Monthly Archives: August 2014
Over the last 40 years occupied Palestine has witnessed a catastrophic decline in biodiversity. Loss of habitat, desertification and pollution of water sources have all been linked to the occupation by Israeli forces.
This summer scientific research led by Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh at new Palestine Museum of Natural History at Bethlehem University was published in January 2014 in the “Jordan Journal of Biological Sciences” and titled ‘Decline in Vertebrate Biodiversity in Bethlehem, Palestine’. The speed of decline in biodiversity due to habitat destruction in Palestine over the last few decades has been catastrophic. Samples in the Bethlehem area have found that of 31 species of mammals commonly witnessed in the 1960s and early 1970s 13 species have already disappeared, including 4 of 7 varieties of bat and 8 species of carnivore. Badgers and the native gazelle are also reaching a point of critical endangerment. Similarly, one third of species observed few decades ago were not seen in more recent surveys.
The human population has not been immune from the ongoing environmental catastrophe. In a 2013paper on genotoxicity published in “International Journal of Environmental Studies”, Dr. Qumsiyeh and one of his master’s students showed the effect that the Israeli industrial settlement of Barqan near Salfit is having on DNA of local Palestinians. In a sample of blood from this community, the percentage of cells with aberrations stood at 4.08%, far above the level that has been considered normal for healthy individuals (0.48% – 0.88%). Such aberrations increase the incidence of cancers, infertility, and congenital abnormalities.
Environmental damage in Palestine is due to Israeli colonization, population growth, global climate change, and unregulated industrial development. Israeli policies have greatly exacerbated these problems. In particular research highlights the destruction of Palestinian villages long structured to be in balance with nature for thousands of years, the creation of millions of refugees living in unsustainable conditions, and bringing in settlers from abroad (e.g. over 600,000 settlers have moved to the West Bank since 1967).
Other problems highlighted in the ongoing research are impact of draining the Hula wetlands, the diversion of headwaters of the Jordan Valley, and the impact of the annexation and segregation wall.
If nothing changes, Dr Qumsiyeh forecasts that the process of decline in biodiversity, desertification and polluting of water sources will only get worse; while temperatures in the West Bank could rise by as much as 5 degrees over the next 30 years and rainfall decline by 20-25%. Only through a radical movement to resist Israeli policies and settlement construction, to conserve local biodiversity and clean up water supplies, can environmental Nakba be averted. That is part of the reason why volunteers established the Palestine Museum of Natural History and its Institute of Biodiversity Research and Conservation.
To join this group of volunteers send an email to email@example.com
It’s 2014, and a national magazine has a cover story about how African immigrants might spread a deadly virus in the United States, thanks to the peculiar and unsanitary food they eat. The cover image is a photo of a chimpanzee.
Yes, this really happened.
“A Back Door For Ebola: Smuggled Bushmeat Could Spark a US Epidemic” read the headline on the August 29 Newsweek, a profoundly shocking image and message that immediately drewcriticism like this:
But the problems of the piece were bigger than just the cover. The piece is built around the idea that illegally imported “bushmeat”–what we would call “wild game” if it were being eaten in the United States–could carry the deadly Ebola virus.
Newsweek‘s Gerard Flynn and Susan Scutti note that “social media have been ablaze with fearmongering,” and they include as evidence a “highly publicized tweet from Donald Trump.”
But is there any evidence that imported meat could actually carry Ebola? On that score, Newsweekcomes up empty. The article cites a “memo obtained by Newsweek that circulated among customs officers and agriculture specialists in 2007 [that] noted that bushmeat is ‘a potential vector of diseases such as Monkeypox, Ebola Virus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and other communicable diseases.’” Who produced this seven-year-old memo? Newsweek doesn’t say.
The magazine’s strongest case seems to come when it reports that while “researchers cannot identify with absolute certainty the cause of the current Ebola outbreak, they do know the strain of virus, while being similar to the Zaire strain, is indigenous to Guinea, suggesting bushmeat was the source.”
But that link goes to a Reuters story that does not appear to say what Newsweek thinks it’s saying. That piece notes that “according to scientific evidence, the main risk of human infection by Ebola or Marburg is not thought to be from all bushmeat, only from infected animals and only from fresh carcasses.” The main expert in the piece, University of Pretoria virologist Bob Swanepoel, seems to be saying this:
Despite the fears over bushmeat, Swanepoel says study of Ebola and Marburg outbreaks since 1976 indicate it is close contact with bats in particular that seems to be behind the transmission to humans of the deadly virus.
The idea that Ebola is spread through direct contact with certain kinds of infected animals and freshly slaughtered carcasses is quite different than the story Newsweek is pushing:
While the focus remains on the passengers of trans-Atlantic flights, there is an additional risk—all but ignored by the popular press and public—lurking in the cargo hold below: bushmeat contaminated with the virus and smuggled into the US in luggage.
The most definitive takedown of the Newsweek piece appeared at the Washington Post website (8/25/14), where Laura Seay and Kim Yi Dionne place the article in a historical context:
Far from presenting a legitimate public health concern, the authors of the piece and the editorial decision to use chimpanzee imagery on the cover have placedNewsweek squarely in the center of a long and ugly tradition of treating Africans as savage animals and the African continent as a dirty, diseased place to be feared.
While Newsweek zeroed in on the wild game risk as being “all but but ignored by the popular press and public,” Seay and Dionne write: “The reason this ‘risk’ is ignored is because it is infinitesimally close to zero.”
During a BBC discussion of the story (8/26/14), host Nkem Ifejika noted that Ebola experts stress that the risks of Ebola exposure come from hunting and dissection–which would seem to undermine the point of Newsweek‘s cover story. The magazine’s senior editor Elijah Wolfson responded by appearing to back away from the article’s premise:
I would say that the risk for contracting Ebola by eating or handling bushmeat that arrives in the U.S. through illegal importation is minimal. But that doesn’t mean it is a zero risk.
That’s a far cry from the message the magazine is telling us–unless they plan on rewriting that headline to say, “Not a Back Door for Ebola: Smuggled Bushmeat Is Unlikely to Spark a US Epidemic.” And replacing the chimp with a photo of a bat. As Seay and Dionne put it:
Newsweek’s piece is in the worst tradition of what journalist Howard French calls “Ooga-Booga” journalism: the practice of writing in exoticizing and dehumanizing ways about Africa.
International attention has been diverted away from this year’s G20 meetings in Australia by the declaration from the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, at their meeting in Fortaleza Brazil this July, that they would launch a new “BRICS bank.”
Created by the U.S. Treasury in the wake of the Asian financial crisis at the end of the 1990s, the G20 was designed to get the major “emerging market” states to take responsibility alongside the G7 for the “new international financial architecture.” This was seen as providing legitimacy for the continuing central role of the U.S. in superintending a greatly expanded but increasingly volatile global capitalism.
This especially included what the U.S. Treasury called “failure containment” in the face of recurring financial crises. With this concern uppermost in mind, the G20 heads of state were summoned to Washington DC, in November 2008 to prevent the first global capitalist crisis of the 21st century from turning into a repeat of the 1930s breakdown of international capitalism. In this respect, the “commitment to an open global economy” in the final communiqué from the 2008 Washington Summit was especially significant:
“We underscore the critical importance of rejecting protectionism and not turning inward … we will refrain from raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services.”
This commitment has been reinforced at every annual G20 meeting since, including the preparatory ones for Brisbane this November. When the finance ministers and central bank governors at their February 2014 meeting in Sydney promised “to remove constraints to private investment,” this met the central U.S. condition for sustaining global capitalism.
This is not to say that the U.S. has ceded much operational control to the G20, any more than it ever did to the G7. The key policy decisions are made in Washington DC where the IMF and World Bank are headquartered, but even more decisively where the Treasury and Federal Reserve are located. The coordinated G20 fiscal stimulus in 2009 was significant, but mainly because it made it easier for the U.S. Congress to accept the Treasury’s initial plan for massive deficit spending to prevent a spiral into another great depression.
After Congress turned its face sharply against this in 2010, the centerpiece of policy shifted to the Federal Reserve’s “quantitative easing” monetary policy, and has remained there ever since. The impact of this was felt as much internationally as domestically, as the Fed effectively acted as the world’s central bank through its role in setting benchmark interest rates and its streaming of dollars to foreign as well as U.S. banks.
There were widespread expectations that – with the great financial crisis having had its origins in the U.S., let alone the subsequent unorthodox “easy money” policy – the “exorbitant privilege” of the dollar in the financial networks linking the BRICS into global production and trade would be undermined. Brazil, Russia, India and China, who were not so naïve as to imagine the G20 would be the venue for overseeing the demise of the dollar, also held their own first summit meeting at a meeting in Yekaterinburg in 2008.
Joined by South Africa in 2010, they soon began hatching plans for their own international bank, autonomous from the U.S. and the Washington-based financial institutions. These plans were reinforced when the U.S. Congress refused to endorse the larger vote for the BRICS in the IMF and World Bank, agreed at G20 meetings.
For Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-prize winning ex-chief economist of the World Bank, the announcement of the new BRICS bank at Forteleza signalled a clear challenge to the U.S.-led world order, reflecting “a fundamental change in global economic and political power.” Fidel Castro associated it with his own country’s resistance to “the most powerful empire ever to exist,” andexpressed his confidence that the BRICS leaders promotion of “cooperation and solidarity with the peoples … in the achievement of sustainable development, and the eradication of poverty,” would culminate in “one of the greatest feats of human history.”
Wall Street, City of London
Yet, the main reason for the continuing central role of the dollar has very little to do with the institutional structure of the IMF, or the greater size of its capitalization relative to what the BRICS bank will muster. It primarily reflects the absence – even in Shanghai, where the new bank will be headquartered – of anything like the depth and range of the financial markets centred on Wall Street and its satellite in the City of London. And it is the ways in which these markets are, in turn, so deeply intertwined with the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve that explains the latter’s dominant role in global economic management.
What is more, the room for manoeuvre the BRICS bank would be allowed from the IMF is distinctly limited. Indeed, to obtain the full benefit of borrowing under the BRICS bank’s “contingent reserve arrangement” would still be contingent on a country having an “on-track arrangement” with the IMF. Indeed, this looks very much like the 2000 “Chiang Mai Initiative” arrangement for currency swaps among China, Japan, South Korea and ASEAN countries after the 1997-98 financial crisis, which was little used and proved largely symbolic.
The alacrity with which the World Bank has welcomed the BRICS bank also relates to the fact that its goals as a development bank look not very different from the resource-depleting, export-oriented economic strategies that have heretofore governed the emerging markets participation in capitalist globalization. Along the lines of Brazil’s BNDES development bank, it might promote the BRICS own multinational corporations, but this stands in sharp contrast with the cooperative socialist principles of the now defunct Latin American Bank of the South that revolutionary governments in Venezuela and Bolivia initially had in mind.
At Fortaleza, a “BRICS from below” meeting of civil society groups and independent unions stressed the extent to which the dominant classes and governments of each of the BRICS members were themselves committed to neoliberal policies, often brutally administered in their own countries.
They were in this respect at one with the recent L20 trade union statement for the Australian G20 meetings, which in criticising “austerity policies and structural ‘reforms’ that reduce wages and workers protection” saw the BRICS as no model for an alternative. Indeed, it noted that “if in emerging Asian economies income distribution had not worsened over the past 20 years, the region’s rapid growth would have lifted an extra 240 million people out of poverty.”
For all the fanfare that attended the announcement of the BRICS Bank at the Fortaleza summit, it will in fact do little to shift the balance and, even more important, the substance of global financial power. There is an old lesson here, which also certainly applies to what will be heard about the “Brisbane Action Plan” this Autumn: real change begins at home. •
Leo Panitch is editor of the Socialist Register and distinguished research professor at York University, Canada. He is co-author, with Sam Gindin, of The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire (Verso). This article first published on The Guardian website.
Historically, this latest eruption of American militarism at the start of the 21st Century is akin to that of America opening the 20th Century by means of the U.S.-instigated Spanish-American War in 1898. Then the Republican administration of President William McKinley stole their colonial empire from Spain in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines; inflicted a near genocidal war against the Filipino people; while at the same time illegally annexing the Kingdom of Hawaii and subjecting the Native Hawaiian people (who call themselves the Kanaka Maoli) to near genocidal conditions.
Additionally, McKinley’s military and colonial expansion into the Pacific was also designed to secure America’s economic exploitation of China pursuant to the euphemistic rubric of the “open door” policy. But over the next four decades America’s aggressive presence, policies, and practices in the “Pacific” would ineluctably pave the way for Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 194l, and thus America’s precipitation into the ongoing Second World War. Today a century later the serial imperial aggressions launched and menaced by the Republican Bush Jr. administration and now the Democratic Obama administration are threatening to set off World War III.
By shamelessly exploiting the terrible tragedy of 11 September 2001, the Bush Jr. administration set forth to steal a hydrocarbon empire from the Muslim states and peoples living in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf and Africa under the bogus pretexts of
(1) fighting a war against international terrorism; and/or
(2) eliminating weapons of mass destruction; and/or
(3) the promotion of democracy; and/or
(4) self-styled “humanitarian intervention”/responsibility to protect.
Only this time the geopolitical stakes are infinitely greater than they were a century ago: control and domination of two-thirds of the world’s hydrocarbon resources and thus the very fundament and energizer of the global economic system – oil and gas.
The Bush Jr./ Obama administrations have already targeted the remaining hydrocarbon reserves of Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia for further conquest or domination, together with the strategic choke-points at sea and on land required for their transportation. In this regard, the Bush Jr. administration announced the establishment of the U.S. Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) in order to better control, dominate, and exploit both the natural resources and the variegated peoples of the continent of Africa, the very cradle of our human species. Libya and the Libyans became the first victims to succumb to AFRICOM under the Obama administration. They will not be the last.
This current bout of U.S. imperialism is what my teacher, mentor and friend Hans Morgenthau denominated “unlimited imperialism” in his seminal work Politics Among Nations (4th ed. 1968, at 52-53):
“The outstanding historic examples of unlimited imperialism are the expansionist policies of Alexander the Great, Rome, the Arabs in the seventh and eighth centuries, Napoleon I, and Hitler. They all have in common an urge toward expansion which knows no rational limits, feeds on its own successes and, if not stopped by a superior force, will go on to the confines of the political world. This urge will not be satisfied so long as there remains anywhere a possible object of domination–a politically organized group of men which by its very independence challenges the conqueror’s lust for power. It is, as we shall see, exactly the lack of moderation, the aspiration to conquer all that lends itself to conquest, characteristic of unlimited imperialism, which in the past has been the undoing of the imperialistic policies of this kind… “
It is the Unlimited Imperialists along the lines of Alexander, Rome, Napoleon and Hitler who are now in charge of conducting American foreign policy. The factual circumstances surrounding the outbreaks of both the First World War and the Second World War currently hover like twin Swords of Damocles over the heads of all humanity.
Below are the top 10 quotes from the Russian President’s speech at the Seliger youth forum.
Unilateral decisions made outside the United Nations are usually doomed to failure, Putin said Friday, while speaking at the “Seliger-2014” annual youth forum.
“Do you remember the joke: ‘Whatever Russians make, they always end up with a Kalashnikov?’ I get an impression that whatever Americans touch they always end up with Libya or Iraq,” Putin told the participants of the 10th forum held on Lake Seliger in Tver region, some 370 km north of Moscow.
“When decisions are made unilaterally, they always turn out to be short lived. And the other way round: it’s difficult to reach consensus at the UN because often opposite opinions and positions collide. But that is the only way to achieve long-term decisions,” he said.
When a decision is balanced and supported by key members of the international community, Putin said, everyone starts working in order fulfill it perfectly.
‘UN won’t be needed if it serves only US and its allies’
Putin totally disagreed that the UN is inefficient. But the organization needs to be reformed and its instruments should be used efficiently.
The reform should become a result of a consensus reached by the overwhelming majority of the members of the organization, he said.
It is also necessary to preserve the fundamental grounds of the UN’s efficiency. In particular, only the Security Council should have the power to make decision on sanctions and the use of military force, Putin said. And these decisions must be obligatory for everyone. Such mechanisms should not be eroded. “Otherwise the UN will turn into the League of Nations,” the Russian President said.
The organization will lose its purpose if it is only an “instrument to serve foreign policy interests of only one country – in this case the US and its allies,” Putin. “Then it is not needed.”
Putin compared the shelling of east Ukrainian towns and cities by Kiev army to actions by the Nazi forces during the World War Two.
“Sad as it might seem, this reminds me of the events of World War II, when the German Nazi troops surrounded our cities, like Leningrad, and directly shelled those cities and their residents,” Putin said.
“Why they (Kiev) call this a military-humanitarian operation?” he said, adding that the conflicting sides should get to a negotiating table.
Ukrainians who did not support the coup mounted by “our western partners” with the backing of radical nationalists, are being suppressed by the military force, Putin said speaking about the situation in the neighboring state.
“We’re no fools. We saw symbolic cookies handed out on [by Victoria Nuland] Maidan, information support, political support. What that means? A full involvement of the US and European nations into the process of the power change: a violent unconstitutional power change.”
“And the part of the country that disagreed with that is being suppressed with the use of jets, artillery, multiple launch systems and tanks,” Putin said. “If these are today’s European values – I’m gravely disappointed.”
Putin said that Russia did not “annex” Crimea, as the peninsula’s reunion with Russia is often described by foreign media and politicians.
“We didn’t not annex it, we didn’t take it away. We gave people an opportunity to have their say and make a decision, which we took with respect. We protected them, I believe.”
“We had to protect our compatriots, who live there (in Crimea). When we look at events in Donbass, Lugansk, Odessa, it becomes clear to us what would have happened to Crimea if we had not taken measures to provide free expression of will to people.”
‘Russia to beef up nuclear deterrence potential’
Russia is going to boost its military forces and nuclear deterrence potential, Putin told the youth forum.
“Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear states. It’s not words, it is the reality,” he said. “We are strengthening our nuclear deterrence forces, we are strengthening our armed forces…We are beefing up our potential and will continue doing so.”
This is being done “not to threaten anyone, “but to feel secure,” he added.
‘Russia is not going to get involved in large-scale conflicts’
Russia will not get engaged in any large conflicts, but will defend itself in case of aggression, Putin warned.
“Russia is far from getting involved any large-scale conflicts. We don’t want that and we are not going to do it. And, naturally, we should always be ready to repel any aggression against Russia,” Putin said.
“Our partners – whatever condition their countries are in and whatever foreign policy concept they adhere to – should understand that it’s better not to mess with us,” Putin said. “Thank God, I believe it doesn’t occur to anyone to unleash a large-scale conflict with Russia.”
‘Russia will seek acceptable compromises on Arctic’
Russia admits that other states have their interests in the Arctic – the region that is thought to contain vast reserves of oil and gas.
Both Russia and Canada, who along with the US, Norway and Denmark constitute the five states with Polar claims, have made legal attempts to secure their rights to large swathes of the Arctic, which is thought to contain 15 percent of the oil reserves and 30 percent of all natural gas in the world.
“We will take the interests of these states into consideration and seek acceptable compromises,” Putin said, adding that Russia would “naturally” also defend its own interests.
The five Arctic states – Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Russia and the US – have for several years now been in a bitter dispute over how to divide up this resource-rich ‘pie’.
‘Crimea recognition will be long and tedious’
It will take a long while for Crimea to be internationally recognized as part of Russia, Putin believes.
He said he finds it “strange” and referred to an example with the recognition of Kosovo independence where a political will and desire were enough to make such a decision “easily.”
He also recalled that in case with Kosovo, no referendum was held: the decision on independence was made by the parliament of the Serbian breakaway republic. In the situation with Crimea, there was both a decision by the parliament and a referendum. In Putin’s view, the latter was a more democratic way for a nation’s self-determination.
Dr Ismail SalamiWashington’s Middle East policies are only meant to incite chaos, to capitalize on the chaos and turn things to its own benefit.
The nuclear talks which were infused with unnecessary optimism are no longer seen by many to yield much fruit as Washington once again reveals its true colors and pernicious intentions by imposing further sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals.
As a rule, Washington has never proved to be a trustworthy and reliable dialogical partner and any idea to the contrary stems from a naïve perception of the realities on the ground.
On Friday, the US government announced the imposition of a new round of sanctions on over 25 Iranian individuals and companies, including shipping firms, oil companies, airlines and six banks despite the fact that Iran and the six world powers Russia, China, France, Britain and the US and Germany are in the process of talks with the intention of resolving the West’s nuclear standoff with Iran.
What seems to be the truth of certitude in this regard is that Iran will by no means back down on its rights in the least bit and that further sanctions imposed by the West will only conduce to the complication of an issue which could be resolved if the West really wanted.
In point of fact, the new sanctions which fly in the face of international laws and regulations have exasperated the Iranians and the Iranian officials and fortified the swelling distrust of the Iranian nation in Washington.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said the sanctions must be confronted because they invade the rights of a nation.
“Sanctions are an invasion of the Iranian nation. We should resist the invasion and put the invaders in their place,” Iranian president Hassan Rouhani told officials on Saturday. “We should not allow the continuation and repetition of the invasion.”
The paradox is that Washington has frequently voiced its concern over Iran’s ‘nuclear ambitions’, saying the country may achieve the required technology to produce nuclear weapons while at the same time, it is Washington which capitalizes on chaos and commotion in the world in general and in the Middle East in particular by funding and arming the Takfiri groups in Syria in cahoots with the West in order to oust a legitimate government and replacing it with a US-friendly. And quite brazenly, it turns a blind eye to the subhuman atrocities committed at the hands of the ISIL Takfiri groups in Iraq and Syria.
To crown it all, Iranian pseudo-scholars in the West come up with their uniquely ludicrous remarks concerning the chaos in the Middle East and seek to downplay the mounting sway of the Islamic Republic in the region and instead aggrandize the waning influence of Washington in the world.
In a recent post, Payam Mohseni who runs the Iran Project at the Harvard Kennedy School said, “I perceived the Iranians to be very confident about their rising power ….,” remarking that “Iran has gained much from the regional turmoil, including in Syria and recently in Iraq with the rise of ISIS. This perception was particularly striking during my discussions with leading conservative figures of the state.”
Apparently, he is far removed from the realities as he is physically removed from his country. By far, almost everyone excepting those bereft of political perception knows that it is Washington that is benefiting hugely from the chaos in the Middle East.
Even American officials have admitted to the fact that the ISIL Takfiris are being supported by the West.
Senator Rand Paul has told NBC News’s ‘Meet the Press’ that the US government has been funding ISIL allies and supporting the terrorist group in Syria.
“They’re emboldened because we’ve been supporting them … It could be Assad [could have] wiped these people out months ago,” the Kentucky senator said.
“I personally believe that this group would not be in Iraq and would not be as powerful had we not been supplying their allies in the war.”
Besides, a document released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that Ibrahim al-Samarrai AKA Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the man who leads ISIL, is an intelligence asset. The document reveals the United States, Israel, and Britain are responsible for the creation of ISIL.
Nabil Na’eem, the founder of the Islamic Democratic Jihad Party and former top al-Qaeda commander, has told the al-Mayadeen channel that all current al-Qaeda affiliates including ISIS work for the CIA.
To the horror of many, the NSA document disclosed that the group was formed by US, UK and Israel intelligence apparatus as part of a strategy known as the hornet’s nest in order to attract the fundamentalists from around the world to Syria.
After all, if the US has recently shown a sudden interest in combating the ISIL Takfiris who are currently on a beheading spree in Iraq, it seeks other ulterior motives. Just recently, General Martin E. Dempsey, US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff summarized his perception of the ISIL Takfiris and said, “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated.”
Dempsey noted that destroying ISIL will require “the application of all of the tools of national power — diplomatic, economic, information, military.”
Then he enunciated that liquidating the ISIL militants is only possible through invading Syria.
“Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no,” Dempsey told reporters at the Pentagon.
To sum up, Washington’s policies on Syria, Iraq and Iran are purely paradoxical and are only meant to incite chaos, to capitalize on the chaos and turn things to its own benefit.
In the final analysis, chaos, crisis, sanctions are tools in the hands of Washington to achieve its sinister goal in the Middle East region in the first place i.e. giving a practical shape to a long-envisioned plan in the first place, that is, creating a Greater Middle East utterly servile to the USA and in the second, to strategically stifle Iran as a burgeoning and snowballing power.
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Dr. Ismail Salami is an internationally published author, literary scholar, Quranologist, political commentator, and lexicographer. He writes extensively on the US and Middle East issues and his writings have been translated into a number of languages. Salami is a former editor-in-chief of the Tehran Times International Daily. He currently teaches English literature at the University of Tehran.
We are currently witnessing an epic and in its own way historic event. The Ukrainian regular army and the punitive battalions are suffering a catastrophic defeat to the south of Donetsk. Only a short time ago the Republics were in dire straits: the DPR was hanging only by a thin supply thread, which the Ukrainian army was attempting to sever near Shakhtersk and Krasnyi Luch; the summit of Saur-Mogila has been abandoned, and Bolotov’s counteroffensive had failed to bring decisive victories.
To many it seemed that the Militia forces were on the ropes and just about to break, which would have led to the collapse of Novorossiya and a military victory for the fascist Junta.
Nevertheless, the Militia managed to withstand the most severe blow, which the Junta dealt with all the forces available to it in the first half of August. The Junta did not conceal its plans, and the preparations for the assaults on Shakhtersk and Lugansk were openly discussed. The bravura level of the Junta’s triumphant reports that came with each new breakthrough of its mechanized battle groups was off the charts.
The first critical moment came when the soldiers of the 25th Airborne Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (“UAF”) and the units of the National Guard broke into Shakhtersk. In those days, the fate of the DPR was hanging literally by a thread, and the Junta was on the verge of a strategic victory. But those few militiamen that mired the Junta forces in urban battles and held their ground until the reinforcements arrived saved Novorossiya from being dismembered into two parts. In subsequent battles, the Junta’s breakthrough was localized and defused, and, after sustaining heavy losses in personnel and military hardware, the Junta’s forces in this location were routed.
The second critical moment came when a strike was made from Debaltsevo through Fashchevka, intended to converge with the 24th Mechanized Brigade that was breaking out of the Southern Cauldron. It was an ambitious plan, whereby the enemy tried to bisect Novorossiya by using as a strike group the units that everybody assumed had been written off. This joint strike on Miusinsk and Krasnyi Luch triggered a severe crisis in Novorossiya because were very few troops in this area.
Miusinsk, which the mechanized convoys of the junta slipped through unhindered, was hardly defended at all, and in Krasnyi Luch some of the Cossacks abandoned their positions. This gave rise to a palpable threat of Novorossiya being split in two and of the militia grouping located in the area of Torez-Snezhnoye-Saur-Mogila being eliminated. But, once again, the courage of ordinary soldiers who clung to the towns of Krasnyi Luch and Miusinsk allowed the Militia units to hold out until the arrival of the reserves that aided in the purge of the enemy from these cities. Having overcome the crisis, here also the Militia was able to win decisive battles, which had far-reaching consequences.
Because the offensive on Yasinovataya failed, the breakthrough to Verkhnyaya Krynka and Zhdanovka aimed at cutting off Gorlovka was liquidated, and the Junta failed to advance toward Yenakievo, in the second half of August the Junta’s offensive started to run out of steam and the Militia gradually began to gain offensive momentum.
Objectively, the situation demanded that the Junta stop the offensive, regroup, pull up reserves, create stores of fuel and ammunition, and then continue the offensive by assembling new strike groups. Nevertheless, political considerations dictated a continuation of the offensive by the same depleted battle groups. Because the front in the LPR on the whole had stabilized, the South Cauldron was routed, and the offensive to the north of Donetsk had been stopped, the Junta continued its offensive in the south, trying to take Ilovaysk and Mospino head-on despite the serious operational risk. And as the more the Junta became embroiled in these battles, the narrower became the front of its offensive. Having begun in early August over a broad swath of the battlefront, already by August 20th the Junta’s offensive narrowed effectively to a single point.
The outer limits of this offensive were the southern slopes of Saur-Mogila, the semi-encircled Mospino and the southern suburbs of Ilovaisk. In the last few days of the offensive, it was reduced simply to a primitive frontal assault on Ilovaisk. Meanwhile, a threat that later proved to be fatal was looming on the Junta’s southern flank. Having finished off the Southern Cauldron and after repelling the offensive on Miusinsk and Krasnyi Luch, the Militia recaptured Marinovka (which in July-August twice went back and forth between the factions) and started to seep along the border toward the Uspenka border-crossing checkpoint, in the process encircling the Amvrosievka grouping.
It is difficult to say why the Junta did not react to this threat – it is possible that the Ukrainian command decided that the only danger in this area was the activity of the saboteur-reconnaissance groups (“SRG”), which, though unpleasant, carried no operational significance. Alternatively, they may have thought that they will manage to achieve success near Ilovaisk and then fend off the threat coming from the south. As a result, the Militia was able to accumulate a sufficient force to the south-east of Amvrosievka, and this force carried out a cleaving strike on the supply lines of the main forces of the Junta that were embroiled in the fighting near Ilovaisk, Mospino and Saur-Mogila.
At the same time, the forces of the enemy advancing from the south were met to the west of Mospino with a strike by a mechanized battle group of the Militia. The Junta did not expect this maneuver because until quite recently they were the ones trying to encircle Mospino from both sides.
By the looks of it, the Junta’s intelligence missed this offensive entirely, and as a result of this oversight a comparatively small Militia force intercepted the main supply routes of the largest battle group of the Junta to the south of Donetsk. This grouping was comprised of the enemy’s most combat-capable units involved in the assaults on Mospino, Saur-Mogila and Ilovaisk, including the three punitive battalions – Azov, Shahtersk and Donbass-1, as well as the various reinforcement units and independent companies. More than 5,000 soldiers, approximately 180 various armoured vehicles, and up to 90 artillery pieces, mortars, and MLRS ended up being surrounded.
Though the difference in scale makes a direct comparison impossible, the militia actually carried out a mini-“encirclement operation” similar to the Stalingrad Cauldron – a classic pincer strike in converging directions. While the Junta’s battle group had no Romanians or Italians on its flanks, but it did, instead, have a gaping hole on one side, and on the other side – barrier troops that were never meant to withstand an attack by mechanized units. As a result, in addition to the unfinished remnants of the Dyakovo Cauldron, the Amvrosiyevka Cauldron was created, around which the militia began to create a ring of encirclement, spreading its offensive to the south and to the south-west and in the process occupying settlements deep in the rear of the southern grouping of the Junta. At the same time, the enemy command structures rapidly disintegrated. Battalion Azov in essence refused to subordinate, and the majority of its troops fled to Mariupol. Battalions Donbass-1 and Shahtersk became mired in urban combat for Ilovaisk and, instead of breaking out of the cauldron, started to demand tanks and artillery from the military in order to continue their assault on the city, which by that time was pretty much a lost cause.
[GR editor’s Note: The following map indicates the military positions held by Ukrainian Kiev forces and those of Novorossyia, 18-24 August]
Because only rearguard unites without heavy weapons remained outside the cauldron, the Militia immediately began to develop the offensive to the south-west of Amvrosievka, toward Starobeshevo, and took it by the evening of August 26th. Meanwhile, militiamen were already moving toward Volnovakha on August 25th. Effectively, the loss of these centres means that here the Junta does not have positions from which it can try to break through to the surrounded forces. The encircled troops, in essence, ended up deep in the rear, far away from the new front line, and with a limited supply of fuel and ammunition.
And this new frontline is a gaping hole for the Junta, which has nothing to plug it with. The remnants of its forces, including Battalion Azov, fled to Mariupol, in the process abandoning several settlements virtually without a shot. As a result, the Militia rolled directly into the suburbs of Novoazovsk and onto the approaches to Mariupol. On the Junta’s side, there is virtually no front from the area south of Starobeshevo and up to Novoazovsk. The Milita’s lack of sufficient troops is the only thing slowing down the looming catastrophe.
At the same time, the Militia also developed its offensive to the west of Mospino, toward Ugledar, Yelenovka, and Nikolskoye. Here the forces of the Junta are few in number, so the Militia’s offensive has been developing quite successfully, albeit not too rapidly. Near Yelenovka, yet another “mini-cauldron” has formed, and the connectivity of the Junta groups that held Donetsk in semi-encirclement has been irreparably compromised.
The Junta has no reserves with which to relieve the encircled group and to patch the massive hole in the frontlines – they are now hastily withdrawing troops from Perekop (on the Crimean border) and bringing territorial battalions of questionable combat readiness to the front. They have also announced the 4th wave of mobilization and are trying quickly to drag ancient armoured vehicles from long-term storage to the frontlines, in order to compensate for the huge losses in personal and military hardware.
Overall, it still is not quite clear how the Junta intends to avoid a complete defeat here. It will clearly not be able to restore the previous frontline, and the only question is whether the surrounded troops will be able to break out (and as they will have to do so on their own, it is likely that they will have to make that decision as soon as possible), and where the Militia’s offensive will stop – they still have fairly limited forces and they are now routing a larger force with a smaller force.
State Border of the Republic of Novorossiya
In the meantime, the once-solid front, which stretched from Marinovka to Yelenovka has now broken up into separate pockets of resistance with intercepted supply lines. After this disaster it became absolutely clear that the Junta does not have the capacity to destroy Novorossiya. By squandering the most combat-capable brigades in systematic offensive operations, the Junta sustained enormous losses and at the same time suffered a crushing, purely military defeat. The southern front has collapsed. Novorossiya shall exist!
We are much indebted to Slavyangrad.org for this report
Original: Colonel Cassad LiveJournal
Translated from Russian by Daniel Mikhailovich / Edited by Gleb Bazov
Facts withheld regarding the MH17 Malaysian airlines crash. Dutch Government Refuses to Release Black Box Recordings
At that time, and without any evidence, all U.S. and NATO officials immediately blamed Russia and the Ukrainian rebels in eastern Ukraine for shooting down the Boeing 777. They used this charge to whip the European Union into imposing sanctions on the Russian economy.
On Aug. 11, the Dutch Safety Board announced that a preliminary report would be published in a week with the first factual finding of the ongoing investigation into the flight that departed from Amsterdam and crashed in Ukraine. The Netherlands was given custody of the flight data recorder, or black box recordings, from the crash.
As of Aug. 25, the Dutch government has refused to release the recordings. (RIA Novosti, Aug. 25) This, of course, immediately raises suspicions that the Kiev junta forces were responsible for the crash.
Questions had already been raised of why the Kiev forces would have placed numerous BUK anti-aircraft batteries in the area when the rebels have no planes, why the Malaysian flight was diverted hundreds of miles by Kiev ground control over the battle zone, and why Kiev air traffic control data and radar data of the flight have still not been made public.
Did the Ukrainian military shoot down the passenger plane simply to create a provocation that could be turned against the rebels in east Ukraine and Russia?
Demands for an independent inquiry into the crash are growing. One petition raises the danger of the U.S. expansion of NATO and military encirclement of Russia and posed the possibility that Flight MH17’s crash resulted from an attempt to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose aircraft was returning from South America the same day.
The media’s silence now and the absence of U.S. officials providing any concrete evidence in over a month from their own spy satellites or radar add fuel to the growing questions and deep suspicions of the Kiev coup regime’s role in the crash and the growing danger of U.S./NATO military expansion.
Paul argues U.S. gov’t more destructive than Osama Bin Laden
By Washington Free Beacon
August 30, 2014 “ICH” – “Washington Free Beacon” – – Former Rep. Ron Paul said he believes the U.S. government had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and has kept this information hidden in a classified section of the 9/11 Commission report.
Paul, who made the comments during a radio interview last Friday, also argued that the crimes of Osama bin Laden were “minor” compared to the harm the U.S. government has caused since the 2001 attacks.
“I believe that if we ever get the full truth [about 9/11], we’ll find out that our government had it in the records exactly what the plans were, or at least close to it,” said Paul, during the interview with Money and Markets host Charles Goyette. “You already mentioned that [the U.S. government] had been warned that something was going to happen.”
However, Paul said he doubted that Bush administration officials personally helped plot the attacks.
“Does that prove the fact that our president and others actually sat down and laid the plans and did this? I don’t think it does,” he said.
Paul also said the U.S. government has been more destructive than 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.
“Our own government did more harm to the liberties of the American people than bin Laden did,” said Paul. “[Bin Laden] was a monster himself, but that was minor compared to the damage done financially, the people that have died. And here we are, 24 years, and we’re still fighting a war in the pretense that had something to do with 9/11.”
The former congressman took issue with the term “9/11 truther,” arguing that it carried a negative connotation.
“It’s politically very risky to talk about [questioning the 9/11 attacks], because the left and the government defenders are really, really quick to discredit anybody who raises any question whatsoever,” said Paul. “They paint you, and they say ‘oh you question this, that means you’re a truther.’ I was always amazed, if you question and you want the truth, how they took a word like ‘truther’ and turned it into a terrible, terrible word.”
Paul repeatedly denied during his 2012 presidential campaign that he was a “truther.”
In 2012, Paul told ABC News anchor Jake Tapper that the idea that the Bush administration knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand was “complete nonsense.”
“I never bought into that stuff. I never talked about it,” Paul said at the time. “About the conspiracy of Bush—of Bush knowing about this? No, no, come on. Come on. Let’s be reasonable.”
In the interview last Friday, the former congressman also claimed the U.S. government was covering up the full truth of the John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations.
“The Kennedy assassination probe and commission, we don’t know the truth about that, and probably 80 percent of the American people don’t even believe that [Lee Harvey] Oswald was the only one involved,” said Paul. “Also we don’t know all we should know about Martin Luther King assassination, either.”
“Russian Invasion” – How long is screaming ‘Wolf!’ having an impact of the Western Populations? – Until Full Spectrum Dominance has been attained?
By Peter Koenig
|“The separatists are backed, trained, armed, financed by Russia. Russia determined that it had to be a little more overt in what it had already been doing, but it’s not really a shift.” Obama, 29 August 2014.
“If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” – Joseph Goebbels (Hitler’s Propaganda Minister)
August 30, 2014 “ICH” – Interestingly, most of us who are seeking the truth are primarily attempting to undo the lies – lies umpteen times repeated, lies about Russian invasions, first proclaimed by Poroshenko, Ukraine’s oligarch leader (sic), lies of Russia not respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty, demonization against President Putin, Malaysian airliners downed by Russia – and-so-on. The latest accusation is that JP Morgan and four other Wall Street banks have been hacked. And the culprit is…. Of, course Russia, according to the presstitute MSM.
It doesn’t matter whether what Poroshenko said and is repeated the world over was based on a translation error (according to the German Tagesschau, the German mainstream TV news) – or whether it is just a conventional lie continuously repeated until it becomes the truth à la Goebbels – the western bought propaganda machine takes full advantage of this hundreds of years old simple strategy of deception.
The interesting part, however, is that hardly anyone on that very occasion is presenting the counter-weight, so to speak, namely to what extent Kiev is assisted by US paid mercenaries, CIA military and strategic advisers and their equipment, all paid for in one way or another by the State Department, CIA, or NATO. And these are facts. Not inventions for deception.
There is enough proof about who caused the 22 February 2014 coup (Maidan) – Madame Nuland, Kerry’s assistant, bragged about it at the Washington Press club – remember the US$ 5 billion investment in Ukraine’s regime change that cannot be let go down the drain because of the f….ing Europeans. She was caught hot-handed or hot-voiced on the phone with the US Ambassador in Kiev.
Ever since that infamous coup, the US / NATO and the EU have had their dirty hands in Kiev’s Nazi killer junta – otherwise the Kiev thugs would have never had either the courage or the military knowledge to advance to the Donbas area of Ukraine, where they were literally ordered to kill their brothers. Some of them with some conscience defected early on; then they were accompanied under threats of life by CIA ‘advisers’. Eventually they defected by the thousands because of lack of food and ammunition and the resulting low-low morale.
It is actually irrelevant whether Russia has troops and armory in East Ukraine. In fact it would be well justified for Russia to defend her countrymen from savage slaughter, as many Donbas citizens are originally Russians. But – they don’t, as Mr. Putin is too smart to spoil his diplomatic assets on a war that is already lost by Kiev.
Be this as it may, why do we, truth seekers, at a time of Obama’s lie exclamations and countless media repetitions not present more frequently the US / NATO invasion in Ukraine and their assistance to the Kiev murderers, rather than always being on the defensive, undoing lies in defense of Russia?
The truth of what the US-NATO killing machine, its vassal EU states and its paid mercenaries are up to in Ukraine, and that they won’t let go regardless of what Obama mutters to tranquilize the world — the truth is in one way or another Washington is committed to its financial and corporate elite to achieve Full Spectrum Dominance, meaning complete subjugation of the world to Washington’s masters, the military-security industrial complex and the war financing monetary system – FED-Wall Street-IMF, the latter being a mere extension of the US Treasury.
The Endgame means encircling Russia and China with more NATO bases, including in Ukraine and Moldova, as close as possible to Moscow’s doorsteps; and, foreseen by 2015, with 60% of the US naval fleet in the South China Sea.
We should not be detracted by the day-to-day details and lies, by the fires that flare up here and there, though all horrible, killing thousands of people; we should not be confused by ‘who is doing what?’ – But rather focus on the Big Picture, the intentions behind the US / NATO killing machine, not so much by denying the obvious lies, but rather by describing actual facts and the long-term strategy behind them.
Obama screamed again ‘wolf’ today, literally shouting – ‘Russia has invaded Ukraine, Russia’s military and equipment are in Ukraine, Russia is funding the separatists’ — then adds, ‘but it’s not in the cards for America to intervene now.’
Don’t be fooled. Obama and his masters won’t go away. He says the same about American intervention in Syria – it’s not the right time, while arming and bombing (as a disguise) at the same time ISIS, created and funded in 2007 by Washington under successively different names to further confuse the public at large. At that time they came out of Turkey as Syrian Freedom Fighters, later they converted into the Al’Nusra Front of rebels, and now they are the ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also called the Islamic State of the Levant.
This will do until the public needs to be again confused with a new group of Islamic terrorists to justify continuous wars on terror – to feed continuously the fat profit accounts of the eternal war lords. But only, if we the people let them confuse and deceive and divide us.
At the same time, Washington’s warmonger-in-chief, encourages his EU puppets to intervene and sending their troops into Ukraine, and imposing still more ‘sanctions’ on Russia. Let Europe take the hit if there is war. Not for nothing are NATO bases spiked throughout Europe, convenient targets for Russian missiles. – One could wonder – are the Europeans blind or just don’t care – or their leaders (sic) bought to the point where they hope to just disappear to America’s paradise when Russian rockets hit their countries’ NATO bases – and let their people smolder under nuclear dust?
We the 99.99% have all the powers to stop these US instigated murderous aggressions, by rejecting the continuously lying and deceiving propaganda machine, by rejecting and refusing to listen to the corporate presstitute media.
A few weeks ago there was hope that German Chancellor Merkel would see the light, would abandon the bandwagon of the ‘sanctioners’, because not only did she get a lot of pressure from German industrialists, but also the German people are worried about their energy supply – especially this coming winter. Germany depends by up to 40% on Russia for their energy supplies.
Unfortunately we were wrong. Madame Merkel bent over backwards to please Obama. The naked emperor convinced her not to leave his sinking ship. – What does he have up his imaginary sleeve? Anything he may have discovered by eavesdropping on her cellphone conversations? – So strong to sway her away from reason to the detriment of all of Europe? – These latest sanctions are backlashing on the EU, especially the farmers, a multiple times harder than they hit Russia. European agriculture and mostly small farmers, are losing billions of euros worth on stalled exports to Russia of meat, vegetables, fruit and other food stuff, because Russia retaliated by blocking imports from the EU. Russia is now establishing new trade routes with Latin America.
On 18 September Obama will meet at the White House with Poroshenko, to be sure he stays in line and doesn’t sway Putin’s way, because corrupt oligarchs tend to be not very reliable. Obama may promise him premature entry to NATO and all the fake fiat dollars that come with it.
It would not be a surprise if Obama were also to receive Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the ‘new’ ISIS caliphate, to assure him of America’s continuous support, if he lets him bomb them, the ISIS troops that is, ever so often, just for show and to confuse the public mind – and, of course, as a disguise to bomb Syria to eventually topple Baschar al-Assad for – regime change.
Obama may also promise the ISIS a key role in the new Syrian government – provided he succeeds in regime change (for now unlikely) – similar as he did to the ‘rebels’ and other Islamic fractions of Libya. What Obama needs are not well-organized new regimes, but civil wars, fighting sections of societies to keep populations dying, and those still alive on their toes, fighting for their daily survival and fleeing across borders into refugee camps of other lands, thereby swallowing up neighboring countries resources and creating anger in the local population – the old divide to rein tactic.
The Big Picture is important. The people need to see it, the End Game – what is expecting them, if they – we, the 99.99% – are not taking actions to prevent Full Spectrum Dominance from succeeding.
Peter Koenig is an economist and former World Bank staff. He worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe.
In 1957, the U.S. and British governments planned regime change in Syria … because it was drifting too close to the Soviet Union.
The U.S. has, of course, already carried out regime change in Guatemala, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Chile, Haiti and many other countries. The U.S. was also instrumental in the recent regime change in Ukraine.
Soviet leader Gorbachev allowed the Soviet Union broken up only after the U.S. and NATOpromised they would not encircle Russia militarily. Ever since 1991, they have broken their promise and encircled Russia.
Is the U.S. Now Trying to Implement Regime Change In Russia?
New Republic writes:
There are now voices in Moscow saying that these sanctions are an attempt to force regime change in Russia.
Richard Becker – of the American anti-war group Answer Coalition – says:
Their (US and NATO) clear aim is to surround Russia, to weaken Russia in the long run [and] to bring about regime change in Russia…
DNA India argues:
Washington’s obvious plan is to get troublesome Putin out of the way. The expectation is that once Russians feel the crunch they will turn against the president.
Regime change has become the latest buzzword against rulers the West dislikes. It was Iraq’s Saddam Hussain at one time, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi at another time and now it is Russia’s Putin. The Russian leader may not be an easy prey.
Former Indian ambassador M.K.Bhadrakumar theorizes that it is Russia’s sheltering of Edward Snowden which is the motivation for the U.S. push for regime change in Russia:
The US is undoubtedly in a punishing mood. What accounts for it? Can’t be Syria. Can’t be Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan. Can’t be the Arctic, can’t be BRICS.
Yes, it has to be the unprecedented humiliation and damage caused to the US’ global standing and foreign and security policies by the Edward Snowden affair, which Washington believes was masterminded from the Kremlin. It’s payback time for the CIA.
Former Associated Press and Newsweek reporter Robert Parry wrote in April:
Now that the demonization of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is in full swing, one has to wonder when the neocons will unveil their plan for “regime change” in Moscow, despite the risks that overthrowing Putin and turning Russia into a super-sized version of Ukraine might entail for the survival of the planet.
There is a “little-old-lady-who-swallowed-the-fly” quality to neocon thinking. When one of their schemes goes bad, they simply move to a bigger, more dangerous scheme.
If the Palestinians and Lebanon’s Hezbollah persist in annoying you and troubling Israel, you target their sponsors with “regime change” – in Iraq, Syria and Iran. If your “regime change” in Iraq goes badly, you escalate the subversion of Syria and the bankrupting of Iran. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]
Just when you think you’ve cornered President Barack Obama into a massive bombing campaign against Syria – with a possible follow-on war against Iran – Putin steps in to give Obama a peaceful path out, getting Syria to surrender its chemical weapons and Iran to agree to constraints on its nuclear program.
So, this Obama-Putin collaboration has become your new threat. That means you take aim at Ukraine, knowing its sensitivity to Russia. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]
You support an uprising against elected President Viktor Yanukovych, even though neo-Nazi militias are needed to accomplish the actual coup. You get the U.S. State Department to immediately recognize the coup regime although it disenfranchises many people of eastern and southern Ukraine, where Yanukovych had his political base.
When Putin steps in to protect the interests of those ethnic Russian populations and supports the secession of Crimea (endorsed by 96 percent of voters in a hastily called referendum), your target shifts again. Though you’ve succeeded in your plan to drive a wedge between Obama and Putin, Putin’s resistance to your Ukraine plans makes him the next focus of “regime change.”
And a former high-level CIA official says that Putin has to go, and the U.S. should assassinate him if he doesn’t leave voluntarily.
But every country we’ve regime changed have descended into chaos.
As Robert Parry warns, we might be very sorry if we succeed in forcing Putin out:
But what would it mean to destabilize Russia? Does anyone think that shattering the Russian political structure through a combination of economic sanctions and information warfare will result in a smooth transition to some better future? The Russians already have tried the West’s “shock therapy” under drunken President Boris Yeltsin – and they saw the cruel ugliness of “free market” capitalism.
Putin’s autocratic nationalism was a response to the near-starvation levels of poverty that many Russians were forced into as they watched well-connected capitalists plunder the nation’s wealth and emerge as oligarchic billionaires. For all Putin’s faults, it was his pushback against some of those oligarchs and his defense of Russian interests internationally that secured him a solid political base.
In other words, even if the neocons get the Obama administration – and maybe its successor – to ratchet up tensions with Russia enough to generate sufficient political friction to drive Putin from office, the likely result would be a dangerously unstable Russia possessing a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons. Putin loyalists are not likely to readily accept a replay of the Yeltsin years.
But the neocons apparently think the risks are well worth it. After all, the end result might finally let them kill off that pesky fly, Israel’s near-in threat from the Palestinians and Hezbollah. But we might remember what happened to the little old lady in the ditty, when she swallowed the horse, she was dead, of course.
Last Saturday, Angela Merkel went to Kiev to pledge increased financial and political support for the coup-installed regime’s war against separatist forces in the eastern and largely Russian-speaking part of Ukraine.
Seldom in recent history – and that is saying a lot – have we witnessed a more transparently stupid, and in the final analysis, suicidal act of statecraft.
Despite what you might have heard or read over the last six months, the goings on in Ukraine have virtually nothing to do with democracy or Putin’s supposed desire to reconstruct the Soviet Union, and everything to do with the US need to eke out a few more years of world hegemony by sowing chaos among the nations, or emerging coalitions of nations, it sees as having any ability to put a check on its now largely unchecked military and financial power.
As Putin’s advisor, Sergei Glaziev, said in a wonderfully succinct manner a few days ago, this is all about the US desire to destroy the peaceful, and until now, quite mutually beneficial set of relations between post-Soviet (and post-Yeltsin) Russia and the nations of the EU.
Why would the US want to do that?
Because the idea of an increasingly integrated economic space stretching from Lisbon to the Kamchatka Peninsula, scares the daylights out of the geopolitical strategists in Washington and New York, as well as their friends in the London poodle pound.
They realize that if peace and commerce were to continue to break out in this way, it could lead, in a relatively short period of time, to the end of the dollar’s reign as the world’s reserve currency, a change that would lead, in turn, to the end of the US’s ability to bully others, especially the Chinese, into pumping up our economy by buying our increasingly valueless – on the level of intrinsic economic production – financial instruments.
The answer? Drive a wedge between Putin and the Europeans by instigating a Civil War in Ukraine, a war which, for readily evident historical and cultural reasons, is virtually guaranteed to provoke the vigorous involvement of Russia. With Russia bogged down in this way, the emerging system of Eurasian integration, sketched out briefly above, will be stopped in its tracks, letting the militarily straightjacketed and grossly indebted US ignore the fact of its terminal decline for another day.
One can see how the pack of cocksure and deeply ignorant arrivistes making foreign policy in the Obama administration, entranced by the apparent urbanity of the geriatric and preternaturally Russian-hating Brzezinski, might sign on to such a scheme.
How could this woman, who spent the first decades of her life in the deeply layered absurdity the Communist East Germany, not see through the ruse, and to the funereal effects it is not only bound, but designed, to have on the 300 million person European social, political and economic project she currently leads in her capacity as German chancellor?
Is she simply dumb? Or could it be, as some have suggested, that the US intelligence agencies had their maws into her neck for a very long time, starting well before they had the ability to read all her email and listen in on all of her phone calls?
As I am ultimately unable to substantiate or deny whether she truly is dim and/or a long-standing asset of the US, I can only speculate about her behavior in this and other crucial matters on the basis of something I do understand: the rapidly changing information environment in Europe, and more specifically, the dramatically increased ability of the US government-media complex to sell its simplistic master narratives regarding “how the world works” to the most educated sectors of continental society.
Over the last thirty years, I have spent a considerable amount of time in Europe. During the first two-thirds of that period, one of the greatest joys of my days there was reading the continental press.
During the eighties, when Michael Deaver, Reagan’s image man, was waging his wildly successful battle to neuter the oppositional vocation of US journalists, and with it, their desire and ability to transmit complex problems and ideas to the citizenry, the quality papers of Europe were still refreshingly irreverent, and quite suspicious of established power.
For example, during this time many writers at El País, practically all of whom had grown up under the heavy-handed Catholic moralizing of the Franco regime, delighted in referring to Pope John Paul II, solely by his last name of Wojtyla.
It was their way of declaring themselves free of one of the oldest and most successful controlling techniques of the established political class: insulating themselves from critique by forcing citizens to address them through the always highly protective screens of “decorum” and “protocol”.
They were especially suspicious of US claims to be, as many now like to say, “a unique force of good in the world”. Columns in mainline papers of both the center left and the center-right in countries such as Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, and yes even in Great Britain (in the Independentand the Guardian) would regularly and quite frontally take issue with the US foreign policy prescriptions, especially those enacted in Latin American and the Middle East.
It is precisely within this then still extant ideological frame that the French center-right politician, Dominique de Villepin, made his impassioned plea for peace – and against US warmongering – at the he UN in March of 2003.
Shortly thereafter, however, all this began to change. Just as intelligent people in the US were figuring out just how corrupted by their relationship to power our mainstream media – with its pompous and hollow invocations of “neutrality” and “balance” – truly were, the prestigious European papers began to ape the New York Times and its ever more aggressive efforts to narrow the parameters of “responsible” opinion in accord with the desires of the financial and military elites in New York and Washington.
Put another way, just as the more critically engaged readers here were coming to understand the need for truth-seeking, let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may, “opinion Journalism” of the type perhaps best exemplified by Glenn Greenwald, Europeans began a headlong rush to abandon their long and quite fruitful adherence to the very same tradition.
Returning to Spain and El País, this change was symbolized the rise of people like Moisés Naim, a one time minister in the kleptocratic government of Carlos Andrés Pérez in Venezuela who has recast himself as a great and wise international strategist, and the enforced marginalization, at the same time, of people like Maruja Torres, a fervent iconoclast who, not coincidentally perhaps, also happens to have a long and passionate attachment to the Arab world and to Arab culture.
This transformation was capped off last May when the paper named Antonio Caño to be its managing editor. In the ten years spent as El País’s Washington bureau chief prior to this appointment, he never met a day-old New York Times, trope, cliché or story line that he did not think was worthy of being retransmitted without modification to the good folks back in Spain.
At the outset of the Bush administration, Donald Rumsfeld and his closest advisors used to talk a lot about their desire to achieve “full spectrum dominance”. I think it is fair to say that most people hearing about this idea then envisaged its application terms of advanced military hardware and/or the strategic basing of US troops around the world. Few, I think, thought of the term primarily in the context of information warfare.
However if we recall a famous anonymous quote (widely believed to have been uttered by Karl Rove) from an article by Ron Susskind in the October 17th,, 2004 issue of the NYT Sunday magazine, we would perhaps be well-advised to begin viewing Rumsfeld’s stated aspirations through this prism.
In that piece, the unnamed White House aide said: “’We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
“We create our own reality”. Is there any phrase more apt to describe what is going on in Ukraine?
There, the US engineered a coup with the help of self-professed Nazis and then openly supported the same Nazi-infested coalition in its efforts to provoke a bloody civil war on the doorstep of one of its two remaining strategic rivals in the world.
And this has been widely and successfully sold in to European progressives – in a way that would have been flatly unthinkable as recently as ten years ago – as a case of brutal Russian aggression!
The European press has always had it pro-American stooges, or as they are called in polite language, fervent Atlanticists, ready to spread the core postulates of the US (and by extension, Israeli) worldview to their readers. I am thinking here of the people like Joseph Joffe and the ever-ridiculous ball of vanity and intellectual superficiality known as Bernard-Henri Lévy.
But for much of the last three decades, they constituted but one current among many other competing strains in the European press.
Since approximately 2004, however, their specific gravity within European opinion-making apparatus – as evidenced by the changes at El País and other similar “liberal” media outlets – has increased dramatically. Now simplistic American assumptions about who is bad and who is good once chuckled at on the continent, are the new normal in the editorial boards Europe’s “prestige press”.
And because of this, the US can now impose its invented “imperial realities” upon Europe’s citizenry with relative ease.
In such an environment, only the most intellectually confident and morally steadfast politicians (a minuscule class in today’s Europe) can resist the need address the pressing “truths” invented in Washington.
Hence, the recent pledges of love and support from Chancellor Merkel to the US puppet in Kiev, Petro Poroshenko.
I cannot explain exactly how this dramatic transformation in the European opinion-making system was effected. But in light of what we now know from the Snowden revelations, I would not be at all surprised if, at some time in the not too distant future, we find that the US poured enormous clandestine resources into a concerted drive to make this crucial change in “consensus management” take place.
By Robert Stevens
30 August 2014
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, through his private consultancy, gave Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev advice in 2012 on how to handle criticism following a massacre of protesting workers.
On December 16, 2011 police violently attacked striking oil workers, killing at least 17 people. Some sources claim over 70 people were killed and as many as 800 wounded. At least 70 arrests were made, including three journalists. Striking oil workers were rounded up and allegedly tortured. One worker was beaten so badly during an “interrogation” that he died shortly afterwards at his home.
The massacre followed a lengthy, bitter strike in pursuit of better pay in Kazakhstan’s principal oil-producing region. The oil workers also called for a pay rise for teachers and doctors, and the resignation of Nazarbayev. They were striking in Zhanaozen (at UzenMunayGas, a subsidiary of the Kazakhstan state-owned KazMunayGas), and Aktau (at Karazhanbasmunai, jointly owned by KazMunayGas and the Chinese state-owned CITIC Group). They demanded that UzenMunayGas reemploy 1,800 workers, sacked because they were on strike.
Video footage of the massacre, which can be seen here, shows a heavily armed column of riot police filmed marching towards and shooting indiscriminately at protesters.
Blair’s letter to Nazarbayev was made public by the Daily Telegraph. Sent in July 2012 on notepaper headed “Office of Tony Blair,” the advice was offered as Nazarbayev was preparing to give a speech at the University of Cambridge that month. Blair suggested the president insert several key passages into the speech in order for it to be acceptable to the “western media”.
The letter stated, “Dear Mr President, here is a suggestion for a paragraph to include in the Cambridge speech. I think it best to meet head on the Zhanaozen issue. The fact is you have made changes following it; but in any event these events, tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress that Kazakhstan has made. Dealing with it [the massacre] in the way I suggest, is the best way for the western media. It will also serve as a quote that can be used in the future setting out the basic case for Kazakhstan.” [emphasis added]
The Telegraph reported that Blair enclosed two paragraphs of about 500 words for Nazarbayev to insert into his speech. The newspaper said, “The words written by Mr Blair but spoken by Mr Nazarbayev with some changes, were widely picked up at the time. They were used to portray Mr Nazarbayev as a visionary leader who had improved living standards in his homeland.”
In his delivered speech Nazarbayev gave the Blair script, saying, “These are questions of democracy and human rights, which must be properly addressed and have energy devoted to them.
“I understand and hear what is being said of us by our critics. But we would like this to be done with a certain sense of balance and an objective valuation of the achievements of my country.”
Blair’s letter congratulating the regime on making “enormous progress” was written just a few months after the show trial began of 37 workers and political activists who were arrested following the massacre. They were accused of participating in mass unrest, the destruction and theft of private property and the use of force against government representatives.
Thirteen defendants received multiyear prison terms, with one, Roza Tuletaeva, receiving a sentence of seven years in a prison colony. Sixteen defendants were given suspended sentences, and five were convicted but pardoned. Just three of those on trial were acquitted.
Blair’s letter to Nazarbayev ended with him offering “very best wishes”, saying, “I look forward to seeing you in London! Yours ever, Tony Blair.”
It is little wonder that Blair looked forward to seeing Nazarbayev at the first opportunity. Kazakhstan has reportedly paid £7.6 million each year to Tony Blair Associates (TBA) since October 2011. A number of TBA consultants have operated in the Kazakhstan capital, Astana, since 2011.
Blair established TBA after being forced to resign as prime minister and Labour Party leader in 2007.
According to a spokesperson for Blair, he “personally receives no payment” for his consultancy’s work in Kazakhstan. Another Blair representative said the payments were “not for PR advice but in respect of a full-time team of people who live and work in Kazakhstan working on the reform programme of the government in areas like de-centralisation and local Government reform.”
Whatever the truth of Blair and TBA’s financial relationship with the Kazakhstan dictatorship, his letter to Nazarbayev is only the latest confirmation that he is the go-to man for advice for all manner of blood-soaked dictators and brutal regimes.
In its latest analysis, Human Rights Watch (HRW) concluded, “Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record continued to deteriorate in 2013, with authorities cracking down on free speech and dissent through misuse of overly broad laws.”
In July it was revealed that Blair is to give advice on economic policy to Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. After taking power in a bloody coup last year, al-Sisi heads a military junta committed to restoring the military-police state as it existed under Hosni Mubarak, prior to the 2011 Egyptian revolution. The programme is being paid for by three other antidemocratic regimes—the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
While Blair’s financial shenanigans are infamously hard to decipher, with one prominent journalist devoting considerable time and effort attempting to unravel them, there is no doubt that he has become immensely rich from his consultancy and business connections. According to estimates, his personal wealth stands at £100 million, with his property holdings worth over £25 million.
His public speaking engagements alone have earned him £9 million, with £240,000 reaped for a single speech in China. His consultancy work is even more profitable. A review of the Kuwait economy by TBA was reputed to be worth £27 million. TBA also has a £1 million-a-year contract with the UAE.
Blair has many intimate ties with big business and is involved in the development of a £6 billion gas field off the coast of Gaza. In March British Gas (BG) announced it would be willing to sell its portion of a concession to exploit the gas field known as Gaza Marine. On behalf of Israel, Blair successfully pressured British Gas to negotiation with Israel over a plan entailing building a pipeline that would transport the gas to Ashkelon, an Israeli city with a refinery.
Among his other lucrative contracts was one with JP Morgan bank, for which he is paid £2 million per year. British Gas group is a major client of JP Morgan.
All this has been carried out while Blair continues in his role as a Middle East peace envoy on behalf of the United Nations, United States, the European Union and Russia.
Blair was second only to then-US President George W. Bush in planning and preparing the illegal decade-long wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq. He remains an unindicted war criminal who has cashed in spectacularly on his heinous deeds. He personifies the putrefaction of a British ruling elite wallowing in obscene wealth and political filth. A mass movement of the international working class against imperialist war and social inequality will leave no stone unturned in ensuring he and his cohorts will not escape justice.
By Hector Cordon
30 August 2014
Nearly two years since contract negotiations opened between the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association (PNGHA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), a tentative agreement was reached mid-August and was subsequently approved by longshoremen last week.
The contract, arrived at under federal mediation and endorsed by the ILWU, contains virtually all the demands that PNGHA made in its “last, best and final offer” in December of 2012, an offer rejected by 93.8 percent of the rank and file.
The grain association sought over 750 contractual givebacks, including the same concessions that were given in January 2013 to the newly opened Export Grain Terminal (EGT) in Longview, Washington. ILWU President Robert McEllrath at the time described the EGT agreement as “a win for the ILWU, EGT, and the Longview community.”
The PNGHA has insisted that it had to receive the same concessions as EGT and the Kalama, Washington port in order to match the lower labor costs associated with the more flexible work rules and to remain competitive with the advanced technology incorporated in the new terminal.
Undoubtedly this agreement will undercut the position of the 20,000 members of the ILWU currently negotiating a new contract with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA). The PMA is aggressively seeking cuts in wages, health benefits and pensions. Although the old contract expired on July 1, the ILWU has refused any strike action and continues to work without a contract.
The new agreement, in effect until May 2018, dispenses with many of the work rules and shop floor powers won by longshoremen since the historic 1934 83-day strike when 35,000 maritime workers shut down all shipping on the West Coast. The eight-hour day is gone and dockworkers can now be forced to work up to 12 hours, without overtime pay. The control room will be limited to management staffing, thereby enabling them to immediately oversee workers’ productivity.
The “supercargo” job, charged with overseeing the loading of ships, is now a management position.
Management also has the right to replace workers who engage in work stoppages. Therefore the impact of the “right” to honor “legitimate” picket lines, participate in stop work meetings, and to refuse work under unsafe conditions is now limited if not nullified.
Most egregiously, the union hiring hall—the jewel won in the 1934 struggle—has been surrendered. Workers’ ability to work at the docks, as before 1934, will now be at the mercy of modern-day “gang-bosses” with management rejecting militants and “trouble-makers.”
The ILWU has, from the very beginning, isolated the struggles of longshoremen while refusing to advance any perspective to unite dockworkers in an industry-wide offensive against the ongoing attacks by terminal owners and port operators.
The goal has been to force through a concessions contract against the widespread opposition of the rank and file. Despite the provocative actions of grain shippers—draconian concession demands; widely publicized preparations for a strikebreaking operation; the declaration of an impasse in December 2012 and the subsequent imposition of their final offer at United Grain, Columbia Grain and Louis Dreyfuss; and lockouts by United Grain and Columbia Grain in February and May 2013, respectively—the union has systematically sought to wear down and demoralize the membership to prevent any rank-and-file initiatives.
In response to the impasse declaration and the imposition of management’s final offer, ILWU International President McEllrath had the four locals continue working the docks: Local 8 in Portland, Local 4 in Vancouver, Local 21 in Longview and Kalama, Local 19 in Seattle, and Local 23 in Tacoma, Washington. The response to the lockouts was to post isolated and ineffective pickets at United Grain and Columbia Grain.
Instead of mobilizing the rank and file, the union relied on the courts and appeals to the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB, under President Obama’s appointee, intervened aggressively to defend EGT, filing court actions supporting the company and seeking to criminalize rank-and-file demonstrations.
Appealing to the most backward nationalist sentiments, the ILWU sought to demonize the foreign-owned grain companies that refused to sign as opposed to the American-owned Temco, which split from PNGHA on the eve of the lockout to sign a five-year agreement. This served to line up the workers behind their own employers. “Ports and workers have a common interest in preventing big companies from manipulating us into compromising safety standards or competing against ourselves,” a statement from the ILWU declared. However, Temco will now seek to activate the re-opener clause granted by the union in order to obtain the same concessions as PNGHA.
A letter from the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the largest retail shippers group in the world, expressed the group’s fear that longshoreman in two major unresolved West Coast contracts, the PMA as well as the grain handlers, could take matters into their own hands. President Sandra Kennedy wrote: “While goods continue to move at an efficient rate through the West Coast ports of entry, each day without a finalized agreement jeopardizes the movement of goods destined for shelves during the all-important holiday season.” With this, she underlined the crucial role of the ILWU in forcing through the concessions at PNGHA.
The ILWU points to the 88.4 percent “yes” vote for the new contract, but neglects to cite the total number of eligible voters, which is around 3,000. With 1,478 “yes” votes and 193 “no” votes, this means that more than half of the membership either refused to cast ballots or voted to reject the contact outright.
Once Temco renegotiates the agreement for its three terminals, nine Northwest grain shippers from Seattle to Portland will have wrested historic concessions from dockworkers through the collusion of the ILWU with the ports and terminal operators. These operations account for more than 25 percent of all US grain exports.
The author also recommends:
West Coast longshoremen overwhelmingly reject grain handlers’ contract offer
[27 December 2012]
By Gabriel Black
30 August 2014
On August 23rd, police shot and killed Joseph Jennings, an unarmed teenager, in Ottawa, Kansas. Jennings’ death comes amid a wave of police killings, including that of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which triggered protests against police violence this month.
Jennings, 18, was shot at least sixteen times, including multiple shots to his back, according to a witness. Witnesses also say there were at least fifteen officers at the scene of his death and that five or six of the officers drew weapons and shot. Jennings was unarmed.
Police claim they had been called to the scene after someone reported an armed man pacing around the parking lot of a hardware store.
At the time of his death, Jennings was suffering from severe mental illness. His aunt, Brandy Smith, told the local KCTV5 news station that “He was suffering from depression, seizures and anxiety.”
On Friday, a day before his death, he had tried to kill himself. Smith said that Jennings’ seizures had become worse and worse, leading the teenager to feel hopeless and suicidal. “He was a good kid and he was very funny … he had a lot of friends and people who loved him.” But, she explained, “He was tired of the seizures.”
Jennings wrote on Facebook, ten minutes before swallowing 60 or so pills, “Tonight is the night goodbye everyone!!!!! It was truly a good ride! And I’m sorry for who I might of hurted (sic) and people that I may of offended, But I love all my family and I hope you don’t hold this against me.” The police who came and took him to the hospital were reportedly the same officers that shot him.
Saturday night, Jennings was released from the hospital. William Burton, Jennings’, foster father, said that Jennings’, after being released, walked over at Walmart. “He was walking back [from Walmart] and [police] said they had a complaint and stuff on him out here making a scene,” Burton said.
Huston Harris, a witness, told KAKE News, “As I was looking, [the police] kept getting closer. They pulled the guns out. They kept getting closer and closer. You could hear them tell him to, ‘Get down, get down.”
Brandy Smith, in her interview with KCTV5, said “My husband was going to tackle him. He was within arm’s reach. They said to get back or they were going to shoot him.”
After police threatened to fire on her husband, he backed off. Then, she said, “The cop yelled out, ‘bag him,’ and then three shots were fired with the bags. I just don’t know how many shots were fired. They shot him in the back of the leg and the back of the shoulder.”
Crying, Smith asked “Why did it take them shooting him 16 times at least for them to bring him down and go and take care of what they needed to take care of?”
She continued, “I was there from the beginning to the end. I told the officers, ‘he’s wanting you to shoot him. Don’t do it, he has mental health [problems].’”
When questioned by a reporter if Jennings’ was armed, why the police shot him, and what danger he posed, the local police chief stated, “well that goes into the specifics … we’re not going to comment on any of the details because, as I said, this is an ongoing investigation.”
Smith told KCTV5, “I never thought it would hit this close to home.” She drew a connection to the recent fatal shooting of Michael Brown, another 18-year-old, in neighboring Missouri by police, “My condolences go out to the victims of the Ferguson incident. I’m living it, too.”
Ottawa, a small town, southwest of Kansas City, had a population of 12,649 in 2010. According to a 2000 US Census, eight years before the start of the financial crisis, per capita income was at $16,840, well below the nation’s 2000 per capita income of $22,199. According to the 2010 census, 91% of the city is white. Jennings, the victim, was also white.
Days before the shooting, Kansas Health Institute published an article entitled “Kansans mental health system under increasing stress: Promise of federal and state reform initiatives remains unrealized,” documenting millions of dollars of cuts imposed on various medical centers throughout the state.
Mental health has been one of the areas most severely affected by the cuts. A mental health center director interviewed in the article, states, “If you go back to the late 1950s, early 1960s, there were 5,500 inpatient psychiatric beds in Kansas … Today, there are fewer than 500 … They’re gone.” The article notes that “more than a third of the state’s 9,600 inmates are known to have a mental illness.”
By K. Ratnayake
30 August 2014
The Pakistani army has intervened in the country’s political crisis in what has been described by some commentators as a “soft coup.” Army chief General Raheel Sharif intervened on Thursday night into the political standoff between the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ongoing opposition protests calling for his resignation.
The protests organised by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of former cricketer Imran Khan and the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) of Canadian-based Islamic cleric Tahir ul-Qadri began on August 15. Protesters have camped near Red Square in Islamabad where the parliament building and main government administrative offices are located. Sharif has held several rounds of talks with Khan and Qadri, but has failed to reach a compromise.
Amid the continuing crisis, Prime Minister Sharif met General Sharif on Thursday for the third time in nine days to discuss the political situation.
The prime minister later denied that he had asked the army to intervene, but everything points to him doing just that. On Friday evening, the military’s top public relations official Asim Bajwa tweeted that “the COAS [Chief of Army Staff] was asked by the government to play [a] facilitative role for resolution of current impasse, in yesterday’s meeting, at PM House.”
According to the prime minister, “The army did not ask to play the role of mediator, neither have we requested them to play such a role.” Home Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan made similar denials, apparently to fend off criticisms in the media and from the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of the government’s appeal for the army’s intervention.
On Thursday evening, General Sharif summoned opposition leaders Khan and Qadri separately for discussions. Following the talks, Qadri hailed the army’s intervention as a victory, saying: “The army chief has asked us to give him 24 hours to solve the crisis.”
Similarly, Khan told his supporters that the army chief has assured him that a judicial commission would be formed to investigate opposition rigging allegations. He claimed that the general had promised to play the role of “neutral umpire.” Khan declared a compromise had been reached for Sharif to temporarily step down for 30 days while the investigation proceeds.
The subservience of Khan and Qadri to the military demonstrates that their protests have nothing to do with defending democracy or the social rights of the working people. These capitalist parties are seeking to exploit popular anger over the Sharif government’s attacks on living standards, police-state repression and support for the US led occupation in Afghanistan and AfPak war along the border region. Sharif came to power not by massive vote rigging, but by exploiting widespread discontent with the previous PPP government.
Both leaders have watered down their demands in line with the military’s call for compromise. Khan is no longer calling for Sharif to permanently step aside. And in recent days, Qadri has focussed solely on demanding punishment for those who ordered the police shooting of his supporters on August 9 that killed eight people. The Lahore police have taken a step in that direction on Thursday by registering a murder case in which ministers, including the prime minister, and police officials are named as suspects. Registration of a case simply means that charges are under consideration. Maintaining the protest on Friday night, Khan and Qadri declared that they were waiting for the Army chief’s next move.
Whether or not the government made the request, the intervention of the army into the current political crisis is an ominous sign that further inroads into democratic rights are being prepared. The military has directly ruled Pakistan for much of the time since formal independence in 1947 and has always been a major influence in Pakistani politics.
Sharif, who was ousted in 1999 in a military coup by former Army General Pervez Musharraf, won last year’s election. He claimed he would strengthen the “civilian rule” and was hailed by the bourgeois media for returning Pakistan to democracy. Over the past year, Sharif has sought to marginalise the military from politics, by taking over decision-making on defence matters and indicting Musharraf for treason.
The government’s actions have created deep tensions with the military. It appears that army is exploiting the political crisis to reassert its authority in political and defence matters. Earlier in the year, Sharif had pushed for a negotiated settlement with the Tehrik-i-Taliban or Pakistani Taliban. But under pressure from the army and Washington, he gave the green light in June for a major military offensive against the Islamist militia.
It is not clear what concessions Sharif has made to the military for its role in trying to defuse the crisis. However, some commentators have described the military’s actions as a “soft coup” that has forced the government to cede powers in foreign affairs and defence issues.
Analyst Ayesha Siddiqa told the Guardian that Sharif would now be a “ceremonial prime minister” for the rest of his term. “Any gains made in the last eight years [since Musharraf stood aside] to strengthen democracy have been rolled back,” she said.
While the Obama administration has publicly warned against a military coup, it has given its tacit support to the army’s intervention into Pakistani political life. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declared yesterday that the situation in Pakistan “seemed [to be] moving towards a peaceful resolution.”
Washington’s formal opposition to a coup is completely cynical. It has backed Pakistani military dictators in the past, including Musharraf, and would do so again. The US is currently supporting army juntas and their suppression of basic democratic rights in Thailand and Egypt.
However, the open seizure of power by the Pakistani military, as opposed to a “soft coup,” would trigger US legislation requiring the imposition of sanctions, complicating the close relations between the US and Pakistani armed forces. The US is widely despised in Pakistan where the latest Pew Research Centre polling showed that just 14 percent of people give it a positive rating and 7 percent have any confidence in President Obama.
Within Pakistan, there are deep concerns within ruling circles that the present political crisis could open the door for far wider opposition from working people. Rampant poverty, social polarisation, attacks on democratic rights, and above all the protracted US-led war in Afghanistan and its extension into Pakistan border has produced seething discontent. That the Sharif government is in strife just a year after winning power is a clear sign of this broader political and social crisis.
By Wolfgang Weber
30 August 2014
This week, the German army (Bundeswehr) sent an initial group of soldiers to Iraq. The mission of the six soldiers is to set up a so-called military liaison post in Erbil to coordinate the delivery of weapons and military equipment.
Although the group is small in number, the dispatch of Bundeswehr specialists to Iraq is of great significance and can be expanded very quickly.
In 2003, the German government declared its opposition to the US-led war against Iraq, which it described as a military adventure. Now it has undergone a 180 degree turn and is sending arms and soldiers to Iraq in order to be involved as the US resumes bombing the country.
It was first claimed that the relief supplies and weapons would be received and distributed by UN staff, but now the government has decided that the Bundeswehr should coordinate and supervise this work directly.
The Press and Information Office of the Bundeswehr announced that the first shipment had been compiled and will arrive in northern Iraq in the next few days. The shipment includes 4,000 protective vests, 4,000 combat helmets, hundreds of radios, mine detectors and night vision devices. The chairman of the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union Bundestag (parliament) faction, Volker Kauder, announced that further shipments would be put together as soon as possible. They will include anti-tank weapons, equipment to de-activate mines, guns and ammunition.
With the deployment of soldiers, the government has established a fait accompli prior to a parliamentary debate scheduled for Monday. It has thereby demonstrated its disdain and contempt for the Bundestag, whose only role consists in rubber-stamping decisions already made and implemented.
The military intervention in Iraq is part of the new militarist foreign policy announced by the German government and German president at the start of the year. It is supported by all of the parliamentary parties and put into practice in the form of a veritable conspiracy of the ruling elite against widespread popular resistance.
The parliamentary debate was announced one day after polls revealed that over 70 percent of the population is opposed to the supply of arms. At the same time, the governing parties made clear that the Bundestag had nothing to say in the matter. The decision was made by the leadership of the Bundeswehr and a small group of members of the government who will continue to decide on the scope and selection of the supply of arms and the deployment of troops.
In her so-called “summer” interview on German TV last Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel categorically ruled out “combat missions by German soldiers in Iraq under any circumstances”. Barely four days later, she has agreed to the deployment of Bundeswehr soldiers in Iraq under conditions that can very quickly lead to combat.
Following its intervention in Afghanistan, the mission of the Bundeswehr was still largely presented as participation in allegedly “purely humanitarian missions” such as building schools and drilling wells. In reality, heavily armed soldiers are then sent to protect the “humanitarian soldiers” and permitted to engage in combat missions. In the end, the Bundeswehr is fully involved in war, utilizing the type of brutal methods that resulted in the massacre at Kunduz (Afghanistan) in the autumn of 2009.
Chancellor Merkel justified the latest army mission with reference to the “atrocities of the Islamist IS [Islamic State] militias” that one could describe as “genocide”. Social Democrat Party (SPD) parliamentary leader Thomas Oppermann even told the Handelsblatt newspaper “that genocide is raging in Iraq with defenseless people in great danger who need help and support”.
General Hans-Lothar Domröse declared that the situation in Iraq was “dramatic”, but that Kurdish militias were capable of “standing up to the IS”. They were able to fight them, provided they were rapidly and properly armed.
Media reports on the deployment of German soldiers in the media have repeatedly emphasized that the UN has warned of “the imminent massacre of members of religious minorities, such as the Christians”. They also stress that, according to the US State Department, the United States, Canada, Croatia, Albania, Italy, France, Denmark and the UK are all sending arms to the war zone. The Czech Republic has already prepared the shipment of several million cartridges for Kalashnikov machine guns, hand grenades and anti-tank weapons with a total value of 1.5 million euros.
The reports of a veritable avalanche of international arms shipments are intended to give the impression that the German military intervention in Iraq is nothing new, and that Germany is in good company. In reality, the deployment of soldiers to Iraq is an open break with the principle proclaimed by all German governments since the Second World War, that Germany would not take part in civil wars or wars anywhere in the world with soldiers and weapons.
This principle was a response to the devastating war crimes of German imperialism in the First and Second World Wars. After 1945, Germany was economically and militarily subordinated to the dominant world power, the US. The collapse of the Stalinist regime and the dissolution of the Soviet Union transformed the situation and exacerbated conflicts between the major powers.
Now, following the takeover of power by the Grand Coalition (Conservatives and Social Democrats), Germany has embarked on a course of militarism with breathtaking speed and recklessness. The ruling class is intent, despite fierce popular resistance, on establishing Germany as a military world power.
By Bill Van Auken
30 August 2014
In an August 29 editorial calling for the US and NATO to adopt a retaliatory policy against Russia over its alleged “large and unacceptable escalation of … aggression against Ukraine,” the New York Times asserts in passing that after rebels in eastern Ukraine “shot down a Malaysian jetliner with a Russian missile … Russia’s involvement became more overt.”
What is most striking about this assertion is that it comes after roughly a month in which the Times, like the vast majority of the Western media, has gone virtually silent on the downing of Flight MH17, even as the most important evidence, including the plane’s black boxes, has become available to investigators.
How is it that the Times can assert as an indisputable fact that the anti-Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine and Russia itself are responsible for bringing the airplane down?
There are indisputable facts involved in the MH17 tragedy. The plane, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, fell in the war zone of eastern Ukraine, and all 298 passengers and crew members lost their lives.
Beyond these facts, there exist different hypotheses as to the cause of the airliner’s crash. One hypothesis, which was developed within barely hours of the disaster, with no more credible support than highly questionable postings on social media, was that the anti-Kiev rebels in eastern Ukraine had shot the plane down with a Russian-supplied Buk surface-to-air missile, a weapon that the rebels denied having or possessing the skill to use.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that this hypothesis found immediate acceptance from not only the Times, but virtually all the Western media, because it was tailor-made to further a definite foreign policy agenda being pursued by Washington and its allies in opposition to Russia.
There are, however, other hypotheses. For example, Malaysia’s main daily English-language newspaper, the New Straits Times, reported on August 7 that compelling evidence points to the plane being brought down by an air-to-air missile and machine-gun fire from a Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 fighter jet. The report cited US intelligence analysts and investigators on the scene as saying that damage to the plane’s fuselage indicated it had been “crippled by an air-to-air missile and finished off with cannon fire” from a Ukrainian fighter.
The source of this report made it extremely noteworthy. The New Straits Times is a newspaper that reflects the views of the ruling party and government of Malaysia, which runs the airlines and which lost 43 of its citizens in the crash, second only to the Netherlands. Yet the report was blacked out by the Times, together with the vast majority of the media in the West.
The World Socialist Web Site does not claim to be in possession of irrefutable evidence explaining the MH17 disaster one way or the other. What is striking, however, is the way in which the media, and in particular the Times, the supposed newspaper of record, fail to subject the facts of this terrible tragedy to the kind of investigation one would expect in relation to a routine homicide in any major city. Instead, it merely parrots the line put out by the Obama administration and the US State Department.
What characterizes the Times’ coverage of this event, and really all events that touch in any serious way on the fundamental interests of US imperialism, is the complete absence of critical distance in relation to the US government and the ruling political establishment.
The newspaper does not function as a “watchdog” or “Fourth Estate,” adopting a critical and adversarial relationship to the state, but rather acts as its partner and servant. One can find this approach in relation to every major event of the past period, from the events of 9/11 to the preparation of a war of aggression in Iraq, through to the more recent series of global interventions and provocations, ranging from Libya to Syria and now Ukraine.
Among the more senior columnists and journalists at the Times, the Thomas Friedmans, Roger Cohens, etc., the incestuous relationship with those at the center of power is unconcealed and bolstered by the self-interest of this well-heeled layer. This same outlook pervades the editorial policy of the paper as a whole, turning it into a willing collaborator in disseminating a version of events designed to further Washington’s agenda.
The motto inscribed on the newspaper’s masthead—“All the news that’s fit to print”—would be more truthfully rendered as “all the news that fits the US government’s propaganda narrative,” and, as the case of flight MH17 shows, when the news fails to meet that criteria, it is blacked out.
The Times’ promotion of the lies about “weapons of mass destruction” used to drag the American people into a war that claimed a million Iraqi lives and killed nearly 4,500 US troops while wounding tens of thousands more, shows the terrible price that is paid when the media plays this role. It becomes all the more insidious and deadly dangerous in the case of MH17, where the issues at stake carry the seeds of a potential third world war.
By Johannes Stern
30 August 2014
The imperialist powers are intensifying their confrontation with Russia in the run-up to today’s European Union (EU) meeting and next week’s NATO summit in Wales. The escalation, which is being driven by Washington and Berlin, is increasing the danger of a military conflict between NATO and Russia that could result in a nuclear war.
The 28 NATO ambassadors came together briefly on Friday for an emergency meeting in Brussels. “We condemn in the strongest terms the fact that Russia is continuing to ignore its international obligations,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. “We are pushing Russia to halt its illegal military action, end its support for armed separatists, and undertake immediate and verifiable steps to deescalate this serious crisis,” he declared.
In fact, the entire meeting confirmed that NATO’s policy is not “deescalation,” but escalation, and that in the Ukraine conflict, it is not Putin who is the aggressor, but the Western powers.
Rasmussen, along with the government heads of all of the NATO countries, conveniently overlooks the fact that Berlin and Washington triggered the crisis by organizing a coup in close collaboration with fascist forces against the pro-Russian Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych. Now they are working closely with the puppet regime they installed, led by the billionaire oligarch Petro Poroshenko, to brutally crush a separatist insurgency in Russian-speaking parts of eastern Ukraine as the first step in militarily encircling Russia and reducing it to a neo-colonial status.
Ukraine’s NATO ambassador and chief of the NATO-Ukraine commission, Igor Dolgov, used Friday’s meeting to demand weapons to prosecute the war in eastern Ukraine. “What we need is more aid, including military,” he said.
Rasmussen went a step further, suggesting that Ukrainian membership in NATO was a possibility. “Allow me to recall the decision reached by NATO in 2008, according to which Ukraine will become a member,” he stated, and added cynically, “Every country has the right to make decisions independently and without external influence.”
Just prior to the meeting, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called for Ukraine to move toward NATO membership. At a cabinet meeting, he announced that his government planned to end the country’s non-aligned status and begin the process of applying for entry into NATO. He added that membership in the European Union was also a goal.
The moves toward Ukrainian membership in NATO underscore the fact that next week’s NATO summit is aimed at preparing for a possible war against Russia. Rasmussen told the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung this week that the summit would strengthen NATO’s provisions for collective defense, authorize a further build-up of NATO troops in Eastern Europe, and mandate an increase in the minimum level of member states’ defense budgets.
“In the future, you will see a greater NATO presence in the east,” he said. “Every potential aggressor must know that if they even think of attacking a NATO member, they will have to contend with soldiers not only from the affected country, but with NATO troops.”
Ukrainian membership in NATO would put a direct conflict with Russia on the order of the day. According to Article Five of the NATO charter, collective defense is triggered when a member state is attacked by another country.
Rasmussen on Friday repeated the alliance’s claims that thousands of Russian soldiers had intervened in Ukraine. The previous day, Brigadier General Nico Tak, head of the crisis operation center in Mons, Belgium, had shown satellite photos allegedly proving that Russia was directly intervening militarily in Ukraine.
Russia once again rejected the allegations. “This is not the first time we have heard such speculations,” said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “But the US has never proven them with facts.”
The satellite pictures were not proof, but “only computer games,” he declared. He added that the Kiev government was nervous due to recent military successes by the separatists. “That’s why there are claims now about a Russian invasion.” He reiterated Moscow’s call for an immediate ceasefire in the east of Ukraine.
Russia is desperately seeking a deal with the West, but all signs point to an escalation by Berlin and Washington. On Thursday, it was apparent that US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had agreed in a telephone conversation on a harder line towards Russia. German government spokesman Stefan Seibert said after the discussion that the two had agreed Russia’s behavior could not continue without consequences.
On Friday, the German government spoke for the first time of a Russian intervention in Ukraine. Seibert claimed that considerable evidence had emerged of the presence of Russian soldiers and weapons.
This weekend’s EU emergency summit in Brussels is set to discuss further sanctions against Russia.
Germany is already leading the build-up of NATO forces in Eastern Europe. On Thursday, four German Euro Fighter jets were moved to the Ämeri airbase in Estonia. The same squadron had previously agreed to provide 100 soldiers for NATO missions.
As German soldiers were being moved into Eastern Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin compared the actions of the Ukrainian army against cities in eastern Ukraine with the siege of Leningrad by the Nazi Wehrmacht. Putin told Interfax, “Their tactics remind me of the fascist German soldiers in the Soviet Union in the Second World War. Major cities were besieged and destroyed by deliberate fire, along with residents.”
The German media, which has been churning out anti-Russian war propaganda for months, sought to dismiss Putin’s statement as a “dubious historical comparison” ( Spiegel Online ). But some of their own journalists on the spot in eastern Ukraine express horror over the crimes of the Ukrainian army.
Wolfgang Bauer, a reporter for Die Zeit, wrote in the newspaper’s latest edition of the siege of Donetsk, a city of over one million residents. Under the headline “In the midst of the battle,” he said: “The Ukrainian army has been firing heavy artillery into Donetsk for days. The morning after we arrived, two men died at a tram stop in the city center. A 14-year-old boy who wanted to visit his friends, and an older mine worker. Splinters of bone and blood covered the tarmac.
“People in Donetsk are dying when they cross the street to go shopping, when they sit on the park bench, or they die while having breakfast in the kitchen. The Ukrainian army is obviously trying to hit military targets with their heavy artillery, based on the grounds of the airport in the north of the city. But they are always missing them when they shoot with their thirty-year-old cannons.”
The imperialist powers are prepared not only to stoke up the devastating war in eastern Ukraine, they are utilizing the crisis which they themselves provoked to secure their geo-strategic and economic interests against nuclear-armed Russia. The enthusiastic pro-war commentary in the Western media makes clear how far they are prepared to go, and where it could lead.
The Austrian correspondent for the London-based business publicationsFinancial Times and Economist, Eric Frey, wrote in an article in the Vienna-based Der Standard under the headline “The West must stop Putin:”
“Negotiations with Putin are currently pointless, because he lies in the face of every negotiating partner. He must somehow be made aware that he has miscalculated, that the West will not accept this aggression. Only then is there a possibility to talk. This will probably only take place with a further intensification of the sanctions, including the breaking off of all economic relations with Moscow, as well as direct military aid to Kiev. Weapons exports, the stationing of NATO troops in Ukraine, and even US air strikes against separatist positions and Russian supply lines: all of these options should be on the table at present.”
Frey knows that his “options,” which doubtless reflect plans that are being readied behind the scenes by NATO and the Western powers, could provoke a nuclear world war.
He wrote: “It is highly risky, because Putin is not the type to back down easily. The growing war danger threatens the already weak economy in Europe, the bloodletting in eastern Ukraine will not come to an end, and the streams of refugees will grow. And at the end of this process of escalation, a confrontation between two nuclear powers threatens. Almost all major wars were the result of miscalculations, at least on one side. This could also be the outcome this time.”
The media is spreading “fake evidence” in the week leading up to the Wales NATO Summit.
The objective is to herald Russia as the aggressor.
What is at stake is a strategic public relations stunt.
Sixty countries will be represented at the NATO Summit in Wales on 4-5 September including the 28 NATO member states.
The media lies “fit the military agenda” already formulated by the Pentagon in consultation with NATO and Her Majesty’s Government.
US-NATO requires “evidence” to build a political consensus at the Wales NATO Summit on September 4-5 hosted by Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron. According to PM David Cameron in a letter addressed to heads of State and heads of government of NATO member states ahead of the Summit:
“Leaders [of NATO countries] must review NATO’s long term relationship with Russia at the summit in response to Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine.
“And the PM wants to use the summit to agree on how NATO will sustain a robust presence in Eastern Europe in the coming months to provide reassurance to allies there, building on work already underway in NATO.” (See PM writes to NATO leaders ahead of NATO Summit Wales 2014)
A pretext for an all out war on Russia under a humanitarian cloak? The West coming to the rescue of civilians in Eastern Ukraine?
In late July in consultation with the Pentagon, NATO’s Europe commander General Philip Breedlove had (ahead of the Wales NATO meeting) already called for “stockpiling a base in Poland with enough weapons, ammunition and other supplies to support a rapid deployment of thousands of troops against Russia”.(RT, July 24, 2014). According to General Breedlove, NATO needs “pre-positioned supplies, pre-positioned capabilities and a basing area ready to rapidly accept follow-on forces”:
“He plans to recommend placing supplies — weapons, ammunition and ration packs — at the headquarters to enable a sudden influx of thousands of Nato troops” (Times, August 22, 2014, emphasis added)
Breedlove’s “Blitzkrieg scenario” which could escalate into a World War III scenario is part of NATO’s summit agenda in Wales next week. In substance it is a “copy and paste” of the draftRussian Aggression Prevention Act (RAPA) (in the US Senate) which directs President Obama to initiate the militarization of Eastern Europe with a view to confronting Russia.
The Convoy of Russian Tanks. Where is It?
In support of NATO’s planned deployments to Eastern Europe, the Western media is claiming without evidence that a large convoy of Russian tanks has crossed the border into Ukraine and are operating under Russian command inside Ukraine.
The satellite images released by NATO show tanks and vehicles inside Ukraine, within an area controlled by Donbass forces. Where did they come from?
While media reports (with extensive photographic evidence). confirmed the entry into Ukraine of a convoy of Russian “white vans” which were part of Russia’s humanitarian initiative, nobody actually saw the tanks entering Ukraine.
With regard to the NATO satellite images, there is no indication as to where these tanks and armored vehicles came from and whether they were operated by the Russian military.
The Daily Mail online featured an unconvincing 20 second video of an alleged Russian tank inside Ukraine (see still image above).
Spinning a Russian Invasion
This is not the first time that the media is spinning a “Russian Invasion”. Earlier reports in June alluded to State Department sources that:
“three aging Russian T-64 tanks had been sent to Ukraine,” and that the Ukrainian government was claiming that there were 10 more tanks. The Times also noted:
Adding to Western concerns, the senior Obama administration official said, artillery has been moved to a deployment site inside southwest Russia and may soon be shipped across the border.
Not only are the anonymous claims of one official the source of the information–they also provide the analysis of that information, floating a slightly-too-perfect theory that Russia is handing over old equipment in order to make it seem like they’re not actually doing so (Peter Hart, Ukraine Tips From Nameless US Officials: Good Enough for the New York Times, Global Research, June 27, 2014,http://www.globalresearch.ca/ukraine-tips-from-nameless-us-officials-good-enough-for-the-new-york-times/5388916
It should be noted that this as well as previous “Russian invasions” have been the object of sizable speculative gains on financial markets.
Where are the alleged Russian Tanks?
While various explanations are put forth concerning the alleged Russian tanks and armored vehicles, what is never mentioned in Western media reports is that the Donbass militia do not need Russian tanks.
In the course of the last two months, the Donbass militia have acquired a significant arsenal of tanks and armored vehicles captured from Ukrainian forces.
Rebels operate a tank in eastern Ukraine (Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
The large loss of military equipment is confirmed by the Ukraine Ministry of Internal Affairs, either destroyed or captured by Donbass forces.
Official Ukraine sources acknowledge a significant loss of tanks and armored vehicles.
Based on a two week period in July, 35 Ukraine Army tanks and 96 Armoured Battle Vehicles were either confiscated or destroyed by Donetsk and Lugansk forces, according to an official brief signed by Arsen Avakov (Minister of Internal Affairs) and V. Gritsak (Head of ATO [Anti-Terrorism Operation])
- Tanks: 35
- Armoured Battle Vehicles: 96
- Artillery: 38
- Aircraft: 7
- Helicopters: 2
- Automobiles: 104
While the above figures do not distinguish between confiscated and destroyed military equipment,Cyberberkut, provides the following data based on leaked official information.
According to Cyberberkut: some 65 tanks and 69 armoured battle vehicles were captured by the Donbass militia over a period of less than 2 months (from June 20 to August 15).
tanks T-64 – 65 units;
infantry fighting vehicles (BMP) – 69 units;
armored personnel carriers (BTR) – 39 units;
combat reconnaissance patrol vehicles (BRDM) – 2 units;
airborne combat vehicles (BMD) – 9 units;
multiple artillery rocket systems (RSZO) BM27 Uragan – 2 units;
self-propelled guns (SAU) 2S4 “Tyulpan” – 2 units;
self-propelled guns (SAU) 2S9 “Nona” – 6 units;
self-propelled guns (SAU) 2S1 “Gvozdika” – 25 units;
howitzers D-30 – 10 units; 82 mm. caliber mortars – 32 units; anti-aircraft mounts ZU-23-2 – 18 units; wheeled vehicles – 124 units.
While we are not in a position to fully corroborate the Cyberberkut report, the figures collected over the period of June 20 to August 15 are broadly consistent with the official release.
What these two sets of figures confirm is that rebel forces in Donesk and Lugansk possess a significant military arsenal and this arsenal did not originate from Russia. It was captured from Ukraine forces as confirmed by official Ukraine sources.
This information is of crucial significance because it refutes the accusations by Washington and NATO that the tanks and armored vehicles identified in Donbass came from Russia.
Moreover, there is evidence that entire Ukrainian battalions have surrendered to the Donetsk and Lugansk militia, Large number of Ukrainian soldiers who have abandoned the battlefield have fled to Russia or have the Donbass militia:
“The 72nd Brigade for all intents and purposes has ceased to exist [in early August] due to ammunition and food rations running out. They held on while they still had resources and then began to exit into the territory of the Russian Federation – at first in separate groups, followed by the surviving remnants of the once full-fledged brigade.
The hardware was all abandoned at their positions, which continue to be controlled by Junta troops that have not yet surrendered. When militiamen would drive up on tanks as close as 400 metres away from the positions of the Junta, there was no return fire – there is simply nothing to fire back with. Some of the soldiers of the 72ndBrigade had no rounds left during the surrender; others had 1-2 magazines per automatic rifle. (Entire Ukraine Military Brigade Abandons the Battlefield and Surrenders to Donbass Militia, The Surrender of the 72nd Brigade, Global Research, August 4, 2014)
More generally, the Western media has failed to cover the war theater in Donbass. More than 2000 civilians have been killed as a result of shelling and bombing by Kiev forces, close to a million Ukrainians are refugees in Russia.
The humanitarian crisis is invariably not mentioned by the media and when it is, the blame is placed on Russia.
Entire battalions of the Ukraine forces have surrendered.
July 18, 2014 – Official Ukrainian Military Accounting of Losses for July 9-15, 2014
TOTAL UKRAINIAN LOSSES
- Killed in Action: 1600
- Wounded in Action: 4723
- Tanks: 35
- Armoured Battle Vehicles: 96
- Artillery: 38
- Aircraft: 7
- Helicopters: 2
- Automobiles: 104
TOTAL MILITIA LOSSES
- Killed in Action: 48
- Wounded in Action: 64
- Tanks: 2
- Armoured Battle Vehicles: 0
- Artillery: 5
- Automobiles: 8
TOTAL CIVILIAN LOSSES
- Killed: 496
- Wounded: 762
SIGNED & SUBMITTED BY: Arsen Avakov (Minister of Internal Affairs) and V. Gritsak (Head of ATO)
Annex II Cyberberkut Report (Translated from Russian)
Having access to classified information of Ukrainian security services, we are able to confirm that the fratricidal war led by the Kiev regime is from a military standpoint in an impasse. The Kiev forces have experienced significant losses.
From the new documents, we are able to confirm that from 8 to 15th of August, the Army of the Southeast has captured:
tanks T-64 – 18 units;
infantry fighting vehicles (BMP) – 24 units;
armored personnel carriers (BTR) – 11 units;
combat reconnaissance patrol vehicles (BRDM) – 2 units; airborne combat vehicles (BMD) – 9 units;
multiple artillery rocket systems (RSZO) BM27 “Uragan” – 2 units;
self-propelled guns (SAU) 2S4 “Tyulpan” – 2 units; self-propelled guns (SAU) 2S9 “Nona” – 2 units;
self-propelled guns (SAU) 2S1 “Gvozdika” – 10 units; 82 mm. caliber mortars – 6 units;
anti-aircraft mounts ZU-23-2 – 3 units; wheeled vehicles – 44 units.
In total, from June 20 to August 15 during the punitive action, according to the reports of the Ukrainian military, the militia forces captured:
tanks T-64 – 65 units; infantry fighting vehicles (BMP) – 69 units;
armored personnel carriers (BTR) – 39 units;
combat reconnaissance patrol vehicles (BRDM) – 2 units;
airborne combat vehicles (BMD) – 9 units;
multiple artillery rocket systems (RSZO) BM27 Uragan – 2 units;
self-propelled guns (SAU) 2S4 “Tyulpan” – 2 units;
self-propelled guns (SAU) 2S9 “Nona” – 6 units;
self-propelled guns (SAU) 2S1 “Gvozdika” – 25 units;
howitzers D-30 – 10 units; 82 mm. caliber mortars – 32 units; anti-aircraft mounts ZU-23-2 – 18 units; wheeled vehicles – 124 units.
By Samantha Power
|Full transcript of remarks made by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at a Security Council Session on Ukraine, August 28, 2014.|
August 29, 2014 “ICH” – Mr. President, representatives on this Council, this is our 24th session to try to rein in Russia’s aggressive acts in Ukraine. Every single one of those sessions has sent a straight-forward, unified message: Russia, stop this conflict. Russia is not listening.
We said it when Russia flagrantly violated international law in occupying Crimea. We said it after the shocking downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 17, which took the lives of innocent men, women, children, and infants from 11 countries. And we say it today, as Russia’s soldiers, tanks, air defense, and artillery support and fight alongside separatists as they open a new front in a crisis manufactured in and fueled by Russia.
But Russia is not listening.
Instead of listening, instead of heeding the demands of the international community and the rules of the international order, at every step, Russia has come before this Council to say everything except the truth. It has manipulated. It has obfuscated. It has outright lied. So we have learned to measure Russia by its actions and not by its words.
In the last 48 hours, Russia’s actions have spoken volumes.
On August 26 – just this Tuesday – after meeting with Ukrainian President Poroshenko in Minsk, Belarus, President Putin spoke of the need to quote “end bloodshed as soon as possible.” End quote. Yet the same day, satellite imagery show(s) Russian combat units – combat units – southeast of Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine. That same day in Luhansk, Ukraine detained regular Russian Army personnel from the 9th brigade.
In response, Russia claimed the soldiers had wandered into Ukrainian territory “by mistake.” This, supposedly, in a time of conflict along one of the most carefully watched borders in the world.
The day after those talks, Russia fired Grad rockets from inside Russia at Ukrainian positions in Novoazovsk, and then attacked with two columns of Russian armored vehicles and tanks. Russian armored vehicles and Uragan multiple rocket launchers are positioned on the outskirts of that town as we speak.
Russia’s force along the border is the largest it has been since it began redeploying forces there in late May, and includes significant numbers of combat aircraft and helicopters. Russian unmanned aircraft routinely cross into Ukrainian airspace.
Other Russian deployments into Ukrainian territory include advanced artillery and air defense systems not found in the Ukrainian inventory. These artillery systems have shelled Ukrainian positions outside Luhansk City in conjunction with the recent separatist counteroffensive.
One of the separatist leaders that Russia has armed and backed said openly that three or four thousand Russian soldiers have joined their cause. He was quick to clarify that these soldiers were on vacation. But a Russian soldier who chooses to fight in Ukraine on his summer break is still a Russian soldier. And the armored Russian military vehicle he drives there is not his personal car.
Meanwhile, in Russia, family members of Russian soldiers are holding funerals for their loved ones who have been killed in the fighting in Ukraine. They’re demanding answers for how they were killed. Journalists who try to cover these funerals are harassed and threatened by armed men. Yet, still, according to the Russian government, the soldiers were never there. They were never in Crimea either, until Russia announced that those soldiers who were never there had annexed Crimea.
The last 48 hours fit into a well-established pattern for Russia. Each step has paved the way for the one that followed. And yet in spite of all of these outrageous actions, Ukraine has repeatedly sought a political solution to this crisis. It has repeatedly sought a path to de-escalation. Despite this pattern, President Poroshenko showed up in Minsk to meet with President Putin. In contrast, President Putin was still unwilling to acknowledge the most basic facts we all know: that Russia has armed, equipped, and now joined illegal separatists fighting in Ukraine. Serious negotiations are needed, urgently needed. But Russia has to stop lying and has to stop fueling this conflict.
The mask is coming off. In these acts – these recent acts – we see Russia’s actions for what they are: a deliberate effort to support, and now fight alongside, illegal separatists in another sovereign country.
Now, Russia has claimed that Ukraine is not interested in a ceasefire, but let’s be clear: we have every interest in a ceasefire, as do the Ukrainians, as long as it is a real one. But Russian separatists not only have no interest in observing a ceasefire, but they cynically use the time to rearm and wait for additional soldiers and supplies to flow across the border from Russia.
In the face of these deeply alarming actions, the most important question for us now is not what we should say to Russia. The most important question is what we should do to make Russia listen.
The United States has, throughout this crisis, and in close coordination with our European partners, the EU and the G7, exerted targeted, effective pressure so that this message is heard, so that Russia begins to de-escalate, rather than escalate, so that the reasonable peace plan put forward by President Poroshenko is adopted and implemented. And in the face of Russia’s continued aggression and blatant disregard for the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, we will continue to work closely with our G7 and European partners to ratchet up the consequences on Russia.
Now, I understand that there are real costs felt by citizens of countries when their governments take these actions. It has costs for businesses that trade with Russia and sell to Russian markets, from small-scale farmers to big factories. Those costs are considerable, and nobody should take them lightly.
But let’s be clear: if unchecked, the damage that Russia’s blatant disregard for the international order poses is much, much greater. These rules and principles that have taken generations to build, with unparalleled investment – countless lives have been lost to establish and defend these principles. And every single one of us has a stake in defending them. A threat to the order – the international order – is a threat to all of our peace and security.
These are the rules that Russia is flouting when it illegally seizes territory and arms, equips, and fights alongside illegal groups in neighboring countries.
Ukraine is one of roughly a dozen countries that share a border with Russia. Let me close with a couple questions: How can we tell those countries that border Russia that their peace and sovereignty is guaranteed if we do not make our message heard on Ukraine? Why should they believe it will be different if tomorrow, President Putin decides to start supporting armed separatists and allowing soldiers “on vacation” to fight in their countries? And, just as important, what message are we sending to other countries with similarly alarming ambitions around the world, when we let Russia violate these rules without sufficient consequences? In the face of this threat, the cost of inaction is unacceptable.
By Paul Craig Roberts
August 29, 2014 “ICH” – The latest Washington lie, this one coming from NATO, is that Russia has invaded Ukraine with 1,000 troops and self-propelled artillery.
How do we know that this is a lie? Is it because we have heard nothing but lies about Russia from NATO, from US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, from assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland, from Obama and his entire regime of pathological liars, and from the British, German, and French governments along with the BBC and the entirety of the Western media?
This, of course, is a good reason for knowing that the latest Western propaganda is a lie. Those who are pathological liars don’t suddenly start telling the truth.
But there are even better reasons for understanding that Russia has not invaded Ukraine with 1,000 troops.
One reason is that Putin has invested heavily in diplomacy backed by unprovocative behavior. He would not risk his bet on diplomacy by sending in troops too few in number to have a decisive effect on the outcome.
Another reason is that if Putin decides he has no alternative to sending the Russian military to protect the Russian residents in eastern and southern Ukraine, Putin will send in enough troops to do the job quickly as he did in Georgia when the American and Israeli trained Georgian army invaded South Ossetia and was destroyed in a few hours by the Russian response. If you hear that 100,000 Russian troops accompanied by air cover have invaded Ukraine, it would be a more believable claim.
A third reason is that the Russian military does not need to send troops into Ukraine in order to stop the bombing and artillery shelling of the Russian populations by Washington’s puppet government in Kiev. The Russian air force can easily and quickly destroy the Ukrainian air force and artillery and, thereby, stop the Ukrainian attack on the secessionist provinces.
It was only two weeks ago that a fabricated report spread by the UK Guardian and the BBC that a Russian armored convoy entered Ukraine and was destroyed by the Ukrainian Military. And two weeks prior to that we had the hoax of the satellite images allegedly released by the US State Department that the corrupt US ambassador in Kiev spread around the world on social media allegedly showing that Russian forces were firing into Ukraine. One or two weeks from now we will have another lie, and another a week or two after that, and so on.
The cumulative effect of lie piled upon lie for most people is to build the view that the Russians are up to no good. Once this view is established, Western governments can take more serious moves against Russia.
The alleged entry of 1,000 Russian soldiers into Ukraine has been declared by NATO Brigadier General Niko Tak to be a “significant escalation in Russia’s military interference in Ukraine.” The champion liar Samantha Power told the US Security Council that “Russia has to stop lying.” The UK ambassador to the UN said that Russia was guilty of “a clear violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory.” UK prime minister Cameron warned Russia of “further consequences.” German chancellor Merkel announced that there would be more sanctions. A German Security Council advisor declared that “war with Russia is an option.” Polish foreign minister Sikorski called it Russian aggression that required international action. French president Hollande declared Russia’s behavior to be “intolerable.” Ukraine’s security council imposed mandatory conscription.
This suicidal drive toward war with Russia by Europe’s leaders is based entirely on a transparent lie that 1,000 Russian troops crossed into Ukraine
Of course the Western media followed in lock-step. The BBC, CNN, and Die Welt are among the most reckless and irresponsible.
The mountain of lies piled up by Western governments and media has obscured the true story. The US government orchestrated the overthrow of the elected government in Ukraine and imposed a US puppet in Kiev. Washington’s puppet government began issuing threats and committing violent acts against the Russian populations in the former Russian territories that Soviet leaders attached to Ukraine. The Russian people in eastern and southern Ukraine resisted the threat brought to them by Washington’s puppet government in Kiev.
Washington continually accuses the Russian government of supporting the people in the territories who have voted their separation from Ukraine. There would be no war, Washington alleges, except for Russian support. But, of course, Washington could easily stop the violence by ordering its puppet government in Kiev to stop the bombing and shelling of the former Russian provinces. If Russia can tell the “separatists” not to fight, Washington can tell Kiev not to fight.
The only possible conclusion from the facts is that Washington is determined to involve Europe in a war with Russia or at least in an armed standoff in order to break up Europe’s political and economic relations with Russia.
Europe’s leaders are going along with this because European countries, except for Charles de Gaulle’s France, have not had independent foreign policies since the end of World War II. They follow Washington’s lead and are well paid for doing so.
The inability of Europe to produce independent leadership dooms Russian President Putin’s diplomacy to failure. If European capitals cannot make decisions independently of Washington, there is no scope for Putin’s diplomacy.
Notice that the very day after Putin met with Washington’s Ukrainian vassal in an effort to resolve the situation, the new lie of Russian invasion was issued in order to ensure that no good can come of the meeting in which Putin invested his time and energy.
Washington’s only interest is in hegemony. Washington has no interest in resolving the situation that Washington itself created in order to bring discomfort and confusion to Russia. With the caveat that the situation could be resolved by Ukrainian economic collapse, otherwise the longer Putin waits to resolve the situation by force, the more difficult the task will be.
Dr. 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. Roberts’ latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost.
In a recent op-ed, a former CIA official suggested the removal of Russian President Vladimir Putin, by assassination if necessary, should be the primary objective of the Obama administration in its strategy for Ukraine.
Herbert E. Meyer, who served as a Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence under the Reagan administration, said the goal of U.S. sanctions against Russia “should be to get the Russians who’ve been keeping Putin in power, or tolerating Putin in power, to throw that knockout punch.”
“If Putin is too stubborn to acknowledge that his career is over, and the only way to get him out of the Kremlin is feet-first, with a bullet hole in the back of his head — that would also be okay with us,” he stated.
To ensure Putin’s removal, Meyer suggested, the Obama administration should strike a wedge between the Russian business elite and the Kremlin that could serve as a catalyst for an attempt on Putin’s life.
“That’s why the sanctions will work if the president and his European counterparts will keep tightening the screws; if they keep making commerce more difficult for Russia’s serious business executives, for instance by blocking their access to capital, and if they keep making life more miserable for Russia’s playboy oligarchs, for instance by canceling their credit cards and denying landing rights to their private jets,”
“And if the president and European leaders keep telling these Russians – bluntly and publicly – that all this will end the moment Vladimir Putin leaves the Kremlin for good.”
The former CIA official is describing a centuries-old tool of statecraft in which a foreign power creates discontent between the nobles of another country and their ruler to ensure the eventual overthrow of that ruler.
But given today’s explosive increase in tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which could very well lead to another world war, Meyer’s suggestion is particularly disturbing considering is it likely that current Western intelligence officials also share similar views.
And the destabilization of the Russian government with the loss of Putin will only create chaos in the East, chaos which can be exploited by the global financial elite who hold no allegiance to any nationality.
“Every major international crisis for the past century or more has ended with an even greater consolidation of world power into the hands of the few, and this is no accident,” journalist Brandon Smith wrote.
By Isabelle Belanger
29 August 2014
This summer, US Education Secretary Arne Duncan, standing alongside American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, announced the Excellent Educators for All initiative, marking a new stage in the Obama administration’s assault on teachers and dismantling of public education.
The proposal is an adaptation of a long-ignored component of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), implemented under the Republican administration of George W. Bush, requiring that states provide students of all socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds equal access to “highly qualified” teachers.
From the beginning, this stipulation was for window dressing only, since one school district after another carried out budget cuts, mass layoffs and school closings and experienced teachers were replaced with lower-paid, inexperienced instructors. This process has accelerated under the Obama administration.
Nevertheless, under the terms of NCLB, “highly qualified” was defined as a teacher having a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree and possessing state certification in the subject area he or she is hired to teach. The ostensible goal of the proposal was to “ensure that poor and minority students are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers.”
The new initiative by the Obama administration, however, switches the focus from “highly qualified” teachers to those who are said to be “highly effective,” ie., teachers whose students perform satisfactorily on standardized tests.
This seemingly minor change in wording means that the once objective means of gauging teacher quality by subject-area degree and certification area has been altered to one that is almost entirely subjective, based as it is on the singular focus on standardized test scores.
Such a focus ignores a host of other measures of effectiveness such as students’ scores on teacher-created tests, projects and other assignments, the ability to instill an understanding and appreciation of the subject matter in students, and many other less tangible measures of successful teaching.
Rather than provide the necessary resources to overcome poverty and reverse the decades-long financial starvation of the public schools, the Obama administration, with the help of the teachers unions, is seeking to paint the picture that impoverished school districts lack—not the elemental necessities for a decent educational environment—but teachers who are determined and dedicated enough to overcome these problems! This is an utter fraud.
While feigning concern over the plight of poor and minority students Obama has spearheaded an unprecedented attack on highly qualified teachers and the children they teach. Since taking office, more than 300,000 teachers and other school employees have lost their jobs, thousands of public schools have been shut in Chicago, Detroit and other cities, and the administration has provided incentives for corporations and other business hucksters to open charter schools employing the most inexperienced instructors.
Aspects of the new initiative were present in Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 education budget with its latest rendition of the notorious Race To The Top (RTTT) program, this time called RTTT-Equity and Opportunity. The budget includes $300 million in grants to states and districts to create data systems that track teacher and principal “effectiveness,” as well as student achievement at the nation’s poorest schools.
The Excellent Educators for All plan will force senior educators out of schools where students perform adequately on standardized tests (primarily due to the better financial circumstances of students attending such schools) and place them into the districts’ poorest performing schools, which largely serve students mired in poverty and suffering from related problems of hunger, illness, utility shut-offs, crime and other social ills.
There are three main components to the Excellent Educators program:
1. By April 2015, states will be required to submit “comprehensive educator equity plans” that describe how they will place “effective educators” in the classrooms of poor and minority students. By October 2015, states will have to prove that these students are not being disproportionately taught by “ineffective” teachers.
2. The Department of Education (DOE) will spend $4.2 million on an “Education Equity Support Network” whose purpose will be to help states write the comprehensive educator equity plans. According to a DOE press release, the network will also “work to develop model plans, share promising packages, provide communities of practice for educators to discuss challenges and share lessons learned with each other, and create a network of support for educators working in high-need schools.”
The provision of such a paltry sum to supposedly provide support for educators working with some of the nation’s most deprived children is utterly reprehensible. It is an affront to those teachers whose careers will be in jeopardy once they are placed in schools where low test scores are primarily the result of poverty, and have little to do with teacher quality.
3. The DOE will publish “Educator Equity profiles” which “will help states identify gaps in access to quality teaching for low-income and minority students…. States will be able to conduct detailed analyses of the data to inform their discussions about local inequities and design strategies for improving those inequities.”
Much like the publishing of the standardized test scores of teachers’ students, the publishing of districts’ Educator Equity profiles will be used to promote public anger with school districts, which will be presented as purposely staffing low-performing schools with ineffective teachers. Likewise, district officials and the media will impugn teachers as self-serving for wanting to work in high-performing schools rather than with the poorest achieving students.
In the past, teachers were offered higher salaries to work in the nations’ highest need areas, it being difficult to attract teachers to work in schools that are generally understaffed, in disrepair and having inadequate resources, and where learning and behavior problems are a daily occurrence. However, the offer of better pay did help to attract and keep capable teachers in these struggling schools.
Now, with most states basing a large portion of teacher evaluations on students’ standardized test scores, such financial incentives are of little consequence. As for all workers, a higher salary means little if there is no guarantee that the job will exist in a year’s time. The best teachers—including those currently working in poorer districts—will likely accept a lower salary in a more resourced school district, due to the knowledge that students’ test scores will likely be adequate to allow them to receive acceptable evaluations year after year, and therefore keep their jobs.
Significantly, the DOE has not yet developed a definition for what constitutes teacher “effectiveness.” One can assume the definition, once made, will be based almost exclusively on standardized test scores, as has been the mechanism for funding schools and making decisions over school closures and privatizations under both the Bush and Obama administrations.
In an address before teachers, President Obama asked, “what are they [the states] doing in order to train and promote and place teachers in some of the toughest environments for children….the kids who probably need less help get the most….” Obama stands reality on its head, since his administration has condemned millions of youth to live in the “toughest environments” by slashing food stamps, long-term unemployment benefits and essential programs, while overseeing the greatest transfer of wealth to the rich in history.
In the book Whither Opportunity?: Rising Inequality, Schoo ls, and Children’ s Life Chances , edited by Greg J. Duncan and Richard J. Murnane (2011), which is comprised of a series of groundbreaking studies on the effects of inequality on educational attainment, the concluding sentence asks: “If poverty places students at risk of educational failure … , would not intervening in poverty directly contribute to educational improvement?” The terrible circumstance s f acing millions of American children , however, are not of concern to the Obama administration ; rather, it is teachers who are blamed for t he problems created by the decayed capitalist order .
Predictably the trade union executives who run the AFT and NEA have joined in this continued effort to scapegoat teachers and destroy their job protections, seeking only to maintain a “seat at the table” while public education is dismantled.
Following Duncan’s announcement of the initiative, AFT President Randi Weingarten stated, “The Excellent Educators for All project…is necessary and important…. Secretary Duncan offer[s] an approach that does something for children by empowering teachers, not stripping them of their rights. We look forward to working with the secretary….”
The National Education Association is also on board with NEA President Dennis Van Roekel saying the union “fully supported the new plan.”
By Ben McGrath
29 August 2014
The Japanese government is making tentative steps to open a dialogue with North Korea, initially over the issue of Japanese citizens abducted in the 1970s and 1980s and taken to North Korea. The moves have provoked concerns in Washington that Japan’s diplomacy will cut across US strategy in North East Asia to put pressure on Pyongyang, and its ally China.
Japanese and North Korean officials have held a series of low-key meetings stretching back more than a year to May 2013 when Abe sent advisor Isao Iijima to Pyongyang on what was meant to be a secret visit. The two sides met again in October, then in March this year.
At a meeting this May in Sweden, Japan and North Korea struck a deal in which Tokyo agreed to lift several, relatively minor sanctions in exchange for Pyongyang’s assistance in locating abducted Japanese citizens. The agreement does not cover sanctions imposed as part of UN Security Council resolutions following North Korean missile and nuclear tests.
On July 1, Pyongyang announced in Beijing, during another meeting with Japanese officials, that it had opened the investigation, while also providing a list of 10 names of abductees still living in North Korea.
Tokyo held up its end of the agreement on July 4. It eased an entry ban on North Koreans, and partially lifted a ban on North Korean ships docking at Japanese ports. The government also agreed to raise the minimum amount at which money sent to North Korea must be reported, from 100,000 to 1 million yen ($US965 to $9,650) for cash and 3 million to 30 million yen for money transfers.
There is a significant ethnic Korean population in Japan, stemming from Japan’s colonial rule over Korea between 1910 and 1945. While many were repatriated after World War II, well over half a million permanent residents and Japanese citizens remain. The pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, or Chongryon, functions in Japan. Money repatriated to North Korea is an important source of foreign exchange for the cash-strapped Stalinist state.
North Korea repeatedly denied Japanese claims that it abducted some 17 Japanese citizens to help train its spies sent to Japan. However, in 2002, after a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Pyongyang, North Korea returned five Japanese citizens and declared that the rest were either dead, missing or had not been taken to North Korea in the first place.
Japanese governments have continued to pursue the issue. It is complicated by wider demands in Japan concerning those who moved to North Korea in the 1950s as part of the repatriation of Koreans but have not been allowed by Pyongyang to return to Japan. The number of these “abductees” could be as high as 6,500.
Washington cautiously backed the abductee agreement, but publicly declared that it had to be carried out in a transparent manner—that is, Japan had to keep the US in the loop. The Obama administration is clearly concerned that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is beginning to pursue a diplomatic path independently of the US.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida hinted on July 3 that Abe could follow the path of his former mentor, Koizumi, and visit Pyongyang. “What is the most effective way to get results on the kidnapping issue? One option is visiting North Korea, and we are also going to consider that.”
Just days later, Kishida received a phone call from US Secretary of State John Kerry, who clearly expressed his displeasure about the prospect of a visit. Following the call, Kishida told the media: “We are currently trying to arrange an opportunity to visit the US to explain the situation directly to Secretary Kerry and request his understanding about Japanese efforts to resolve the abductee issue.”
The Obama administration has pressed Japan to play a more prominent role in North East Asia, as part of the US “pivot to Asia” aimed against China. Since coming to office in December 2012, Abe has done precisely that—mounting an aggressive diplomatic offensive throughout Asia and internationally, and remilitarising Japan. The anxiety in Washington is that Japan will begin to pursue its own interests, rather than continuing to play its post-war role of second fiddle to the US in Asia.
Since assuming office in 2009, Obama has maintained unrelenting pressure on North Korea through sanctions and military threats. The US has effectively blocked any return to the six-party talks sponsored by China to denuclearise North Korea. At the same time, it has given some signals to Pyongyang that a rapprochement might be possible, along the lines of Burma, if it stepped out of China’s orbit.
By making taking tentative steps toward his own rapprochement with North Korea, Abe threatens to undermine the US strategy by easing the pressure on Pyongyang. At this stage, the Abe government has no intention of directly crossing Washington. As a result, it has kept its diplomacy with North Korea low key, while offering reassurances to the US.
Earlier this month, North Korea followed up the initial agreement with Japan with new demands—for more humanitarian aid and for more North Korean ships to dock at Japanese ports—if it is going to continue the abductees investigation. Japan has given no indication that it will agree to these demands.
Moreover, Tokyo has signalled to Washington that it will not ease sanctions imposed under UN resolutions. Japan recently froze the assets of North Korea’s Ocean Maritime Management, the company whose ship was detained in Panama for supposedly smuggling arms last year. A Japanese Foreign Ministry statement declared: “We have no choice but to do what’s right, treating them (the abductee issue and arms smuggling) as separate things.”
At the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Burma in mid-August, Japanese Foreign Minister Kishida sought to patch up relations all around. In a meeting with Kerry, he undoubtedly offered reassurances over any visit to North Korea. He also met with his South Korean and Chinese counterparts, amid the ongoing hostility produced in both countries by Abe’s remilitarisation of Japan and attempts to whitewash Japan’s wartime atrocities in Asia in the 1930s and 1940s.
At the same time, Kishida met with his North Korean counterpart. Undoubtedly Tokyo’s talks with Pyongyang are at present limited and exploratory, and easily overturned by another flare-up of tensions on the Korean Peninsula. But they are another sign that Japan is determined to press ahead with its own agenda, even if ultimately it leads to disagreements and conflicts with the US.
By Mike Head
29 August 2014
Australia’s domestic spy chief, David Irvine, the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), delivered an address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, seeking to defend the Abbott government’s latest proposed “anti-terrorism” legislation.
It was the first-ever such appearance by an ASIO director-general. For decades, they remained in the shadows of the corridors of power. His appearance itself indicates the far-reaching character of the as-yet-unseen laws, which are known to include the compulsory retention of all online communications data.
Irvine is mounting a propaganda offensive, obviously authorised by the government, to try to overcome popular opposition. He also appeared on breakfast television this month—another previously unheard of media event.
Like the Obama administration and other Western governments, Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government is seizing on the debacle produced by the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 to stoke “terrorist” scare campaigns. Irvine sought to drum up fears that some of the 60 or so Australians who have allegedly joined the fighting in Syria and Iraq will return to conduct terrorist attacks in Australia.
These efforts are saturated with hypocrisy because the Islamic fundamentalists of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have been directly spawned by the US and Western efforts to overthrow the Syrian government of Bashir al-Assad.
As Irvine spoke, the Abbott government was sending increasingly clear signals of its readiness to join new US-led military action in Iraq and Syria. Irvine denied that the government was specifically victimising Muslims. In reality, it is invoking Islamic “terrorism” as a pretext for operations to assert US hegemony over the Middle East, while deliberately fanning anti-Muslim xenophobia at home.
While the government’s laws will initially target Islamists, a police-state framework is being prepared for wider use, amid rising social and political tensions. Irvine said the alleged terrorist threat did not come exclusively from Muslims. “Such threats can come from a variety of religious and ideologically focussed groups, from the right or the left,” he asserted.
The “metadata” plan will compel Internet providers, mobile phone companies and social media outlets to store all their data for two years. This will enable the intelligence and police forces to trawl through on-line activity records, giving them a comprehensive picture of everyone’s personal and political lives.
Ludicrously, Irvine said accessing such data was akin to ASIO looking up numbers in phone books. The truth is that metadata shows many details, including a person’s movements, patterns of behaviour, Internet and social media destinations, and friends and contacts.
Earlier this month, a parliamentary library report confirmed that URLs of web pages visited are already being handed over “without a warrant” by Internet providers, including Telstra, “under the umbrella of metadata.” Even according to official records tabled in parliament, the spy and police forces requested, and duly received, access to metadata 319,874 times in 2012–13.
From the documents leaked by US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, it is also clear that ASIO and its partner agencies act as data collection conduits for the NSA’s global network, regardless of any formal legal constraints. Australia is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance with the US, Britain, New Zealand and Canada, and its agencies play a key role in the NSA’s massive electronic spying operations.
The ASIO chief revealed the concern in ruling circles over the opposition to the metadata plan, which was initially proposed by the previous Labor government but shelved in the lead-up to last year’s election. Irvine declared: “It is important the debate avoids paranoia, for example evoking the spectre of Big Brother, 1984, mass surveillance and mass violations of privacy.”
In reality, the all-encompassing monitoring of the population in 2014 goes beyond the “Big Brother is watching” surveillance envisaged by George Orwell in his famous novel, 1984. The physical tracking, snooping and interrogation described by Orwell could not match today’s exploitation of modern information technology.
Another widely opposed measure in the government’s proposed legislation will effectively reverse the onus of proof in terrorism-related trials by declaring parts of the Middle East to be “designated areas.” Anyone travelling to these zones would have to prove that their trip was innocent, or face imprisonment.
De facto, this regime is already being applied. Abbott told parliament that a man bound for Lebanon was recently bundled off a plane at Melbourne airport, detained and then placed under surveillance. The prime minister announced the formation of “border protection counter terrorism units” at airports to “monitor movements of people on our national security watch list.”
Yesterday, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison boasted that “at least” five people have been intercepted because they were likely to travel to Syria. Both Abbott’s office and Morrison’s failed to respond to requests from the WSWS to specify what legal powers were being invoked for these actions.
This program is just one of many being funded via a $630 million boost to the spy and security agencies that Abbott unveiled earlier this month when he outlined the proposed new laws. The other measures in the planned package include:
• Broadening the criteria for banning an organisation to cover not only advocating specific terrorist acts but “encouraging terrorism,” including via social media.
• Lowering the threshold for arrest without warrant for terrorism offences.
• Making it easier for the government to suspend passports.
As with an earlier package of “terror” laws unveiled in July, this means intensifying the already draconian framework that successive governments, Liberal and Labor, have erected since 2001.
In an extraordinary display of the unanimity within the political establishment, and the efforts being made to intimidate any dissent, Labor Party leader Bill Shorten rushed to reassure the government of bipartisan support for the legislation, after a Labor senator called into question the government’s political motives.
“Let me state clearly, when it comes to national security, Labor sees this as a matter above politics,” Shorten insisted on Wednesday. He said he had “counselled” Senator Sue Lines, who earlier accused the government of trying to “scare the Australian public and to distract everyone” from its austerity budget.
Lines merely suggested that the government was trying to divert the deep popular hostility toward its budget offensive against welfare, health, education and other social services. Government ministers immediately feigned outrage and demanded that Shorten pull her into line.
Shorten quickly obliged. “I’ve spoken to Senator Lines,” he said. “Our position, Labor’s position, is that we will work in the best interests of this nation and our stability and security.”
With Labor’s full support, the government is responding to mounting social discontent by fomenting “terrorism” scares and building an increasingly repressive state apparatus, overturning fundamental legal and democratic rights in the process.
By Markus Salzmann
29 August 2014
Following Miro Cerar’s electoral victory last July, a new government will take office in the next few weeks. Cerar has hitherto been a mostly unknown lawyer and a member of the SMC Party (Party of Miro Cerar), which was named after him. One thing is quite clear: the fourth government since the outbreak of the financial crisis will only exacerbate the Balkan country’s political, economic and social crisis. Miro Cerar, who campaigned without a political program, is preparing sharp attacks on the population.
On Tuesday, President Borut Pahor nominated election winner Cerar as candidate for prime minister. The parliament will most likely vote on the proposal this week, which will then be followed by a vote on the ministers. There exists no final coalition agreement, but it is highly likely that Cesar’s SMC, the Pensioners’ Party DeSUD, the Social Democrats (SD) and ZAB, the party of former prime minister Alenka Bratusek, will form the new government.
Thus Cerar will govern with precisely those forces that were punished for their anti-social policies in the previous elections. ZAB received only 4.5 percent of the vote, barely enough to enter the parliament, punished by the electorate for the party’s sweeping austerity policies. The Social Democrats’ vote dropped from 10 percent to 6 percent. The coalition of the four parties would have a comfortable majority in the 90-seat parliament, but previous governments have already witnessed quick declines in their majorities as a result of internal fights within the coalitions.
After losing internal party struggles for the leadership of the Positive Slovenia Party against Zoran Jankovic in May, Bratusek resigned as prime minister. This triggered the second election in a row in mid-June. Later Bratusek left the party and founded the ZAB. The Positive Slovenia Party, along with other right-wing conservative parties, collapsed in the election in June. This paved the way for Cerar’s party, which hid its program behind populist phrases.
Bratusek had also introduced austerity measures for the health care sector and agreed on severe cutbacks in the public sector. Bratusek followed in the footsteps of Janez Jansa, her right-wing predecessor, who had to resign after a motion of no confidence last spring, and has now been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by the Supreme Court.
The new government’s stated goal is fiscal reform, which includes a long-planned tax increase for the majority of the population along with tax relief for companies, as well as health care cuts. Cerar wants to reduce the budget deficit to the EU’s 3 percent mark. In an interview, the head of the central bank, Bostjan Jazbec, summarized the demands on the government as follows: The new government has to attract foreign capital, counteract the budget deficit and continue the sale of state shares to compensate December’s bank bailout.
After barely being able to avoid a bailout for its debt-ridden banks, the former Yugoslav republic—with the Alps on one side and Adriatic Sea on the other—is under enormous pressure from the EU. By the end of last year the previous government had spent €3.3 billion (US$4.35 billion) on the country’s ailing banks.
Cerar is seeking to calm the business community’s fears that the new government is not pledged to continuing Bratusek’s reforms, which financed the bank bailout. Cerar presented Dusan Mramor as the new treasury secretary. From 2002 to 2004, the 60-year-old economics professor was a member of a center-left government and drafted tax reform that included massive tax increases for the population.
As secretary for Anton Rop (prime minister 2002-2004), Mramor drafted a template for tax breaks for companies to make Slovenia “competitive” and to prepare the adoption of the euro. He worked closely with the unions, agreeing on massive cuts in the public sector that were part of Mramor’s consolidation course. Last year he declared that public sector wages had to be cut by 5 to 7 percent.
The SMC issued a statement stating that as treasury secretary Mramor stands for a significant consolidation of public finances. Analysts expect Mramor to enforce the privatization of state-owned businesses.
Cerar has fully agreed to further privatizations, begun under the Bratusek administration, and explained that he would do nothing to damage Slovenia’s reputation among investors. The managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London, Nicholas Spiro, characterized Cerar’s policies thus: “He is not an advocate of state ownership and will certainly speed up sales.” Jaromir Sindel of Citigroup suggested that the EU increase its pressure on Cerar and that the government would privatize more than 15 companies previously agreed upon.
The selling process for Telekom Slovenije and airport operator Aerodrom Ljubljana had already been initiated when the government stopped the privatization by decree in early July. The temporary halt to privatization, a move heavily criticized by business circles, was adopted in order to leave the decision on further privatization to the new government. The outgoing Slovenian government at the time, apparently after consultation with Cerar, decided to once again approve the privatization process.
The government counts on close cooperation with the trade unions in this process of privatization. Already in late July the ZSSS, the country’s largest trade union federation, declared that it would cooperate with the government and introduced its own proposals for the upcoming legislative period. ZSSS is regarded as an advocate of the privatization of former state-owned businesses.
Recently, this has become more than obvious. For example, ZSSS played a key role in preventing a strike at the paint manufacturer Helios, which was sold to the Austrian Ring International Holding. In late July the Helios board and the union released a joint statement that they had agreed on a solution enabling a continuation of the collaboration between the unions and management at the company. Further details about the agreement have been kept in the dark.
The dispute was sparked by a planned layoff of a representative of the workers’ council, who had warned against upcoming wage cuts and layoffs as a result of a takeover. Officially the union, under pressure from the workforce, threatened to strike if the representative were laid off. At the same time, ZSSS quietly continued to negotiate with management. The union told the workers that it would stop its dialogue with the executive regarding upcoming contract agreements and reaffirmed its strike threat.
However, the Helios board simultaneously declared that dialogue with the union would continue. “Although there is political and public pressure that impedes talks about a new collective bargaining agreement, it is realistic to expect that they will be completed soon,” said Helios manager Ales Klavzar.
The union had simply used the conflict to demand that management and government closely cooperate with the trade union bureaucracy to enforce social cuts.
By Stéphane Hugues
29 August 2014
The government of President François Hollande has ordered the prosecution of Alain Pojolat, a member of the pseudo-left New Anti-capitalist Part (NPA), who was one of the organisers of two banned demonstrations in France against the Israeli army’s mass murder in Gaza.
The trial has been set for October 22 at the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, the main court in the city. Pojolat could face a fine of up to €7,500 (nearly US$10,000) and 6 months in prison.
Pojolat was singled out because he sent the e-mail asking for permission to demonstrate to the Paris Préfecture on behalf of participating organisations, including the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), the French Jewish Union for Peace (UJFP), the Solidaires trade union, Ensemble (Together, a member organisation of the Stalinist-led Left Front), and the NPA.
The ban on demonstrations issued by Hollande’s Socialist Party (PS) government was itself a grave attack on democratic rights. The PS’s decision to prosecute Pojolat is a further attack, intended to silence anyone organising a demonstration against atrocities supported by the French state.
Workers must oppose this political victimisation, which is fraudulently being passed off as a “trial,” and oppose all the Hollande government’s attacks on democratic rights.
From the beginning of its attack on Gaza, the Israeli government had the support of Hollande and France’s ruling PS. In a July 9 phone call to Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu, Hollande “expressed France’s solidarity” with Israel, according to a communiqué from the Elysée presidential palace. The communiqué went on to explicitly endorse the mass killings in Gaza: “It is for Israeli Government to take all measures to protect its population….”
The PS ban on demonstrations, intended to suppress opposition to the blank cheque for mass murder Hollande had issued to Netanyahu, was based on a cynical provocation.
The arguments of Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve justifying the ban cited supposed “anti-Semitic” incidents in previous demonstrations. However, the only incidents that could be confirmed were attacks on pro-Gaza demonstrators by militants of the Jewish Defence League, an extreme right organisation that is banned in Israel.
As the WSWS reported at the time, Bernard Ravenel, the former head of France’s France-Palestine Solidarity Association (AFPS), told France24: “The JDL were largely responsible for those incidents…. They turned up with the sole intention of provoking the crowd and the authorities interpreted this, sadly, as an anti-Semitic march. This is simply not true” (see: “French Socialist Party government attacks anti-Gaza war protests”).
The PS’s decision to prosecute a member of the NPA on this type of fabricated pretext is a warning to the working class.
It is well known that the NPA has the closest possible ties with the PS, having called for Hollande’s election in 2012 and supported French wars and interventions in Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine. If the PS can employ dirty tricks to frame such a thoroughly establishment organisation, it will use every method, even the most underhanded and brutal, to suppress protests in the working class.
The banning of demonstrations and the prosecution of their organisers has the most sinister implications. The Hollande administration is France’s most unpopular government since the end of World War II, launching deep social austerity at home and participating in aggressive imperialist interventions abroad—including NATO’s stoking a conflict with Russia over Ukraine that threatens the outbreak of a new world war in Europe.
French imperialism been particularly brutal in its attempt to re-colonise its former colonial empire in the Middle East and Africa. In 2013, Hollande sent the French army into Mali and, in January of this year, into yet another ex-French colony, the Central African Republic, boosting its strategic position in the resource-rich Sahel region.
Hollande’s programme is now war abroad and class war at home. To fund these wars and to comply with the European Union’s Maastricht Treaty, where new government debts such not exceed 3 percent of GDP, Hollande has announced €50 billion of cuts, mainly in social programmes, to be implemented in the coming months.
If Hollande has been able to proceed, it is because many of the pseudo-left organisations that protested Israel’s war in Gaza—like the NPA, the Left Front, and the Solidaires union—have on the other hand actively suppressed working class opposition to Hollande’s wars and social cuts. There is, however, ever growing fear in ruling circles of a social explosion of protests against austerity and war in the working class.
By attempting to ban the Gaza demonstrations and prosecuting one of its organisers, the PS is seeking to set a precedent for repression, both legal and physical, of protesting workers and youth in the coming period.
By Bill Van Auken
29 August 2014
Economic activity in Buenos Aires and other major cities was largely paralyzed Thursday as three of Argentina’s five trade union confederations joined in a general strike over rising prices and mounting job cuts being implemented under the Peronist government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
The walkout was launched on Wednesday by one of the union confederations—the opposition CTA, headed by Pablo Micheli—on Wednesday afternoon as a 36-hour strike and was then joined by the two other organizations—the CGT Azopardo, headed by Luis Moyano, and theCGT Azul y Blanco, headed by Luis Barrionuevo—which struck for 24 hours beginning Thursday morning.
The strike was accompanied by the organization of picketing, including by the parties of the pseudo-left Frente de Izquierda, on major roads leading into the capital and other cities, and in at least one instance saw a confrontation with police who tried to clear the thoroughfare using tear gas.
While Wednesday saw a rally and march in Buenos Aires from the Plaza de Mayo to the Argentine Congress, the larger strike on Thursday was not accompanied by any mobilization of the working class, something that the trade union bureaucracy is opposed to and fears.
The government and the trade union officials were sharply divided on the impact of the strike. CGT head Luis Moyano claimed Thursday that the walkout had been joined by 85 percent of the workforce, showing that “there’s a great desire to take part and show the government that people are fed up, tired and seeking answers to these demands that haven’t been met.”
Jorge Capitanich, the head of Fernandez’s cabinet, on the other hand, claimed that 75 percent of the workers “demonstrated their desire to work by not adhering to the stoppage proposed by a group of opposition unions and union leaders.”
This is the third general strike against Fernandez since she was elected in 2007 and the second one this year, with the unions calling a nationwide walkout over much the same issues last April.
Commuter trains and trucking were clearly paralyzed by the strike, as were the ports, banks, restaurants, courts, garbage collection and air traffic. Schools opened, but with few students attending. One line of the subway system was shut down.
The government scored a minor victory in persuading the bus drivers’ union, the UTA, to ignore the general strike. Passenger buses made most of their routes in Buenos Aires Thursday, but most appeared nearly empty. The Fernandez government reportedly bribed the union with subsidies, funds for the “social works” benefits plans, which are a major source of income for the bureaucrats, and a building to house a union training center. UTA President Roberto Fernandez allowed as how he was “in agreement with all of the demands, but not with this action.”
The strike provided only a limited expression of the growing anger and unrest in the Argentine working class under conditions of “stagflation,” with joblessness and inflation rising in tandem. According to official figures, the jobless rate has risen to 7.5 percent, with layoffs hitting a number of industries, particularly auto production. It is up from 7.1 percent in the first quarter of this year. Economic activity is expected to shrink by approximately 1 percent this year.
Meanwhile, the official inflation rate has risen to 31.3 percent annually, with private estimates putting it closer to 40 percent. This has meant a sharp decline in real wages.
The demands raised by the strikers include a government-imposed moratorium on layoffs and suspensions, the lifting of income taxes for workers and wage increases to match rising prices.
There are fears that the economic crisis will only deepen in face of the technical default imposed on Argentina by the decisions of a US federal judge in favor of hedge funds that are seeking 100 percent payment on bonds on which most creditors agreed to a write-down after the country’s 2001 default.
US Judge Thomas Griesa last month barred Argentina from making payments totaling $539 million owed to bondholders who had accepted the restructuring deals, unless the so-called vulture fund holdouts received full payment as well. Argentina has the money to pay the $1.3 billion demanded by the vulture funds, but if it does so it would open the floodgates for equal treatment by other creditors, threatening to bankrupt the country.
Last week, the government unveiled a plan to allow creditors to receive foreign bond payments via local Argentine banks, effectively doing an end run around the US court. The announcement, however, raised concerns on international credit markets that the government will not resolve the dispute in the near future, prompting an acceleration of capital flight.
The Fernandez government has seized upon the dispute to dress up its policies in left nationalist demagogy, employing slogans such as “ patria o buitres ” (fatherland or vultures). The two unions that refused to join the general strike are close to the government and invoked the conflict as a reason that it was the wrong time to take action against the government.
In reality, the Fernandez government is continuing to meet its debt payments to the international banks and corporations, and most financial analysts believe that it will eventually reach a deal with the American hedge funds. It recently agreed to pay $9.7 billion to the Paris Club of creditor nations and handed over $5 billion in bonds to the Spanish oil company Repsol SA as compensation for the expropriation of its Argentine subsidiary.
With foreign reserves dwindling and the value of the peso declining rapidly, the real policy of the government is to impose the burden of the financial crisis onto the backs of the Argentine workers.
By Stefan Steinberg
29 August 2014
With a handful of exceptions, a shroud of silence has been drawn by the international media regarding the fate of Malaysian Airlines MH17, which crashed over Ukraine nearly six weeks ago.
Immediately after the plane crash on July 17, leading US officials, with Secretary of State John Kerry at the fore along with sections of the US and European media, alleged, without a shred of evidence, that the passenger jet had been shot down by a Russian missile fired by pro-Russian separatists operating in eastern Ukraine. The completely unfounded allegations were then used to create a frenzied political climate to justify the imposition of wide-ranging sanctions by the US and the European Union against Russia.
Since the crash there has been deliberate stalling on the part of Western authorities in releasing relevant information. At the start of this month Dutch investigators leading the inquiries announced they would release a preliminary report “in a few weeks.” Now, with only days before the end of the month, no such report has been issued. This is despite the fact that the Dutch co-ordinator for the struggle against terrorism admitted in parliament that the Dutch authorities already have extensive data from the black boxes and other sources in their possession.
One article which has raised questions regarding the silence surrounding the crash appeared recently in the German magazine Der Spiegel.
The magazine has played a particularly vile role in the US-led propaganda campaign to blame Russia for the crash. On the cover of its July 28 editionDer Spiegel featured photos of MH17 victims with the prominent red lettered text “Stop Putin Now!”. In its latest edition, the magazine again raises the banner of German militarism in a lead article deploring the state of the German army and arguing for a massive increase in military sending.
However, in one article on the crash, headlined “The strange silence of the investigators”, the magazine attempts to backtrack somewhat and at least intimate there are good reasons to doubt the official line put out by Washington and Brussels. The article refers to a letter sent to Barack Obama at the end of July by a group of former US intelligence officers. In their letter the group, known as VIPS, accused Secretary of State Kerry of attempting to use the crash to blacken Russia, recalling other blatant provocations by the Obama administration, such as the claim that Syria was responsible for chemical weapon attacks. The Obama administration has never responded to the allegations made in the VIPS letter.
The Spiegel article then goes on to quote reports in the Malaysian newspaper New Straits Times, which charge Ukraine with responsibility for the crash, citing one journalist who writes: “It is farcical that the country known for overseeing the world’s most sophisticated and far-reaching surveillance capabilities has sunk to citing grainy YouTube videos to justify its policy decisions.”
Noting that Dutch authorities already have considerable information about the details of the crash which they have undoubtedly shared with their German counterparts, the Spiegel article warns that it is unlikely that the black box recordings will ever be released in full. The Dutch investigation team recently announced that there were alleged legal grounds for withholding evidence from the boxes.
The failure of the media to raise the issue of the fate of MH17 prompted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to query on Monday why the plane’s black box recordings had not been released publicly. It appears, Lavrov said, that apart from Russia, “everyone else has lost interest in the investigation.”
Lavrov also asked why Ukraine had not yet provided recordings of conversations between air traffic controllers in the nearby airport of Dnepropetrovsk. Kiev has up until now persistently refused to publish the recordings of the conversations between the MH17 pilot and Ukrainian air traffic controllers.
Lavrov noted that Russia had contacted the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the United Nations aviation agency, and offered to provide its own information on the crash, but noted that “so far there is nothing transparent to be seen there either.”
Lavrov concluded: “We must not allow the investigation of the MH17 crash to be manipulated into oblivion as already happened to investigations of many Ukrainian tragedies, including the sniper assault against civilians in Kiev in February, massacres in Odessa and Mariupol in May, and others.”
Bearing in mind the leading role played by the US in utilizing the crash of MH17 to create the conditions for a confrontation with Russia, there can be no doubt that the administration in Washington and US intelligence services are in close contact with the Dutch authorities and are complicit in the efforts to bury the truth about what really took place on July 17.
The author also recommends:
Malaysian press charges Ukraine government shot down MH17
[9 August 2014]
Why have the media and Obama administration gone silent on MH17?
[18 August 2014]
29 August 2014
The new Socialist Party (PS) government named Tuesday, a day after the last government suddenly collapsed amid criticisms of French President François Hollande’s unpopular austerity policies, testifies to the disintegration of official “left” politics in France and the crisis of capitalist rule in Europe. As the European economy plunges and support for the PS collapses, Hollande has nothing to offer but a further shift to the right.
Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls summarily fired a group of PS ministers, led by Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg, who publicly attacked Hollande’s austerity agenda as politically suicidal and dictated by a hostile Germany. Tensions had exploded within the cabinet, with Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti reportedly shouting at one point that the PS did not have a left-wing policy.
The new PS cabinet named by Hollande and Valls, whose rock-bottom poll ratings continue to plunge, will intensify the class war the PS is waging against workers. Its first move was to begin planning a regressive and politically explosive 15 billion euro hike in sales taxes.
Its arrogant contempt for the people is symbolized by its choice of Emmanuel Macron, 36, a millionaire investment banker and graduate of the elite National Administration School (ENA), as economy minister. A free-marketer previously passed up for ministerial posts because he has never been elected to any position, he advised Hollande early in his term to be “ready to lose mid-term elections.”
Montebourg’s faction is no less bankrupt and reactionary. A proponent of French industrial competitiveness, working with members of the US Federal Reserve who advocate freer credit and bigger bank bailouts than the German-influenced European Central Bank, which controls the euro, Montebourg supports cuts in wages and social spending. Last month, backing the budget cuts in Hollande’s Responsibility Pact, he said: “We must not challenge the 50 billion in cuts, we must rather use them the right way, to give them back to the French people.”
The crisis of Hollande’s government is tearing the mask off of the PS, a right-wing party of finance capital that has suffered a comprehensive shipwreck. It is also an indictment of France’s corrupt pseudo-left parties, such as the New Anti-capitalist Party and the Stalinist-led Left Front. These parties of the affluent middle class, which has for decades strangled working class opposition to the PS, endorsed Hollande’s election in 2012 and bear full political responsibility for his policies.
Montebourg’s extraordinary attack on Germany also testifies to the ongoing breakdown of the European Union (EU). Four years ago, French President Nicolas Sarkozy banged his fists and shouted at German Chancellor Angela Merkel that France would leave the euro currency if the EU bailout of Greece did not respect French interests. French and German banks ultimately arranged to jointly loot the Greek workers, and for a time inter-imperialist tensions within Europe faded from view.
However, as Hollande and the PS continue down the austerity course of Prime Minister Giorgios Papandreou of Greece’s ill-fated social democratic PASOK party, these tensions are resurfacing, amid rising support across Europe for anti-EU parties such as France’s neo-fascist National Front (FN).
The entire framework of official “left” politics, which has completely disenfranchised the working class, is now collapsing in France and across Europe. What is being prepared is the explosive entry of the French and the international working class into revolutionary struggle against capitalism and its “left” defenders.
The semi-socialistic promises that defenders of European capitalism made after World War II and the collapse of fascist rule in Europe read like mockeries today. In its 1944 program, the bourgeois, social democratic and Stalinist forces of the National Resistance Council pledged for post-war French capitalism “the creation of a true economic and social democracy, entailing the eviction of the great economic and financial feudalities from leadership of the economy.”
What is the reality? As the institutions of bourgeois Europe collapse, a financial aristocracy exercises dictatorial sway over living conditions of hundreds of millions of workers. It is utterly impervious to alternations between overtly right-wing and bourgeois “left” parties at the ballot box. Unlike 70 years ago, however, it rules France not through the fascist dictatorship of the Nazi-collaborationist Vichy regime, but though the various agencies and political accomplices of a party that cynically claims to be socialist.
Central responsibility for this lies with various descendants of renegades from Trotskyism. Terrified by the last great revolutionary uprising of the French working class, the 1968 general strike, they ceaselessly promoted as “left” the newly-founded PS and its leader, the ex-Vichy official and bourgeois adventurer François Mitterrand. The Internationalist Communist Organization, formerly the French section of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), broke with the ICFI and with Trotskyism to pursue a “Union of the Left” with the PS and the Stalinist French Communist Party.
In the event, these forces built the framework for bourgeois “left” rule in France in the next five decades, centered around the PS. Adapting to the austerity measures and imperialist wars of the 1981-1995 Mitterrand presidency and the Stalinist restoration of capitalism in the USSR, they became a distinct social layer consciously hostile to the workers, to Marxism, and to socialist revolution.
Under the influence of these parties and associated postmodernist intellectuals, the entire content of “left” politics was redefined. Class struggle was replaced by “social dialog” between the bosses and France’s corrupt union bureaucracy; opposition to imperialism was replaced by support for its “humanitarian” wars; and the working class was repudiated as a revolutionary social force.
Summarizing the politics of this layer shortly before his election two years ago, Hollande complacently told the New York Times: “Today there are no more communists in France. The left liberalized the economy and opened markets to finance and privatization. There is nothing to fear.”
The ICFI and its supporters in France beg to differ: there is a powerful opposition to capitalism and growing socialist sentiment in the working class. We are setting out to build a French section of the ICFI as the Trotskyist alternative to the failed apparatus of the PS and its allies. Our aim is to offer political leadership to the working class in the coming revolutionary struggles—in which the workers in France will find natural allies in the workers of Greece, Germany, the United States and beyond. We insist that what has failed is not socialism, but the reactionary politics of its pseudo-left opponents.
Recent events in Ferguson showed that America is not a free democratic, but a totalitarian police state. Social problems explode into mass protests against the system. What is in store for the United States? Pravda.Ru interviewed Americanist historian, leading researcher at the Institute of World History at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alexander Petrov.
“The formation of the civil society and legal system is a rather complicated process. In America, the process goes back to the 19th century, when there was a movement for civil rights. The Civil War in the United States, among other problems, solved the question of equality. It culminated in the reconstruction of the South, the adoption of relevant amendments and the abolition of slavery. The relatively recent struggle for civil rights, the movement of African Americans for their rights, with Martin Luther King as the leader, ended with desegregation.
At the end of the twentieth century, other events were happening. In 1992, in Los Angeles, four police officers beat a young man to death. The incident stirred up the city. To pacify the protests, National Guard was used. The story ended up with the payment of an unprecedented compensation worth more than three million dollars.
And now they have an event that shook maybe not the whole country, but Missouri for sure. In the state of Missouri, most of the population are African Americans. Indeed, the murder of the young man was an event out of the ordinary. It showed that in America, there were things that still have not been regulated, despite all the statements made by politicians.”
“After September 11, the world changed in many ways. In the United States, there is very tight control indeed. One needs to arrive to the airport long before boarding. Inspection measures are very strict. However, after September 11, the Americans were frightened a lot themselves, because America had not seen such challenges before. Then, there were Boston bombings. America realized that it was still unprotected. Danger may come from a seemingly law-abiding citizen.
“There are many questions left. Neither Governor Nixon, nor Washington officials have given any answers yet. The absence of answers leads to clashes. Why did the officer fire six bullets at the teenager? America has come a long way forward since the time of the infamous Jim Crow segregation. The African American community has not been fully integrated into certain processes yet. Some of them are considered a prerogative of the white population. However, it is politically correct to believe in America now that there are no prejudices and problems at all.”
“Not fully integrated? They have a black president now.”
“Moreover, any booklet must mention a black, a white and a Hispanic representative, and a representative of some other diaspora. America shows that this country is for all, regardless of skin color. If a booklet, an ad or some other form of advertising does not contain that, relevant institutions may have problems.
“The question, the way I see it, is different: how deep are the reasons and whether they can lead to further development of the situation. In late 1990s, in the beginning of 2000s, there was a very powerful process going in to pay compensations to heirs of slaves. That was a type of reparations for slavery. In 2009, the Senate apologized and said they would not pay anything.
“Does it mean then that African Americans, whom they are so afraid to call blacks, not to show any discrimination, have never been integrated in the system of the American society?”
“From the point of view of history, not much time has passed since the launch of the system of integration. After all, slavery is the greatest evil in the history of mankind. By the standards of the history of civilization, the phenomenon existed not so long ago. Then they abolished slavery, but African Americans still did not receive equal rights. They did not become full-fledged citizens either. One needs to understand why African Americans are in the majority in certain suburbs? What are their slogans? Although white people also take part in protests together with black people. This is not purely a riot of color. This is not a revolt of the ghetto. These are common concerns. This is an aspiration to integrate on the part of both African Americans and poor levels of the American population. This is an attempt to find their place in life.”
“The United States, President Obama have found themselves in quite a sticky situation. They arranged unrest and revolution in Ukraine, they were giving instructions to the new Ukrainian government. And now, it appears that there is Maidan brewing in the USA?”
“Obama represents interests of his Democratic Party. On the one hand, he sees pressure from his colleagues, and on the other hand, there is tremendous pressure from the Republican Party. The party criticizes him for Obama Care, but also for excessive pliability that, in the opinion of the Republican Party, Obama showed to Russia. Therefore, he is keen to indicate that he still has the will to bring his line to the end.
“Obviously, the USA does not understand how strong Ukraine and Russia are connected. The Americans know their own history, but they do not understand or know poorly the history of other countries. If they did, their actions would not lead to such events.
“Not that long ago, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a very wise man, published an article in The Washington Post. He clearly said that the Americans need to take a look at how closely Russia and Ukraine interact with each other. To start a war is a piece of cake, but ending a war is a hard nut to crack.
“Comparing Maidan riots in Ukraine and the current protests in the United States is not entirely correct. Maidan has a different basis – a political crisis. In America, this movement started because of fuzziness and uncertainty in national and racial issues.
“Ukraine is a young state. Many of the processes that take place in it have a rather complicated assessment because of the time factor. Mass media give a completely obscure and biased picture of the situation. And they are constantly changing. This is a fundamental difference between the United States and Ukraine.
“And of course, a racial issue in Ukraine does not exist. In Ukraine, there is a problem of regions and contradictions between them. Historically, they were developing differently, they were parts of different states. In the United States, the question of racial affiliation is a serious one.”
Interviewed by Anton Frolov
The announcement by Barack Obama on July 31st to appoint John F. Tefft as the new U.S. ambassador to Russia is a warning to the Russian government of the intensions of western foreign policy planners. Tefft, who has worked for the State Department and the National War College in Washington, is an expert at planning colour revolutions to overthrow regimes targeted by the western elite. He is the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine where he was a key architect in preparing the Washington orchestrated coup in Kiev.
Colour revolutions are based upon a fusion of the Rand Corporations “swarming” technique invented in the 1960’s and Professor Gene Sharp’s guide to nonviolent struggle in the 1990’s. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) act as an extension of western intelligence agencies to create artificial revolutionary movements in countries that oppose Anglo-American hegemony through the use of social networks and text messaging, resulting in the overthrow of unfavorable regimes. They always appear as organic demonstrations by a people against a corrupt ruling class, which is reinforced and sometimes manufactured by the mainstream corporate media, but in reality they are organised by foreign NGOs – like in the case of the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Actions and Strategies (CANVAS), a U.S supported Serbian based “revolution consultancy” group, which was operating in Ukraine during 2013-14. The 2000 coup in Serbia, the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia and the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine are some of the most notorious coups where this technique has been used.
The most experienced NGO that has been involved in the majority of the colour revolutions over the past two decades is the ubiquitous National Endowment for Democracy (NED), whose “funding is dependent on the continued support of the White House and Congress”. The historian Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation in the 1980’s creating NED, remarked during an interview with the Washington Post in 1991: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA”. Carl Gershman, the President of NED, wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post in September 2013 that: “Ukraine is the biggest prize”, a few months before his organisation was heavily involved in orchestrating protests in Kiev.
Along with fellow regime changing organisations such as George Soros’s Open Society Foundation (OSF) and U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S. AID), NED controls proxy organisations across the globe. One Russian based organisation is the ‘Freedom of Information Foundation’ (FIF), which was founded by Ivan Pavlov and is based in St. Petersburg, whose chief supporters are NED, OSF and U.S. Aid. On 19th August, the Russian government expelled the wife of Pavlov due to Russian allegations of her promoting the “overthrow of the constitutional order”. Putin himself has acknowledged the threat to Russian security presented by western NGOs in a speech to the Federal Security Service (FSB) in April, asserting than many NGOs serve “foreign national interests”. U.S. Aid was also expelled from Russia in 2012 due to what the Russian foreign ministry said were “attempts to influence political processes through its grants”.
Relations between Russia and the west are at their most strained since the height of the Cold War, with the Russian President coming under relentless attack by U.S. and EU politicians over Ukraine – Hilary Clinton went as far as to compare Putin to Hitler. It is clear that the western elite are determined to overthrow Putin in Moscow, and replace him with a more subservient, pliant and less nationalist leader who will be more willing to bow to the dictates of Washington, London and Brussels.
Putin’s Russia provides a counterweight to Anglo-American hegemony, although he has flirted with the western elite on occasion. I am no apologist for Putin or the Kremlin but the west has clearly been the belligerent force on the international stage since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) into former Warsaw Pact countries as part of a wider strategy of encircling Russia is a highly provocative tactic.
In a recent article titled ‘The Dangerous Mr. Putin’, neo-con war hawk and former State Department official David J. Kramer blames Putin for the crisis in Ukraine and he asserts that: “This makes Putin, and now even Russia, a serious threat”. Kramer is the President of Freedom House, an organisation which is connected to NED and has been involved in numerous colour revolutions across the planet in the past.
A Colour Revolution in Russia?
There is no doubt that western strategists have been considering instigating a second colour revolution in Russia, after the first attempt to meddle in Russian internal affairs failed in the run up to the 2012 presidential elections. In an article by French intellectual and the founder of Voltaire Network, Thierry Meyssan, he emphasises the importance of the relationship between Putin and Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, in order to ensure Russia’s stability:
“It will be important for President Vladimir Putin to be able to trust his prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, whom Washington hoped to recruit to overthrow him.”
Medvedev may be the weak link within the Russian establishment as he was the chair of the Institute of Contemporary Development Board of Trustees in 2008, an organisation that is part of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)’s ‘Council of Councils’ program. If Medvedev is still part of this organisation it could prove decisive in the coming years, as the CFR is America’s pre-eminent think tank which is filled with State Department and CIA officials.
Meyssan also links to a video by a Russian politician Evgeny Fedorov, titled: There will be a Maidan in St. Petersburg. Fedorov states that St. Petersburg has been targeted by the west as a strategic weak spot in Russia where unrest can be fomented and manufactured, with the Governor elections in September a potential opportunity to trigger protests:
“2-3 weeks ago the U.S. ambassador held a closed meeting in one of the theatres in Moscow, where he openly said the first blow will be struck in St. Petersburg during the elections in September.”
If protests erupt over the next few months or years in Russia, the source of the demonstrations and the nature of the NGOs working in the region will have to be closely investigated considering the history of organisations such as NED.
The Nail In The Petrodollar Coffin
By Tyler Durden
August 29, 2014 “ICH” – “Zero Hedge” – -Several months ago, when Russia announced the much anticipated “Holy Grail” energy deal with China, some were disappointed that despite this symbolic agreement meant to break the petrodollar’s stranglehold on the rest of the world, neither Russia nor China announced payment terms to be in anything but dollars. In doing so they admitted that while both nations are eager to move away from a US Dollar reserve currency, neither is yet able to provide an alternative.
This changed in late June when first Gazprom’s CFO announced the gas giant was ready to settle China contracts in Yuan or Rubles, and at the same time the People’s Bank of China announced that its Assistant Governor Jin Qi and Russian central bank Deputy Chairman Dmitry Skobelkin held a meeting in which they discussed cooperating on project and trade financing using local currencies. The meeting discussed cooperation in bank card, insurance and financial supervision sectors.
And yet, while both sides declared their operational readiness and eagerness to bypass the dollar entirely, such plans remained purely in the arena of monetary foreplay and the long awaited first shot across the Petrodollar bow was absent.
According to Russia’s RIA Novosti, citing business daily Kommersant, Gazprom Neft has agreed to export 80,000 tons of oil from Novoportovskoye field in the Arctic; it will accept payment in rubles, and will also deliver oil via the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline (ESPO), accepting payment in Chinese yuan for the transfers. Meaning Russia will export energy to either Europe or China, and receive payment in either Rubles or Yuan, in effect making the two currencies equivalent as far as the Eurasian axis is concerned, but most importantly, transact completely away from the US dollar thus, finally putin'(sic) in action the move for a Petrodollar-free world.
More on this long awaited first nail in the petrodollar coffin from RIA:
The Russian government and several of the country’s largest exporters have widely discussed the possibility of accepting payments in rubles for oil exports. Last week, Russia began to ship oil from the Novoportovskoye field to Europe by sea. Two oil tankers are expected to arrive in Europe in September.
According to Kommersant, the payment for these shipments will be received in rubles.
Gazprom Neft will not only accept payments in rubles; subsequent transfers via the ESPO may be paid for in yuan, the newspaper reported.
According to the newspaper, the change in currency was made because of the Western sanctions against Russia.
As a protective measure, Russia decided to avoid making its payments in US dollars, which can be tracked and controlled by the United States government, Kommersant reported.
“Protective measure” meaning that it was the US which managed to Plaxico itself by pushing Russia to transact away from the US Dollar, in the process showing the world it can be done, and slamming the first nail in the petrodollar’s coffin.
This is not surprising to anyone who has been following our forecast of the next steps in the transition from the Petrodollar to the Gas-O-Yuan. Recall from April:
The New New Normal flow of funds:
- Gazprom delivering gas to China.
- China Gazprom paying in Yuan (convertible into Rubles)
- Gazprom funding itself increasingly in Yuan.
- Russia buying Chinese goods and services in Yuan (convertible into Rubles)
And all of this with the US banker cartel completely disintermediated courtesy of the glaring absence of the USD in any of the above listed steps, or as some may call it: from the Petrodollar to the Gas-o-yuan (something 40 central banks have already figured out… just not the Fed).
Still confused? Then read “90% Of Gazprom Clients Have “De-Dollarized”, Will Transact In Euro & Renminbi” for just how Gazprom set the stage for the day it finally would push the button to skip the dollar entirely. Which it just did.
In conclusion we will merely say what we have said previously, and it touches on what will be the most remarkable aspect of Obama’s legacy, because while the hypocrite “progressive” president who even his own people have accused of being a “brown-faced Clinton” after selling out to Wall Street and totally wrecking US foreign policy abroad, is already the worst president in a century of US history according to public polls, the fitting epitaph will come when the president’s policies put an end to dollar hegemony and end the reserve currency status of the dollar once and for all, thereby starting the rapid, and uncontrolled, collapse of the US empire. To wit:
In retrospect it will be very fitting that the crowning legacy of Obama’s disastrous reign, both domestically and certainly internationally, will be to force the world’s key ascendent superpowers (we certainly don’t envision broke, insolvent Europe among them) to drop the Petrodollar and end the reserve status of the US currency.
As of this moment, both Russia and China have shown not on that it can be done, but it is done. Expect everyone to jump onboard the new superpower axis bandwagon soon enough.
Two experts warn market correction could total 60%: CNBC Video : This crash will be precipitated, he said, by a disillusionment with the Federal Reserve’s “confidence game,” which will then see inflation rise, and the Fed scramble to raise rates. At that point, Tice added, “the Fed starts to lose control.”
By William Rivers Pitt
August 29, 2014 “ICH” – “Truth Out” – Make no mistake about it: by any vaguely human measure, the situation in Iraq is a US-made disaster of historic proportions. Millions dead or wounded, millions more displaced, and all overseen by a kleptocratic government more interested in grinding old enemies into the dust than governing…and of course, yes, a seemingly endless cycle of violence that claims new victims every day.
The beginning of this week saw bombs ring out all over Iraq, leaving 212 dead and 184 wounded. Three bombs exploded in a commercial district in Kirkuk, killing 31. A suicide bomber charged the gate of a security building in Baghdad, killing eleven. A Sunni mosque in Diyala was attacked, leaving 60 dead. A car bombing in Karbala killed 12. Another car bomb killed 11 people in Hilla. The butcher’s bill goes on, and on, and on.
US military operations in Iraq, directed against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), are escalating by the day. Since the second week in August, the US has carried out some 100 air strikes in Iraq, has deployed about 1,000 troops back into the country, and is tickling the outside edges of bombing targets in Syria.
The question of whether to expand this ongoing war, however, is not likely to be put to a vote in congress any time soon; a roomful of Democratic congressional aides made it abundantly clear that the last thing their bosses want is to be forced to make a public vote on further military action in Iraq. Such a vote, they claim, is far too sticky a wicket to wrangle in an election year.
Same as it ever was.
Yet consider this: the news site Vox ran a story at the beginning of August under the headline, “The US Bombing Its Own Guns Perfectly Sums Up America’s Total Failure in Iraq.” The article refers to the US air campaign against ISIS, which is flush with US weapons of war obtained from the collapsed Iraqi military. The article reads:
The absurdity runs deep: America is using American military equipment to bomb other pieces of American military equipment halfway around the world. The reason the American military equipment got there in the first place was because, in 2003, the US had to use its military to rebuild the Iraqi army, which it just finished destroying with the American military.
The American weapons the US gave the Iraqi army totally failed at making Iraq secure and have become tools of terror used by an offshoot of al-Qaeda to terrorize the Iraqis that the US supposedly liberated a decade ago. And so now the US has to use American weaponry to destroy the American weaponry it gave Iraqis to make Iraqis safer, in order to make Iraqis safer.
It keeps going: the US is intervening on behalf of Iraqi Kurds, our ally, because their military has old Russian-made weapons, whereas ISIS, which is America’s enemy, has higher-quality American weapons. “[Kurdish forces] are literally outgunned by an ISIS that is fighting with hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. military equipment seized from the Iraqi Army who abandoned it,” Ali Khedery, a former American official in Iraq, told the New York Times.
So now we’re bombing the guns that we didn’t mean to give ISIS because we didn’t give guns to their enemies because then ISIS might get guns.
It makes you want to tear your teeth out, right? The Marines use a phrase – “Charlie Foxtrot” – which is shorthand for “cluster f-k,” being a series of disasters leading to total catastrophe. The United States’ involvement in Iraq, dating back to 1990 but wildly exacerbated since March of 2003, has been a pluperfect Charlie Foxtrot from the jump, and gets worse with every passing year.
Well, it depends on who you ask.
Ask the “defense” industry, the makers and sellers of all these weapons, and they’ll tell you this Iraq debacle is the greatest thing to happen since Vietnam. Twenty-four years of war since 1990, all those missiles and bombs dropped, all those bullets fired, all those armored vehicles blown up that needed to be replaced, all of which come with a price tag to be paid out of the taxpayers’ pockets. Not everyone gets a payday that lasts a quarter of a century. The “defense” industry got one, again, and it is ongoing, and expanding.
The United States is bombing weapons the “defense” industry already got paid for with ordnance they will get paid for.
Think about it this way: In the same fashion that most people think the Iraq war was a disaster, the same majority now see George W. Bush as the worst president in modern American history. By the metrics of those who delivered him to the Oval Office, however, George W. Bush was the most successful president in the history of the country. Everything he was sent to do by those who paid his freight – gut the Treasury, break the government, establish permanent war, and make his friends rich – he accomplished to perfection.
So it is with Iraq. You think it’s a disaster, I think it’s a disaster, and by any vaguely human measure, it is a disaster…but for a few people, the ones who pay that political freight and count coins according to how many bombs and bullets get used, the specter of ongoing war and fear and death and weaponized mayhem makes what is happening in Iraq the equivalent of Christmas in August, a smashing success, and a fantastic return on their investment.
William Rivers Pitt is Truthout’s senior editor and lead columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America’s Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.
By Stuart Winter
28 August 2014
A recent study of water loss in the Colorado River Basin since late 2004, published in Geophysical Research Letters, has determined that 75 percent of the loss came from underground sources. Seven western US states (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California) rely on the Colorado River and its tributaries for water for both individual use and agriculture. It is estimated that agriculture by itself currently uses approximately 60 percent of Colorado River ground water.
The basin supplies water to about 40 million people in seven states, as well as irrigating roughly four million acres of farmland. The study notes that the water of the Colorado River is the most over-allocated in the world. While the situation is not yet critical, increased demand will soon outstrip the available resources, “suggesting that limited groundwater reserves will play an increasingly important role in meeting future water needs.” Thus, any decrease in the groundwater, particularly during a drought, “may threaten the long-term ability to meet future allocations to the seven Basin states.”
The research team, led by scientists from NASA and the University of California, Irvine, used data obtained from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission in order to track changes in the Colorado River Basin, which are related to changes in water amounts on and below the surface.
The GRACE satellite has provided the means for researchers and scientists to quantify much more accurately the degree of water loss in the basin. Previously, the primary means for detecting groundwater has been well data, which is inconsistent and unreliable. In addition, individual states are left to regulate groundwater on their own, with dubious accuracy and in many cases a complete lack of regulation. Some states, such as California, have no groundwater management rules whatsoever.
While above-ground reservoirs can refill in years of normal precipitation, it can take decades or longer to replenish underground aquifers. Drought stresses above-ground sources, increasing reliance on more underground wells, which further depletes the aquifer.
Across western states generally, both urban users and agricultural users are experiencing a decline in water table levels, a further indication of depletion.
In addition, land subsidence due to excess pumping results in a lower collection point for water, producing a feedback loop of increasing depletion of the aquifer. More water is being pumped out than is being naturally replenished, and as a result, groundwater levels are falling rapidly. In any event, for the areas served by the Colorado River Basin, far more water is being taken than is renewable by natural precipitation and snowmelt.
Monthly measurements of the change in water mass from December 2004 to November 2013 revealed the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater, almost double the volume of the nation’s largest reservoir, Nevada’s Lake Mead.
Lake Mead was built in the 1930s to store Colorado River water. The lake was created by the Hoover Dam and has historically stored several years’ flow of Colorado River water. As a result of the last 14 years of drought, the lake’s level has steadily dropped to the lowest level since just after the dam’s completion. At its current level, Lake Mead stores only nine months of river flow.
The situation has been greatly exacerbated by the severe drought in the western US, one result of which is a declining snowpack, which historically has constituted a primary source for ground water replenishment. The last 14 years have been the driest in the last century. To make matters worse, climatological projections forecast that the frequency and severity of drought will continue to increase in the coming decades. The bottom line is that the western US is running out of fresh water.
“We don’t know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don’t know when we’re going to run out,” said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine, and the study’s lead author. “This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking.”
The effects of ground water depletion are a major threat to agriculture and human habitation in the western US. A similar threat to water supplies also holds sway in California’s Central Valley, with its dependence on the Ogallala aquifer, which is also in decline. This situation is aggravated by inefficient and wasteful irrigation practices carried out by western agribusiness in pursuit of profit maximization.
The inherent inability of the capitalist profit system to rationally plan the allocation of natural resources in accord with the needs of humanity threatens the future of both humanity and nature.
By Robert Stevens
28 August 2014
In 2011 a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that income inequality among working-age people had risen faster in Britain than in any other developed nation since the mid-1970s.
The OECD noted the emergence of a super-rich layer, with the share of the wealth of the top 1 percent of income earners increasing from 7.1 percent in 1970 to 14.3 percent in 2005. It recorded that just prior to the global economic crash of 2008 the 0.1 percent of highest earners in the UK accounted for 5 percent of total pre-tax income. This was a level of wealth accumulation not witnessed since the Second World War.
These parasites have more than recouped any financial losses from the 2008 crash with a vengeance, with the ill-gotten plunder of the top richest 1,000 people in Britain now at the highest level ever.
Social inequality continues to widen, with Britain more sharply polarised than ever between a tiny minority who control much of the country’s wealth and monopolise political life, and the vast majority of the population who have little control or influence over either.
A report issued this month by the High Pay Centre think tank found that the highest paid CEOs in the UK are now paid around 131 times that of their average employee. The High Pay Centre compared the pay for FTSE 100 chief executives, recorded by companies in their annual reports, to figures for average pay at each company.
Even the obscene average figure masks how extreme the pay divide has become. WPP advertisers CEO Martin Sorrell earns nearly 800 times more than his employees. Lord Wolfson, the CEO of Next retailer, was paid 459 times as much as his average employee.
These figures appeared as media reports noted that inflation is still rising faster than earnings. It had been projected that 2014 could see the first real increases in pay for workers since 2008. Instead, as the Guardian noted, “Living standards will carry on falling deep into the autumn even if wages do start to pick up.”
Whilst corporate pay now stands at record levels, workers’ wages in real terms have plummeted over the last decade, a process that accelerated after 2008.
As the result of a generally low-paid workforce and labour laws fixed entirely in favour of capital, Britain is now officially the “lowest-cost manufacturing economy of Western Europe”.
A new study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm describing itself as “the world’s leading advisor on business strategy”, concludes that the UK has emerged as “the lowest-cost manufacturing economy of Western Europe” over the last decade. It bracketed the UK along with the Netherlands, Indonesia and India as “regional rising stars”.
The BCG defined wage costs as the amount companies paid for an extra unit of work. It found that this unit cost had increased by 16 percent in the UK over the past decade. It compared the figure with France, where the unit had risen by 52 percent, and with Italy where it had increased by 62 percent.
Examining “several distinct patterns” that have emerged, the report states, “India, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and the UK have held their cost competitiveness relatively steady since 2004 compared with the U.S. and have emerged as low-cost manufacturing economies in their regions.” Another pattern is that “Some economies long considered low cost—including Brazil, China, Poland, and Russia—have seen their competitiveness erode significantly over the past decade.”
Acclaiming the report, the Daily Telegraph trumpeted, “The trend is so pronounced that the UK is even becoming increasingly competitive compared to many Eastern European countries like Poland and the Czech Republic”.
The BCG reports, “Because of moderate wage increases over the past decade that were almost entirely offset by productivity gains, the UK’s direct-manufacturing cost structure improved by up to 10 percentage points relative to other leading Western European manufacturing export economies…” It adds, “The UK has also improved its competitive position compared with Eastern European nations such as Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as with Asian economies such as China.”
Additional factors were also central to the UK’s position as one of the best locations for the extraction of increased profits by global corporations, said the BCG. It reports, “The UK’s advantages go beyond labor costs. Corporate taxes in the UK are the lowest in Europe, and by 2015 they will drop further, from 28 percent to 20 percent—nearly half the level of the U.S.”
And even above these factors, the report notes, “it is labor flexibility that gives the UK a distinct edge. The country scores highest among both Western and Eastern European economies in terms of overall labor-market regulation by the Fraser Institute, a Canadian policy research organization”. The BCG comments, “This allows manufacturers in the UK to restructure much more quickly than those in other European economies. It also makes the UK an attractive place to build factories and create jobs once the investment cycle turns back toward growth.”
Central to this labour flexibility has been the dramatic rise in the number of workers employed on low paid zero-hours contracts and part-time work. According to the Office for National Statistics in April about 1.4 million UK jobs were offered on zero-hours contracts. This month the ONS estimates that 622,000 people are employed on zero-hours contracts, qualifying this by stating that some of these workers will likely be employed on more than one such contract.
These official government figures are certainly an underestimation. Research commissioned by the Unite trade union last year estimated that some 5.5 million people were on zero-hours contracts.
As a result of years trying to eke out a living in low paid jobs many families do not earn enough to provide even a minimum standard of living. A report issued this month by Child Poverty Action Group, The Cost of a Child in 2014, found that those families working full-time at the national minimum wage are 18 percent short of the basic amount needed to provide a minimum standard of living.
The minimum wage in Britain was introduced 15 years ago and is still just £6.31 an hour for those over 21 years of age. For those aged 18 to 20 it is £5.03, for under 18s £3.72 and for apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year, a paltry £2.68.
Families in which the parents work full-time on the minimum wage now have only 82 percent, in the case of couples, of the minimum income required to make ends meet. In the case of lone parents the figure is 87 percent.
Out of work couples with families on welfare benefits were 43 percent short of the income required to provide for a minimum standard of living. For lone parents on benefits they were 40 percent short.
Even with a tiny increase in the minimum wage to come in October (an apprentice will receive another 5p an hour); the rate will still be far below the definition of low pay set by the OECD. The OECD level of low pay equates to two-thirds of the median full-time hourly wage–about £7.71 an hour. An estimated five million UK workers currently earn below that.
The facts delivered in these various reports give the lie to the monotonous declarations from the varied hired mouthpieces of the ruling elite that a recovery is underway for all. On the contrary they highlight the impact of brutal class war policies, favoured by all political parties, being carried out against working people.
By Kumaran Ira
28 August 2014
The US and European powers are stepping up their reckless military escalation against Russia, citing the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a pretext to deploy troops to new bases throughout Eastern Europe.
Ahead of next week’s NATO summit in Cardiff, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen bluntly accused Russia of destabilizing eastern Ukraine and all but threatened Russia with war. According to the Guardian, he indicated that the NATO summit would agree to “new deployments on Russia’s borders—a move certain to trigger a strong reaction from Moscow.”
Rasmussen explained, “We will adopt what we call a readiness action plan with the aim to be able to act swiftly in this completely new security environment in Europe. We have something already called the NATO response force, whose purpose is to be able to be deployed rapidly if needed. Now it’s our intention to develop what I would call a spearhead within that response force at very, very high readiness.” This would “involve the pre-positioning of supplies, of equipment, preparation of infrastructure, bases, headquarters. The bottom line is you will in the future see a more visible NATO presence in the east.”
NATO’s base on the Baltic Sea coast in the Polish city of Szczecin is likely to be the hub for the new deployments.
NATO’s decision to deploy troops in Eastern Europe blatantly violates promises made by numerous Western officials to the USSR during the process of German reunification in 1990. Then-US Secretary of State James Baker, for instance, pledged that there would be “no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east” after the Soviets agreed to let a reunified Germany join NATO.
Diplomatic and military sources also reported that two NATO warships will enter the Black Sea next week. “Two NATO warships at once will arrive in the Black Sea on September 3. They are the US Navy’s destroyer USS Ross and the frigate Commandant Birot of the naval forces of France,” an unnamed source told RIA Novosti news agency.
To fund their confrontation with Russia, NATO powers are also discussing a massive increase in military spending, which could only be funded by carrying out deep social cuts against the working class. “Since the end of the cold war we have lived in relatively good weather,” Rasmussen said. “Now we are faced with a profound climate change. That requires more investment. Politicians have tried to harvest the peace dividend after the end of the cold war. That’s understandable. But now we are in a completely new security situation.”
Former NATO supreme commander General Sir Richard Shirreff also said that European nations had to put their “hands in their pockets to spend more money on defence.” He added that the “security framework” in Europe had changed as a result of Russia’s annexation of the southern Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March.
The warmongering propaganda of the NATO powers stands reality on its head. In fact, it is NATO that stirred up conflict in Ukraine, backing the fascist-led coup that ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych in February. The aim of the US and its European allies is to turn Ukraine into a forward operating base, threatening war with Russia, a nuclear-armed power.
In an extraordinarily reckless move, NATO is preparing to unofficially but effectively bring Ukraine into the NATO alliance, using it as a proxy force to threaten Russia. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko will be the sole non-NATO head of state attending the NATO summit next week. According to theGuardian, “Four ‘trust funds’ are to be established to finance Ukraine’s military logistics, command and control structures, and cyber defences, and to pay the armed forces’ pensions.”
Rasmussen said, “It is actually what we will decide to do at the summit, to help them build the capacity of their security sector, modernise it.”
It appears that this policy is being pursued despite significant internal opposition inside NATO, which is rarely reported in the major media and never in detail.
Although the European powers backed the fascist coup in Kiev, some reportedly oppose setting up permanent bases in Eastern Europe, fearing this will hurt Europe’s economic ties with Russia. According to the Guardian, “The French, Italians and Spanish are opposed while the Americans and British are supportive of the eastern European demands. The Germans, said a NATO official, were sitting on the fence, wary of provoking Russia.”
The Kremlin, for its part, is taking an accommodating position to the Western powers in Ukraine, effectively recognizing the Western puppet regime in Kiev by holding its first direct negotiations with it.
On Tuesday, Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks in Minsk after both attended a meeting among the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union, the European Union and Ukraine. Though it was reported that both countries are working for a peace plan, no agreement came out of the summit.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told reporters the talks at the summit were “tough,” but avoided saying that they had failed. He said, “Sadly, the situation there [in Ukraine] has gone so far that in the absence of agreements in principle, any steps or technical accords are not going to lead to settlement.”
In his opening statement, Putin expressed concern over Ukraine’s decision to sign an association agreement with the EU, as it undermines Russian interests. Ukraine is set to ratify the EU association agreement next month.
Putin said, “Not all of our arguments are accepted by our colleagues, but at least we were heard and we have agreed to intensify the exchange of views, and try to find some solutions,” adding that in the absence of a final agreement Russia will have to “take measures” to protect its economy.
However, Putin called the meeting with Poroshenko “positive,” while Poroshenko called it “very complicated and difficult.”
Putin’s main concern seems to be to leverage his role as the EU’s energy supplier to reach some sort of deal, asserting that the two sides “have also agreed that a resumption of gas and energy talks is urgently needed.”
As NATO escalates its military threats against Russia, fighting between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian army and its allied fascist paramilitary units is continuing in eastern Ukraine.
The area around the city of Novoazovsk, strategically positioned on roads linking Russia with Crimea, which Moscow annexed in March, has come under heavy artillery firing in the past days. Novoazovsk lies on the Azov Sea on the road that runs from Russia to the major Ukrainian port of Mariupol and west to Crimea.
The fighting in eastern Ukraine has killed over 2,249 and wounded 6,033, according to the United Nations. The flood of refugees has now reached crisis proportions, with 190,000 internally displaced Ukrainians and 207,000 seeking refuge in Russia.
On Monday, a Ukrainian official said a column of Russian tanks and armoured vehicles entered southeastern Ukraine. The Kiev government said it captured 10 Russian soldiers around Amvrosiivka, a town near the Russian border. Later, Moscow admitted that they were Russian soldiers patrolling the border, claiming that they probably crossed it inadvertently.
By Peter Symonds
28 August 2014
The Australian government signalled yesterday that it is simply waiting on the word from Washington before escalating its involvement in US-led military operations in the Middle East against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militias.
Australian military transports based in the Middle East have already made so-called humanitarian airdrops in northern Iraq. What is now being planned, however, is an expanded role, including the possible use of fighter jets for air strikes and the dispatch of SAS special forces and other military personnel to Iraq.
While Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his ministers repeat the mantra that “no decision has been made,” preparations are very advanced. Asked on the Australian ABC’s “Lateline” program last night about the commitment of strike aircraft, Defence Minister David Johnston commented: “We’ve got Super Hornets. They’re incredibly capable … Now, that’s an obvious port of call were we to consider it necessary to participate with our friends and our ally [the US].”
Asked if the Super Hornets were in the Middle East, or ready to go, Johnston declared: “We’re in a high state of readiness.” He even hinted at a time line, saying that before expanding operations, the US wanted “to see a stable government in Iraq and that’s not going to occur until September 10 when the new prime minister takes over.”
As the Obama administration prepares to expand its war against ISIS in Iraq and into Syria, it is building a new version of President Bush’s “coalition of the willing” that launched the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Citing administration officials, the New York Times reported on Tuesday that “the countries likely to be enlisted include Australia, Britain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.”
While some countries would be asked for intelligence and financial support, “the [White House] officials … said they expected Britain and Australia would be willing to join the United States in an air campaign.”
Johnston was hesitant about publicly committing to an air war in Syria, but he did not rule it out. “I wouldn’t want to speculate about what the Syrian situation is,” he said. “We’d want to sit down at length with our ally, discuss the circumstances … [But] who knows what’s coming over the horizon?”
In the space of less than a month, the Obama administration has expanded its air strikes from a limited operation, supposedly to assist the Yazidi minority in Iraq, to providing air support for Iraqi and Kurdish offensives against ISIS. This week the US air force began reconnaissance flights over Syria to prepare for air operations against ISIS targets in that country.
Just as the 2003 invasion of Iraq was based on lies, so too is the new US-led war in Iraq and Syria. It is not about protecting and providing humanitarian aid to embattled Iraqi minorities. The Obama administration is seeking to refashion and consolidate its client regime in Baghdad, while boosting its regime-change operation to oust Syrian President Bashir al-Assad.
As the New York Times reported, the White House is seeking to “enlist allies and neighbours in the region to increase their support for Syria’s moderate opposition.” Which of the largely Islamist anti-Assad militias are considered “moderate” at any time depends on whether they fit US strategic requirements. Until recently, Obama, along with the US and international media, conveniently ignored ISIS atrocities in Syria.
As it prepares to join the US-led air war, the Abbott government, supported by the opposition parties and a compliant media, is mounting an increasingly hysterical anti-terror campaign in a bid to swamp widespread antiwar sentiment. Denunciations of ISIS beheadings and other barbarities are being linked to scaremongering about Australian members of ISIS returning to do the same in Australia. The government is preparing draconian new anti-terror legislation that further undermines basic democratic rights and legal norms.
The opposition Labor Party and the Greens have made it plain they will not oppose Australian military involvement. Speaking on the ABC’s RN “Breakfast” program this morning, Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said the government had to be “very, very cautious” about participation, but declared her support for a “humanitarian mission.” She said there was “a humanitarian disaster right now in Iraq and Syria” and the “international community” had a “responsibility to protect.”
Likewise, the Greens called for a parliamentary debate, but have not rejected Australian involvement in the escalating US military operations. Greens leader Christine Milne told parliament yesterday: “The Greens have said all along that we support humanitarian assistance, but this appears to be morphing fairly quickly into military engagement.” Deputy leader Adam Bandt complained that the Abbott government had yet to make a case for military involvement. Neither opposed the US air war in Iraq.
News Corp Australia reported today that the Abbott government is preparing a dossier “detailing the atrocities committed by ISIS against civilians across Syria and Iraq to make the case for applying maximum force against ISIS.” In coming days, no doubt, lurid details from the dossier will be amplified in the media to provide the pretext for Australian military engagement.
The article further reported: “Top-secret plans have also been drawn up for Australian SAS troops to be deployed inside Iraq to provide targeting information for the air strikes. The elite troops would establish stealthy observation posts in high-risk locations to identify targets and guide coalition aircraft onto enemy positions.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced yesterday that the government was considering a request received yesterday from a representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq for military assistance and supplies. Plibersek, who is meeting the KRG representative today, indicated her support, declaring that the Kurdish peshmerga fighters were “the most effective fighting force in northern Iraq.”
Behind the backs of the Australian people, the Abbott government, with the support of the entire political establishment, is committing to an open-ended US war, which, like the 2003 invasion, is aimed at securing Washington’s dominance in the energy-rich region. Moreover, by extending the war into Syria, the US and its allies are recklessly heightening the danger of drawing in other countries and triggering a broader regional conflict.
By Barry Grey
28 August 2014
The announcement of an indefinite ceasefire between Israel and Hamas sets the stage for an intensification of the political crisis of the Israeli Zionist regime, but no longstanding peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Palestinians in Gaza understandably rejoiced over the seeming end to a 50-day war in which Israel criminally and indiscriminately targeted a defenseless civilian population in one of the most densely packed territories in the world. But the terms of the ceasefire, brokered in Egypt by the US-backed military regime of General al-Sisi, go no further than those reached at the end of the last Israeli assault on Gaza in 2012.
The devastating, decade-long Israeli blockade is to be eased, but not lifted, and the policing of Gaza on behalf of Israel is evidently to be carried out by the US-trained proxy security forces of the Palestinian Authority.
At the same time, the terms of the truce fall far short of the announced war aims of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had insisted that nothing less than the “demilitarization” of Gaza would suffice.
The indecisive manner in which the latest Gaza war has apparently concluded—leaving a horrific toll of death and destruction among the Palestinians and an unusually high number of dead Israeli soldiers—has left large sections of the Israeli population questioning what the war was all about and why it was waged.
In Haaretz Wednesday, Gideon Levy published a column headlined “Lessons from a futile war,” which began: “This was the most brutal war Israel has ever waged, and it ended yesterday exactly where it started. En route, it inflicted countless wounds. Those of the Palestinians bleed more, but those of the Israelis are deeper. The 50-day war ended with no victors, but only Gaza celebrated last night, and with some degree of justice.”
The latest Israeli aggression will only intensify what is already a deep and pervasive social and political polarization in the country. Within the political establishment and even within his own government, Netanyahu has come under withering attack from forces even further to the right than himself. These include outright fascistic elements who have been mobilized and cultivated in the course of decades of occupation and repression of the Palestinian people, and who, during this latest Israeli slaughter, called for a genocidal “solution” to the Palestinian “problem.”
At the same time, growing sections of the Israeli working class and youth are appalled by the mass bloodletting unleashed by the government, which they find both morally and politically indefensible. Last week, an estimated 10,000 Israelis took part in a protest rally under the banner “Changing direction: Toward peace, away from war.”
This sentiment, compounded by social grievances bound up with one of the highest levels of social inequality among industrialized countries, finds no serious reflection within the political establishment, including the official “peace” movements such as Peace Now and Meretz.
The scale of destruction wreaked on the Palestinians by Israel is mind-boggling. At least 2,143 were killed and over 11,000 wounded. The overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians, and at least 490 children were killed. The one-sidedness of the war was reflected in the minimal level of Israeli casualties. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and only six civilians died.
Some 17,000 Palestinian homes were destroyed and many more damaged.
Half a million people, more than one-quarter of the population of Gaza, were forced to move to emergency shelters or live with friends or family. An estimated 100,000 Gazans are now homeless.
According to Al Jazeera, the United Nations believes the level of damage is three times that inflicted by Israel in the 2008-2009 war. The UN estimates that if the current restrictions remain in place, it will take 15 years to rebuild the Gaza Strip.
Right up to the beginning of the ceasefire Tuesday evening, Israel was escalating its aggression with the targeting of high-rise buildings. Two children were killed in an air strike in Khan Younis shortly before the truce, and police reported that an Israeli air strike flattened a seven-story building in Beit Lahiya, the sixth high-rise to be toppled since the weekend.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu held a nationally televised press conference Wednesday night to answer critics who have denounced the ceasefire as a cave-in to Hamas and international pressure, including from Washington. Leading newspapers have called for his resignation.
At the press conference, Netanyahu said the war was a “great military and political” achievement and that Hamas had been dealt a “heavy blow.” He boasted that Hamas had not secured any of the demands it had previously set as a condition for a truce. He hailed the support of the major international powers for Israel, and pointed indirectly to the complicity of the Arab regimes, declaring, “Moderate forces in the Middle East bring new diplomatic opportunities, a new horizon for Israel.”
But his own cabinet is split on the agreement with Hamas. Netanyahu announced the deal without putting it to a vote within his security cabinet.
Three cabinet members—Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich—each declared their opposition. Danny Danon, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, who was dismissed as deputy defense minister last month, said on Army Radio, “I ask myself, what have we accomplished? If we would have acted much more aggressively to begin with, we would have ended this fighting with a much lower price and much preferable conditions.”
Foreign Minister Lieberman wrote on his Facebook page: “As long as Hamas rules in Gaza, it will be impossible to guarantee security to Israeli citizens and impossible to reach a diplomatic agreement. Hamas is not a partner for any arrangement, be it diplomatic or security-related. It’s impossible and forbidden to rely on worthless murderers.”
Yuval Steinitz, Israeli minister for intelligence and strategic affairs, said of the agreement, “There is no confidence here. People are very skeptical.”
Steinitz was one of many Israeli officials who threatened an early resumption of military action should the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel resume. He told the BBC that just prior to the ceasefire agreement, Israel’s security cabinet had discussed plans for a full military reoccupation of Gaza. That could still happen, he insisted, “if Hamas would resume the fire and leave us with no other option.”
At the Wednesday night press conference, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said, “We live in the Middle East and we may have to return to the battlefield, and if we do, we will pound Hamas in the same way we did during this operation.”
Indirect talks are to resume in Cairo within a month at which Hamas will raise its demands for a seaport and airport in Gaza, the release of Hamas prisoners from Israeli jails, and the release of funds to pay 40,000 police, government workers and other administration staff who have been largely unpaid since late last year.
Israel will press its demand for the “demilitarization” of Hamas, presumably by making use of the US-Israeli puppet security forces headed up by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Israeli regime has promised to take a hard line in the talks, underscoring the fragility of the truce. Tzachi Hanegbi, the deputy foreign minister, said in a radio interview: “The only goal that Hamas had, to lift the siege, was not achieved. There will be no seaport, no airport, no materials will enter Gaza that can be used to build rockets or tunnels. That is the Israeli position and will be presented as soon as negotiations resume.”
Claims of Russian incursion come one day after high-levels talks in Belarus fail to offer breakthrough and NATO chief says plans are underway to expand its military footprint to counter Moscow
By Jon Queally
August 28, 2014 “ICH” – “Common Dreams” – The Kiev government in Ukraine accused the Russian army of invading its eastern border on Wednesday, even though no media outlets reporting on the claims appeared able to independently verify the accusations.
Though it can routinely be difficult to verify facts inside a war zone, there has been a pattern of errant reporting—including a consistent deference to the U.S. government’s narrative of events—in the western press when it comes to the crisis in Ukraine, especially regarding Russia’s role.
According to Reuters:
Ukraine accused Russian forces of launching a new military incursion across its border on Wednesday, a day after the leaders of both countries agreed to work toward ending a separatist war in Ukraine’s east.
The accusation, which could not be immediately verified, quickly dented any sense of cautious optimism from Tuesday’s late-night talks between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko on resolving the five-month conflict.
Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said a group of Russian soldiers had crossed the border in armored infantry carriers and a truck and entered the eastern town of Amvrosiyivka, not far from where Ukraine detained 10 Russian soldiers on Monday.
Lysenko said that fighting in the towns of Horlivka and Ilovaysk to the north and east respectively had killed about 200 pro-Russian separatists and destroyed tanks and missile systems. He said 13 Ukrainian service personnel had been killed in the past 24 hours, and 36 had been wounded.
No comment was immediately available from the Russian Defense Ministry on the alleged incursion.
The New York Times reporting on the fighting Wednesday said that Ukraine and U.S. officials characterized the fighting as a “stealth invasion.” Citing those officials, the newspaper reported that “tanks, artillery and infantry have crossed from Russia into an unbreached part of eastern Ukraine in recent days, attacking Ukrainian forces and causing panic and wholesale retreat not only in this small border town but also a wide section of territory[…]” However, even the reporting from the ground offered no concrete evidence to verify that the advance or shelling witnessed was, in fact, coming from Russian troops who crossed the international border.
In Washington, D.C., State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said evidence indicates that “a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway,” but offered journalists no concrete evidence to support the claims. Senior “American officials” reportedly showed the New York Times images of what they claimed were Russian artillery units inside Ukraine, but have yet to make such documents public.
NATO Threatens to Move East and Russia Responds
In separate but related developments that began on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the city of Minsk, Belarus in their first face-to-face meeting since Poroshenko was elected earlier this year. Meanwhile, as the meeting in Minsk was getting underway, the head of NATO took the opportunity to voice plans by the European alliance to expand its military footprint in the Baltics and other countries in eastern Europe.
In comments made to European news outlets and published just ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen—who has been consistently hawkish against Russia throughout the recent turmoil in Ukraine—said that a “permanent” and expanded military presence is the best way to counter Moscow and that such plans would be put forward at the upcoming NATO summit scheduled to take place in Cardiff, Wales next week.
As quoted by the Guardian newspaper, Rasmussen told the selected journalists:
We will adopt what we call a readiness action plan with the aim to be able to act swiftly in this completely new security environment in Europe. We have something already called the Nato response force whose purpose is to be able to be deployed rapidly if needed. Now it’s our intention to develop what I would call a spearhead within that response force at very, very, high readiness.
In order to be able to provide such rapid reinforcements you also need some reception facilities in host nations. So it will involve the pre-positioning of supplies, of equipment, preparation of infrastructure, bases, headquarters. The bottom line is you will in the future see a more visible Nato presence in the east.
In an email to Common Dreams, Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus at New York University and Princeton University and an expert on Russian and Cold War history, characterized Rasmussen’s comments—in the context of current events—as “reckless beyond reason.”
The expansion of NATO bases in Poland or other Baltic states along the Russian border is one of themost strident and controversial topics when it comes to the re-emerging Cold War relationship between the U.S., European nations, and Russia. As the Moscow Times reported on Wednesday, “The move [by NATO] effectively returns the state of European security back to the Cold War era, when the collective defense ministry alliance that came into being in 1949 acted as a deterrent and main rival to the Warsaw Pact nations led by the Soviet Union.” The newspaper continued:
Russia reacted to Rasmussen’s statements by saying that NATO considers it a “hostile actor.”
“Russia will react to NATO moves eastward with a view to ensure its security,” Russia’s permanent mission to NATO said on its Twitter account.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of Russia’s ongoing large-scale military revamp program, said the threat posed by NATO’s top official is serious.
“This is being said at the secretary-general level. They have probably already come up with some plan while moving NATO eastward,” he said, Interfax reported Wednesday.
The Russian-based newspaper also interview Cold War experts—from “across the political spectrum”—who all agreed that the Kremlin’s response to Rasmussen’s promise to move NATO bases, troops, and weapons to the east was easily foreseen and likely the goal of the comments. Predictable or not, however, those who spoke to the times said the development significantly raises the stakes for regional conflict.
“The problem is that the Kremlin dissolved the Warsaw Pact alliance of its own accord and did not represent a threat to the West in the 1990s, while NATO recklessly started to move toward Moscow,” Alexei Arbatov, a scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, told the Times.
Kiev says Russian army convoy in east Ukraine: Report: A day after Russia-Ukraine talks, Ukrainian army claims “up to 100” tanks and heavy weaponry crossed border from Russia.
NATO Expansion Plan Raises Specter of Iron Curtain: Analysis: The bases will be stationed on Russian borders “for as long as necessary,” The Guardian quoted Rasmussen as saying.