President Alan Garcia, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Malian President Amadou Toumain Toure, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, and Ukrainian Prime Minister and oligarch Yulia Tymoshenko.

The documents also show that GCHQ targeted three German firms in complex operations that involved infiltration of their computer systems and surveillance of employees.

IABG, a security and communications firm with ties to the German state, and similar firms Stellar and Cetel, were apparently targeted for surveillance because they provide communications services to German corporations engaged in lucrative operations such as diamond mining and oil drilling around the world.

“The document notes that GCHQ hoped to identify ‘access chokepoints’ as part of a wider effort alongside partner spy agencies to ‘look at developing possible access opportunities’ for surveillance,” the Intercept reported.

“In other words, infiltrating these companies was viewed as a means to an end for the British agents. Their ultimate targets were likely the customers. Cetel’s customers, for instance, include governments that use its communications systems to connect to the Internet in Africa and the Middle East. Stellar provides its communications systems to a diverse range of customers that could potentially be of interest to the spies—including multinational corporations, international organizations, refugee camps, and oil drilling platforms,” the Intercept wrote.

These are only the latest revelations showing that the NSA’s surveillance activities have targeted Germany’s leadership. As of yet, Germany has been hesitant to mount a legal challenge to the operations, as such a move could exacerbate already growing tensions between US and German imperialism. “The launch of legal proceedings against GCHQ agents or NSA employees would quickly become a major political issue that would further burden already tense trans-Atlantic relations,” Der Spiegel wrote.

The documents also show that the NSA’s Special Source Operations (SSO), which oversees the agency’s “corporate partnerships” with US telecommunications companies including Google, Microsoft, Verizon and AT&T, received an open-ended FISA court authorization in 2013 to conduct surveillance against targets in Germany.

According to Der Spiegel’s report, the FISA court has granted similar authorizations for blanket surveillance operations against Mexico, Venezuela, Yemen, Brazil, Guatemala, Bosnia, Russia, Sudan and China.

The newest leaks come in the midst of a push by the Obama administration to implement cosmetic “reforms” to the NSA’s telephone metadata surveillance operations. Under the guise of reform, the Obama administration is overseeing the further integration of the state with the tech giants and institutionalization of the surveillance operations. Obama’s plan would end bulk collection by the NSA of one type of data—telephone metadata—out of the numerous types being collected by NSA surveillance programs. Moreover, the NSA will still be able to spy on phone numbers more or less at will, once it receives approval from the rubber-stamp FISA court.

The proposal is being promoted by establishment surveillance “critics” as a significant step towards lawful, democratic surveillance. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden spoke in support of the plan Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” while saying he thought that other type of bulk collection should be ended as well. “I believe strongly we ought to ban all dragnet surveillance on law-abiding Americans, not just phone records but also medical records, purchases and others,” Wyden said.

This is a lot of hot air. In fact, dragnet surveillance against Americans and populations around the world is the main purpose of the surveillance system.

The complete incapacity of the institutions of capitalist “democracy” to rein in the spying was starkly demonstrated in recent weeks as evidence emerged that the CIA spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee as it assembled a report on the agency’s use of torture and “black site” prisons.

Committee chair Dianne Feinstein addressed the issue on another Sunday interview program, saying as little as possible. I have asked for an apology and statement that it would never happen again,” she said. “I have not received this to this day. That is of concern to me.”

With the US mounting aggressive operations against allied imperialist governments and against the US Congress itself, there can be no doubt that domestic political opponents and militant elements in the US working class are subject to even more far-reaching measures.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/31/nsas-m31.html

NATO steps up military pressure on Russia

By Stefan Steinberg and Peter Schwarz

31 March 2014

NATO continued its military build-up on the Russian border even as US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Paris Sunday evening to discuss the conflict over Ukraine. The meeting, involving four hours of “frank” talks, ended with no breakthrough and separate news conferences.

The two men met after Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated his readiness to make certain concessions. Last Friday he phoned US President Barack Obama in Saudi Arabia to discuss a “diplomatic resolution to the crisis.” On Sunday, Kerry dismissed Lavrov’s proposal for a Federal Ukraine that was not part of NATO, cynically declaring that was “up to the Ukrainians”—that is, the fascist-led regime in Kiev backed by Washington.

Kerry again rejected Russia’s annexation of the Crimea as “illegal and illegitimate” and accused Russia of massing troops on its border with Ukraine. Western governments are using the alleged Russian troop movements to justify the steady boosting of their military presence in the Baltic states. The former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were admitted into NATO in 2004, but the military alliance did not previously deploy troops there in order not to provoke Russia. The three states have tiny armies, numbering between 5,000 and 12,000 each, and without any tanks or fighter jets.

This is now being changed. The US has already sent six F-15C combat planes to Lithuania. Britain has promised to send four jets. Other NATO members, including Germany, have also been asked to provide aircraft, including AWACS spy planes that can look deep into Ukraine and Russia.

Simultaneously, NATO has decided to hold Navy exercises in the Baltic Sea, with Norway or Germany providing the command vessel.

Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine, is also the scene of a military build-up. The US has already sent 300 military personnel and 12 warplanes to the country.

NATO foreign ministers meeting on Tuesday in Brussels are expected to decide on further measures. A NATO spokesman announced that they will halt practical collaboration with Russia in the Russia–NATO Council and “extensively” increase military collaboration with Ukraine.

Outgoing NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the German press that the alliance was considering options “to revise military plans, hold military maneuvers and increase troops in an appropriate way.” He said the extension of NATO to Eastern Europe over the last 15 years had been a huge success and proposed that new countries be admitted to the alliance, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Georgia and Montenegro. He did not mention Ukraine, but said NATO’s partnership with the country had grown “ever closer.”

These developments confirm that the crisis in Ukraine, which was instigated by the United States, Germany and their European allies, is being used to encircle and intimidate Russia in order to subordinate it to the dictates of Western imperialism.

Within Ukraine, a tug-of-war is developing over the presidential election to be held May 25. Vitali Klitschko, one of the spokesmen of the Maidan protests and leader of the UDAR party, withdrew his candidacy and announced he would support the billionaire businessman Petro Poroshenko. Klitschko will instead run for another influential post, mayor of Kiev, to be elected the same day.

With a fortune of $1.8 billion, Poroshenko is ranked seventh on the Forbeslist of Ukrainian oligarchs. He made his fortune in candies and chocolate, shipbuilding and the armaments industry. He also owns the influential television station Channel 5.

Poroshenko began his political career in the late 1990s and repeatedly changed sides. Initially, he was a supporter of President Leonid Kuchma. Then, together with the recently deposed president Viktor Yanukovych, he founded the Party of Regions. Soon after, he joined up with Yanukovych’s rival Viktor Yushchenko and supported the so-called “Orange Revolution.” After Yushchenko was elected president, Poroshenko became foreign minister. When Yanukovych returned to power, Poroshenko briefly assumed leadership of the country’s Economics Ministry.

Poroshenko apparently decided to support the Maidan protests after Russia, in an attempt to pressure the Yanukovych government, banned the import of his brand of chocolate, costing him millions in profits. His Channel 5 TV was continuously present on Maidan Square, pumping out propaganda in support of the protests.

Poroshenko has the support of Germany and other European governments. Together with Klitschko, who has been heavily backed by Berlin, he was invited to the Munich Security Conference in February. Poroshenko and Klitschko have in recent weeks met with both British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande.

According to Ukrainian opinion polls, Poroshenko has the support of 25 percent of voters, far more than any other candidate. He is considered to be a more conciliatory figure than his main rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, whose rabid Ukrainian nationalism threatens to divide the country and plunge it into civil war.

Kyryl Savin of the Green Party-affiliated Heinrich Böll Foundation in Kiev toldDeutsche Welle: “I don’t think he is going to play the radical nationalist card. On the contrary, he’ll try to keep the country together somehow.”

Evidently, European governments have concluded that Tymoshenko is too much of a loose cannon and they need a safer pair of hands in Kiev to ensure their interests. They also see billionaire businessman Poroshenko as the ideal candidate to implement the draconian austerity measures and mass sackings demanded by the International Monetary Fund.

The fact that one of the richest oligarchs is now promoted by leaders of the Maidan and the Western powers to be Ukraine’s next president explodes the claim that the protests in Kiev represented a struggle for democracy and against corruption. The new government was installed as a result of a fascist-led coup whose purpose was to bring to power a pro-Western government, deepen the subordination of the country to the dictates of the Ukrainian oligarchs and international finance capital, and provide a staging ground for Western imperialist efforts to weaken and isolate Russia.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/31/ukra-m31.html

America, NATO and the Sino-Russian Backlash

Ukraine, “Colored Revolutions”, Swastikas and the Threat of World War III (Part two.)

Global Research, March 30, 2014

chinarussia“One of the delightful things about America is that they have absolutely no historical memory.” (Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, 1898-1976.)

More verbiage, Russia has taken a “dark path”; Vice President Joe Biden said in Poland last week that those who rely on “aggression and fear” are bound to fail. Indeed, think Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran, the gradual current slinking from Afghanistan after approaching a thirteen year reign of terror; creeping from Iraq in the dead of night after eight years of murder, decimation, torture and infanticide, followed by enjoining the destruction of Libya and, as Iraq, murder of the country’s leader.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said obediently that Russia was: “in flagrant breach of international law (sending) a chilling message across the continent of Europe.”

Quite how a “flagrant breach …” is a nearly 97% Crimean vote to cede to Russia in a referendum, against an arguably illegitimate government in Ukraine deciding to pretty well cede to Europe, with no referendum, in a deal which will cost every household in Ukraine, in living standards and disposable income – the majority already woefully stretched – in crippling IMF stringency measures on a loan now believed to be eventually $27 Billion, is hard to fathom.

Meanwhile, President Obama arrived in Europe on the fifteenth anniversary of the onslaught on former Yugoslavia for a G7 meeting and Nuclear Security Summit, to scuttle, with John Kerry, from The Hague, to Brussels, Rome, to Riyadh, to curb “Russian aggression” as “new NATO training and exercises (are to) take place in Poland … the U.S. …  has sent some 300 air troops and a dozen F-16 fighters to Poland for joint training in a show of military support (and) the U.S. is considering rotating American forces to the Baltic region to conduct ground and naval exercises …” (News, websites.)

Yet Russia is the “aggressor”, having stated and restated that the nation has no intention to move further in to Ukraine, and whose troops in Crimea are still well below the contingency allowed in a mutual, legal agreement, whilst the US crosses the Atlantic to rattle sabers (and F-16s.)

President Obama also had a private meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, reportedly to attempt to enlist him in the “clear message” brigade.

President Xi was perhaps remembering the “clear message” of the US bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade (15th May 1999) when it was hit by five JDAM bombs, directed by the CIA. China had been against the attack on Yugoslavia and its diplomatic mission had determinedly stayed, unlike the US and UK, whose diplomats unfailingly flee ahead of bombs – near invariably theirs.

The attack caused outrage in China:

“Tens of thousands of demonstrators in Beijing surrounded the US Embassy, hurled rocks through its windows, threw paint bombs, and set fire to it, apparently without any attempt on the part of the Chinese authorities to stop them.”

The Embassy bombing resulted in China’s former President, Jiang Zemin, meeting Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin to agree: “a stronger strategic alliance between the two countries to counter United States dominance in world affairs.”(1) Perhaps White House staff have forgotten, or do not brief too well on modern history – has President Obama read any?

Moreover, in seeking the support of President Xi, Obama had another stumbling block: the National Security Agency’s espionage tactics. The meeting took place: “just days after news broke that the U.S. spy agency had tapped into Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei’s computer system”(2) and as Michelle Obama, was visiting China and lecturing her host country on transparency and openness in cyberspace.

As President Obama arm twisted and threatened – sorry, mobilized: “ all our diplomatic resources to make sure that we’ve got a strong international correlation that sends a clear message” – on his route to a major confrontation with Russia, prepared, if necessary for a “show of strength”, and as many a murderous President before him, to fight to the last drop of blood of the sons and daughters of others, he laughably arrived (at a cost of ten million Euros to Belgium for his twenty four hour stay) with: “a nine hundred strong entourage, including forty five vehicles and three cargo ‘planes.”(3)

Additionally, Belgium mobilized: “ three hundred and fifty police and military on motorbikes to secure the President’s routes to EU and NATO summits … while a convoy of nine US helicopters (took) Obama to an American First World War cemetery”, to tour a battlefield and lay a wreath – as he seemingly is prepared to plunge the planet in to another global confrontation, if leaders are lemming enough to follow.

But if he is prepared as feckless with others’ finances, as blood, there may be a few stumbling blocks.

Belgium, population 11,161,642 (2012) has had trading links with Russia since the early 18th century. Peter the Great visited what is now Belgium in 1717 and donated funds for a portico to a spa town, some sixty years before the birth of the United States of America. Last year’s exports to Russia were worth some four billion Euros.

In all, according to Eurostat, the twenty seven EU countries exported 108 Billion Euros-worth of goods to Russia in 2012 and imported 163 Billion Euros in trade from Russia: “with energy accounting for more than three quarters of imports.”(4, pdf.)

In blindly backing the US in another certifiably insane provocation, Britain has much to lose. According to UK Trade and Investment: “Russia remains an important trading partner … Between 2009 and 2012, exports of goods and services to Russia have grown by over 75% from £4.3 billion to £7.6 billion.”

Last September, David Cameron made a “landmark visit “ to Moscow with a “strong commercial focus.“ With him were the Foreign Secretary, the Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green and a delegation of twenty four business leaders representing a range of sectors. The visit aimed to “cement relations.” Beware British politicians bearing gifts.

In November, Business Secretary Vince Cable led a trade visit to Russia: “with more than thirty British companies to boost the fast growing economic links between the two countries …British exports to Russia have almost tripled in the last ten years, with around six hundred UK companies currently operating in the country. The opportunities are huge for British business – that’s why we’re also investing in a $50 million fund to help British small businesses export to Russia.”

The not so small businesses who accompanied the Business Secretary were bosses from Britain’s biggest companies, including Rolls-Royce, British Airways, Rio Tinto and Diageo in a bid to: “strengthen ties and promote trade.”. Other companies that have recently moved in to the Russian market include Cadbury, AstraZeneca, Kingfisher, Marks & Spencer and Monsoon.

Trevor Barton, Executive Director of the Russian British Chamber of Commerce said that British exports to Russia have been continuing to grow at 20-30% per annum, with Russian imports in mainly raw materials, oil and gas slightly exceeding exports. However, the market is: ”pretty substantial (the UK’s) fastest growing export market of anywhere in the world”, which the UK government had actively “encouraged.”

Russia was a: “ very close trading partner and the possibilities have not gone away”, said Barton for whom, it seems, the country is not alone a business opportunity, but for which he cares and relates. But these were “challenging times” in “spending time talking to companies and persuading” explaining possibilities, when frequently potential investors currently simply unquestioningly take at face value the insane biased media hype. (Mr Barton was scrupulous in not commenting on politics, the latter lines are entirely the writer’s interpretation.)

Germany’s foreign trade group BGA, has warned that Germany would suffer more than other European country if sanctions escalated: “With about 6,200 German companies invested in Russia, and bilateral trade worth 76 billion Euros ($105 billion) last year. A trade conflict would be painful for the German economy …” warned BGA President Anton Börner, adding that Germany could not do without Russia since both economies were “highly complementary.” (Agencies.)

By late 2010, French companies in Russia had increased six-fold with trade between the two countries worth $22.6 billion. Fifty percent of Russia’s fruit and berries are imported from Holland, Portugal and Poland. Meat deal with Brazil (pork and beef especially) also have the potential to diminish or trash European trade.

From Ireland in the west of Europe to Italy in the south (the latter Europe’s fourth largest trader with Russia) to Greece in the east, focus has been on developing trading ties with Russia and the EU can certainly do with no financial set backs, it is already, in the eyes of many, a fiscal train wreck waiting to happen.

Across the Atlantic, in Houston, Texas alone, four hundred companies trade with Russia. Sanctions could lead to some of America’s biggest companies being impacted. PepsiCo “had nearly $5 billion in net revenue from Russia in 2012.” Coca-Cola has a “large presence” and Exxon Mobil has signed a deal with Russian state oil company Rosneft to drill in the Arctic, beginning this year: “the lucrative crude up there could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Both General Motors and Ford have a market share in Russia and have invested in production facilities, with Ford negotiating a partnership with Russian Sollis, the all worth several $billion. “Russia is an emerging market with growing incomes, and U.S. companies have been actively looking to increase their investment there in recent years.”(5)

And from the US Moscow Embassy:

“President Obama announced the National Export Initiative (NEI)http://www.export.gov two years ago, with the goal of doubling exports by 2014. U.S. embassies are committed to supporting U.S. companies to start exporting or grow their exports to Russia. In this section, you’ll find a quick description of Russia’s export market and some suggestions for getting started.”

“This is no time for bluster” blustered President Obama in a speech in Europe last week. Indeed, he seems to have missed that not only is he determined to potentially bankrupt swathes of Europe and the US, President Putin holds all the cards. For thirteen years closer ties have been developing in trade and policies with the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – representing 42% of world population and about a quarter of the world’s economy.

They have already: “created their own Stock Alliance and are creating their own development bank to finance large infrastructure projects, there are also: dynamic trade and multiple projects in different areas … in total, there are more than 20 formats of cooperation within the BRICS intensively developing.” In February they agreed on possibly eleven directions of scientific and technical cooperation, from aeronautics to bio and nanotechnology.” They also plan to  “modernize the global economic system” so dominated by the EU and US.

This year: “Russia and China have a full agenda for bilateral cooperation, which includes not only trade but also such spheres as energy, aircraft building, mechanical engineering, military and science cooperation, tourism” and more. Cultural ties are also strengthening with 2014-2015 a year of youth exchange.

Russia and China are additionally planning joint events to mark the seventieth anniversary of the victory over German fascism in WW11 next year.(6) Really bad timing for Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland to delight over America’s $ five billion spent on installing a fascist government in Kiev.

And suppose Russia switched from accepting US dollars, Euros and the UK pound, to other currencies, as observers have commented.could be being considered.

Further, as Europe’s energy is highly dependent on Russia, perhaps, like Crimea, the twenty seven EU countries could be granted some democracy and vote as to whether they want the radiators to go cold and to paraphrase Churchill: “the lights go off all over Europe.”

Notes

1. http://www.justiceyugoslavia.org/world_alarm.htm

2. http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-obama-nsa-spying-chinese-president-20140324,0,3780214.story#ixzz2wyHzgaoU

3. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/24/barack-obama-visit- brussels-cost-belgium-10m?CMP=fb_gu

4. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_PUBLIC/6-03062013-AP/EN/6-03062013-AP-EN.PDF

5. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116853/economic-sanctions-would-hurt-american-companies-russia

6. http://rt.com/op-edge/russia-switches-to-brics-sanctions-357/

http://www.globalresearch.ca/america-nato-and-the-sino-russian-backlash/5375895

Iraq Nation Destroyed, Oil Riches Confiscated. Surviving Iraqi Population Impoverished

Iraqis who survived U.S. genocide still poor and oppressed. U.S.-created puppet government spawns lethal insurgency.

iraqichildren1On the 11th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (launched in March 2003), it is important to emphasize the true motives for this attack and occupation and its horrendously destructive impact that continues today. Both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars stem from the needs of U.S. and Western capitalism for resources and markets.

 Capitalism has inflicted war on most of humanity for centuries to acquire the world’s resources and markets. The establishment of capitalism as a global economic system by European imperialists has killed more than a billion people, most of them in the Global South. 

Since 1945, the United States has presided over the killing of more than 46 million people in the Global South through wars and neocolonialism in order to maintain Western economic dominance. This strategy has failed. In spite of the genocide, the U.S. has declined as an economic power, which has only made it more war-like as it tries to substitute military force for economic prowess  Washington’s European partner countries are now following its descent into economic stagnation.

The U.S.-led coalition has been unable to compete economically with China and India, the rapidly rising Asian capitalist powers, which are acquiring more and more global resources and markets. The Iraq and Afghanistan invasions are wars of Western capitalist and imperial decline. The Western capitalist answer to the Asian challenge has been to launch these two wars, both of which have been aimed at the forcible acquisition of crucial oil and gas deposits, markets, and military bases, in an attempt to impose Western domination on China and India. Similar motives are behind the direct and proxy Western attacks on Libya, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan. This attempt at domination has clearly failed, as China and India continue to become increasingly powerful.   

 The major reason for the U.S. invasion in March 2003 was to get control of Iraq’s oil. A related factor was the intention of the ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, to sell Iraq’s oil in Euros rather than U.S. dollars, which would have encouraged other oil producers to do the same, thereby endangering the dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency, which is crucial to the U.S.’s economic viability. The genocidal invasion and preceding sanctions killed three million Iraqis, including half a million children, and totally destroyed a relatively advanced developing country whose people were largely prosperous. 

Close to five million Iraqis were displaced by the invasion out of a population of 31 million, and five million Iraqi children became orphans. Women suffered the greatest losses in education, professions, child care, nutrition, and safety. More than one-fourth of Iraq’s population died, became disabled, or fled the country as refugees.

  Yanar Mohammed is president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, headquartered in Baghdad, which is aimed at protecting and empowering Iraqi women to resist the capitalist élite created by the U.S. invasion. According to her, “The U.S. military’s intent was to kill at least hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and that mission was accomplished. Millions of Iraqi men, women, children, and babies were killed, and 30 million people were terrorized. 

“I feel that somebody needs to be held accountable for making us lose our welfare, accountable for the millions of Iraqis who have been killed, and also for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost to illnesses and by the radiation from depleted uranium.  George W. Bush needs to go to court as a war criminal, along with all the American presidents who have served during the war on Iraq because what has happened to us in Iraq is no less than a holocaust.”

Successful Iraqi resistance compelled the U.S. to withdraw most of its forces from the country in 2011, exposing the military failure of the invasion. However, the U.S. still has not withdrawn all its forces from Iraq. Washington claims that the Iraq war has ended, but this is untrue. The insurgency in Iraq continues, with an average of 95 people being killed every week. A major bombing or shooting happens there about twice a week. Nine thousand U.S. mercenaries and hundreds of U.S. troops remain in Iraq, which also has the largest American embassy in the world staffed with 11,000 personnel. So, militarily, the U.S. is still highly involved in Iraq, training its repressive security forces and still not ruling out the re-deployment of more American troops there.

  Washington has also waged an economic war against Iraq by creating a capitalist élite to rule the country, represented by the puppet government it has installed which is led by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. Maliki is a corrupt and brutal dictator and head of an Islamic fundamentalist party. Under U.S. dictates, much of the Iraqi economy has been privatized, which ensures that Iraqis do not benefit from their resources, especially oil, money from which now goes to U.S. and other Western multinational corporations and to the Maliki regime. 

According to Yanar Mohammed, “It is an economic war directed against millions of people in the working class, through the economies of impoverishment and of starving the people, giving them salaries that are not enough to put proper meals on the table. The U.S. has written the laws and has created the Iraqi capitalist ruling class to be their partners. 

 “This ruling class safeguards U.S. interests and makes sure that the Iraqi people will not get any of their oil. The profits go into the pockets of the Iraqi officials and British Petroleum and Halliburton, and other companies.”  

Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia. This highly valuable resource has been handed over mainly to the U.S. companies ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum, to British Petroleum from England, and to Royal Dutch Shell from Holland and England. Iraq’s oil has not yet been formally privatized due to massive public opposition, but a de facto privatization has taken place.

Says oil industry analyst Antonia Juhasz, “ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell were among the oil companies that played the most aggressive roles in lobbying their governments to ensure that the invasion would result in an Iraq open to foreign oil companies.  They succeeded. They are all back in [Iraq].” Juhasz, author of The Tyranny of Oil and The Bush Agenda, adds that U.S. and other Western oil companies have landed “production contracts for some of the world’s largest remaining oil fields under some of the world’s most lucrative terms.”

 Iraq’s Oil Law, which enforces formal privatization, has not been passed by its Parliament due to massive public opposition, so instead the government has signed contracts with companies that benefit the latter immensely at a huge loss to the country.  Explains Juhasz, “The contracts are enacting a form of privatization without public discourse and essentially at the butt of a gun. These contracts have all been awarded during a foreign military occupation, with the largest contracts going to companies from the foreign occupiers’ countries.

 “It seems that democracy and equity are the two largest losers in this oil battle… The majority of Iraqis want their oil and its operations to remain in Iraqi hands. It has required a massive foreign military invasion and occupation to give the foreign oil companies the access they have achieved so far.” However, as Greg Muttitt, author of Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, puts it: “In fact, any oil company victory in Iraq is likely to prove as temporary as George W. Bush’s [military] triumph in 2003.”

According to Muttitt, the economic gains secured by the invasion for Western oil companies are not likely to last, either.  As he points out, “In 2009, the Maliki government… began awarding contracts without an oil law in place. As a result, the victory of Big Oil is likely to be a temporary one. The present contracts are illegal, and so they will last only as long as there’s a government in Baghdad that supports them.”

 Muttitt emphasizes the shaky nature of the Maliki government which, according to him, “has little control over anything.”  Under Maliki, Iraq has been ripped apart by a civil war involving both sectarian violence and nationalist resistance. In recent months, insurgents have taken control of sections of Fallujah and Ramadi, two major Iraqi cities. 

As Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, explains:

The U.S.-backed Iraqi regime is dominated by sectarian Shia Muslim parties which have discriminated against the Sunni Muslim minority [about 60% of Iraqis are Shias and 40% are Sunnis — the two major sects of Islam]. The combination of government repression and armed insurgency resulted in the deaths of nearly 8,000 civilians last year alone.

“Until the U.S. invasion, Iraq had maintained a long-standing history of secularism and a strong national identity among its Arab population, despite sectarian differences.” Sectarianism has been deliberately fostered by the U.S. in Iraq as part of its divide-and-rule strategy through which it has attempted to dominate the country.

Zunes adds that, before the U.S. invasion, even some of the war’s “intellectual architects” acknowledged that it would unleash major sectarianism: “In a December 1996 paper, prior to becoming major figures in the Bush foreign policy team, David Wurmser, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith predicted that a post-Saddam Iraq would likely be ‘ripped apart’ by sectarianism and other cleavages, but called on the United States to ‘expedite’ such a collapse anyway.”

Zunes makes clear that the Iraqi resistance to the Maliki government is largely nationalist-inspired and not sectarian: “Sunni opposition to Shia dominance does not stem from resentment at losing a privileged position in Iraqi political life under Saddam. Indeed, Saddam suppressed his fellow Sunni Arabs along with Shia Arabs. However, most of Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, regardless of its feelings about Saddam’s regime, has long identified with Arab nationalism. Most of the armed resistance that emerged following Saddam’s removal by U.S. forces largely came from the Sunni Arab community. The insurgency has also targeted the Shia-dominated Iraqi government, which came to power as a result of the U.S. invasion and which many see as being puppets of the U.S.”

Before the invasion, Iraq’s oil had been nationalized for 40 years, and with it Iraq had created a welfare state for its people, providing them with free education, medical care, subsidies, and a relatively high standard of living. All these crucial gains have now been wiped out. Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq hanged by the U.S., was a brutal dictator, but he ensured that Iraq’s oil benefited its people. Maliki is a dictator, too, brought to power by the U.S, invasion, but he doesn’t provide any economic benefits to the Iraqi people and instead is involved in looting the country’s oil wealth along with multinational corporations.

As Yanar Mohammed puts it, “Under Saddam, there was a state that was taking care of the education of the people, of the health of the people, and there was a socialist economy in which the people had some ability to enjoy a prosperous life — and at this point all of that is being lost. We are learning what free enterprise is. All we see is poverty, and the government has enacted laws which prevent the organizing of workers and of unions so as to claim their rights.”

The U.S. has long considered Middle Eastern oil a vital economic and military interest, especially since it imports more than half its oil requirements. State-owned oil companies control 90% of the world’s oil reserves, while corporate oil companies control only 4%. With these reserves declining and being subject to competition from the large energy consumers China and India, an economically weakening U.S. has to turn increasingly to military options to ensure its access to oil. 

The oil factor is not just about access, but also about controlling other countries, economically and militarily.As Professor Michael T. Klare, author of Resource Wars, explains, one of the main objectives of the Bush administration in invading Iraq stems from the analysis made by Vice-President Dick Cheney in 1990, when he made clear that “Whoever controls the flow of Persian Gulf oil has a stranglehold not only on our economy. but also on that of most of the other nations of the world.” 

So, by being the major imperialist country in the Middle East, the U.S. can attempt to maintain a stranglehold over the economies of other nations. Klare adds that control over Persian Gulf oil is also consistent with the Bush administration’s declared goal of attaining permanent military superiority over all other nations.

Bush administration officials and U.S. military leaders have admitted that the invasion of Iraq was done to take the country’s oil. These men include Paul Wolfowitz, the U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary; General John Abizaid, head of the Pentagon’s Central Command which is focused on the Middle East; Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve; and Paul O’Neill, Bush’s first Treasury Secretary.  

The decision to invade Iraq was made only one month after Bush took office in February 2001, according to Ron Suskind, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the author of a book on Paul O’Neill. O’Neill revealed that, just days after Bush’s inauguration in January 2001, his advisors planned how to invade Iraq and divide up its oil wealth. According to O’Neill, Bush’s first National Security Council meeting included a discussion of invading Iraq, and Bush wanted to find a way to do this. There was even a map for Iraq’s post-war occupation, showing how the country’s oil fields would be carved up. 

U.S. and other Western oil companies had been shut out of Iraq before the invasion. In 2001, oil company executives encouraged the Bush administration to invade Iraq by warning it in a report that, as long as Saddam Hussein was in power, the U.S. would remain “a prisoner of its energy dilemma… suffering on a recurring basis from the negative consequences of sporadic energy shortages. These consequences can include recession, social dislocation of the poorest Americans, and, at the extremes, a need for military intervention.”

The report called Iraq a destabilizing influence to the flow of oil to international markets. The document was compiled by David O’Reilly, chief executive of ChevronTexaco, Luis Giusti, a director of Shell Corporation, and John Manzoni, regional president of British Petroleum.

Also benefiting from the Iraq War have been the corporations Lockheed Martin (military) and Bechtel (construction). As John Gibson, co-founder of Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI) and a Lockheed Martin executive, said in 2003: “We hope Iraq will be the first domino, and that Libya and Iran will follow. We don’t like being kept out of markets because it gives our competitors an unfair advantage.” CLI was founded in 2002, also by Robert Jackson, another Lockheed Martin executive who wrote the Republican Party foreign policy platform in 2000 when George W. Bush was fraudulently “elected” President.

Jackson formed the CLI while at Lockheed, and advocated aggressively for Saddam Hussein’s overthrow. The chairman of CLI was George Schultz, former U.S. Secretary of State and a Bechtel executive. In a 2002 Washington Post article, Schultz urged the U.S. to “act now. The danger is immediate. Saddam must be removed.” The article called for an immediate attack on Iraq, stating that, “If there is a rattlesnake in the yard, you don’t wait for it to strike before you take action in self-defense.”  After the invasion, Lockheed Martin got more than an $11 billion increase in sales and contracts worth $5.6 million with the U.S. Air Force in Iraq. Bechtel was given about $3 billion in Iraq reconstruction contracts.

 The website Business Pundit identifies “The 25 Most Vicious Iraq War Profiteers” as being (in this order):

Halliburton (military/oil—Dick Cheney was its Chairman),

Veritas Capital Fund/DynCorp (military/finance),

Washington Group International (military/oil),

Environmental Chemical (military), Aegis (military),

International American Products (electricity),

Erinys (oil/military), Fluor (water/sewage),

Perini (environmental cleanup), URS (military/environmental),

Parsons (military/construction),

First Kuwaiti General (construction),

Armor Holdings (military),

L3 Communications (military),

AM General (military),

HSBC Bank (third largest financial institution globally),

Cummins (electricity),

MerchantBridge (financial),

GlobalRisk Strategies (financial/military),

ControlRisks (military), CACI (military),

Bechtel, Custer Battles (military),

Nour USA (oil), and

General Dynamics (military).

 While these companies have collectively made billions of dollars out of the Iraq War, the country’s people have yet to obtain basic electricity and water services 11 years after the invasion. Just one of these corporations illustrates the incredible incompetence and corruption which characterized the U.S. occupation and its aftermath: “Parsons reportedly mismanaged the construction of a police academy so poorly that human waste dripped from its ceilings. Far from being an isolated incident, reports from [U.S.] federal government auditors revealed lackluster work on 13 of the 14 Iraq projects [of] Parsons. That hasn’t stopped the firm from making off with $540 million in U.S. government funds for the poorly executed reconstruction projects at Iraq’s health care centres and fire stations.

“This is the lens through which Iraqis will now see America,” remarked U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (Democrat-California). “Incompetence. Profiteering. Arrogance. And human waste oozing out of ceilings as a result.”

Asad Ismi is the CCPA Monitor’s international affairs correspondent and has written extensively on U.S. imperialism in the Middle East. His latest radio documentary is “Capitalism is the Crisis” which has been aired on 42 radio stations in Canada, the U.S. and Europe reaching an audience of 33 million people. For his publications visit www.asadismi.ws.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/iraq-nation-destroyed-oil-riches-confiscated-surviving-iraqi-population-impoverished/5375905

What does Crimea mean to Russia?

Crimea is not a foreign territory to Russia, which has suddenly decided to join her. It is an essential element of its history, without which Russia today could not exist. The Oriental Review sheds light on the physical bond that unites them.

VOLTAIRE NETWORK | MOSCOW (RUSSIA)

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 March 18, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a historic speech about the reunification of Crimea and Russia. A referendum held in Crimea two days before in full compliance with standard democratic procedures and the rules of international law, shocked many by it’s results: there was an 82% turnout rate, with almost 97% of those casting their ballots in favor of reunification with Russia. These numbers were so astonishing that there still seem to be many people in the West who cannot bring themselves to believe how much the Crimeans truly longed to return home. And indeed, without an awareness of this land’s heroic history that has been so liberally washed in Russian blood, this public enthusiasm might seem irrational, or even artificial.

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Baptism of St. Grand Prince Vladimir in Chersonesus in 988 AD (icon).

Understanding why they made this choice requires a careful look at what Russia has always meant to Crimea, as well as vice versa. This common history and pride emanates from literally every place and object in Crimea. The ancient Greek city of Chersonesus, where in 988 AD St. Grand Prince of Kiev Vladimir was baptized, was founded here. It would truly be difficult to overstate the significance this fabled region holds for Russia. The colony was established on the Crimean Peninsula by the ancient Greeks, 500 years before the birth of Christ. The footsteps of St. Andrew, one of Jesus’ original disciples, who is known as ‘the apostle to the southern, eastern, and northern shores of the Black Sea’, are found here. Crimea is the place where the blood of Apostle Peter’s disciple St. Clement was spilled for Christ, consecrating the soon-to-be-Christian Rus’ and here the apostles of the Slavic people, St. Cyril and Methodius, preached the Gospel. Prince Vladimir’s conversion to Christianity in the Crimean city of Chersonesus paved the way for the Russian civilization and made an invaluable contribution to world history and culture.

In the tenth century, Russian princes founded the Tmutarakan principality on the shores of the Black and Azov seas, which sat on the Crimean shore on the Kerch Peninsula, along with the city of Korchev (now known as Kerch). This was the historical period during which the Slavs of Kievan Rus gradually put down roots throughout Crimea. It was in Old Crimea, Sudak, Mangup, and Chersonesus that the Slavs comprised the most significant part of the population.

Tmutarakan quickly become the world’s second most important port, after Constantinople, through which passed almost all 11th-12th century trade routes that crossed the sea or steppe. The son of Grand Prince Vladimir, Mstislav, who ruled the principality until 1036, consolidated and expanded its borders. At the end of the tenth century, the remnants of the restored Byzantine Bosporan Kingdom were incorporated into the principality. Much later, a marble slab was found on the Taman Peninsula with an inscription dating to 1068:
In the summer of 6576 [since the creation of the world, which corresponds to the year 1068 – OR] Prince Gleb measured across the frozen sea, from Tmutarakan to Korcheva, 14,000 sazhen” [which is about 28 km – OR].

As the Cuman people increasingly intruded into Rus’ at the end of the 11th century, Tmutarakan was virtually cut off from Kievan Rus’ and lost its independence, by 1094 finding itself under the rule of the Cumans, Byzantium, the Golden Horde, Genoa, and Turkey.

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Russian Empress Catherine the Great.

At the end of 18th century, Empress Catherine the Great worked to see Crimea returned to Russia. It was the Russian Empire’s dominion over Crimea that rescued the ruins of Chersonesus, so sacred to Russian history, from complete oblivion. The Empress, with the willing assistance of Prince Grigory Potemkin, is remembered for founding a naval base, which was named Sevastopol, in Akhtiar harbor (now known as the Bay of Sevastopol). The history of Sevastopol tells the remarkable story of Russian military valor and fortitude.

Sevastopol, Balaklava, Kerch, Malakhov Hill, and Sapun Ridge are landmarks that embody Russian military glory and true valor. Each of them has been bathed in the blood of the soldiers who battled fearlessly there to defend a future of peace. The 349 days of the heroic defense of Sevastopol during the Crimean War will forever be commemorated in the histories of Russia and of these two kindred peoples, as will the 250-day defense of the city during WWII.

The armies of Britain, France, Turkey, and Sardinia (Italy) invaded the Crimean Peninsula in 1854. On Sept. 13, this city, which had never before faced aggression from any direction but the sea, found itself under siege. Fortifications and gun batteries were constructed while under fire from enemies who held an overwhelming advantage in troops and cannons. The city’s defense was directed by the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Vladimir Kornilov, and his subordinate, Vice Admiral Pavel Nakhimov. Five battleships were sunk in order to prevent the enemy from gaining entry to Sevastopol Harbor, and naval guns and crews arrived to join the defenders. The tenacity and patriotic fervor of the Russian soldiers, sailors, and townspeople astonished the world. On Oct. 5 the invaders began the first bombardment of Sevastopol, during which the city’s defenses suffered no great losses, but Admiral Kornilov was mortally wounded. The hub of the defense then shifted to Malakhov Hill. On March 28, 1855 the invaders began a second assault. Although at the cost of a large number of casualties, they succeeded in pressing our positions. The third and fourth assault ended in the same way as the previous onslaughts, but on June 28 Vice Admiral Nakhimov was killed during an exchange of gunfire. The French General Jean-Jacques Pélissier, the commander of the allied forces, was ordered by Napoleon III to capture the fortress, regardless of the toll. After the fifth (!) and equally unsuccessful (!) attack, the allied forces began to prepare for a decisive strike on the half-destroyed Russian fortifications. The sixth and final assault on Sevastopol began on Aug. 27. The barrage involved eight French and five British divisions, plus one brigade from Sardinia – a total of 60,000 combatants – who fought against 40,000 Russians, most of whom had been diverted to the back line of the defense. The fortunes of the battle shifted back and forth. The French were able to capture and hold Malakhov Hill. At the order of the commanding general, Mikhail Gorchakov, the defenders retreated to the southern side of Sevastopol, blowing up the powder magazines and sinking the remaining ships. This outward defeat at Sevastopol sapped the strength of the invaders’ troops, and they were forced to agree to peace negotiations on conditions that were far different from those they had expected at the beginning of the war. The defense of Sevastopol – the most vivid page in the history of the Crimean War – demonstrated once again the indefatigable spirit of the Russian soldier and his ability to fight even under the most difficult conditions of siege, when there seemed no chance for deliverance.

After 87 years, a new siege, and again a heroic defense and indefatigable spirit, awaited Sevastopol. Nazi troops invaded Crimea on Oct. 20, 1941 and within 10 days had reached the outskirts of Sevastopol. The city was not prepared in advance to defend itself from an approach by land, but the attempt by the Germans and Romanians to take it forthwith did not succeed. A stubborn defense of Sevastopol began. Field fortifications were constructed as the fighting raged, and supplies, reinforcements, and evacuations of the wounded and civilians could only be carried out by sea, often under enemy air raids. On Nov. 4, all the Soviet forces banded together inside the city’s defensive zone. On Nov. 11, with significant superiority in troops and artillery, the enemy launched an offensive. After fierce battles and suffering heavy casualties, the Germans ceased their frontal attacks on Nov. 21 and proceeded to lay siege to the city. On Dec. 17, seven German infantry divisions and two Romanian brigades, far outnumbering the Russian forces, launched a new offensive with tank support. The attacks were rebuffed with the support of naval artillery fire, and any further incursion was foiled when Russian troops landed in Kerch and Feodosia. Moreover, by forcing the Germans to divert to Feodosia the 11th Wehrmacht Army that was besieging the city under the command of General Erich von Manstein, the Sevastopol regional defense battalions began a partial offensive and had improved their position by March 1942.

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Alexander Deyneka’s painting “Defense of Sevastopol” (1942).

Beginning on May 27, Sevastopol was subjected to incessant shelling and air attacks. On the morning of June 7, the enemy launched a punishing attack around the entire perimeter of the defensive zone. After a fierce battle, the Russian troops abandoned Malakhov Hill on June 30. But resistance continued on the outskirts of the devastated city. The battle went on until July 4, and even as late as July 9 in some areas. Most of the city’s defenders were killed or taken prisoner, with only a few managing to make their way to the mountains to join the partisans. The 250-day defense of Sevastopol, despite its tragic end, showed the world that Russian soldiers and sailors were capable of incredible sacrifices.

In the hearts and minds of the public Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia. This belief, based on truth and justice, has been unwavering. It has been something passed down from generation to generation with no regard for either time or circumstances. Even the dramatic changes experienced by Russia during the twentieth century were powerless to alter this conviction. It would have been impossible for anyone to imagine how Ukraine and Russia could be two different states. But then the Soviet Union collapsed. Events progressed so quickly that few at the time grasped the full drama of the unfolding events or their consequences. And when Crimea suddenly became part of another country, Russia felt that she had not just been robbed, but plundered. Millions of Russians went to bed in one country and woke up in another, transformed overnight into minorities within the former Soviet republics. Thus the Russian nation became one of the biggest, if not the biggest, partitioned nation in the world. But the populace was unable to stomach this egregious historical injustice. During those years, both common people as well as many public figures often raised this issue, claiming that Crimea was native Russian soil and Sevastopol was a Russian city. For 23 years Crimea has retained its Russian soul and every Crimean has spent this time breathlessly waiting for the peninsula to return home to Russia. And now it has happened – to general elation, tears of happiness, and long-awaited joy – a triumph of historical justice!

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Crimeans celebrating reunification with Russia, March 18, 2014.

Source
Oriental Review

Published March 27, 2014

http://www.voltairenet.org/article182989.html

“A Threat to American Democracy” 

The top 25 hedge fund managers made last year over $24 billion. This is enough to pay the salaries of more than 425,000 public schoolteachers. 

By Bernie Sanders
Senator from Vermont

March 29, 2014 “Information Clearing House – Madam President, as the longest serving Independent in the history of the U.S. Congress, I wish to address an issue which I believe does not get the kind of discussion it should from either political party but certainly not from our Republican colleagues–the moral, economic, and political dimensions of the kind of income and wealth inequality which we have in our country today. In my view, this is the most important issue facing the United States because it impacts on virtually every aspect of our lives. It is an issue we must be discussing thoroughly and one in which the American people have to be engaged.

The fact is that while we often speak of the United States of America being the wealthiest Nation on the face of the Earth, that is only partially true, because within the context of total wealth is the reality that the great middle class of this country is disappearing. The reality is we have more people living in poverty today than at any time in the history of the United States of America. The fact is we have by far the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major industrialized nation on Earth. So if we add it all together, yes, we are the wealthiest Nation on Earth, but the reality is the people on top own a huge amount of this wealth while the middle class is shrinking and poverty is increasing.

I will speak to our colleagues and the American people about some of the realities in terms of income and wealth distribution.

Today the top 1 percent owns 38 percent of the financial wealth of America. I wonder how many Americans know how much the bottom 60 percent owns. I want people to think about it. The top 1 percent owns 38 percent of the financial wealth, and the bottom 60 percent owns 2.3 percent. One family in this country–the Walton family, the owners of Walmart–are now worth as a family $148 billion. This is more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of American society. Today the richest 400 Americans own more wealth than the bottom half of America, 150 million people. This is distribution of wealth–what we own.

The latest information we have in terms of distribution of income is from 2009 through 2012, which says that 95 percent of all new income earned in this country went to the top 1 percent. When we talk about economic growth–2 percent or 4 percent, whatever it is–it doesn’t mean much, because almost all of the new income generated in this growth has gone to the very wealthiest people in this country. The top 25 hedge fund managers made last year over $24 billion. This is enough to pay the salaries of more than 425,000 public schoolteachers. Over the past decade, the net worth of the top 400 billionaires in this country has doubled by an astronomical $1 trillion in the last 10 years.

In a moment I will discuss the extraordinary political power of the Koch brothers, a family investing very heavily in the political process, spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to elect rightwing candidates who will protect the interests of the wealthy and the powerful.

To give some idea of what is going on in this economy, everybody should understand that Charles and David Koch–the Koch brothers–are the second wealthiest family in this country. In the last year alone, this one family saw a $12 billion increase in their wealth, bringing their total wealth to $80 billion.

The other day in the Washington Post there was an article talking about the Adelson primary. When we talk about a political primary, what it means is we have candidates in the Democratic Party and the Republican Party competing against each other to get the support of the people in their respective parties. Well, forget about that. That is old news. Now the goal is to appeal to one multibillionaire so this individual can contribute hundreds of millions of dollars into the campaign. This is what is going on right now in the Republican Party.

While the wealthiest are doing phenomenally well, while the United States today has the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on Earth, and while that income inequality is worse today than at any time since 1928, what we are also seeing is the collapse of the middle class and an increase in poverty.

Since 1999, the typical middle-class family has seen its income go down by more than $5,000 after adjusting for inflation. The typical middle-class American family earned less income last year than it did 25 years ago, back in 1989. The Presiding Officer is probably the last person in the world I have to explain this to, having written several books on this subject.

Why are people angry in this country? The median male worker in this country made $283 less last year than he did 44 years ago, and the typical female worker earned $1,700 less than in 2007.

The question I think every American should be asking is: How does it happen, when we have a huge increase in productivity–everybody has a cell phone, everybody has a sophisticated computer, we have robotics in all of our factories, we have a huge increase in productivity–where is all of the wealth going which increased productivity has created? The answer is pretty clear: It has gone to the top 1 percent.

So the moral issue we have to address as a nation is: Are we comfortable as a nation in which in recent years we have seen a huge increase in the number of millionaires and billionaires, while at the same time we have more people living in poverty than we have ever had before?

This is an incredible fact: As an aging nation with more and more people reaching retirement, half of the American people have less than $10,000 in their savings accounts and in many ways have no idea how they are going to retire with dignity. So the first issue we have to deal with is a moral issue. Are we comfortable living in a nation when so few have so much while so many have so little, and so many of our brothers and sisters–our fellow Americans–are struggling economically every single day?

Today we are addressing the issue of extending long-term unemployment benefits. There are millions of workers right now, including people who have worked their entire lives and who no longer can find a job. They have virtually no income coming in and are struggling to survive. Single moms are trying to raise families with very limited income. Is this the nation we are comfortable being?

I don’t think we are. But it is not just an issue of individual income. Today, corporate profits are at an all-time high while wages are near an all-time low.

Then when we look at issues about how can we fund early childhood education, how can we make sure every American has health care as a right–how do we make sure that when people lose their jobs they are going to get the unemployment they need, we should remember that every single year corporations–large, multinational corporations–avoid paying at least $100 billion a year in taxes because they stash their cash in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens. The result is one out of four American corporations pays nothing in Federal income taxes. In fact, over the last 5 years, huge companies, profitable companies, such as General Electric, Boeing, and Verizon, pay nothing–zero–in Federal income tax, even though all of those companies have made a combined profit of $78 billion since 2008.

Here is the irony of all ironies. It is one thing to understand that the very wealthy are becoming wealthier while everybody else is becoming poorer, but it is another thing to understand that the people who have the money, the billionaire class, are going to war against working Americans. If one has $80 billion, do they really need to invest in the political process so they can elect candidates who will give even more tax breaks? Do they really need to invest in rightwing candidates who are out there trying to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Environmental Protection Agency, nutrition, food stamps, and education? Why, if somebody has $80 billion, are they working so hard for more tax breaks for themselves and for more cuts to the middle class and working class in terms of programs people desperately need?

Frankly, I think this is not an economic issue. I think it is a psychiatric issue. I think it is an issue which suggests people are simply power hungry. They need more and more. I think this is a very sad state of affairs.

The struggle we are engaged in now is stopping the billionaire class from cutting Social Security, from cutting Medicare, from cutting Medicaid, and from preventing us from creating the millions of jobs our economy desperately needs. But at the end of the day, what we are really talking about is whether this Nation is going to become an oligarchic form of society, and what that means, what an oligarchic form of society is about and which has existed in many countries throughout the world, historically–in many countries in Latin America, although that has recently changed–is a nation in which both the economics and politics of the nation are controlled by a handful of very wealthy, billionaire families. It doesn’t matter what party is in power because the real power economically and politically rests with a billionaire class. It clearly seems that unless we act boldly to reverse this trend, we are seeing this country moving in exactly that direction.

One of the reasons is as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which regards corporations as people and allows the superwealthy to spend as much as they want on elections. The billionaire party, which is obviously aligned with the Republicans, is now, in fact, the major political force in this country. It is not the Republican party, per se. It is not the Democratic party, per se. It is the billionaire party led by people like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson. They are the dominant political force in this country because they can spend unbelievable sums of money on elections. They can spend as much money as they need, setting up think tanks and various organizations which will support their extreme rightwing point of view.

In the last presidential election Barack Obama’s campaign spent a little bit over $1 billion. Mitt Romney spent somewhere around there, maybe a little bit less, but about $1 billion. The Koch brothers’ wealth increased by $12 billion in one year.

Is there any reason to doubt that in the future this one family will be able to spend more money on a campaign than the presidential candidates themselves, receiving donations from hundreds of thousands of people? That is where we are today. Where we are today is that the very foundations of American democracy are being threatened by a handful of incredibly wealthy people who are saying: You know what. Eighty billion is not enough for me. Yeah, I made $12 billion more than last year–not enough for me. I have to have more, and I am going to get more tax cuts for myself, and in order to do that we may have to cut Social Security; we may have to cut Medicare; we may have to cut Medicaid; we may have to cut education for middle-class families.

We are in a debate about whether we raise the minimum wage. My view–and I know the Presiding Officer’s view–is that we should raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour so that every working person in this country at least–at least–can have a minimal–minimal–standard of living. Many Americans don’t know that it is not just that virtually all Republicans in the Congress are opposed to raising the minimum wage. The truth is many of them want to abolish the concept of the minimum wage.

The theory of the minimum wage is that nobody should work for below a certain wage. For many of my extreme conservative friends, they think it would be perfectly fine in a high unemployment area if we abolish the minimum wage. People today are working in this country for $3 and $4 an hour.

It is not only economics. Many of these billionaires are involved, as the Koch brothers are, in energy, in oil. What they want to do is abolish agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency so they can pollute more and more and more. The scientific community tells us in an almost unanimous fashion that climate change is real, climate change is made by human activity, climate change is already creating problems in our country and around the world, and that if we don’t get our act together and significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions, the problems will only become worse. Yet you have families such as the Koch brothers and other energy-related billionaires spending huge sums of money trying to confuse people about the reality of climate change.

So to my mind the issue that we have to focus on as a Congress, the issue that we have to focus on as American people is: What kind of nation do we wish to live in? Do we want to live in a nation where a handful of billionaires own a significant amount of the wealth in this country while the middle class has less and less, where families cannot afford to send their kids to college or get decent childcare for their little ones, where people are reaching the age of 65 with virtually nothing in the bank in order to provide a dignified retirement? Is that the country we want to live in or do we want to see the middle class grow and have a more equitable distribution of wealth and income, a fairer tax system where the millionaires and billionaires and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes.

From a political point of view, which is equally important: Do we want to have a nation in which the concept is one person, one vote; that we are all equal; that you have as much say about what happens in government as anybody else or do we want to have a political system where a handful of billionaires can sit around the room and say: OK, put $100 million into that State. Let’s put $50 million into that State–where a handful of billionaires will determine who gets elected President, who gets elected Senator, who gets elected Governor, and have Members of Congress crawling up to these billionaires: What do you need, Mr. Billionaire? How do I get the hundreds of millions of dollars you can give me?

Is that really what American democracy is supposed to be about?

We have some very fundamental issues we have to address as a Congress. So I would suggest that we put on the agenda the issue of distribution of wealth and income and the implication of that grossly unfair distribution of wealth and income that we have right now.

With that, Mr. President, I would yield the floor, and note the absence of a quorum.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38098.htm

America’s Aggressions Rewarded

“The U.S. faces the constant economic crises brought on by collapsing capitalism and uses its muscle to keep others in line.”

By Margaret Kimberley

March 29, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “BAR“- The United States is a military superpower in economic decline. Consequently, its foreign policy resembles that of the mafia extortionist who “offers protection when it is in fact the only threat in the neighborhood.” Old bullies do not fade away; they must be confronted. “Who will insist on punishing the United States?” – by far the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world, today.”

The United States continues to be the worst and most persistent aggressor on the planet in large part because it has paid no price for its crimes. Our government has acted with complete impunity even as it has ravaged countries as disparate as Iraq, Haiti, and Libya with military force and occupations. It has supported proxies to destabilize an elected government in Venezuela and thwart the will of the people in that country. It has ruined the Iranian economy with harsh sanctions and now seeks to do the same with Russia. America has no shame in asserting its right to intervene anywhere it chooses to on the planet, and to punish any other nation with a mistaken belief that it will be allowed to act in its best interests.

In 2003 the United States invaded Iraq under the pretext of bringing democracy and eliminating weapons of mass destruction. The charge that Saddam Hussein was in possession of WMDs was proven to be a bald faced lie and the intent to uphold democracy was an equally atrocious fabrication. Yet America suffered not at all for its deceit or its role in killing hundreds of thousands of people.

After America’s interference overthrew an elected Ukrainian president, Russian president Vladimir Putin drew a red line around his country. Because he stood up to the bully, the United States has decreed that he must be punished. The G8 nations are now the G7 because the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy and France all submitted to America’s demand that Putin be kicked out of their club house. The G8 meeting scheduled to be hosted by Putin in Sochi will now be held at the European Union headquarters in Belgium and will have no Russian presence for the first time since 1998.

The appalling arrogance and bullying of the United States is matched only by the obsequiousness of its allies, who never dare take America to task. They certainly could have used the same logic to toss the United States out of the G8 group after the invasion of Iraq, or the occupation of Haiti, or the destruction of Libya, or the ongoing destruction of Syria, but the big criminal goes untouched. They are both afraid of American power and also complicit in its crimes. Their hypocrisy is matched by their cowardice.

Unfortunately, the United States is the most powerful country in the world and it uses its power to crush anyone who dares to stand in its way and Vladimir Putin is the demon du jour. His government gave temporary asylum to another wanted man, Edward Snowden, who committed the crime of revealing the extent of the American security state. When Obama and other NATO leaders sought to intervene directly in Syria and make their “rebels” victorious it was Putin who stood in their way. When NATO subverted the democratically elected president of Ukraine, Russia’s neighbor to the east, Putin told NATO in no uncertain terms that he was having none of it and that defiance made him persona non grata to the United States and its lackeys.

Who will insist on punishing the United States? Where are the calls for boycotts and sanctions? Of course the G7 nations are often partners in crime but they also know that a wounded predator is very dangerous. The U.S. faces the constant economic crises brought on by collapsing capitalism and uses its muscle to keep others in line. It can prevent other countries from dropping the dollar as a reserve currency or exercising their abilities to sell their resources but it isn’t weak enough yet to be opposed without serious consequence.

In popular vernacular, it can be said that the United States is “gangsta.” Like a mafia extortionist it offers protection when it is in fact the only threat in the neighborhood. Russia doesn’t threaten any of the G7 countries. None of them have any reason to fear Putin but they do have reason to fear the orchestrator of the coups and the occupations unless they go along with the shake down.

Not only is Putin punished for stopping the criminality but America is rewarded for committing the crimes. Sanctions and isolation are meant to turn Russia into another Iran, an energy rich nation unable to sell its energy resources. The ultimate winner will be the United States which will have the dubious distinction of dispatching yet another competitor for influence in the world. It also has the distinction of bringing the world to the brink of catastrophic violence. Even in the cold war era the Soviet Union’s prerogatives were accepted as pragmatic realpolitik. Those niceties are no longer respected and American meddling may bring about the conflict which was feared but not realized in the past.

Margaret Kimberley‘s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as athttp://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com .

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38106.htm

Saudi Arabia And Pakistan Are Paying A Political Price For Leading The Talibanization of Syria

By Saman Mohammadi

March 29, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “The Excavator“- This photo is from a protest in Pakistan against US attacks on Syria that was held last September. Since then, Pakistan’s government has provided weapons and training to the foreign terrorists in Syria who are kidnapping innocent people and massacring peaceful villagers because of their religious beliefs, or lack thereof, and their ethnicity.
The governments in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are controlled by the dumbest, and most short-sighted leaders in the Middle East. Naturally, they won’t survive much longer. Their policy of supporting international Jihadist terrorism and religious extremism in Syria will backfire. Syria will not be another Afghanistan. Here are three simple reasons: the people of Syria are more educated, Syria is led by semi-competent leaders, and history is at a different point than it was in the 1980s. So Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are investing time, money, energy, and political capital in a losing cause. But, hey, it’s a free world, so go for it. But a price will be paid.

Read the articles below for concrete information and analysis about the support for Jihadist terrorists in Syria by the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

An excerpt from, “Saudi Arabia woos Pakistan with $1.5 billion grant. Why now?” by Taha Siddiqui, The Christian Science Monitor, March 28, 2014: 
Pakistan announced last week that it received a $1.5 billion grant from Saudi Arabia, which it termed a “friendly gift” and an “unconditional grant.”

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have long had warm ties, but the no-strings-attached gift sparked immediate concern from Pakistani journalists, security experts, and opposition politicians, who question whether the grant is part of a behind-the-scenes deal for Pakistan to provide weapons for Syrian rebels.

“There are no free lunches in foreign diplomacy,” says Baqir Sajjad, a journalist at Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, which has published articles questioning the deal. 
An excerpt from, “The Saudis and Pakistan’s strategic shift on Syria” by Ahmed Rashid, Financial Times, March 5, 2014: 
“At the behest of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan has made a strategic shift from its so far neutral position on Syria’s civil war – to one that portends to back the Syrian rebels and even provide them with arms through Riyadh.

Media reports say that the Saudis would buy small arms from Pakistan’s arms industry and that it would recruit more Pakistani retired soldiers and policemen for the Gulf state of Bahrain that has been facing long months of unrest as Shia protests against the Sunni ruling family have escalated.The Sharif government has denied these reports, but western diplomats say the shift in Pakistan’s policy is real. Islamabad has maintained a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of Muslim countries, which makes any intervention in the Syrian conflict on the side of Saudi Arabia hugely controversial.

All the major opposition parties have already slammed the government for what its leaders called “a policy about-turn”’ and there is uproar that the government refuses to outline its intentions.”  An excerpt from, “The Talibanization of Syria” by Kevin Truitte, Global Security And International Policy, November 14, 2013: 
There is a real threat that Syria will become the next Afghanistan. Sunni extremists from across the world have streamed into Syria to mix with Syrian rebels and fight in what they believe to be a holy struggle against an “apostate” Shiite/Alawite dictator.This has played right into the hands of al-Assad, validating his claims of rebels as “terrorists” and “thugs,” even though these were initially untrue and used to discredit the opposition. Syria is in the throws of a war that has no signs of slowing down and has extreme elements on both sides throwing money and weapons into their side’s survival. With Iran and Hezbollah fighting and financing the regime and its allied militias, and with Sunni Gulf States’ citizens funding al-Qaeda affiliated groups on the other, the violence and level of bloodshed will inevitably increase, and the country will continue to see strife and civil war.An excerpt from, “For Pakistan, Siding With the Saudis on Syria Is a Bad Idea” by Saim Saeed, The American Interest, March 15, 2014:
Pakistan has a habit of renting itself out to other powers. But its latest transaction, supporting Saudi efforts to remove Bashar al-Assad in Syria, could be the most dangerous foreign policy “sale” the state has made yet.

Pakistan as a state has pretty much been available for rent since 1947, thanks to the conviction of its security establishment that only vast quantities of foreign money can buy an adequate defense against India. But the country’s latest transaction, supporting the Saudi effort to topple Bashar al-Assad in Syria, is potentially much more dangerous than previous instances of the old rental policy.Via http://disquietreservations.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38097.htm

Sanctions Will Not Hurt Russia : Jim Rogers

By Nadezhda Kulikova

March 29, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “VOR“- There is no reason for Russia to worry about the western sanctions it is facing now over the Ukrainian issue since Moscow has too many other trade partners to work with, Jim Rogers, financial analyst and co-founder of the Quantum Fund, said in an interview with the VoR.

Could China’s decision to purchase superjet planes be viewed as a gesture of support following a series of sanctions imposed by the West against Moscow over the Ukrainian issue?

Of course it is. I’m an American, so I hate to say this, but America is shooting itself in a foot getting the most of our world to pushing China and Russia closer together. And you are going to see more and more trade between the two. And that makes the sanctions against Russia almost impossible, because there are other people who will not play.

And are there chances for the Russia Sukhoi Superjet planes to compete with other major plane-makers?

I don’t think that the Russians have enough to compete with Boeing planes yet. But you are certainly getting better. I mean, as far as cargo planes, you are probably better than anybody else. And if people are forcing you or forcing other people to buy from you, then, of course, your costs will go down, your quality will get better and it will only benefit Russia, but not benefit Europe or America.

I think that’s one reason Europe and America are a little hesitant to do too much about the sanctions, because they know that they may lose more than they will gain.

And there are some articles on the Internet right now where different experts say that the sanctions imposed by the EU and the US could be bad only for them. What do you think about this sanctions strategy that the US and the EU are using with respect to Russia?

I don’t see any sanctions strategy that they can use that will hurt Russia worse than it will hurt the people imposing those sanctions. You have many people who will trade with you – China, Iran, many of your neighbours. America cannot patrol all of those borders. You can get just about any products you need. Plus, some of the products that you sell, other people need them very-very badly, such as natural gas and some of the metals.

I think Mr. Obama is making the fool of himself yet again. After all, Mr. Obama is the one who instigated the coup in Ukraine where there was an elected Government. Mr. Obama, his diplomats are recorded and we have recordings of them saying – we’ve got to do something about this Government. And then, when it went against him, he got angry. And I’m afraid he is going to shoot himself in the foot yet again.

And if we come back to this Sukhoi Superjet deal, does it mean that Moscow is switching to the eastern market and what are the other Asian countries that Moscow could cooperate with in the nearest future, apart from China?

Of course, Russia is being forced to look east and not necessarily because they want to, but because they have to. If people are going to impose the sanctions and if you look to the east, you’d see who is out there, who may or may not trade with you. Not just North Korea, not just China, some other countries –Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam certainly will, Indonesia certainly will. So, many people that don’t have problems with Russia these days, they will be happy to trade with Russia.

So, this decision to purchase these superjet planes is a gesture of support followed by the sanctions. And what about China’s trade with Ukraine in this regard? Will they stop any economic relations with Ukraine?

I doubt it. I don’t know why they would. I mean, they don’t want to be involved in a trade war. So, I don’t see why most Asian nations would cut off Ukraine or Russia, or anybody else. This is the fight Mr. Obama has picked and, perhaps, to some extent Mr. Putin. But I don’t know why China would stop trading with Ukraine, I don’t see that at all

© 2005—2014 The Voice of Russia

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38105.htm

Secrets About Suspected Israeli Theft of U.S. Weapons-Grade Nuclear Material Declassified

Global Research, March 29, 2014
PR Newswire 27 March 2014

israel-nuclear-flag-400x225On March 18, 2014 ISCAP, the highest declassification authority in the U.S., released 84 pages (PDF) of formerly secret information about investigations into the illegal diversion of weapons-grade nuclear material from a Pennsylvania plant into the clandestine Israeli nuclear weapons program.  Files now available to the public from IRmep’s ISCAP process include:

4/2/1968 Letter from the Director of the CIA alerting the Attorney General (PDF) about a huge loss of material fromPennsylvania’s Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC). “It is critical for us to establish whether or not the Israelis now have the capability for fabricating nuclear weapons which might be employed in the Near East.”

03/09/1972 FBI memorandum (PDF) “On the basis of the foregoing it must be assumed for the purpose of U.S. national security that diversion of special nuclear materials to Israel by Dr. [Zalman] Shapiro and his [NUMEC] associates is a distinct possibility.”

07/28/1977 Notes of a briefing from CIA’s Associate Deputy Director for Operations Theodore Shackley to the Carter administration National Security Council  (PDF) “I also asked Shackley to get us a rundown on the political aspects—e.g. when were the President and Congressional officials briefed on the Israeli weapons program, on the NUMEC connection, and what were their reactions.  In December, Carter was briefed on the NUMEC problem as President-elect by Bush in Georgia…I do not think the President has plausible deniability.  The CIA case is persuasive…”

08/02/1977 Memo to Carter from Zbigniew Brzezinski ”So far as we know however, (and we have made serious effort to discover it) there is nothing to indicate active CIA participation in the alleged theft…There is a tremendous amount of interest in this issue in Congress…We face tough sledding in the next few weeks in trying to keep attention focused on ERDA’s technical [overall U.S. nuclear material loss] arguments..on the FBI investigations, and away from the CIA’s information.”

All released CIA evidence and former Tel Aviv Station Chief John Hadden suggest the severely undercapitalized NUMEC was “an Israeli [smuggling] operation from the beginning.” Multiple health-related lawsuits have been filed targeting companies that later assumed NUMEC ownership. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers currently estimates its toxic cleanup of NUMEC will cost$500 million.  No damage claims have yet been filed against the Israeli government.

IRmep is a Washington-DC based nonprofit researching U.S. Middle East policy formulation.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/secrets-about-suspected-israeli-theft-of-u-s-weapons-grade-nuclear-material-declassified/5375720

Media Neglect Turkish False Flag Attack Leak And Its Implications

Media Neglect Turkish False Flag Attack Leak And Its Implications

By Moon Of Alamaba

March 28, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “Moon Of Alabama“-  Some more thoughts on the leaked tape from a meeting in the Turkish foreign ministry which is only very selectively reported in “western” media.

video with recorded voices and English text is available as is the seemingly complete text in twoparts.

The setting of the recording is this:

The voices of the illegal recording believed to belong to Davutoğlu, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Hakan Fidan, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, and Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Gürel. According to the information obtained from sources, the recording consists of a chat between four officials in Davutoğlu’s office before the commencement of the official meeting with the participation of more civil and military bureaucrats in another room at the Foreign Ministry.

It is not clear when exactly the meeting happened. It would fit the situation late last year or early 2014.

The major points from my view:

  • Turkey has delivered 2,000 trucks of weapons and ammunition to the insurgents in Syria.
  • There are plans for false flag attacks on Turkey or Turkish property to justify an attack from Turkey on Syria.
  • The Turkish military has great concerns going into and fighting Syria.
  • The general atmosphere between these deciders is one of indecisiveness. Everyone seems to be unclear what Erdogan wants and is waiting for clear orders from above.
  • U.S. military has shortly before the meeting presented fresh plans for a no-fly one over Syria.

Then there is the fact in itself that this tape and others leaked. Internal government communication in Turkey and personal communication of Turkish official has been thoroughly compromised. This will hinder future decision making and will erode any trust Turkish government allies may have in it.

It is somewhat astonishing how “western” media avoid the content of the leaked tape. An AP report on it makes a lot of the youtube blocking the Turkish government ordered in reaction to the tape. Of the recording itself the AP only mentions this:

The four are allegedly heard discussing a military intervention in neighboring Syria, a sensitive political issue in Turkey, although the context of the conversation is not clear.

The Washington Post filed that AP report under Technology. This is an incredible disservice to its readers.

The Guardian report based on Reuters is not any better:

The move by the TIB came hours after an anonymous YouTube account posted a leaked audio recording allegedly of a confidential conversation between Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, undersecretary of the foreign ministry Feridun Sinirlioglu and deputy chief of the general staff, Yasar Gürel, discussing possible military action in Syria.

There is no mentioning at all of the false flag attack. The Wall Street Journal comes somewhat nearer to the truth:

… a leaked recording published anonymously on the platform purported to reveal a conversation in which Turkey’s foreign minister, spy chief and a top general appear to discuss how to create a pretext for a possible Turkish attack within Syria.

For once kudos to the NYT which at least touches one point but leaves out the other important ones:

… the officials were heard discussing a plot to establish a justification for military strikes in Syria. One option that is said to have been discussed was orchestrating an attack on the Tomb of Suleyman Shah …

German media did not do any better.

A NATO ally is planning a false flag attack on its own territory which would implicate NATO Article 5 and other NATO countries’ forces and the media do not even touch the issue? This is ludicrous.

Related to the Syria issue is another thinly sourced trial balloon, the tenth or so, by the unofficial CIA spokesperson David Ignatius in the Washington Post:

The Obama administration, stung by reversals in Ukraine and Syria, appears to have decided to expand its covert program of training and assistance for the Syrian opposition, deepening U.S. involvement in that brutal and stalemated civil war.

Details of the plan were still being debated Thursday, but its likely outlines were described by knowledgeable officials: …

It follows the list of issues that have been discussed on and on over the last three years, more CIA training for insurgents in Jordan, more weapons, maybe some MANPADs. Ignatius source is here seems to be the CIA friends in the Syrian opposition:

The expanded program would “send a clear message to the Assad regime that there is no military solution to the struggle,” according to a March memo to the White House from the opposition. Assad “has no incentive to talk” now, the memo argued, because he thinks he is winning.The rationale, bluntly stated, is that to reach an eventual diplomatic settlement in Syria, it is necessary now to escalate the conflict militarily. This has been a hard pill for Obama to swallow, but prodded by the Saudis, he seems to have reached that point.

There are so many caveats in here – “appears to have decided”, 2still being debated”, “seems to have reached that point” – that I do not believe a word of it. The loudly announced, by Ignatius and others, attack on south Syria has yet to appear and the halfhearted attack by the Turkish supported Jihadists in the north seems to be stuck.

I do not anticipate any bigger action by Turkey or the U.S. especially as the such action right now would likely lead to harsher reaction by Russia.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38092.htm

Why Did Israel Fail To Back US-Supported UN Resolution On Crimea?

By Ali Abunimah 

March 28, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “Electronic Intifada “- The United States often stands virtually alone, save for the company of its colonies like Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, as well as other settler-colonial states like Canada, in opposing UN resolutions critical of Israel.

Israel did not return the favor today by backing a resolution the US feels very strongly about.

The UN General Assembly passed resolution A/68/L.39 condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

on Twitter

UN Gen.Assembly Resolution defending #Ukraine‘s territorial integrity adopted. 100 for, 11 against, 58 abstentions pic.twitter.com/XqqBu5oslY

— Melissa Kent (@KentUNCBC) March 27, 2014

As the final tally shows, 100 countries voted in favor, 11 against and 58 abstained on the resolution, which was sponsored by Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.

The United States, predictably, voted in favor, Russia against, and China abstained.

But Israel was a no-show, not voting at all. Perhaps it was because Israeli diplomats are on strike.

That would be a convenient excuse. But surely even the Israeli diplomats’ union would make an exception for a vote that Israel’s strongest backer – the Obama administration – feels is absolutely critical, as these fervent tweets by US ambassador Samantha Power indicate:

on Twitter

Today’s UN resolution made it clear: the world won’t accept #Russia’s illegal annexation of#Crimea#UnitedforUkraine

— Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower) March 27, 2014

on Twitter

#Russia’s actions endanger not just the people of #Ukraine, but the international system as a whole. The U.S. stands #UnitedforUkraine.

— Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower) March 27, 2014

Uncomfortable precedent

Perhaps Israel was disturbed by the language of today’s resolution, which “Calls upon all States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol” and to “refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status.”

Israel, of course, remains in flagrant violation of dozens of similarly worded UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions including Security Council Resolution 465 of 1980, deeming Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem and its settlements on occupied land to be illegal.

That resolution declared that “all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.”

It also called “upon all States not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used specifically in connexion with settlements in the occupied territories.”

Israel lying low

Today’s no-show at the UN is only the latest instance of Israel, a serial annexer of other countries’ lands, trying to evade having to give a position on Crimea.

Earlier this month, a Jewish-Ukrainian MP expressed frustration at Israel’s “silence on Crimea.”

The MP, Oleksandr Feldman, said he was disappointed at what The Times of Israel termed “a rather toothless statement the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem released …. reportedly after American pressure.”

Israel expressed “great concern” and urged “diplomacy” but said absolutely nothing supporting the Obama administration’s strident denunciations of Russia’s move.

Israel, apparently, has a enough of a sense of irony not to condemn Russia – and perhaps set a precedent for itself.

The US, by constrast, continues to shamelessly impose sanctions and issue threats regarding Russia’s absorption of Crimea, while at the same time financing and shielding Israel’s continued annexation, occupation and colonization of Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian land.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38094.htm

Labour is Part Of The Problem, Not The Solution

Its rhetoric may be softer than the Tories’, but the party still puts profit before people. Left Unity offers a new voice

By Ken Loach 

March 28, 2014 “Information Clearing House –  Every day the Guardian publishes accounts of desperate poverty and attacks on welfare provision. We know of the food banks, the plight of disabled people and the housing crisis that affects so many. We know of the propaganda to make the poorest people scapegoats for economic failure. We recognise the hypocrisy of Cameron’s “moral mission”.

We know that housing support goes to rich landlords, that benefits for the working poor subsidise employers who pay poverty wages. We read that benefit fraud is a tiny fraction of the overall welfare budget, far less than unclaimed benefits, and is nothing compared to the amount lost through tax dodging. But as we rail against the injustice and hypocrisy, we fail to ask one big question. Where is our political fightback? It should be led by the Labour party but therein lies the problem.

The coalition parties proclaim the importance of the market economy. So does Labour. The coalition cuts back on public enterprise and prioritises the interests of big corporations and private companies. So did the last Labour government. Whenever workers organise to defend jobs, wages or conditions, who supports them? Not Ed Miliband or other Labour leaders. An open letter to Miliband from Labourite “intellectuals” published in the Guardian this week is as peripheral is it is self-important.

The demands of the competitive market are remorseless: reduce the cost of labour; privatise everything; remove protection from working people, and maintain a pool of unemployed to discipline those lucky enough to have a job. Trade unions are to be obstructed while the wealthy are courted in the hope that they will find a pliant, flexible workforce that is easy to exploit.

We see the consequences not only in the workplace but in our health service, in education, in all aspects of social care that mark a civilised society. We see it in the disregard for the environment, as in the current push to start fracking for shale gas, regardless of its impact. We have seen it in the illegal wars and imperialist invasions of recent governments. None of this is new. But where is our political representation?

Labour’s rhetoric may be softer than the Tories’, but its fundamental stance is limited by the same imperative: profit comes before all else. Can the Labour party be reclaimed? Or, rather, made anew into one that will represent the interests of the people?

History suggests it cannot. The high-water mark of 1945 is long gone. The many great achievements of that government have largely been dismantled, either with the collusion of Labour or directly by the party when it has been in power. The Labour left has all but disappeared, and even Tony Benn’s voice is now sadly silent. A Miliband government will not reverse any of the privatisations in the health service or elsewhere. It will not take the railways back into public ownership – despite the popularity of such a move – or even reclaim Royal Mail.

The Labour party is part of the problem, not the solution. The Greens have many admirable policies, but we look in vain for a thoroughgoing analysis for fundamental change. We need a new voice, a new movement – a new party.

There are many thousands of campaigns for worthy causes – against hospital closures, to support the homeless, against environmental destruction, to protect the disabled, for human rights and civil liberties, to help those in need – the list is endless. Trade unions still represent millions of working people. There is a unity of interest among all these groups. Imagine what could be achieved if we all acted together.

Left Unity was formed a few months ago to work towards such co-operation. The task is considerable. We are used to working and campaigning within our own small organisations. The proliferation of radical newspapers is witness to that. But the need is urgent. If we don’t act together, the poverty, exploitation and alienation will get worse. Where is the rage, asks David Hare. It’s there, alright. People are certainly angry enough. But they need political leadership to give them hope.

Labour has taken as its slogan “one nation” – coined by a 19th-century Tory, Benjamin Disraeli. Disraeli had no intention of bringing about the changes to make that a reality. Neither does today’s Labour leadership, wedded to a capitalist economy that creates class division. The Labour manifesto of 1945 would be a better inspiration. It promised “a socialist party and proud of it. Its ultimate purpose … is the establishment of the socialist commonwealth, free, democratic, efficient, progressive, public-spirited, its material resources organised in the service of the … people”.

The Labour government of ’45 chose not to be that party or realise that ambition. Its reforms were to provide an infrastructure for a capitalist economy, not to change society. The task is now to turn the words of the manifesto into a reality. Assert the public good against private greed. Do we have the ability to make it happen?

A new party must be democratic, principled and properly organised. It needs an analysis of contemporary politics with a set of immediate demands: an industrial strategy to create green jobs, a statutory living wage, a public housing programme and a cap on private rents, an end to all privatisation in the health service.

It is a list many can compile; but without political representation it is a futile exercise. Who will put it into effect?

Building a democratic party with volunteer activists is a daunting task. But if we leave the sidelines and, finally, work together, it might just be possible.

• Left Unity has a conference in Manchester on Saturday (29 March)Visit www.leftunity.org

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38089.htm

The Regime Changers From Libya to Ukraine

By Renee Parsons 

March 28, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “Counterpunch“-  On the off-chance you have not been paying attention for the last couple of weeks, the US State Department, led by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland,  embarked on and succeeded in an overthrow of the legitimately elected government in Ukraine.

In considering the US State Department’s participation in the Ukrainian coup, it might have surprised some Americans to realize how deeply embedded the State Department was as a behind-the-scenes player, thoroughly invested in creating a  “spontaneous” rebellion.   So now, the paying-attention segment of the American public has realized that the State Department, the supposed-diplomatic arm of the US government, has been doing less diplomacy and negotiation and more organizing a team of hooligans to disrupt-and-destabilize as it gives a well-timed thumbs-up to the CIA or whoever it is who accomplishes their evil deeds.

Keeping the State Department’s Ukrainian role in mind, you might wonder  what neo-con favorite Hilary Clinton was doing during her four years as Secretary when she traveled to 112 countries, met with 1700 world leaders and racked up 956,733 miles to the kudos of the American press as the most traveled Secretary of State in history.  Well, that’s a lot of …diplomacy.   Some how I don’t think she was  brushing up on her conversational  French or appreciating Hungarian palascinta or learning new dance steps in South Africa.  Having visited an average of 425 leaders a year is some serious sightseeing …so what exactly was she talking about to1700 world leaders?

A review of Clinton’s Official State Department Travel Schedule as Secretary is worth more than a quick scrutiny especially when a series of ambiguous meetings in 2011 with the Libyan Contact Group (LCG) jumps off the page.  Perhaps the LCG were a rag tag group of well-meaning Libyans caught up in the Arab Spring phenomena – but no, they were anything but.  In a nutshell, the LCG was a US sponsored UN-like organization (but without the UN’s democratic principles) to provide the necessary political cover and create the illusion of international acceptance for the US illegal designs on Libya by fomenting a ‘rebellion’ to oust Muammar Qaddafi.  Formed on March 19 in London, the original Libya Contact Group consisted of two dozen self-appointed countries lacking the international authority to make decisions and take action regarding the sovereignty of another country. The LCG had no legal standing, acted outside the standards of international law and was not accountable to anyone.  It is politically noteworthy that the BRICS countries (Brazil, India, Russia, China and South Africa) all either refused to participate or only sent occasional observers.

From piecing together her meetings with the LCG (according to her official travel schedule), it is obvious that  Secretary Clinton was the senior coordinator that brought all the loose ends together,the Superstar that made the illegal ouster of Qaddafi possible and destroyed the country of Libya.

A review of that travel schedule reveals that no other ‘crisis’ received Clinton‘s hands-on attention in such an intimate way and that the Clinton-CLG meetings occurred simultaneously as the ‘rebellion’ in Libya unfolded escalating into a civil war with US/EU and NATO bombings culminating with Qaddafi’s grisly murder.   Of special interest is how the rebel group, the National Transitional Council  (NTC), formed on the same day the rebellion began in Benghazi, fitting neatly in to the timeline.

Granted Gaddafi was not a democratically elected warm-and-fuzzy leader and his reputation for funding terrorism and downing commercial airliners around the world did little to enhance his reputation but the US has never before let an odious, unscrupulous  dictator stop them from being buddy-buddy.  The US has never refused a relationship with some of the world’s scuzziest leaders who stole their country’s wealth, sold their country’s natural resources to the highest bidder or who had no idea how to spell democracy much less put it into  practice.   So ok, Qaddadi’s government was a military dictatorship but what are trade partners for if not to grab their oil, sell them weapons and establish a strategically-placed NATO base.  Let’s agree that Qaddafi was not the sort of individual you would bring home to meet the family.  The principle here is cabinet-level US leadership coordinating international efforts to unseat the leader of another sovereign country.

Qaddafi and US: Libya Relations

Without spending considerable space on the US’s lengthy, turbulent history with  Libya that begin in 1801 with the Barbary War (“to the shores of Tripoli”), there are elements of that history relevant to Qaddafi’s removal.

Just as the UN declared Libya an independent state in 1959,  ‘sweet’ oil was discovered In east Libya with the State Department proclaiming that Libya had “hit the jackpot.”  Occidental Petroleum won drilling rights in 1966, King Idris was overthrow in 1969 in a bloodless coup and Muammar Qaddafi took control of the country and closed the US Wheelus Air base.

By the early 1970’s, Quaddafi nationalized Libya’s banking system and oil fields with a reserve of 44 billion barrels, the largest in Africa and with an historic low extraction rate of 1.65 million barrels a day, Libya has the ninth largest reserve in the world.

In 1986, President Reagan ordered Operation El Dorado Canyon to bomb Libyan targets in retribution for its role in a London bombing and it was the downing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland that affirmed Libya as a pariah state for its support of terrorists.

Once the Bush Administration lifted all sanctions and restored diplomatic relations in 2004, every European country followed suit and Libya stepped onto the world stage granting its first oil exploration licenses in almost four decades.  By 2004, Libya participated in the US renditionprogram and  Lionel Richie arrived to give a concert in 2006.  The following year, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice announced that Libya had been removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.   Libya opened its borders to a privatized banking system in 2005, assorted international conglomerates agreed to multi billion dollar deals and Libya’s on and offshore oil fields were open to offers.  In 2008, Libya was granted a seat on the UN’s Security Council with no opposition from the US even though  in 2009 he called for elimination of the Security Council as denying equal representation to all countries.

In what was considered a major diplomatic turn-around,  after the Bush Administration signed acomprehensive claims agreement in August, 2008 to resolve outstanding terrorist-related claims against Qaddafi’s government that  underscored its ‘vital partnership against terrorism,”  Secretary Rice met personally with Qaddafi in Tripoli.   Rice’s September, 2008 visit was touted as a new chapter in bilateral relations in Libya.  It was the first high-level US visit after 30 years of isolation by a US Secretary of State  since 1953.

Qaddafi had sought better relations with the West as he condemned the 911 attacks, cracked down on al-Qqeda presence in Libya and dared to suggest that President Obama seek an overture with bin Laden.  Despite whatever moves Qaddafi made to satisfy the US unquenchable thirst for oil, one suspects that his earlier anti-imperialist stance would always haunt his relations with the west.

Sometime after that 2008 meeting and Barack Obama’s inauguration and Hillary Clinton’s swearing in as Secretary of State in January, 2009,  re-engagement efforts with Libya went awry as US foreign policy regarding Libya shifted dramatically –  it is noteworthy that Secretary Clinton’s official schedule does not show the same level of attention to the ongoing crisis occurring in Egypt and Tunisia.  Mubarak (termed a “close family friend”) resigned on February 11 and  there were no meetings with Friends of the Muslim Brotherhood or any of the other Arab Spring constituents.

The question arises why the Obama Administration changed US policy so dramatically towards Libya and why did the Obama neocons find Gaddafi more objectionable than the Bush neocons?  Surely, he could have been wooed with some shiny new F16’s, sweet-talked to widen his doors to Big Oil or were reports that Qaddafi’s 144 tons of gold might finance a new gold-based currencyenough to push the US, with its fragile dollar, to act.  Unfortunately for  Qaddafi,  he was not a Vladimir Putin – he proved to be more easily outfoxed and overwhelmed by American influence and not particularly politically sophisticated.

February, 2011

By February, 2011, events moved quickly as Qaddafi was an ‘evil and vile’ dictator with Secretary Clinton offering rebels ‘any type of assistance” in their ouster of Qaddafi.

Historically, a complicated amalgam of distinct tribes with primordial roots that made up Libya, a well-organized opposition led by the National Transitional Council (NTC) suddenly surfaced onFebruary 15,  controlling Benghazi and  Zawiya, an important port city with refineries and the oil-rich east Libya leaving the more populated west Libya and Tripoli secure in Qaddafi’s hands.   On February 24, President Obama announced that Clinton would travel to Geneva to “intensify our consultations with allies and partners” regarding the crisis in Libya.    Given what we know today about Nuland’s efforts in Ukraine, we can only imagine what ‘intensify consultations” might entail.

According to her official travel schedule, Clinton’s first recorded discussion on the crisis in Libya took place on February 28 at a conference on disarmament in Geneva within days of the seizure of Libya’s vital oil resources.

On February, 26, the UN Security Council adopted its first Resolution 1970 regarding sanctions.

March, 2011

On March 10, Secretary Clinton indicated to the NY Times that she expected to meet with unidentified rebel leaders ‘in the United States’ and during upcoming trips to Tunisia and Egypt.

On March 17, the UN adopts a second Libyan Resolution 1973 sponsored by the US which was touted as a no-fly zone, sometimes confused by neocons as  humanitarian intervention.  A massivemilitary intervention that included over 110 Tomahawk Cruise missiles with the combined air power of the US, France, Canada and the UK pummeled Libya back to its ancient root- city ofCyrene.

In case you are not familiar with the concept of humanitarian intervention, the Clinton Administration can take credit for popularizing the incoherent theory that military attacks are an appropriate use of force in order to prevent the spread of violence.  A third world country of devastating poverty, Libya was no match for the Numero Uno bully on the planet and most formidable war machine the world has ever seen.

On March 19, Secretary Clinton attended a “Summit” in Paris, France and an international conference on March 29 in London, England – both on the Libyan crisis.

NATO  assumed control of the air strikes with a bombing blitz that continued until October 31, 2011.

April, 2011

Secretary Clinton attended a NATO Conference in Berlin in mid-April with Libya on the agenda and  “absolutely determined to continue its operation for as long as there is a threat against Libyan civilians.”

The LCG met on April 13 in Doha with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague presiding.   There is no record that Clinton attended the Doha meeting.

By late April, the US Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz announced that the US would assist withauthorizing international oil deals with the Transitional National Council (TNC).   Cretz went on to state that “although the group didn’t gain a full diplomatic recognition, it proved it was a political organization that was worth the States’ support and by helping them in exporting oil, millions of dollars would be added to the rebels’ funds.”    If the Congress was a shadow of its former self that once conducted rigorous  investigations, it would be vital to have the background on how these contracts were let and who gave Cretz the authority to allow the TNC access to Libyan oil.  Qaddafi was still alive but presumably it had already been decided, his demise was only a matter of time.

May, 2011

On May 5, Secretary Clinton was in Rome to attend a Libyan Contact Group meeting.

By the end of May, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa visited Libya on a mediation mission with Qaddafi who agreed to a ceasefire but not to step down.     Both NATO and the rebels rejected a ceasefire.

June, 2011

Secretary Clinton attended a meeting of the Libyan Contact Group on June 9 in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates announcing a $25 Million humanitarian aid package bringing total US aid to Libya at $81 million.  At that time, Clinton announced official recognition of the NTC as Libya’s “legitimate interlocutor.”

Coincidentally, on June 9, the Libyan rebel government made their first sale of oil to the US.   It apparently made no difference that Qaddafi was still head of state.

By the end of June,  the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Qaddafi for ‘crimes against humanity” as NATO bombings continued.

JULY, 2011

Secretary Clinton attend the fourth meeting of the Libyan Contact Group in Istanbul, Turkey on July 15.   As Qaddafi was still struggling to hold onto power, Secretary Clinton formally recognized the TNC as the ‘legitimate governing authority” for Libya as the group provided “assurances that it will pursue a process of democratic reform… It also pledged to disburse funds in a transparent manner to address the humanitarian and other needs of the Libyan people.”

That same day,  representatives of thirty countries of the LCG lined up for a photo op to internationally bestow their blessing on the TNC as Libya’s ‘legitimate authority.”

On July 1, President Obama, in justifying the US violation of the war powers act and having provided no evidence of Libya’s threat to national security, referred to Qaddafi as “a guy who was a state sponsor of terrorist operations against the United States of America is pinned down, and the noose is tightening around him.”   White House staff had apparently forgotten to brief the President that Libya was removed from the list of state sponsored terrorism by President GW Bush.

August, 2011

On August 29, Secretary Clinton attended the next meeting of the Libyan Contact Group in Istanbul, Turkey.

Rebels enter Tripoli on August 21 and the Human Rights Watch offered to meet with the TNC to discuss the rule of law.

September, 2011

Secretary Clinton attended a senior level meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Paris.

Ever anxious to find new clientele, the World Bank recognized the TNC as the legitimate government of Libya willing to help restore the country’s economy while the African Union, which had floated its own peace plan, was not ready to endorse the TNC.   Meanwhile, the international petroleum industry was debating how long it might take to increase petroleum output and Qaddafi’s whereabouts were unknown.

October, 2011

During Secretary Clinton’s unannounced visit to Libya on October 18 she expressed the “hope he can be killed or captured soon.”  And she got her wish on October 20 with NTC pledging democracy and fair elections in 2013.

March, 2014

With the country still mired in chaos and violence, many of the same LCG players whose participation destroyed Libya beyond Qaddafi’s wildest dreams held a ‘ministerial conference’ to consider Libya’s future.  It was a fitting time for the UN’s committee on sanctions to report that Libya is the “primary source” of the illegal weapons trade that is “fueling conflicts in at least 14 countries around the world and that three of its oil  ports are in control of armed rebels.”

In addition, the UN Security Council approved  Resolution 2146 banning the illicit sale of crude oil from Libya.

In retrospect, it is apparent that the entire LCG operation will ultimately be recognized as an epic Obama foreign policy blunder yet to be recognized.   And Clinton’s stunning lapse of moral judgment and the circumvention of the UN’s established processes, provided a general framework, a broad lesson plan for Victoria Nuland to use in Ukraine.

Renee Parsons was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives and a lobbyist on nuclear energy issues with Friends of the Earth.  in 2005, she was elected to the Durango City Council and served as Councilor and Mayor.  Currently, she is a member of the Treasure Coast ACLU Board.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38091.htm

Ukraine’s IMF Deal Means Greece-Like Depression

By Jack Rasmus

March 28, 2014 “Information Clearing House –   Today, March 27, 2014, the IMF released the broad outlines of its terms and conditions for loans and other measures for the Ukrainian economy. What those terms and conditions mean is less a rescue of the Ukrainian economy than the onset of a Greece-like economic depression for the Ukrainian populace.

Ukraine’s economy had clearly entered a recession, its third since 2008, sometime in the latter half of 2013. Some recent estimates of the likely contraction of the economy in 2014-15 have ranged from 5%-15% in GDP decline.

The ‘IMF Standby Agreement with Ukraine’ text released March 27, acknowledges the current severe economic instability of the Ukrainian economy. What it fails to acknowledge, however, is how the IMF package will further adversely impact that economy.

The IMF deal calls for $14-$18 billion in IMF financial support provided over the next two years, 2014-15. Another potential $9 billion reportedly will come from other countries, although in yet unspecified form. The European Bank for Reconstruction & Development apparently will provide $2 billion of that $9 billion. Presumably the US aid package of around $1-$2 billion now currently working its way through the US Congress represents another element of the $9 billion. The remaining $5 of the $9 billion non-IMF funding is yet unidentified.

The $27 billion total is well in excess of the $15 billion that was being talked about in prior weeks by the public press and more than the $20 billion Ukraine had asked the IMF for at the end of 2013—an indication that the economy has been deteriorating more rapidly than reported since the beginning of 2014.

In previous articles on the Ukraine economic situation a few weeks ago, this writer estimated that at least $50 billion would be needed to stabilize the Ukraine’s economy over the next two years. That figure may even rise by 2015.

The IMF Statement of March 27 addresses what it considers the most important economic weaknesses of the Ukrainian economy that require immediate and focused attention. Those weaknesses include the Ukraine’s current trade deficit, its rapidly declining international currency reserves, its fiscal budget deficit, and the budget deficit of its state-owned national gas company, Naftogaz.

The IMF estimates that the Ukraine’s trade deficit (exports minus imports) at around 9% of GDP ($17 billion a year) is due to Ukraine’s stagnating exports. What the IMF proposes in order to resolve this is to allow Ukraine’s currency to continue to ‘float more freely’. The Ukraine currency so far in 2014 has already fallen 26% to the dollar. So the idea is to allow the currency to decline still further. In theory, that will make Ukrainian exports more competitive and in turn reduce the trade deficit. The problem is it will also result in a sharp rise in the cost of imports and therefore inflation for Ukrainian households. The IMF policy of promoting further currency decline, in other words, will mean even more domestic inflation, primarily impacting households, and therefore less spending by households on other goods and services.

Allowing the currency to decline further also suggests that IMF policy is for the Ukrainian central bank not to intervene aggressively in coming months to prop up the currency in global markets. That releases more of the IMF funds to service debt payments to western banks for the current and past loans. As the IMF statement indicates, “large foreign debt repayments loom in 2014-15.” The amount of debt payments due is estimated at $6.2 billion. So Ukrainian households will in part pay for the debt payments to western banks by having to adjust to higher inflation and reduce their real spending.

Given that $6.2 billion of the $27 billion IMF total package will go to servicing debt payments to the west, it also means that only around potentially $21 billion of the IMF total bailout remains to stimulate the Ukrainian economy. But the key word here is ‘potentially’, since much less than the $21 billion will actually go into the economy—and will be offset by far more ‘taken out’ per the IMF deal.

A $21 billion net IMF injection is an economic illusion. Here’s why.

First, the Ukraine’s economy will decline as a result of the IMF package because IMF measures require major changes in Ukraine’s monetary and fiscal policies that will in net terms slow, not stimulate, the Ukrainian economy.

For example, the IMF statement calls for monetary policy that targets “domestic price stability while maintaining a flexible exchange rate”. What that means is that the central bank, the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), will be required by the IMF to reduce the Ukraine’s money supply and thus raise domestic interest rates, as part of “an inflation targeting framework over the next twelve months to firmly anchor inflation expectations.” Minus the economic jargon, what that means is that the NBU and IMF policy raising interest rates will slow the economy in order to offset expected inflationary pressures from imports that will occur from a further currency decline. That interest rate hike policy designed to offset expected import inflation will further slow the real economy. And that translates into a further loss of jobs as businesses cut back production due to rising interest costs.

But that’s not the half of it. IMF measures will not only result in rising import inflation, but will produce even greater inflationary pressures as a result of IMF-dictated terms related to Ukraine’s natural gas. Estimates are that natural gas prices will increase by 79% as a result of the IMF-dictated 50% increase in gas prices. Simultaneously, as gas prices escalate gas subsidies to households will be totally phased out over the next two years, according to the IMF deal.

It has been reported that gas subsidies to households are equivalent to 7.5% of Ukraine’s GDP. So eliminating gas subsidies means a reduction in consumption of $6.5 billion a year, as households will have to reduce other consumption to pay now for the gas price hikes and the total phase out of gas subsidies.

That phase out of gas subsidies and 79% increase in gas prices means a $13 billion cut in real consumption over two years, 2014-15. That $13 billion reduces the remaining $21 billion of the IMF package still further, leaving only $8 billion in potential net remaining stimulus for the real economy from the IMF deal. However, that’s still not the entire picture of the IMF deal negative impact on the Ukrainian economy.

The IMF deal also calls for ‘Fiscal Policy’ reforms, or what it calls the need to “implement deeper fiscal adjustment” that will “reduce the fiscal deficit to around 2.5% of GDP by 2016.” That 2.5% budget cut represents another $4.5 billion in combined annual Ukrainian government spending cuts (and/or tax hikes), presumably in each of the next two years.

The spending cuts will no doubt come out of government job reductions and wage cuts for remaining government workers. It will also undoubtedly include deep cuts to the pension system affecting all retirees, which some estimate will mean cuts in pensions by up to 50% by 2016. It is possible that the $4.5 to $9 billion in government deficit reduction over the next 1 to 2 years will mean sales tax hikes for consumer households as taxes are cut for businesses, since the IMF statement of March 27 also calls for “measures to facilitate VAT (value added tax) refunds to businesses”.

In its March 27 statement the IMF has not spelled out the required job, wage, and pension cuts specifically. It is clearly waiting for the Ukrainian interim government to inflict those economic wounds on itself and the Ukrainian people, following which the IMF Management and Executive Board will approve the offered deal.

To summarize, the IMF deal of March 27 calls for paying western banks and lenders $6.5 billion over the next two years in debt servicing payments. It additionally requires the reduction of household gas subsidies by another $13 billion plus the total phase out of gas subsidies. And it indirectly calls for the Ukrainian government to cut spending by at least $8 billion (2.5% of GDP) over the next two years—in the form of cuts in government jobs, wage cuts for government workers, and pension payment reductions of a likely 50% for retirees in general.

Add all that up, and not surprisingly it’s around $27 billion. That’s $27 billion of economic spending and stimulus taken out of the Ukrainian real economy per the IMF deal. In other words, just about the $27 billion that the IMF purportedly will provide to the GDP per the March 27 announcement. Which means Ukrainian households will pay for the IMF’s $27 billion package with higher gas prices, elimination of gas subsidies, government job and wage cuts, and big pension payment reductions.

But $27 billion is not really an ‘even trade off’. It’s really a net negative stimulus for Ukraine due to the composition of the IMF deal. Keep in mind, the $6.2 billion in debt servicing payments outflow to the west will have absolutely no positive impact on Ukraine’s GDP. So, first of all, it’s really only the IMF net $21 billion ‘’in” vs. the Ukrainian $27 billion taken “out” of the economy per IMF requirements. But even $21 billion ‘in’ vs. $27 billion ‘out’ is not the true net estimate.

The $27 billion taken out reflects a household consumer spending ‘multiplier effect’ that is much larger than the $21 billion net domestic Ukraine injection by the IMF. If one assumes a conservative 1.5 multiplier effect, the amount taken out of the Ukrainian economy is more like $40 billion over the next two years—a massive sum given that the Ukraine’s GDP in 2012 was no more than $175 and was flat to stagnant in 2013. Of course, the $40 billion ‘out’ is adjusted by the $21 billion ‘in’ and its multiplier effect. But while the $40 billion ‘out’ will definitely occur, there is no guarantee the full $21 billion IMF injection “in” will actually happen in turn.

Some of that $21 billion will no doubt be ‘put aside’ by the Ukrainian central bank to replenish its foreign currency reserves, today at around only $10 billion or less. Some of it will be used to assist Ukrainian businesses to purchase European imports of intermediate goods, projected to rise in cost significantly as Ukraine’s currency continues to decline. And some of it will go to loans from the NBU to Ukrainian businesses that will hoard the cash and not use it to expand production. All this means that probably no more than half the $21 billion IMF net injection will actually affect the real Ukrainian economy. Given these ‘leakages’, the multiplier effects of the IMF injections will no doubt prove to be negative. It is not unreasonable to assume no more than a net $10 billion of the IMF’s $21 billion will get into the Ukraine’s real economy as a stimulus.

That leaves no more than a $10 billion net stimulus over the next two years, offset by a ‘multiplier’ of $40 billion reduction in the real economy over the next two years. A net reduction in Ukraine’s GDP of $30 billion in the next two years, or about $15 billion a year, represents a cumulative decline in GDP of at least 18%. And that’s a Greece-like Depression.

By absorbing the Ukrainian economy into the Eurozone, the latter is in effect taking under its economic wing yet another ‘Greece’ and ‘Spain’. And as in the case of those latter economies, those who will pay will not be the bankers and multinational businessmen, but the Ukrainian people. But that is the essential and repeated history and legacy of IMF deals globally for the last three decades.

Dr. Rasmus is author of the 2010 and 2012 books, “Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression” and “Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few”, Pluto Presss, 2010 and 2012. He hosts the weekly radio show, ‘Alternative Visions’, on the Progressive Radio Network in the USA. His website iswww.kyklosproductions.com  and his blog is jackrasmus.com . His twitter handle is @drjackrasmus.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38087.htm

NATO’s Proxy Offensive Continues in Northern Syria

Fighting continues in northern Syria – as NATO-backed Al Qaeda militants desecrate churches, displace local population, and impose “Sharia law.”

March 28, 2014 (Mimi Al Laham) – Fighting on the Syrian-Turkish border near the northwestern Syrian town of Kassab between AlQaeda insurgents Jabhat Al Nusra and the Syrian military continues for the fifth day.

Insurgents are shelling the towns near Kassab in Latakia province while the military is returning fire on their positions.
Point 45, a strategic hilltop overlooking Latakia’s countryside and Kassab, was regained by the Syrian army, initially lost to the mlitants flooding in from the Turkish side of the border.
Meanwhile the insurgents are reported to have moved through Kassab village reaching the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

No Response from the Predictably Silent United Nations

The Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations, Bashaar al Jaafari, has sent an official letter to the UN Security Council regarding Turkey’s support of the Al Qaeda offensive in Syria. Early in the battle Turkey shot down a Syrian jet firing at Al Qaeda targets flooding in from the Turkish border. In turn Russia proposed a UN Security Council statement on Al Qaeda’s shelling of Latakia province.

Armenians gathered Wednesday outside UN Commission headquarters in the Armenian capital Yerevan to protest what they saw as a Turkish-led Al Qaeda attack on the Armenian village in Kassab. Thousands of Armenians settled in Syria after the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915. The Attack on Kassab resulted in thousands of Armenians fleeing the area.

Image: infographic from Armenian media Emedia.

“We condemn UN silence over this crime and believe that it is a tacit approval of Turkey’s conduct,” the protestors told journalists.

Protesters handed the UN Commission a letter that condemned the attack, describing it as a violation of international law and a breach of international commitments.

The Armenian president thanked the Syrian government for protecting Armenians in Kassab in a press conference, while on Wednesday members of Armenian parliament visited Latakia and met with Kassab Armenians to report on the situation.

Image: Armenians protest the United Nations silence on AlQaeda’s attack in Yervan


Churches Desecrated

The Al Qaeda affiliated insurgents launching the offensive have ransacked churches (as they have in other areas of Syria), removing all crosses and removing the faces from many statues. The insurgents also began seizing and destroying alcohol citing that it is now contraband under their version of “Sharia law.” Early signs of the Sharia courts have been seen in other rebel held areas in the country.

Images: AlQaeda militants tweet that they have removed all crosses from churches and that alcohol is now contra ban.

Sanctions on Russia’s Energy Sector: Shale Gas ‘Fracking’ Will Invade Europe?

Global Research, March 28, 2014

Fracking will be “good for our country,” was a statement made by British Prime Minister David Cameron at a recent Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague according to the UK based news agency The Guardian.  Cameron believes that the fracking industry will have the public’s support since reliance on Russia’s energy sources will be halted if sanctions are imposed due to the political crisis in the Ukraine.  The Obama administration is also proposing a joint US-EU trade deal with its European partners that would reduce Europe’s dependence on Russia’s energy resources.  The Guardian reported Cameron’s statement regarding shale gas fracking in Europe:

The prime minister said that once wells are up and running later this year, there would be more public enthusiasm, and exploiting shale gas reserves could help Europe wean itself off reliance on exports from Russia” and that “The Ukraine crisis has increased the urgency of European efforts to find alternative sources of energy to reduce the leverage Russia’s oil and gas supplies give it across the continent 

Has the Ukraine crisis opened the doors for shale gas fracking in Europe? The United States and the European Union are currently negotiating an agreement since July of 2013. In a recent report titled ‘No Fracking Way: How the EU-US trade agreement risks expanding fracking’ by Friends of the Earth Europe, Corporate Europe Observatory and the Transnational Institute among others stated what the Transalantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is capable of in terms of the rights of corporations involved in the fracking industry:

The TTIP deal threatens to give more rights to companies through a clause called an ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ (ISDS). If included inthe deal, this would enable corporations to claim damages in secret courts or ‘arbitration panels’ if they deem their profits are adversely affected by changes in a regulation or policy. This threatens democratically agreed laws designed to protect communities and the environment. Companies which claim their investments (including expectations of future profits) are affected by a change in government policies could have the right to seek compensation through private international tribunals. US companies (or any company with a subsidiary in the US) investing in Europe could use these far-reaching investor rights to seek compensation for future bans or other regulation on fracking. These tribunals are not part of the normal judicial system, but are specifically set up for investment cases. Arbitrators have a strong bias towards investors – and no specialised knowledge about our climate or fracking. Companies are already using existing investment agreements to claim damages from governments, with taxpayers picking up the tab. Investor-state dispute settlement is becoming increasingly controversial as mining and energy firms use it to challenge public policies. For example, the Swedish energy giant Vattenfall is seeking more than €3.7 billion from Germany in compensation after the country voted to phase out nuclear power; Pacific Rim, a Canadian-based mining company is demanding US$315 million in compensation from El Salvador after the government refused permission for a potentially devastating gold mining project4; and Lone Pine Resources is suing Canada for Cdn$250 million over a fracking moratorium in the Canadian province of Quebec 

 “Claim damages in Secret courts” should be worrisome for communities all across Europe who is in opposition to fracking on their lands. The European Commission’s fact sheet ‘Investment Protection and Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement in EU agreements’ describes one of the provisions within the agreements:

In addition, in EU trade agreements the key investment protection standards are drafted in a detailed and precise manner, in particular making clear that the States’ right to regulate is preserved. 

In this context clarifications to two key provisions are made: 

Firstly, ‘indirect expropriation’ is one of the most controversial provisions in the investment protection system. Indirect expropriation is when government measures, while not directly taking property away, have the effect of doing so (e.g. the removal of a license required to operate a factory). This provision has been used by some investors to challenge public authorities’ bans for health reasons of chemical products or the introduction of new stricter environmental legislation. 

Future EU agreements will provide a detailed set of provisions giving guidance to arbitrators on how to decide whether or not a government measure constitutes indirect expropriation, thus aiming at preventing abuse of the system.  

In particular, when the state is protecting the public interest in a non-discriminatory way, the right of the state to regulate should prevail over the economic impact of those measures on the investor. These much needed clarifications will make sure that companies cannot be compensated just because their profits have been reduced through the effects of regulations enacted for a public policy objective. The Commission has negotiated provisions with Canada and Singapore which makes this clear, and the language will also be included in future agreements

 If the European Union and the United States finalize the TTIP agreement then the anti-fracking opposition will grow through a grassroots movement. With Austerity measures being met with protests and violence throughout Europe, fracking would sure add fuel to the fire in an already tense situation. This past week the “March of Dignity” in Spain took place ending in violent clashes between the police and protesters. In the UK, anti-fracking protesters are growing despite PM David Cameron’s recent statement when he said that “I think something positive should come out of [the situation in Ukraine] for Europe which is to take a long hard look at its energy resilience, and its energy independence. And I hope it will lead to some really useful work being done” he continued“Britain is not reliant on Russian gas to any extent, it’s just a few percentage points of our gas intake. But the variety around Europe is very, very wide. Some countries are almost 100% reliant on Russian gas so I think it is something of a wake-up call and I think action will be taken.” New energy sanctions imposed on Russia will affect the European Union economically, environmentally and politically as the realization of the fracking technology breeds grassroots awareness in Europe’s already fragile state.

European leaders are not interested in democracy for the Ukrainian people or in their own countries economic woes; it is interested in profits that would generate jobs and growth. The UK based ‘The Independent’ reported in 2012 what Lord Browne, a former BP chief executive, who is a director of the shale gas “fracking” company Cuadrilla said regarding shale gas fracking “We could potentially double the reserves of gas in the UK, we could add 50,000 jobs maybe, and probably even reduce the price of gas.” In an article released by www.ecowatch.com in 2013, disagrees with the shale gas fracking industry’s assessment on job creation. “Industry supporters have exaggerated the jobs impact in order to minimize or avoid altogether taxation, regulation and even careful examination of shale drilling” said Frank Mauro, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute in New York”according to the article:

Shale drilling has created jobs, particularly in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and cushioned some drilling-intensive areas in those states from the worst effects of the Great Recession and the weak recovery. As this report documents, however, the number of shale jobs created is far below industry claims and remains a small share of overall employment

 Fracking will be at the expense of local communities throughout Europe that would eventually lead to violent demonstrations against their governments who are interested in corporate profits over the people and the environment. Sanctions on the resource rich Russian Federation will backfire on the citizens of the European Union most of all. The US-EU plan to surround Russia with American and NATO bases over the crisis in the Ukraine is not the only intended goal.  It also supports the idea to force the European community to accept shale gas fracking as an alternative right under their feet without depending on Russia’s natural resources.  How convenient!

http://www.globalresearch.ca/sanctions-on-russias-energy-sector-shale-gas-fracking-will-invade-europe/5375695

Egyptian coup leader al-Sisi announces presidential candidacy

By Johannes Stern

28 March 2014

On Wednesday night Egyptian coup leader Field Marshall Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi officially declared his plan to run for president in upcoming elections. This is the latest effort in the US-backed junta’s carefully planned campaign to install its leader as president in order to tighten its grip over the country and brutally confront rising working class opposition.

Sisi’s televised address to the nation was a cynical mixture of nationalist phrasemongering and barely veiled threats. “I am here before you humbly stating my intention to run for the presidency of the Arab Republic of Egypt,” Sisi declared. “Only your support will grant me this great honor.” After announcing his nominal resignation from the military, he added that he considered himself “a soldier serving my country in any capacity desired by Egyptians.”

Sisi’s claim that he will act in the interests of the Egyptian people is a grotesque lie. Only a few days ago Egyptian Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour compared Sisi to the former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, demanding that “this country as it stands today needs a strongman that can pull it together… Law and order is good toward investment and toward the economy.”

As with Pinochet, Sisi is a US-backed dictator prepared to use fascistic methods to suppress the working class at the behest of its imperialist patrons and international finance capital.

In his speech, Sisi threatened the impoverished Egyptian masses with austerity and suffering. He warned: “I cannot make miracles. Rather, I propose hard work and self-denial,” in order to “restore” Egypt.

Sisi cynically sought to wrap his declaration of war against the working class in the mantle of democracy. “My determination to run in the elections does not bar others from their right to run. I will be happy if whoever the people choose succeeds,” he declared, adding that he hopes for “a nation for all without exclusion.”

This is coming from a man who has overseen bloody massacres and large-scale repression over the past several months. Since the July 3, 2013 coup, the military junta under Sisi’s leadership has violently dispersed countless sit-ins, demonstrations and strikes, killing at least 1,400 people and jailing more than 16,000. It has banned the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Egypt’s main bourgeois opposition party, issued an anti-protest law and enshrined continued military rule in the constitution.

On Monday, an Egyptian court, in an act of political mass murder, sentenced 529 MB supporters to death. Further show trials are prepared. Only hours before Sisi’s speech, Egypt’s public prosecutor ordered another 919 MB members—including the MB’s Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie, and the leader of its political arm, Saad al-Katatni—to stand trial on charges including murder and terrorism.

While the junta is intensifying its campaign of terror, intimidation and outright political murder, the imperialist powers have combined pro forma criticism of the death sentences—European Council President Herman van Rompuy declared after meeting US President Barack Obama in Brussels on Wednesday that the US and the EU were “appalled” by the sentences—with declarations of support to install a mass murderer as president.

With consummate cynicism, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement. “As the election process moves forward we urge the Egyptian authorities to ensure that the elections are free, fair, and transparent; that all candidates are able to campaign freely, without fear of harassment or intimidation; and that the views of all the Egyptian people are fully represented.”

The Egyptian newspaper Ahram Online quoted an “European ambassador” as saying: “He [Sisi] has a very calculating mind and I am not surprised he took such a long time—although it was rather too long—to make his announcement.”

Sisi’s run for presidency exposes the fraud of the alleged “democratic transition” promoted by the imperialist powers, the military junta and the official political parties in Egypt alike.

More than three years after the revolutionary ouster of long-time dictator and US-stooge Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian ruling elite and its imperialist backers are moving to install an even more direct brutal dictatorship to put an end to all strikes and protests.

Sisi’s speech comes amidst a deepening social crisis and a renewed explosion of working class struggles. According to Democracy Meter, an Egyptian research center, the number of strikes and protests in Egypt reached a record 1,044 in February. On Tuesday the Egyptian online newspaper Mada Masr wrote that “despite official attempts to bring an end to a wave of labor unrest… a broad range of Egypt’s labor workforce embarked on nationwide strikes on Tuesday.” It reported: “Doctors, dentists, pharmacists, postal workers, textile workers, custodial staff and others all staged walkouts during the day.”

The junta is preparing to confront the working class with brutal terror. According to reports, police forces arrested strike leaders of the 50,000-member postal workers strike in dawn raids on Tuesday in Egypt’s second largest city Alexandria. The postal chief has reportedly claimed that the workers are affiliated to the MB, which was denied by family members. During the past two days, security forces brutally cracked down on students in Cairo protesting the death sentences for MB members. At least one student was killed.

The junta’s violent attempts to crush all opposition to its rule highlight the counterrevolutionary character of the liberal and “left” political organizations of Egypt’s affluent middle class. Organizations such as the National Salvation Front (NSF) and Tamarod—and their pseudo-left supporters, most prominently the misnamed Revolutionary Socialists (RS) group—played a key role in channeling the mass protests against Mohammed Mursi behind the military.

Now most of these groups are directly supporting Sisi’s presidency. The Tamarod movement gave its full-fledged support to Sisi. In a statement published on Wednesday it claimed that “our choice for a figure like the marshal [Sisi] is representative of a big section of the Egyptian people.”

Nasserite politician Hamdeen Sabahi, a leader of the NSF and the Karama Party, and so far the only other presidential candidate, praised Sisi’s candidacy in a tweet. “I welcome Sisi’s candidacy, and we seek … democratic elections that [are] transparent and guarantee neutrality of the nation and the will of the people to choose their president freely.”

The liberal Constitution Party, formerly led by Mohammad ElBaradei, also hinted its support, declaring that “Sisi has the right to enter the race as civilian citizen after resigning from his military position.”

 

The author also recommends:

Stop Egypt’s Pinochet from murdering 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters!
[26 March 2014]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/28/egyp-m25.html

NATO exists to contain Russia

52464Many Western experts believe that the Ukrainian crisis has given a new impetus to the existence of NATO. Prior to the events in the neighboring country the military, politicians, and political scientists have tried to understand what the alliance would do in the future, in particular, after the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Now Washington and Brussels seem to have decided on the semantics – “containment of Russia.”

The statements of NATO leaders indicate that Russia is not seen as a partner. Russia is not acting as a partner, but rather, as an opponent, said last week NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. While he will be resigning soon, presumably the course towards “containment” will not change.

His deputy Alexander Vershbow said in an interview with Kommersant that if Russia was to question the key principles of the European security system stated in the Helsinki Final Act and violated its own bilateral agreements as it has done in the case of Ukraine, it would trigger a serious discussion about what this mean for the priorities of NATO.

A correspondent of Pravda.Ru spoke with a military expert Boris Podoprigorov about the prospects of the relations between Russia and NATO.

“There is much talk about the alliance revising its strategy with regard to Russia and focusing on “containment” of Russia. Do you think these arguments are justified?”


“With regard to the relations between Russia and NATO, it seems to me that there should be no understated or overstated estimates at any stage of our cooperation. I do not expect drastic changes. The relations between Russia and the Alliance over the two decades have been somewhere between C+ and C-.

“Generally, I do not expect any sudden changes. I think we should not overestimate any meetings with handshakes or any harsh statements exchanged between the parties with regard to certain events.

“I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist in this sense, and base my conclusions on my observations as a member of numerous Russia-NATO activities. If, instead of talking about the table ranking we talk about the content of those conversations, those negotiations that took place at this table, we have always had rather quiet, but not inspiring relations with NATO.”

“What do you think are the prospects of cooperation between Russia and NATO in light of recent events? Or is this something that is not even worth talking about at this time?”

“The format of our interaction remains the same. The substantial side, the agenda are essentially unchangeable.
 You know, I always wanted to be 30-40 minutes late for these meetings, because I knew that they always started with boring lectures of NATO officials about consensus. They had been trying to teach us this word for probably 15 years. I am serious, because I happened to attend about a hundred Russian-NATO activities.
I do not see any meaningful field for conversation now. Unfortunately, everything is as it was predetermined in the early 1990.”

“Judging by the comments of the alliance representatives, NATO seems like almost a victim of “Russian aggression.” Is this true?”

“I suggest we strictly differentiate between the information of counter-resistance and real events.
If we turn to Western sources, our hair will stand on end. There is a military column on route to Kiev; there are some events in Crimea. If we believe the propaganda, we just lose the thread of conversation.
In fact, nothing is happening. Unfortunately, we did not say this in a tough enough manner.

“Generally speaking, we have not even exceeded the number of the Russian military that can be stationed in Crimea under the Kharkiv agreements. Nobody had caught us doing this in a documented, evidential way.

“I think that our information sources should more specifically cover this topic. If you take the legal aspect, I emphasize, there have been no violations on our part. Let’s separate the emotions and essence of the matter.”

Anton Kulikov

Pravda.Ru

Read the original in Russian

http://english.pravda.ru/russia/politics/28-03-2014/127200-russia_nato-0/

What Cruel And Unusual Punishment Are Kids In America Being Subjected To?

By ACLU

March 27, 2014 “Information Clearing House – We live in the only country in the world where a child can be sentenced to be in prison until they die. What’s worse is that it’s not even rare — more than 2,500 people who were sentenced as kids will spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Juwan is one of them. He was a skinny 16-year-old kid when he was arrested after he saw a companion kill a pizza deliveryman. The shooter was never convicted, but because Juwan was present and had a gun, he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Without the possibility of parole, Juwan will never have a second chance for rehabilitation.

Just one year before Juwan was sentenced, the Supreme Court decided that mandatory juvenile life without parole was unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

The problem is — the decision left gaping loopholes and didn’t ban the sentence outright, meaning that Juwan and other children became victims of poor timing and inadequate policy implementation. While six states have moved to ban the practice, this barbaric punishment is still perfectly legal in 44 states.

But the Department of Justice has the power to close some of these loopholes and set the standard on the federal level. By providing policy guidelines for U.S. attorneys, the DOJ can ensure that judges are empowered to use discretion and give appropriate sentences based on unique circumstances.

Attorney General Eric Holder has already endorsed proposals that limit life without parole sentences for non-violent drug offenders. If he hears from thousands of us who support criminal justice reform, he can provide the tools needed to limit juvenile life without parole sentences.

It’s time that we give kids like Juwan a second chance at life.

See also –

Homeless Mother Gets Job Interview But Doesn’t Have Childcare, Ends Up In Jail: Shanesha Taylor, a woman from Scottsdale, Arizona, is homeless. So when she got asked to come in for a job interview last Thursday, she must have been excited by the prospect. But when you’re homeless, there isn’t always an easy way to take an hour off from watching your kids to be at an interview.

American Jails Are Wretched Hell Holes for the Mentally Ill: In the latest gruesome dispatch from the clusterfuck that is America’s corrections system, the Associated Press reported last week that Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill former Marine, “basically baked to death” in his 6′-by-10′ cinderblock cell in Rikers Island.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38078.htm

Whistleblowers: Snowden’s A Hero; Intelligence Community’s Out Of Line

Obama Fears U.S. Intelligence Officials

Bold statements go a long way for whistleblowers calling Edward Snowden a hero and bringing attention to the fact that the U.S. intelligence community has simply gone too far.

By Katie Rucke

March 27, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “Mintpressnews“- Edward Snowden is not a traitor, the intelligence community has run rampant and President Barack Obama won’t stop the unethical and illegal Orwellian spying operations in the United States for fear he may be assassinated by intelligence officials who have grown accustomed to answering to no one.

Those may be bold statements, but they are truths that a group of Americans, including two U.S. whistleblowers, say need to be widely known.

At a press conference on Tuesday hosted by the Institute for Public Accuracy and RootsAction.org, a progressive, independent activist group, Norman Solomon, founder of both organizations, along with whistleblowers Ray McGovern and Coleen Rowley, publicly announced their latest efforts to bring National Security Agency whistleblower Snowden back to the U.S. without the threat of persecution by the U.S. government.

Specifically, the trio spoke for hundreds of thousands of Americans when they officially asked the U.S. government to give Snowden access to his U.S. passport and continued a public push to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State John Kerry.

McGovern, Rowley and Solomon also urged President Obama to “in the strongest terms to make an unequivocal public commitment not to interfere with the travels or political asylum process of Edward Snowden.”

Talking to the press, Solomon said that although most Americans are familiar with the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger,” the U.S. government and members of the American public have largely blamed Snowden for speaking out against an illegal and unethical operation in the U.S. intelligence community — the NSA’s mass collection of data belonging to the American public.

“Edward Snowden saw something and he said something,” said Solomon, hinting at the irony between Snowden’s actions and the U.S. government’s plea for the public to speak up about unusual behavior in order to thwart future terrorist attacks.

What Snowden “saw” was the undermining of the free press aspects of the First Amendment, protection from unreasonable search and seizure as granted under the Fourth Amendment, and high-ranking U.S. officials’ “full-scale assault” on the due process rights as granted under the Fifth Amendment, so his decision to speak out was not welcomed.

As a result, several U.S. lawmakers have called for Snowden’s execution and the Department of Justice has been overly hostile, as well. But more than 100,000 Americans have had enough of the Snowden death threats and traitor speak, and they’ve signed a petition Solomon, McGovern and Rowley delivered to Kerry and Holder’s offices on Wednesday, asking that Snowden be treated not as a traitor, but as someone who has tried to protect his fellow Americans from “extreme encroachments.”

As Solomon emphasized, if Snowden were to come back to the U.S. right now, chances are that even if Holder kept his promise that Snowden would not be executed, the whistleblower would likely be treated in a manner similar to Pfc. Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning.

For releasing more than 700,000 battlefield reports, diplomatic cables and video clips Manning accessed while working as an intelligence analysts in Baghdad in 2010, the military whistleblower was kept in extreme solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for nine months. Citing a United Nations report, Solomon said the international community deemed the U.S. government’s treatment of Manning as borderline — if not over the borderline — torture, adding that this maltreatment was the federal government’s attempt to silence Manning.

“The real deal”

McGovern, a whistleblower and co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, said he found it odd to have to defend a Nobel laureate like Snowden.

McGovern, a former CIA analyst who prepared the president’s Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates, said when he and three other whistleblowers, including Rowley, delivered an award for integrity in intelligence to Snowden in Russia on Oct. 9, 2013, he realized that not only is Snowden the “the real deal,” but he is also “the most articulate” individual and the “most serious whistleblower I’ve ran into since Daniel Ellsberg.”

For instance, Snowden kept a copy of the U.S. Constitution on his desk and would reportedly ask his coworkers if what they were doing was a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Since Snowden was earning a six-figure salary in Hawaii as a government contractor, his coworkers and supervisors told him to forget about the fact that the work he was doing was illegal.

McGovern said Snowden’s decision to step forward anyway is not something many people would have done, and he stressed that Snowden should be taken seriously. He pointed to a New York Times editorial from January, in which the paper’s editorial board appears to have had a change of heart regarding the Snowden revelations. The paper’s editors called the leaked documents an “enormous value” to the American public that expose the “runaway intelligence community.”

Rowley, who identifies herself as one of the last U.S. whistleblowers to not be killed or forced to seek asylum in a foreign country, said the 9/11 terrorist attacks changed how whistleblowers are treated in the U.S. The shift is ironic, she said, because according to the 9/11 Commission Report, it was the failure to share information not only within agencies but also between agencies that led to the attack.

“The CIA knew two hijackers came into California and didn’t tell the FBI until days before 9/11,” Rowley said. In many ways, 9/11 could have been prevented if the NSA, CIA and FBI all collaborated and the American public was also informed. While informing the public of national security issues sounds risky to some, Rowley, a former FBI special agent, said the reality is that most terrorist attacks are stopped by fellow passengers and street vendors who see something and say something.

Though several whistleblowers have tried to expose the unethical and illegal workings of intelligence agencies, including the NSA, which McGovern referred to as “No Such Amendment,” Rowley said no one listened until Snowden released a raft of classified NSA information.

Even with Snowden’s NSA revelations, some of the information had been previously reported in the press, but as history has proven, not much, if anything, resulted from those articles being published. But Rowley said people are beginning to wake up, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who defended the intelligence community’s ability to spy without a warrant until she recently discovered she and her fellow lawmakers were also being surveilled.

High-ranking fear

Familiar with intelligence abuses from his work with the CIA, McGovern said the abuses exposed by Snowden are ones that used to occur at the request of the president. Though Obama has been blamed for allowing this unwarranted mass surveillance to occur, McGovern said Obama really had no say in the matter.

“When I look at the CIA and Obama, I ask myself how could a person who railed against torture and abuses under the George W. Bush administration let [these abusers] walk free?” McGovern asked rhetorically.

The answer is that Obama fears what the intelligence community officials may do to him, and the proof is that James Clapper, director of the NSA, lied under oath and was allowed to keep his job.

“The evidence is fairly clear to me Obama bit off more than he could chew,” McGovern said. “If he was going to be afraid of the CIA and NSA he shouldn’t have been president.”

However, McGovern also said Obama is far from the first president to not stand up to intelligence officials, who he said don’t answer to anyone.

McGovern said that prior to the last election, President Obama had dinner with “a group of progressors.” The group reportedly pressed Obama to explain why he was letting all of these civil rights abuses occur. This went on until he couldn’t take the criticism anymore and said, “Don’t you remember what happened to Dr. King?”

Though McGovern wasn’t at that dinner, he said he has it on “pretty good authority” that Obama did express his concerns about being assassinated. McGovern continued, saying President John F. Kennedy is another reason why Obama has every reason to be afraid of speaking out against the intelligence community. The situation, he said, is “a sad commentary on the state of affairs in this country.”

Where are all the honest people?

What’s most frustrating for people like Rowley, Solomon and McGovern is that these kinds of intelligence abuses could have been prevented if those in the intelligence community were prone to telling the truth in order to preserve, protect and serve the American public.

Rowley said one of the biggest issues that has arisen in recent years is a lack of protection for whistleblowers, who only differ from traitors in the eyes of the law based upon their motivation for disclosing confidential information.

“I’m really surprised people haven’t been able to grasp that the Espionage Act is not applicable at all” in Snowden’s case, Rowley said.

Because the corruption in the intelligence community is at such a high level, Rowley said it’s important for independent committees to be involved in determining and fixing any wrongdoings.

Though Obama has taken “baby steps” to rein in the mass collection of data, Rowley said the threat against those who try to tell the truth still exists and a bipartisan effort is needed to rein in the intelligence community and “get back on the right path.”

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38081.htm

A Manufactured Crisis The Iranian Threat That Never Was

By Sheldon Richman

March 27, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “fff“- If you take politicians and the mainstream media seriously, you believe that Iran wants a nuclear weapon and has relentlessly engaged in covert efforts to build one. Even if you are aware that Iran signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, you may believe that those who run the Islamic Republic have cleverly found ways to construct a nuclear-weapons industry almost undetected. Therefore, you may conclude, Democratic and Republican administrations have been justified in pressuring Iran to come clean and give up its “nuclear program.”

But you would be wrong.

Anyone naturally skeptical about such foreign-policy alarms has by now found solid alternative reporting that debunks the official narrative about the alleged Iranian threat. Much of that reporting has come from Gareth Porter, the journalist and historian associated with Inter Press Service. Porter has done us the favor of collecting the fruits of his dogged investigative journalism into a single comprehensive and accessible volume, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

A grain of truth can be found at the core of the official story. Iranian officials did indeed engage in secret activities to achieve a nuclear capability. But it was a capability aimed at generating electricity and medical treatments, not hydrogen bombs.

Porter opens his book by explaining why Iran used secretive rather than open methods. Recall that before the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran was ruled by an autocratic monarch, the shah. The shah’s power had been eclipsed in the early 1950s by a democratically elected parliament. Then, in 1953, America’s Eisenhower administration sent the CIA in to foment civil discord in order to drive the elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, from office and restore the shah’s power.

During his reign, the shah, a close ally of the United States and Israel, started building a nuclear-power industry — with America’s blessing. Iran’s Bushehr reactor was 80 percent complete when the shah was overthrown.

When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became Iran’s supreme leader in 1979, he cancelled completion of the reactor and stopped related projects. But “two years later, the government reversed the decision to strip the [Atomic Energy Organization of Iran] of its budget and staff, largely because the severe electricity shortages that marked the first two years of the revolutionary era persuaded policymakers that there might be a role for nuclear power reactors after all,” Porter writes.

The new regime’s goals were “extremely modest compared with those of the shah,” Porter adds, consisting of one power plant and fuel purchased from France. Take note: the Iranian government did not aspire to enrich uranium, which is the big scare issue these days.

Iran brought the IAEA into its planning process, Porter writes, and an agency official, after conducting a survey of facilities, “recommended that the IAEA provide ‘expert services’ in eight different fields.” Porter notes that the IAEA official said nothing about an Iranian request for help in enriching uranium, “reflecting the fact that Iran was still hoping to get enriched uranium from the French company, Eurodif.”

Had things continued along this path, Iran today would have had a transparent civilian nuclear industry, under the NPT safeguard, fueled by enriched uranium purchased from France or elsewhere. No one would be talking about Iranian centrifuges and nuclear weapons. What happened?

The Reagan administration happened.

Continuing the U.S. hostility toward the Islamic Republic begun by the Carter administration, and siding with Iraq when Saddam Hussein’s military attacked Iran, the Reagan administration imposed “a series of interventions … to prevent international assistance of any kind to the Iranian nuclear program.” Not only did President Reagan block American firms from helping the Iranians; he also pressured American allies to participate in the embargo. This was in clear violation of the NPT, which recognizes the “right” of participating states to acquire nuclear technology for civilian purposes.

No wonder Iran turned to covert channels, most particularly A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani who “was selling nuclear secrets surreptitiously.” This would have been the time for Iran to buy weapons-related technology — however, Porter writes, “there is no indication that [Khan’s Iranian contact] exhibited any interest in the technology for making a bomb.”

This is indeed a manufactured crisis.

Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF’s monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF’s award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America’s Families;

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38082.htm

U.S., Like Russia, Exercises Hegemony

While we bash Putin on Ukraine, U.S. once took similar liberties with Panama.

By DeWayne Wickham

March 27, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “USA Today“-  Here’s a story that should sound familiar to you.

A small, militarily weak country is racked by internal dissent after its government rejects a treaty with a foreign power. Secretly encouraged by a nearby superpower, a rebellious faction in this troubled country seizes a chunk of land and declares its independence. The superpower quickly dispatches a military force to the breakaway territory to ensure the success of this secession.

If you think I’m talking about the events that are playing out in Ukraine, the Eastern European country that’s nestled against the southwestern edge of Russia, you’re wrong.

Sure, Russian President Vladimir Putin dispatched thousands of troopsinto the Crimea region of Ukraine as it declared its independence and asked to be annexed into Russia. That action followed bloody street demonstrations that forced Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s democratically electedpresident, to flee the country after he rejected a trade pactwith the European Union. Yanukovych, whose opulent lifestyle and roguish rule stained his presidency, favored closer economic ties with Russia. Not surprisingly, the unelected government that replaced Yanukovych signed the agreementwith the European Union on Friday.

But I’m talking about the series of events that brought about the creation of Panama in 1903. Back then, Panama was a province of the nation of Colombia. When the Colombian government rejecteda treaty that would have allowed the United States to build a canal across its territory to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, a plot was hatched to make Panama an independent nation.

The United States, then an emerging superpower, sent warships into the region to stop Colombia from reinforcing its beleaguered troops in its Panama province. The new nation responded by quickly giving America the treaty it sought. While the U.S. didn’t annex Panama, it did exercise virtual sovereignty over it for 97 years.

Panama is in the geopolitical backyard of the USA. It’s inside America’s sphere of influence, just as Crimea is inside Russia’s. I don’t say this to justify the imperialistic behavior of either superpower, but rather to suggest that it’s nothing new. Nor should it be unexpected.

Over the past century, every time one superpower acted badly in its sphere of influence, the other bashed its conduct. When Russia created the Soviet Union through the military conquest and political subjugation of Eastern Europe, the U.S. and its allies bemoaned its totalitarianism.

At the same time, the U.S. has stretched its sphere of influence – getting involved in the affairs of nations in the American hemisphere from Mexico to Argentina. Sometimes, U.S. presidents used military force, and other times they employed covert actions to exercise control over the affairs of countries in its backyard.

In agreeing to annex Crimea, Putin said he acted to keep NATO, the military wing of the European Union, out of Russia’s backyard. “We are against having (NATO) … behaving as the master of the house outside our fence, next to our home or on our historical territory,” he said.

In 1912, President William Howard Taft made a similar claim of U.S. dominance in America’s backyard. “The day is not far distant when the Stars and Stripes at three equidistant points will mark our territory: one at the North Pole, another at the Panama Canal and the third at the South Pole. The whole hemisphere will be ours in fact as, by virtue of our superiority of race, it already is ours morally,” he said.

In truth, there is little to suggest that the U.S. today is any more willing to give up its claim to hegemony over its backyard than Russia is now exercising over its neighborhood.

And as long as this is so, neither country can take the moral high ground on this issue.

DeWayne Wickham, dean of Morgan State University’s School of Global Journalism and Communication, writes on Tuesdays for USA TODAY.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38071.htm

Western Unity Against Russia a Masterpiece of Illusion

By Finian Cunningham 

March 27, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “SCF“-  When US President Barack Obama opened his tour of Europe this week it had the unmistakable choreography of a scripted set piece: lights, camera, action etc. The storyline is a familiar trope. America, the shining beacon of democracy and human rights, comes to the rescue of European damsels in distress just before they are ravaged by bestial European recidivism for war.

European political figures of increasingly low caliber are indulging this American parody of reality by appearing to unite around Obama’s call for tougher sanctions against Russia. Britain’s David Cameron and his German and French counterparts, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, issued warnings of imposing economic penalties on Russian businesses and industries. Lots of bombast and melodrama were on cue, but there was a distinct lack of guts to follow.

For Obama’s European visit this week it seemed more than a coincidence that the president made his first public statement from an Amsterdam museum. The choice of such a rarefied venue to launch Obama’s shuttle diplomacy may at first seem odd.

As the Washington Post reported: “President Obama delved into a day of diplomacy Monday as he sought to rally the international community around efforts to isolate Russia following its incursion into Ukraine”.

And yet the US president chooses a museum to begin this seemingly important diplomatic week? It was Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum where he pronounced on international law and the need for a unified response to sanction Russian “violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of other nations”.

The American leader’s utterances were made while standing in front of Rembrandt’s masterpiece, The Night Watch. Completed in 1642, the life-size portrait of Dutch soldiers is considered to be among the world’s finest art collection. The painting, by the way, had to be put into secret storage between 1939-45 to save it from damage during World War II.

Obama declared: “Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people; we’re united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far”.

The subliminal message here is: Washington is coming to Europe as a rallying force for good, to defend democratic principles, civilized values and to defeat barbarity. Obama’s presumption has a deep resonance with American mythology of “exceptionalism” and benign power.

American actor-director George Clooney’s new World War Two film, Monuments Men, is an example of this syrupy American vanity and travesty of history. Clooney’s latest film –– about how a specially assigned American team led a mission to save European art collections from Nazi looting – tends to reinforce the American myth that it was they who rescued Europe from savage war and destruction during the 20th century. American intervention in the First and Second World Wars is, in the “exceptional” American national mythology, portrayed as a noble sacrifice that pulled Europe back from the brink of nihilism to the light of liberal democracy.

Echoing this contrived chorus line, the Western media are casting Russia, led by Vladimir Putin, as the biggest threat to European peace since the end of the Cold War more than 20 years ago. Never mind the inescapable fact that it was Soviet Russia that largely defeated German fascism in 1945.

But between the simplistic lines, there is plenty of evidence that the Washington-led allies are far from united or confident about their handling of Russia and the recent upheaval over Ukraine.

Firstly, there is a crisis of legitimacy for the so-called Western leaders. When the members of the Group of Seven were later photographed in The Hague huddled around a table with little flags indicating their nationalities, the gathering had all the gravitas of a school canteen. The G7 statement on the cancellation of the planned Group of Eight summit in Russia’s Sochi said: “We will suspend our participation in the G8 until Russia changes course and the environment comes back to where the G8 is able to have a meaningful discussion”.

That doesn’t sound like a statement with conviction. “We will suspend our participation…”, not “we ban Russia”, betrays a lot of anxious horse-trading among the elitist club to come up with a “unified” statement.

The crisis in legitimacy for Washington and its coterie of allies stems from the fact that these countries are no longer the economic powers that they once were. The centre of global economic gravity is shifting to the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, among other emerging economies. Asia, Africa and Latin America are the future; North America and Europe are the past.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was not engaging in churlish politics of envy when he shrugged off the G8 forum as a redundant entity anyway. It is fact.

Thus, from this Western club, the threat of economic sanctions against Russia for alleged violations over Ukraine sounds decidedly hollow and impotent.

The Western crisis of political legitimacy is also manifest among its own public. This week saw a hammering for France’s ruling Socialist Party in local elections and the rise of the anti-establishment and deeply Euro-skeptic National Front. French President Francois Hollande’s personal poll rating has hit an all-time low, and this same chronic disaffection with the political class can be seen in other Western states too. Stagnant economies and record levels of poverty and unemployment are undermining the authority of incumbent Western leaders and governments.

So, despite attempts to muster gravitas and purpose over events in Ukraine and alleged wrongdoing by Russia, the Western public has no appetite to listen to sanctimonious political sermons. How can these politicians find the urgency and financial wherewithal to suddenly throw billions of dollars at Ukraine, when there is so much social need neglected closer to home?

Public disaffection with national governments is extended to the supranational European Union. This also explains the dramatic rise in the National Front in France and the growing popularity of similar anti-EU nationalistic parties elsewhere across Europe. A common theme is contempt for aloof European bureaucrats, who seem more interested in EU enlargement in tandem with ever-more economic austerity for citizens.

The notion that reviled European figures, such as Cameron and Hollande, are photographed with equally despised European bureaucrats Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso – and that this image is supposed to somehow represent a strong, united popular front for American-led sanctions against Russia is laughable and illusory.

This cabal of politicians may have the appearance of unity, but what does such elite “unity” mean when they are increasingly diminished in the eyes of their own populations and the rest of the world?

Even within this cabal, the apparent unity is unconvincing. The tougher sanctions that Washington has been pushing for have so far not been adopted by the European Union – despite the rhetoric.

Notably, German chancellor Angela Merkel pointedly refused to take the provocative line of “banning” Russia from the G8, which Washington, London and Paris would have preferred. Merkel contradicted the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who was earlier insisting that Russia had been suspended from the forum.

Merkel’s less confrontational attitude was also reiterated by Italian Foreign Minister, Frederica Mogherini, who reminded everyone that Russia is “an important [trading] partner” and that a forum of dialogue should not be closed.

Away from the G7 clique, both the Finnish and Belgian governments also cautioned against diplomatic confrontation with Moscow. EU and NATO member Norway said that it was canceling bilateral military arrangements with Russia, but it reportedly added that other areas of relations with Russia were to remain normal. Swiss President Didier Burkhalter said that his country would not be implementing US or EU sanctions against Russian financiers.

Many of the 300 million or so European citizens – in spite of the official attitude of some leaders – are well aware of the importance of bilateral trade with Russia. EU trade with Russia is tenfold the volume that exists between the US and Russia.

Top of the EU-Russian trade is oil and gas, which accounts for some one-third of average EU supply. In the eastern part of the bloc, the Russian supply of gas constitutes 80-100 per cent of total consumption.

Germany’s commercial bond with Russia is of strategic importance, not just for Germany but for the rest of Europe too. German businesses sold $60 billion-worth of goods to Russia last year. Not surprisingly, the German business class is vociferously opposed to any further ratcheting up of sanctions against Russia. Germany’s export group, BGA, says any such move would be “catastrophic” for the more than 6,000 German companies that do business there.

Another German business figure, Eckhard Cordes, the head of the Eastern Committee, a powerful Russia-oriented business lobby, also expressed apprehension at the impact of sanctions. He told German media: “We have a strategic partnership?.?.?.?to bring our peoples together. And now we want to cover ourselves with sanctions? I find that difficult to imagine”.

That liability for Europe’s largest economy is an onerous constraint on Merkel. Der Spiegel commented on Merkel’s dilemma: “Her election victory last autumn was partly the result of her promise to protect Germany from unpleasantness related to the euro [currency] crisis. That is what they are now expecting from Berlin’s course on the Ukraine crisis: security and stability”.

Across Europe, businessmen, industrialists, workers and general public understand that the bravado of economic sanctions against Russia – articulated by an increasingly unrepresentative and illegitimate political class – will hurt them the most – in their daily lives. The wider public knows that belligerent elites in Washington, London, Paris and Brussels have much less to lose from pursuing a confrontation with Russia.

Perhaps in decades past, nations could be rallied around a flag with jingoistic political speeches. In today’s globalized economy, that kind of patronizing influence has expired, and any attempt to revive it is viewed with even more contempt.

Paolo Scaroni, the head of Italian energy giant ENI, told the Financial Times in blunt terms: “We need Russian gas every day. They need our money every year or two years. If, in the middle of a tough winter, we don’t have Russian gas, we are in trouble. But Russia is not in trouble if they get our money the day after”.

Scaroni also confirmed what other energy analysts have said recently, namely, that the South Stream natural gas project from Russia to Europe has been thrown into uncertainty over the Ukraine tensions between Moscow and Brussels.

That project promised to boost gas supplies to the EU, which would probably have lowered costs to consumers. Now, thanks to the saber rattling of Washington and its tiny club of EU “leaders”, that project is in jeopardy.

What this points to is a huge disconnect between politicians in Washington and Europe and the wider population. That disconnect stems from deep economic and social issues related to the demise of capitalist society, but the latest debacle with Russia over Ukraine is bringing the public disaffection to the fore.

The Western public also knows that the Western news media are not telling the full story. The latter seem to be more committed to purveying a self-serving narrative for an elitist political agenda rather than revealing what is really at stake with regard to Ukraine.

Russian security measures on its border with Western-destabilized Ukraine and in the constitutionally reunited southern province of Crimea are distorted as monstrous acts of aggression. Russia’s legitimate cautionary national security measures are presented as an evil specter threatening to “splinter Europe” – in the words of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

This cartoon-like portrayal is bereft of salient facts, facts that are known to the public from its access to alternative news media. Such as the fact that Washington and its European allies are the ones who initiated the unrest over Ukraine by overseeing a coup d’état in Kiev on February 23 – after three months of orchestrated street violence. It is Western governments that have violated international law and sovereignty – and not for the first time. The new unelected Western-backed regime in Kiev is composed of neo-Nazis and other fascists who have unleashed chaos and violence across Ukraine – the latest examples being attacks on pro-Russian officials and property, armed robberies of Russia-bound trains and the harassment of neutral media services.

There have been calls for mass murder and terrorism against Russian people by the coup plotters, including the Western elites’ darling pro-democracy princess, Yulia Timoshenko, who was recently caught relishing the idea of “whacking” Russians and turning Russian territory into ash from a nuclear strike.

But don’t let facts get in the way of a good story, as the Western elites might say. And that story is that Europe is nearly at war again because of “old barbaric habits”. What’s more, it is America – “the brave, democratic America” – that is once again bringing Europe back to civilized peace and harmony, this time from Russian despotism, as opposed to Nazi fascism of before.

The trouble for Washington and its elite European allies is that the wider public is not buying this hackneyed narrative. The wider public rightly see US-led NATO aggression and lebensraum in Europe as the problem, not alleged Russian expansionism…

On the same day that Obama was lecturing Europeans about international law and civilized norms, his National Security Advisor on Russia, Michael McFaul was writing in the New York Times opinion pages. McFaul, who was recently the ambassador to Russia, wrote an astounding falsification of history in which he declared that Vladimir Putin was “a revisionist autocratic leader [who] instigated this new confrontation… similar to the last century, the ideological struggle between autocracy and democracy has returned to Europe,” wrote McFaul. “We [the US] are ready to lead the free world in this new struggle”.

This elite Western narrative espoused by Obama and his club of bankrupt European non-entity politicians has by now alienated a global audience at home and around the world. Certainly not in the Rembrandt class, but most people can now see elite Western posturing as a masterpiece of illusion.

© Strategic Culture Foundation

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38076.htm

15 Years On: Looking Back at NATO’s ‘Humanitarian’ Bombing of Yugoslavia

yugoslavia-kosovo-nato-bombing-.si_-400x224Exactly 15 years ago, on March 24, NATO began its 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia. The alliance bypassed the UN under a “humanitarian” pretext, launching aggression that claimed hundreds of civilian lives and caused a much larger catastrophe than it averted.

NATO bombings of Yugoslavia in 15 dramatic photos

Years on, Serbia still bears deep scars of the NATO bombings which, as the alliance put it, were aimed at “preventing instability spreading” in Kosovo. Questions remain on the very legality of the offense, which caused casualties and mass destruction in the Balkan republic.

The Yugoslav Army Headquarters building hasn't been rebuilt after being damaged by cruises missiles in April 1999 during NATO's bombing of Serbia over Kosovo. Belgrade (AFP Photo)

The Yugoslav Army Headquarters building hasn’t been rebuilt after being damaged by cruises missiles in April 1999 during NATO’s bombing of Serbia over Kosovo. Belgrade (AFP Photo)

Codenamed ‘Operation Allied Force,’ it was the largest attack ever undertaken by the alliance. It was also the first time that NATO used military force without the approval of the UN Security Council and against a sovereign nation that did not pose a real threat to any member of the alliance.

NATO demonstrated in 1999 that it can do whatever it wants under the guise of “humanitarian intervention,” “war on terror,” or “preventive war” – something that everyone has witnessed in subsequent years in different parts of the globe.

Nineteen NATO member states participated to some degree in the military campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), which lasted for 11 weeks until June 10, 1999.

More rubble, less trouble

In the course of the campaign, NATO launched 2,300 missiles at 990 targets and dropped 14,000 bombs, including depleted uranium bombs and cluster munitions (unexploded cluster bombs continued to pose a threat to people long after the campaign was over.) Over 2,000 civilians were killed, including 88 children, and thousands more were injured. Over 200,000 ethnic Serbs were forced to leave their homeland in Kosovo.

In what the alliance described as “collateral damage,” its airstrikes destroyed more than 300 schools, libraries, and over 20 hospitals. At least 40,000 homes were either completely eliminated or damaged and about 90 historic and architectural monuments were ruined. That is not to mention the long-term harm caused to the region’s ecology and, therefore, people’s health, as well as the billion-dollar economic damage.

A woman passes a destroyed car March 28,1999 after a NATO missile hit downtown of Kosovo's capital of Pristina in Saturday night's NATO attack (Reuters)

A woman passes a destroyed car March 28,1999 after a NATO missile hit downtown of Kosovo’s capital of Pristina in Saturday night’s NATO attack (Reuters)

News correspondents Anissa Naouai and Jelena Milincic, the authors of RT’s documentary ’Zashto?’ – which means “Why?” in English –traveled through former Yugoslavia to Belgrade, Kosovo, and Montenegro and spoke to people who endured the atrocities and horrors of the war and lost their friends and relatives.

There is a bridge near the city of Nis, which was bombed at the time when a passenger train was passing through it,” Milincic recalls.The tragedy on April 12, 1999 killed 15 people and wounded 44 others, while many passengers were never accounted for.

“We felt the blast and saw flames under the locomotive. The train was blown so powerfully, half a meter from the ground. I don’t know how we stayed on the rails,” recalled witness Boban Kostic.

Our colleague got off the train when I did,” he said. “He was really scared. But another rocket hit and blew him to pieces,” added another witness, Goran Mikic.

Why? Why civilians? Why a train?” said Dragan Ciric. “It still torments me, if the first rocket was a mistake, what were the next three for?” he told RT.

The Chinese embassy in the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade was also hit and set on fire by NATO airstrikes on May 7, 1999. Three citizens of the country were killed. The alliance called the attack “a mistake.” China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and, along with Russia, did not support a military solution for the Kosovo crisis.

A worker walks in front of the remains of the former Chinese embassy during its demolition in Belgrade November 10, 2010. During the NATO offensive against Yugoslavia, U.S. warplanes bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 7, 1999, killing three Chinese nationals, and consequently igniting protests outside the U.S. embassy in Beijing (Reuters)

A worker walks in front of the remains of the former Chinese embassy during its demolition in Belgrade November 10, 2010. During the NATO offensive against Yugoslavia, U.S. warplanes bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 7, 1999, killing three Chinese nationals, and consequently igniting protests outside the U.S. embassy in Beijing (Reuters)

Prior to the military assault, the Milosevic regime was accused of “excessive and disproportionate use of force in Kosovo.” But was the force that NATO used when bombing the sovereign state’s territory proportionate and restrained? Rights organization Amnesty International accused the allied forces of committing war crimes.

“Indications are that NATO did not always meet its legal obligations in selecting targets and in choosing means and methods of attack, On the basis of available evidence, including NATO’s own statements and accounts of specific incidents, Amnesty International believes that – whatever their intentions – NATO forces did commit serious violations of the laws of war leading in a number of cases to the unlawful killings of civilians,” the rights watchdog said in a report published in June 2000.

The alliance dismissed the accusations, saying that cases involving civilian deaths were due to technological failure or were simply “accidents of conflict.” NATO failed to say that they were due to the alliance’s own failure to take all necessary precautions.

We never said we would avoid casualties. It would be foolhardy to say that, as no military operation in history has been perfect,” said Jamie Shea, NATO’s chief spokesman, the Guardian reported at the time.

Bombing background

Former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana ordered military action against Yugoslavia following a failure in negotiations on the Kosovo crisis in France’s Rambouillet and Paris in February and March 1999.

NATO’s decision was officially announced after talks between international mediators – known as the Contact Group – the Yugoslav government, and the delegation of Kosovo Albanians ended in a deadlock. Belgrade refused to allow foreign military presence on its territory while Albanians accepted the proposal.

A US F-15C Eagle flies a mission over Yugoslavia 08 April 1999 (AFP Photo)

A US F-15C Eagle flies a mission over Yugoslavia 08 April 1999 (AFP Photo)

Back then, Slobodan Milosevic’s forces were engaged in armed conflict with an Albanian rebel group, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which sought the province’s separation from Yugoslavia. Former US President Bill Clinton’s special envoy to the Balkans, Robert Gelbard, had earlier described the KLA as “without any questions, a terrorist group.” (The KLA was later repeatedly accused of being involved in the organ trafficking of Serbs in the late 1990s.)

However, despite not announcing the link officially, NATO entered the conflict on the side of the KLA, accusing Serbian security forces of atrocities and “ethnic cleansing” against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The main objective of the campaign was to make Milosevic’s forces pull out of the province. The fact that there was violence on both sides of the confrontation was ignored both by allied governments and Western media – which stirred up public anger by focusing only on Serbs’ atrocities and being far less vocal regarding abuses by Albanians.

All efforts to achieve a negotiated political solution to the Kosovo crisis having failed, no alternative is open but to take military action,” Solana said on March 23, 1999. “We must halt the violence and bring an end to the humanitarian catastrophe now unfolding in Kosovo.”

A police training centre in Novi Sad, in the north of Yugoslavia burns 25 March 1999 after it was destroyed during NATO air strikes, according to the official Yugoslav news agency, Tanjug (AFP Photo)

A police training centre in Novi Sad, in the north of Yugoslavia burns 25 March 1999 after it was destroyed during NATO air strikes, according to the official Yugoslav news agency, Tanjug (AFP Photo)

Racak massacre controversy

An incident involving the “mass killing” of Albanians in central Kosovo’s village of Racak – a KLA stronghold – became a major excuse and justification for NATO’s decision to start its operation. Serbs were blamed for the deaths of dozens of Albanian “civilians” on January 15, 1999. However, it was alleged that the accusations could have been false and the bodies actually belonged to KLA insurgents whose clothes had been changed.

Kosovar families enter Racak mosque where the coffins of ethnic Albanians killed on January 15 were brought in,10 February, in southern Kosovo (AFP Photo)

Kosovar families enter Racak mosque where the coffins of ethnic Albanians killed on January 15 were brought in,10 February, in southern Kosovo (AFP Photo)

A central role in labeling the events in Racak “a massacre” belonged to William Walker, who headed the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission. He visited the site shortly after the incident and made his judgment.

“[Walker] arrived there having no powers to make conclusions regarding what had happened,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazenta paper in November last year.

Yugoslav authorities accused Walker of going beyond his mission and proclaimed him persona non grata, while Western leaders were infuriated over the Racak incident.

Smoke rises over the local red cross office destroyed in last night's NATO air strike on centre of Kosovo's capital Pristina March 29, 1999 (Reuters)

Smoke rises over the local red cross office destroyed in last night’s NATO air strike on centre of Kosovo’s capital Pristina March 29, 1999 (Reuters)

And some time later the bombing started,” Lavrov recalled, adding that the situation in Racak became the “trigger point.” Moscow insisted that an investigation should be carried out. The EU commissioned a group of Finnish forensic experts to prepare a report on the incident. Later, the European Union handed it over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Lavrov said. The full version of the document has never been made public, said the minister, who was Moscow’s permanent representative to the UN between 1994 and 2004.

But parts of the report leaked and were quoted in the media saying that [the victims] were not civilians and that all the bodies found in Racak were in disguise and that bullet holes on clothes and bodies did not match. There was also no one who was killed at short range,” Lavrov said. “Even though I’ve repeatedly raised this issue, the report itself still has not been shown.”

An Ethnic Albanian refugee from Kosovo looks at her destroyed kitchen after she returned to her house, 22 June 1999 on a road near Orahovac (AFP Photo)

An Ethnic Albanian refugee from Kosovo looks at her destroyed kitchen after she returned to her house, 22 June 1999 on a road near Orahovac (AFP Photo)

NATO halted its air campaign with the signing of the Military Technical Agreement in Kumanovo on June 9, 1999, with the Yugoslav government agreeing to withdraw its forces from Kosovo. On June 10, 1999, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1244 to establish the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

In August 2013, Amnesty International accused the UNMIK of failing to properly investigate the abductions and murders of Kosovo Serbs in the aftermath of the 1998-1999 war.

“Years have passed and the fate of the majority of the missing on both sides of the conflict is still unresolved, with their families still waiting for justice,” the organization said.

Moscow’s former envoy to NATO (1997-2002), Viktor Zavarzin, believes the military alliance’s aggression was “a crime against humanity” and a “violation of international laws and norms.” The event that unfolded 15 years ago laid ground to a new era of the development of international relations – the era of “chaosization of international law and its arbitrary manipulation,” Zavarzin, an MP for the United Russia party said at the State Duma plenary session on Friday.

Photo released 11 May 1999 by the official Yugoslav news agency, Tanjug shows a view of a bridge on the Belgrade-Nis highway, 90 km south of Belgrade which was reportedly damaged during NATO air strikes the night before (AFP Photo)

Photo released 11 May 1999 by the official Yugoslav news agency, Tanjug shows a view of a bridge on the Belgrade-Nis highway, 90 km south of Belgrade which was reportedly damaged during NATO air strikes the night before (AFP Photo)

Michael McFaul, who recently quit the post of the US Ambassador to Russia, tweeted his reaction to RT’s NATO bombing anniversary coverage, pointing to dramatic growth in Serbia after Milosovic was ousted.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/15-years-on-looking-back-at-natos-humanitarian-bombing-of-yugoslavia/5375577

2P: The Tables Turn on the West in Crimea

ox281265770633091448-300x210March 27, 2014 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – R2P, or the “responsibility to protect,” was a geopolitical tool used by the West after thoroughly destabilizing a nation through armed proxies to then intervene militarily, enact regime change, occupy, and reorder the nation both economically and sociopolitically. It has been used to devastating effect in Serbia in the carving out of Kosovo, as well as more recently in Libya.

 In Kosovo, the Canadian National Post would report in their article, “U.S. supported al-Qaeda cells during Balkan Wars,” that:

In the years immediately before the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the al-Qaeda militants moved into Kosovo, the southern province of Serbia, to help ethnic Albanian extremists of the KLA mount their terrorist campaign against Serb targets in the region. 
The mujahedeen “were financed by Saudi and United Arab Emirates money,” said one Western military official, asking anonymity. “They were mercenaries who were not running the show in Kosovo, but were used by the KLA to do their dirty work.” 
The United States, which had originally trained the Afghan Arabs during the war in Afghanistan, supported them in Bosnia and then in Kosovo. When NATO forces launched their military campaign against Yugoslavia three years ago to unseat Mr. Milosevic, they entered the Kosovo conflict on the side of the KLA, which had already received “substantial” military and financial support from bin Laden’s network, analysts say.

This reveals that the war itself was initially precipitated by NATO and thereafter expanded through the intentional training, funding, and arming of terrorists imported into the region with the specific goal of creating enough bloodshed to justify NATO intervention and the subsequent geopolitical reordering of Serbia. 

In Libya, in 2011, not only was the West openly funding and arming the Al Qaeda franchise, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), but the so-called atrocities cited by the West to invoke the “responsibility to protect” were admittedly fabricated by Western-backed Libyan “human rights” advocates making the claims. 

Dr. Sliman Bouchuiguir of the US-French affiliated Libyan League for Human Rights openly admitted to documentary makers that the “atrocities” used by NATO to militarily intervene in Libya were fabrications and that the West, not his organization, orchestrated the assembling of over 70 NGOs – which he notes were already well “acquainted.” 

In a video documentary titled, “Lies behind the “Humanitarian War” in Libya: There is no evidence!,” Bouchuiguir openly admits that there was no way to generate actual numbers regarding the atrocities he cited, and that all of his numbers are what he called “estimations” which originated not from documented fieldwork, but from the opposition’s leadership – in other words, compromised, baseless claims made by biased sources, laundered through “trusted” Western NGOs to appear out the other end as fact. 

It was on these baseless opposition claims that NATO would militarily intervene in Libya, where documented atrocities would then actually take place, including the surrounding, intentional starvation, and NATO aerial bombardment of the cities of Sirte and Bani Walid as well as the racially-motivated, genocidal purging of cities like Tawarga.
The Real Threat in Ukraine 
 

Unlike in Serbia and Libya, where the West depended on fabricated narratives and contrived atrocities to vilify governments it sought to overthrow – with lengthy and absurd narratives describing the alleged ideologies that drove each government to commit atrocities that in fact never took place, in Kiev, the US-backed regime that has seized power, openly and enthusiastically embraces the ideology of Adolf Hitler’s Nazism.

http://landdestroyer.blogspot.ca/2014/03/r2p-tables-turn-on-west-in-crimea_26.html

One in three people in the US live “hand-to-mouth”

By Nick Barrickman

27 March 2014

One in three people in the United States live paycheck to paycheck, without any significant cash or savings reserves, according to a paper published last week by the Brookings Institution. While 16 percent of the population—49.7 million individuals—is officially classified as poor, the number of people living “hand to mouth” is twice as large.

The study expresses the fact that the great majority of working people in the United States live in an economically precarious state, even if they are not officially classified as being in poverty. The report categorizes “hand-to-mouth” households as those who “spend all of their available resources in every pay-period, and hence do not carry any wealth across periods.”

Of the 38 million households who live paycheck to paycheck, two thirds do not technically fall below the poverty line. These households “own positive illiquid wealth,” such as houses, cars, and retirement funds, in spite of their low, or even negative, holdings of liquid wealth,” such as cash, checking, and savings accounts.

The report observes, startlingly, that “nearly one half of U.S. households would probably be unable to come up with $2,000 in 30 days.”

The study, entitled the Wealthy-Hand-to-Mouth, includes figures for the U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. Among all of these countries, the US had the highest percentage of its population living “hand to mouth.”

The release of the report corresponds with an earlier study released last month by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) showing that nearly half of all Americans were classified as “liquid asset poor,” in which “If a… family faces an unforeseen expense, such as a broken down car or a medical bill, they have to borrow to cover the tab.”

The report follows the release of a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which detailed record levels of poverty, joblessness, hunger, youth unemployment and wealth disparity in the United States since the 2008.

The study found that In the US, the top 1 percent of the population earned 19.3 percent of all income in 2013, more than double its earnings in 1985. The percentage of people in the US who said they could not afford food for themselves and their family in the past twelve months increased from 13.4 percent in 2006 to 21.1 percent.

The author also recommends:

A portrait of a failed system
[24 March 2014]

Nearly half of Americans living in ”liquid asset property“
[4 February 2014]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/27/whtm-m03.html

UK Labour Party proposes compulsory cheap-labour scheme

By Danny Richardson

27 March 2014

Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband has launched Labour’s Jobs Guarantee scheme, aimed at young people age 18 to 25 who have been unemployed for 12 months or more.

The scheme will last the lifetime of the next parliament if Labour wins the 2015 election. Those enrolled will be compelled to stay for a six-month period at a minimum wage job. Another similarly exploitative scheme will be launched for those over 25 years of age who are on Job Seekers Allowance.

They will be paid the national minimum hourly wage for a 25-hour work week. The present minimum wage rates are just £6.31 (21 years old and over), £5.03 (18-20), £3.72 (under 18) and £2.68 (apprentice under 19). The unemployed will forfeit their benefits if they refuse to take part.

Labour claims that 80 percent of the jobs under its scheme will be in the private sector. Companies that sign on will not have to pay out a penny, as the scheme is fully tax-payer funded. The firms will also receive £500 for each worker they enrol.

With almost one million young people officially unemployed, young people already face a dire future, with little prospect of a secure, decent-paying job. This is due to years of recession and the policies of successive governments, which have bailed out the super-rich elite in the wake of the 2008 global financial crash. Now Labour intends to use young people as cheap factory fodder.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls praised the scheme in words virtually indistinguishable from his Tory counterpart. He said, “[T]his is a tough contract… The government will work with employers to help fund paid work with training for six months. Those who can work will be required to take up the jobs on offer or lose their benefits. A life on benefits will simply not be an option.”

The Labour Party launched its scheme just days after feigning concern for workers employed on zero hours contracts. These can pay even less than agency work. The contracts are based on a more flexible call-out system, offering no set hours. Such contracts run across the major employment sectors, but are most prevalent in health care, retail and the public sector, where many local authorities regularly use zero hours contract workers alongside agency workers.

Labour responded to figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revising upward by almost 100 percent the number of people working on zero hours contracts. The revised official figures show that there are now 583,000 mostly young people on these contracts. The ONS claimed the discrepancy in the initial figure was due to an error committed by another official body, the Labour Force Survey, which claimed in its defence that employees were not registering their zero hours contracts.

In August of 2013, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development claimed that as many as one million workers in the United Kingdom, 3-4 percent of the workforce, work under the terms of a zero hours contract, and that the average hours worked per week was 19.5. The Unite trade union puts the figure as high as 5.5 million. The ONS’ upgraded figure is a vast underestimation when compared to these estimates.

Chuka Umunna, Labour shadow business secretary, claimed that Labour will “tighten up the rules to outlaw zero hours contracts where they exploit people.”

This is a fraud. Labour is not opposed to zero hours employment, saying only that they want to curb the worst excesses. But zero hours contracts are inherently exploitative.

The Financial Times on March 10 wrote of Labour’s proposed jobs scheme: “The policy is intended to combat the Conservative accusation that Labour is willing to allow unemployed people to languish on benefits.” Labour has more than matched the Tories, including announcing a cap on welfare benefit spending and agreeing to adhere to austerity measures already in place during its first year in office.

Previous Labour governments have imposed cheap-labour schemes for youth. In 1978, James Callaghan’s Labour government launched the Youth Opportunities Programme (YOP). This was expanded by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and rebranded as the Youth Training Scheme (YTS). Both were despised by working class youth.

Miliband’s scheme is even worse, as it is compulsory. Youth will lose welfare entitlement for refusing to take such jobs. An 18-to-20-year-old on Labour’s scheme would earn just £155.25 and would pay out a considerable portion of that to get to and from work. This is before the basic necessities are paid for, including shelter, clothing and skyrocketing food and utility bills.

The minimum wage is calculated on recommendations by the Low Pay Commission (LPC). Leading trade union officials make up one third of the commission’s number. In 2012, the LPC voted unanimously for the rate to be frozen.

Included on the commission were representatives of unions whose members were among the lowest paid workers in Britain. The present Trades Union Congress general secretary, Frances O’Grady, at the time the assistant general secretary, was a member of the LPC and voted in favour of the poverty-level minimum wage.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/27/jobs-m27.html

The fraud of Obama’s NSA “reform”

27 March 2014

The Obama administration’s proposal to modify the National Security Agency’s bulk telephone records spying program is a political fraud. Far from curtailing the NSA’s activities, the administration is seeking to expand the amount of data to which the spy agency has access, while obtaining a legislative imprimatur for the illegal and unconstitutional activities of the American government.

Details of the White House plan have not been released, but the basic outline is clear. Instead of phone record data being stored on the NSA’s own servers, the information will be retained by the telecommunications companies, which will be required by law to make it available on demand, in standardized form and on a continuously updated basis. Phone companies will retain call records for 18 months, which the NSA and White House deem sufficient for their purposes.

Requests for data by the NSA will be approved by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), a rubber-stamp body that routinely grants spy agency requests. The NSA will be given access to the data of anyone who is two degrees of separation (or “hops”) from a target, while “targets” will be defined in extremely broad language.

Perhaps the most significant component of the proposal is one that has been buried in the media coverage. The new legislation will reportedly require telecommunications companies to give the NSA access to cell phone records, a central preoccupation of the spy agency. US officials disclosed in February that only about 30 percent of all call records are available to the NSA because of the widespread use of cell phones, which have up to now not been part of the information handed over to the government.

In the end, the NSA will get access to even more data, and it will do so in even closer daily collaboration with the giant companies that exercise a virtual monopoly over the US phone networks.

That the proposed “reform” has been drafted by and for the military-intelligence apparatus is clear from the figures who are backing it. The White House is working closely with the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, both of whom have hysterically denounced Edward Snowden and journalists who have published his revelations for exposing the truth to the American people.

Aside from minor differences, including whether the FISC gives its stamp of approval before or after the NSA collects data from the telecommunications companies, Obama’s proposals are broadly similar to those unveiled by Rogers and Ruppersberger on Tuesday—a plan given the Orwellian title, “End Bulk Collection Act.”

The call to “end the bulk data program” has also been endorsed by outgoing NSA head General Keith Alexander, Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein.

The sham “reform” announced this week is the outcome of an extended political process. Snowden’s leaks, which began last spring, have revealed a vast police state spying apparatus that operates outside of all legal and constitutional constraints, creating a serious crisis for the government.

Snowden has exposed not only the phone records program, but the seizure and monitoring of emails, text messages, internet chats and an array of other information in the United States and countries throughout the world. The US has engaged in international cyber espionage and cyber warfare and targeted foreign leaders. The NSA has collaborated with its partners in other countries to tap into the Internet backbone and access virtually all online communications and activities. It has worked systematically to break encryption methods, while installing malware on targeted computers all over the world.

Top administration figures, including the president and the heads of the various spy agencies, are implicated in impeachable and prosecutable offenses, including the systematic violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. Government officials, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, have been exposed as perjurers.

The revelations have generated enormous popular opposition—a fact to which Obama alluded Tuesday when he spoke of the “skepticism” of the American people toward the intelligence apparatus. The exposure of a totalitarian spying network has severely undermined the legitimacy of the state.

In response, the Obama administration and intelligence agencies have pursued a multi-track strategy. They launched a vicious campaign against Snowden, who committed the unpardonable sin of revealing government criminality. The administration defended the legality of the spy programs, lied shamelessly about what the government was doing, and worked with the media to bury the most significant revelations.

At the same time, the White House has sought to counter popular sentiment by calling for fig-leaf reform measures drawn up in close consultation with the NSA itself.

A significant political aim of the NSA “reforms” now being prepared is to establish a bipartisan consensus in Congress, bringing together the White House and Republicans with Democrats who have postured as critics of the spy programs (such as Senator Ron Wyden, who declared Obama’s proposal “exciting news for the constitutional rights of the American people.”) The illegal programs are to be codified in laws passed by Congress, further entrenching and institutionalizing them, while providing cover for those guilty of criminal offenses. Continuing popular opposition will be treated as illegitimate and criminalized.

Among those who have praised Obama’s announcement is Snowden himself, who declared it “a turning point” and the “beginning of a new effort to reclaim our rights from the NSA and restore the public’s seat at the table of government.” Obama, Snowden wrote in a statement, has confirmed that “these mass surveillance programs… are in fact unnecessary and should be ended.”

In Snowden’s case, one is dealing not with political duplicity, but a lack of understanding of the social and political forces that are driving the police state measures that he has courageously exposed. However, illusions about the character of Obama’s proposals are highly dangerous, for the working class and for Snowden personally. The administration’s “reforms” are entirely compatible with an intensification of the vendetta against the NSA whistle-blower.

The entire process that began with the initial Snowden revelations nearly 10 months ago has confirmed that there does not exist a significant constituency within any section of the political establishment for the defense of democratic rights. This is because the erection of the apparatus of a police state is rooted in the immense growth of social inequality and the determination of the corporate and financial aristocracy to pursue a deeply unpopular policy of endless war abroad and social counterrevolution at home.

A real turning point in the defense of democratic rights will come not from the actions of Obama, the intelligence-agent-in-chief, but through the independent political mobilization of the American and international working class against the capitalist system.

Joseph Kishore

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/27/pers-m27.html

Arab League Summit in Kuwait: Seeking “Solidarity” Amidst Divisive and Sectarian Agendas

Global Research, March 26, 2014

Middle-East-map2-400x277As of now, Kuwait is hosting its first Arab League Summit. The slogan for this year’s Summit is “Solidarity For A  Better Future”. Question is: will the Kuwait Summit ensure solidarity for the region?

 It is a well known fact that the Arab World has seen its own share of regional alliances formed on the basis of ideological, sectarian and regional dynamics. With the recent cases of the Arab Spring, such dynamism has become all the more complicated and thus, regional solidarity is surely a challenging task to accomplish.

 Historical Overview

Back in the 1950s-60s, the Arab World was divided into two factions: pro-Soviet Arab nationalists led by Egypt, and pro-West conservatives led by Saudi Arabia. The division between the two factions was so paramount that Malcolm Kerr termed it as The Arab Cold War.

Alignments changed in the year 1978 after the signing of the Camp David Accord, when Egypt decided to quit the Arab-Israeli conflict. Both Syria and Iraq tried their best to isolate Egypt after Camp David, but the situation refused to remain static. Following the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran, Iraq’s attention shifted towards Iran, and the Arab World witnessed another set of factionism. This time, countries such as Syria, Libya and Algeria sided with Iran, whereas the Gulf States, Egypt and Jordan aided Iraq.

Things soon went out of control when Saddam Hussein, the then leader of Iraq, decided to invade Kuwait. Yemen and Jordan supported Iraq in rhetoric, whereas most of the Gulf States aided the US-led alliance to drive Saddam Hussein out Kuwait. This round of musical chairs continued right until the early 1990s, when the Madrid Peace Conference was held and a dual containment policy was forwarded to keep a check on both Iran and Iraq, under the observation of USA, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt.

The policy of dual containment remained in effect until 2003, when USA decided to invade Iraq and eliminate Saddam Hussein. Thereafter, a new regional factionism emerged. This time, the Gulf States (with the possible exception of Qatar), Egypt and Jordan decided to be the moderate voice in the region, whereas Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah emerged as the new axis of resistance against the US. The war in Lebanon (2006) and Israel’s attack against Hamas in Gaza further widened the gap.

Then came the phase of the Arab Spring revolutions, which made the picture all the more complicated. While proponents of the Arab Spring surely talked a good deal about freedom and liberty, its ideological blindness became well evident. A movement that refused to distinguish between the more moderate Hosni Mubarak and the comparatively radical Bashar al-Assad is confused at best, directionless at worst.

The Present Day

As of now, the region has three major groups, each with its own ideological, sectarian and geo-political agenda to pursue.

First, we have the pro-Shiite camp, which is led by the Maliki government of Iraq and Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.

Second, there is the counter-revolution group, led by Saudi Arabia and supported by UAE, Jordan and possibly Egypt.  

Third, we have the moderate elements, such as Turkey and Qatar, that are trying to server as a balancing force in the region.

There is not much to talk about the first group, simply because has a clearly-defined gameplan of its own — siding with Shiite regimes and factions wherever possible.

The second group, however, is trying hard to keep the eerily confused and horribly chaotic Arab Spring revolutions at bay. Saudi Arabia, for instance, offered to host the deposed President(s) of both Egypt and Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali respectively. Even more so, in spite of its animosity with Gaddafi, Saudi Arabia expressed no support for the Libyan Revolution either. In fact, the only reason Saudi Arabia is supporting Syrian Revolution is because if al-Assad’s regime survives, the Shiite faction under Iran will become a regional hegemon.

The third group, on the other hand, is pushing for peace, and calls for the restoration of democracy in Egypt.

Conclusion

Quite obviously, the Middle East has a good number of challenges to tackle and achieving true solidarity is an uphill task.

The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad, has been trying for quite some time to melt the ice between Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Yet, this three-way battle in the region is way too complicated to be tackled easily and this makes the purpose of this year’s Arab League Summit all the more difficult.

Therefore, as the host country of this year’s Summit, Kuwait needs to mend fences between rival brothers and ensure that regional hiccups do not escalate into a full-fledged crisis.

 Sufyan bin Uzayr is the author of Sufism: A Brief History”. He writes for several print and online publications, and regularly blogs about issues of contemporary relevance at Political Periscope(www.politicalperiscope.com). You can also connect with him using Facebook(http://facebook.com/sufyanism) or Google+ (https://plus.google.com/+SufyanbinUzayr?rel=author) or email him at sufyan@politicalperiscope.com

http://www.globalresearch.ca/arab-league-summit-in-kuwait-seeking-solidarity-amidst-divisive-and-sectarian-agendas/5375337

Obama: Well That’s Embarrassing, No One Clapped

Video

At the end of a press meeting not one person clapped. Seems his popularity in falling.

March 26, 2014

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38069.htm

 

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