Monthly Archives: October 2014

War Resumes in Ukraine. Kiev Violates OSCE Ceasefire Agreement, Re-Invades Donbass

Ukraine’s President Says All Ukrainians Who Reject His Government Should Die

Global Research, October 31, 2014

ukrainewarInfo-social-300x283On October 30th, the Novorossian press agency announced that on the prior day, Ukrainian troops had resumed their heavy shelling of towns in the former Luhansk and Donetsk Republics, two regions which had been joined together as a new nation Novorussia, and which had originally been Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk administrative districts, bordering with Russia.

This shelling went way beyond merely violating the ceasefire agreement, and the Ukrainian Government was now in open and public violation of it, and in public contempt of it. Ukraine had signed in Minsk Belarus an agreement on September 5th, the Minsk Protocol, along with the leaders of those two breakaway regions, and also with Russia’s Ukrainian Ambassador, and with the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) as the monitor of compliance with this agreement. However, now, the Ukrainian Government is no longer pretending to be complying with it. On October 29th, Russia’s RIA Novosti press agency bannered, ”Kiev Withdraws From Delineation Agreement With East Ukraine: DPR,” and reported that “Kiev has withdrawn from the delineation agreement it signed with Donetsk authorities without any explanation, the deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said.” There was no announcement yet from the Ukrainian Government, however.

The reason for Ukraine’s evident unequivocal noncompliance had actually been stated on October 23rd by the country’s President, Petro Poroshenko, speaking in the Southeastern city of Odessa, the city where the Ukrainian civil war had started on May 2nd. It had started when far-right operatives who were paid by an Obama-Administration-connected Oligarch, Ihor Kolomoysky, herded dozens of separatist demonstrators there into Odessa’s Trade Unions Building and then lobbed Molotov cocktails and firebombs into the building and burnt these people alive. The Ukrainian Government refused to prosecute anyone for it, and the U.S. Government and other Western governments didn’t even request them to do so. However, this action, which was done unofficially by or on behalf of the new “pro-Western Government” that had only recently been very violently installed in Ukraine on 22 February 2014, was a massacre of regular Odessa civilians who did not like their new, coup-imposed, Government. And on October 23rd, Ukraine’s President went to the scene of the crime, Odessa, and, for the first time publicly, he endorsed it.

This new regime had been imposed after an extraordinarily bloody U.S. coup (likewise uninvestigated and uncharged, with the full approval of the U.S. Government), and the people who were burnt alive in Odessa on May 2nd had been opposing it. They had been printing and distributing literature against it. That was their only offense, if such it be. (And that, of course, wouldn’t be any offense in an authentic democracy.) The people who were incinerated represented half of Ukraine. In Odessa and throughout the southeastern portion of Ukraine these were the vast majority of the residents, but after the coup, they lived in fear, and most of them just kept quiet. The people who were incinerated here were among the courageous and bold exceptions. The vast majority of Ukrainians in the entire southeastern half of Ukraine had voted for the man whom the coup overthrew. The fact that now, the leader of the coup-installed regime was even praising as heroes the perpetrators of the May 2nd massacre, would re-spark, and was probably intended to re-spark, and to cow, the mass-fear throughout the southeast, the fear that this new Ukrainian Government really did want them all dead, to such an extreme extent they would now try to finish the job that they had begun and suspended. This statement by Poroshenko was basically a pre-announcement that he would resume the bombing-campaign against the southeast.

In Poroshenko’s October 23rd statement in Odessa, he said that the May 2 massacre and burning of the Odessa House of Trade Unions was necessary “because we see now what happens if we had not stopped the attempt of the separatists.” Poroshenko called Odessa the “City of Bandera.” Stepan Bandera was a legendary hero to Ukraine’s nazis, because Bandera had worked with Hitler’s forces during World War II in order to rid Ukraine of Russians primarily, but also of Jews. He wanted a 100% Ukrainian-ethnic Ukraine. Poroshenko was now indirectly saying that hatred of Russians (such as are the vast majority of residents in Ukraine’s southeast) is a trait of the people in Odessa, and an admirable heroic one, for all true Ukrainians to feel proud of. Ukraine’s President was saying that this act of burning ethnic Russians who live in Ukraine, burning the people who had voted overwhelmingly for the previous, pro-Russian, President of Ukraine, people who rejected Ukraine’s new and rabidly anti-Russian Government, was an action of high honor to this “City of Bandera,” an act of Ukrainian patriotism.

There was no official English-language translation of that speech by President Poroshenko; but, within southeastern Ukraine, this statement by the nation’s President offended many people, because they didn’t think that such a massacre was a badge of honor at all. To the contrary. In fact, the May 2nd massacre had been the spark that had actually ignited Ukraine’s civil war, because it gave inspiration to Ukrainians in the southeast to separate themselves altogether from Ukraine’s new Government, since that Government clearly wanted them dead. And now Ukraine’s President publicly said as much.

Also on October 30th, was published to the Web an announcement which the Russian Foreign Ministry had privately communicated to the Ukrainian Government the prior day, headlined “Russian Foreign Ministry statement on the implementation of the Minsk agreements on a settlement in Ukraine and elections in its southeastern regions.“ This private “statement,” being made public now a day later, formally rejects “the ultimatum issued by Kiev and some Western capitals that elections not be held in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics.”

Ukraine’s President Poroshenko demands that elections there be delayed, and be held under the auspices of his Government, not of any separatist one. The elections, as per the Minsk agreement, are planned to occur on November 2nd. Poroshenko demands that they be postponed. Russia rejects that. And Poroshenko has already begun his renewed invasion.

Now the second round of the war starts, presumably after both sides have received new training and new armaments from their respective sponsors: the U.S. and its allies, for the Ukrainian Government; and Russia, for the separatist government.

Obviously, the separatist government does not want to be invaded again. But perhaps some way can be found to pin the blame for the war’s resumption on them. Perhaps the news media on one of the sides will be inclined to find some way to do that. In any case, the war will resume with many public disputes, just as it has been surrounded with many public disputes, up till now.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/war-resumes-in-ukraine-kiev-violates-osce-ceasefire-agreement-re-invades-donbass/5411055

NATO and the Destruction of Yugoslavia: Where it All Went Wrong and Lessons Were Never Learnt

Global Research, October 31, 2014

nato-go-home-400x273On November 9, it is 25 years the Berlin Wall came down. Seventeen months later, Yugoslavia’s dissolution began and various concepts and policies were introduced that fundamentally changed international politics ever since – more so than the fall of the Wall.

These features can be seen in the conflict (mis)management in later conflicts.

By now we should have accumulated enough evidence of how effective the various ”teatments” of the ”patient” called Yugoslavia were. To put it crudely: A unique country was destroyed – yes from the inside too, but that doesn’t reduce the responsibility of the West/NATO in its role as ”peacemaker”.

Today, Croatia is ethnically much more clean; Kosovo remains a failed state; the constituencies of the Dayton Accords for Bosnia (1995) still won’t live together as one state, as elections have just shown us. Macedonia’s problems have only deepened. The split between Serbia and Montenegro was enigmatic. Today’s Slovenia is the only unit that can be said to be in a better situation now than when part of Yugoslavia.

It is high time we get a critical discussion going of what the international so-called community chose to actually do – no matter the stated intentions – to help bring about peace in former Yugoslavia.

All of it must be re-assessed and lessons must be learned for governments to introduce a little modesty and recognise that they are not born peacemakers but rather war makers. And we need such a debate to go down another road than the one we took since 1999.

TFF maintains that the crisis in and around Yugoslavia is much more significant for international affairs than hitherto assumed because e.g.:

• The international so-called community’s attempt at being self-appointed conflict analysers and peacemakers with no prior education or training right after being Cold War warriors led to miserable results on the ground.

• Closely related: the amateurish idea that conflicts could be understood and treated as two parties, one good and one bad. The bad guys were the Serbs, of course, and Slobodan Milosevic became the new ”Hitler of Europe” after the West had used him as an ally.

• During this crisis Russia was sidetracked and humiliated. But in the Soviet Union era no one would have dared touch the Yugoslav space. Now the West could do what it wanted and Russia could do nothing to oppose it.

• Violent humanitarian intervention was introduced and persuaded many, like Vaclav Havel, peace and green movements as well as human rights advocates, that military intervention was OK if only the stated intentions sounded good. We know now it isn’t.

• The UN’s Agenda for Peace’s concept of peace enforcement lead to the absurdity of bombing in Bosnia where UN peacekeepers were on the ground.

• International law was ignored or twisted to fit purposes such as recognising Slovenia and Croatia and to bomb to create a new independent Kosovo/a without any UN mandate.

• Bombing to create a new state for Western strategic purposes and to get new bases (Bondsteel) in Kosovo was an innovation. That’s the main reason the West lacks every credibility when it teaches Russia or anybody else what international law is. The annexation of Crimea was at least not done by violence but by a helter-skelter referendum.

• More generally – creating new states out of existing ones has not been possible without bloodshed, with a few exceptions such Norway from Sweden 1905, Singapore from Malaysia in 1965 (after only 2 years) and the splitting up of Czechoslovakia. Anyhow it was done in Yugoslavia with highly predictable bloody results. No government listened to expert warnings.

• The undermining of the UN and all it stands for by NATO countries in particular started in Yugoslavia: unclear mandates, huge mandates with no proportional resources, abrogation of missions when they were about to succeed (such as UNTAES in Eastern Slavonia and UNPREDEP in Macedonia) and asking the UN to protect six safe zones in Bosnia (one being Srebrenica) and giving it 1200 instead of the required 33.000 peacekeepers. In addition, at the time of that massacre, the UN was fundamentally broke.

• Unequal attention to human rights. The human and minority rights of Serbs – who were minorities in most other republics-becoming-new-states and in total made up 42% of the population – were never respected on par with those of others.

• Sanctions – the ”soft” instrument that’s been used with so counterproductive effects in many other places – made most people dependent on a mafia-smuggling economy and destroyed Macedonia’s economy. Why? Because Macedonia was supposed to not trade with Serbia, its largest market, without receiving compensation from those who installed sanctions.

• The parties’ massive, systematic use of propaganda through marketing corporations, paid lies, planted stories – with media generally unaware of this manipulation and not developing a filter against it. Admittedly, Yugoslavia was an extremely difficult conflict; however it is difficult to understand that media understood less and less of it over time.

• Keeping a conflict violent for much longer than it otherwise would by pumping in weapons to all sides (in spite of a weapons embargo). The West presented itself as a peacemaker, arranged negotiations, humanitarian aid etc with one hand and prolonged the war through arms deliveries and training programs with the other.

• It was in Yugoslavia that the EU’s largest foreign policy blunder took place: The unified Germany’s first big step was to get the EU on board splitting up Yugoslavia and recognise Slovenia and Croatia – the latter’s Pavelic regime a World War II Nazi ally – as independent states and thereby making the war in Bosnia unavoidable.

• The introduction of a special politicised courts for special wars: Rwanda and Yugoslavia, the latter in the Hague Tribunal.

• Destruction of diversity. The destruction of a unique country and the beginning of the destruction of the position of neutrality and non-alignment (Sweden, Austria and Finland) that reduced diversity in the world and opened the way for NATO expansion right up to Russia’s borders later.

• Yugoslavia should also be remembered for one good thing: that nonviolence is always stronger in the long run. It was not the diplomatic isolation, not the 10 years of sanctions, not marginalization and not 78 days of merciless bombings that brought the fall of Slobodan Milosevic. It was the nonviolent mass protests of the October 5, 2000.

In short – Western hubris combined with ignorant, non-professional conflict-management – or perhaps deliberate and cynical destruction – of one of the world’s most interesting and diverse societies. True, the various groups in former Yugoslavia started it all themselves but the helpers who came in stage gave little help and made everythig worse than a divorce needed to have been.

Two of the main reasons the West is declining relative to the rest of the world is its inability to recognise its mistakes and crimes and to learn from them. If you are number one in a system you usually teach others lessons, you don’t learn. If you are number 2 or 25, there is always somebody higher up to learn from.

Unless we learn from Yugoslavia, we’ll see more Western decline.

The arguments above are embedded in the TFF blog on Yugoslavia – What Should Have Been Done. It is unique for its conflict analysis against the main stream at the time, for its generally quite precise predictions (can be tested today) and its alternative peace proposals – and for being based on over 70 missions, 3000+ interviews on all sides and all levels and containing the equivalent of 2000+ A4 pages – written by three leading peace and conflict researchers who have not changed a word in the original manuscripts.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/nato-and-the-destruction-of-yugoslavia-where-it-all-went-wrong-and-lessons-were-never-learnt/5411123

Libya, A Nation in Despair

Global Research, October 31, 2014

libyAThe spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within –Mahatma Gandhi

The US-NATO invasion of Libya in 2011 to remove Muammar Gaddafi for a government that would be subservient to Western interests has proven to be a disaster for North Africa and Europe. They have managed to destroy one of Africa’s wealthiest nations with the highest GDP per capita and less people living below the poverty line. Libya also had the highest life expectancy than any other nation in the African continent before the US-NATO invasion which leads to my next point. There were more than 30,000 deaths, 50,000 injured and 4,000 missing in Libya during the 2011 civil war that lasted several months. The West conveniently called it a “humanitarian intervention” for public relations, but the invasion was a “humanitarian disaster”. Manlio Dinucci’s article ‘The “Humanitarian War” against Libya: How the West Destroys Countries and Creates “Failed States’which can be found at Global Research explains the role played by Italy (a member state of NATO) in Libya. He wrote:

This state, in addition to being a factor of stability and development in North Africa, had used its investments to facilitate the emergence of organizations that one day might have made the financial autonomy of Africa possible: the African Investment Bank, based in Tripoli; the African Central Bank, with headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria; the African Monetary Fund, based in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

After having funded and armed hostile tribal areas in Tripoli, which caused the “Arab Spring” in Libya to assume from the outset the form of armed insurrection, and thus provoking the government’s response, they waged a war that destroyed the Libyan state in 2011: in seven months the U.S./NATO Air Force carried out 10,000 attack missions, unleashing more than 40,000 bombs and missiles.

Since then, scores of people have been killed due to the ongoing civil war between government forces, militias and terrorists organizations that is based on sectarian hatred and for the control of the oil industry. Amnesty International UK (AI) published a report that explains Libya’s situation titled ‘Rule of the gun: Abductions, torture and other abuses by militias in western Libya’. Libya’s situation is now even worst according to Amnesty International’s recent press release:

Militias and armed groups in western Libya are carrying out rampant human rights abuses, including war crimes, according to a new briefing today (30 October) from Amnesty International. The 30-page briefing – Rule of the gun: Abductions, torture and other abuses by militias in western Libya – shows that armed groups have tortured – and probably summarily killed – detainees in their custody, and have committed a wave of abductions targeting civilians based on their origins or perceived political allegiance.

Likewise, satellite images released today by Amnesty show that fighters on all sides in the conflict have displayed an utter disregard for civilian lives, launching indiscriminate rocket and artillery fire into crowded civilian neighbourhoods which has damaged homes, civilian infrastructure and medical facilities. Those responsible include members of the Libya Dawn coalition (groups from Misratah, Tripoli and other towns in western Libya), and the Zintan-Warshafana coalition (groups from Zintan and the Warshafana area). Satellite images obtained by Amnesty show significant damage to civilian property in the Warshafana region, including at Al-Zahra Hospital which has come under heavy rocket fire. The intensive care unit at Zawiya Hospital has also been struck by a rocket which injured ten people, including doctors, nurses, patients and visitors.

Since July at least 287,000 people have been internally displaced as a result of indiscriminate attacks and a fear of being targeted by militias, and a further 100,000 have been forced to flee the country in fear for their lives.

There are constant rocket and artillery shells being fired by various militias and terrorist organizations which have resulted in mass civilian casualties. Libyan infrastructure and hospitals have been destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of Libyans have been either displaced from their homes or forced to migrate to neighboring countries in Northern Africa and Europe to its north. ‘The Spectator’ a conservative magazine based in London explained Italy’s immigration crisis concerning what they call “Libya’s boat people” after a tragic accident that resulted in the deaths of more than 366 people who were desperate to reach Europe’s shores:

The decision to open the floodgates came in a moment of national moral panic after 366 people drowned in a single boat which caught fire and sank a stone’s throw from an idyllic beach on the island of Lampedusa, an exclusive resort favoured by the right-on rich. The dead included a mother who had given birth during the voyage and was still attached to her newborn child when divers found their bodies trapped inside the sunken vessel.

The policy change, driven by a perverted mix of human decency and political correctness, was pure folly: it has acted as a green light to wannabe boat people everywhere, whose numbers soar as the chaos in Africa and the Middle East escalates. The result is an exodus of biblical proportions out of Africa into Italy. So far this year, more than 100,000 boat people have arrived in Italy — two thirds of them brought ashore by the Italian navy. That is more than double the number who arrived in 2011, the previous record year. It is estimated that the total by the end of 2014 will surpass 200,000. So far this year Italy has deported only 10,000.

The Spectator states that “numbers soar as the chaos in Africa and the Middle East escalates.” Yes, that is true. It is also true that Libya and other African and Middle Eastern nations that suffer from the chaos imposed by the same Western nations that preach Democracy. The US and European style of Democracy by force is not a Democracy. Democracy has to be a grassroots effort, a natural process that is not imposed by a foreign government or entity. The American and European notion of “Bringing Democracy” to the world is an Imperial agenda. Let’s look at a number of examples since the September 11th attacks when President George W. Bush was President, starting with Afghanistan and Iraq, now both countries are in total chaos with numerous militias and terrorists organization battling each other along sectarian lines and for political power. New and old terrorist organizations now have expanded throughout Africa and the Middle East such as Boko-Haram (Nigeria), Al-Shabaab (Somalia and Ethiopia) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (Uganda) and the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL), Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda and the so-called Khorasan (supposedly made up of former Al-Qaeda members) in the Middle East plus any new organization that arises out of the ashes of war. Let’s not forget that the Military-Industrial Complex has made enormous profits from both wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and on the “War on Terror.” Africa is the future for the US-NATO war industry starting with Libya. However, the Amnesty International report paints a very disturbing picture concerning innocent civilians caught in the crossfire:

Scores of civilians have been abducted by armed groups in Tripoli, Zawiya, Warshafana and towns in the Nafusa Mountains, with numerous people held hostage for up to two months in a spate of tit-for-tat attacks based on their town of origin or perceived political affiliation. In some cases civilians have been abducted as bargaining chips in order to secure prisoner exchanges. While several such exchanges have taken place since the start of the conflict on 13 July, abductions and other reprisals have continued.

Tripoli residents originally from Zintan told Amnesty that Libya Dawn militias have carried out door-to-door “manhunts” to seize people based on their tribal affiliation or presumed political allegiance. Militias have also carried out extensive raids against civilian homes, looting and destroying property, and setting homes and farms ablaze in the area of Warshafana.

Libya’s invasion by the West was not for democratic purposes, it was for its oil reserves. They also wanted to remove Gaddafi from power because he was in the early stages of creating a gold dinar for trade, not only for Libya but all of Africa. It was a threat to the petrodollar. King World News interviewed multi-billionaire Hugo Salinas Price of Mexico in 2011 and said:

The central bank is definitely afraid of doing anything that is not being done by all of the other central banks. They feel they are part of a brotherhood and they can’t betray the rest. They don’t want to present a currency that would be viewed as out of line, that’s the way they think. It’s a sad thing but this is the mentality.

Thinking about it a little bit more, what happened to Mr. Gaddafi, many speculate the real reason he was ousted was that he was planning an all-African currency for conducting trade. The same thing happened to him that happened to Saddam because the US doesn’t want any solid competing currency out there vs the dollar. You know Gaddafi was talking about a gold dinar.

Libya is a nation in chaos because of the Western powers and their “humanitarian intervention” policies which was designed to expand their footprint on African territory. The US, UK and France were the main powers that instigated Gaddafi’s removal. Libya was not perfect, but it sure was a lot better than most African nations who are under a financial dictatorship imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.  Since then, Libya has become a haven for terrorists who commit human rights abuses on a grand scale. When President Barack Obama announced that the US and its NATO Allies will launch military strikes against Libya to protect its civilians was a lie. Obama began his speech by acknowledging that he had already authorized U.S. and NATO forces to invade Libya to protect civilians:

Good afternoon, everybody. Today I authorized the armed forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun.

In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people.

U.S. and NATO’s intervention in Libya has made life for ordinary citizens a living hell. If this is Western-style Democracy then who in their right state of mind would welcome it? I believe that most nations in Africa and the Middle East would pass on Western-imposed Democracy because it would only lead to a political crisis with the possibility of war following in its footsteps. The aftermath of Iraq and Syria is a perfect example of what happened after Washington and its NATO allies decided to intervene, whether by military force or by simply financing opposition groups to overthrow their government for the sake of Democracy, but that resulted in unintended consequences. However, the unintended consequences of invading Libya have benefited big oil corporations, the petrodollar and the US-NATO militaries by expanding their bases into Africa to fight terrorism.

Then again, it is appropriate to ask ourselves, Cui Bono?

http://www.globalresearch.ca/libya-a-nation-in-despair/5411041

St. Louis police stock up on riot gear ahead of grand jury decision on Brown killing

By Ed Hightower

31 October 2014

Police in the St. Louis, Missouri area are stocking up on riot gear in preparation for renewed protests next month in the event that a grand jury fails to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown on August 9.

The Guardian newspaper reported this week that police in St. Louis County spent $172,669 since August on tear gas, rubber bullets and other riot equipment.

The killing of Michael Brown sparked mass protests in Ferguson and the surrounding area. Police responded to the largely peaceful protests with brutal repression that amounted to a declaration of martial law, including the imposition of curfews and the calling in of National Guard troops. The grand jury is expected to come to a decision within the next two weeks.

According to the Guardian, Ferguson police have spent nearly $25,000 on 650 crowd-dispersing grenades. Some of these grenades release tear gas, while others create smoke. Another variety, the “hornets nest” CS sting grenades, launches a payload of small rubber projectiles and a powdered chemical agent.

The product description warns, “This round should only be used by individuals properly trained in the use of chemical munitions,” and warns, “injury or death may occur.”

The police department also spent some $18,000 on 1,500 “beanbag rounds” and on 6,000 pepper balls. Beanbag rounds are billed as less lethal projectiles designed to bludgeon and stun the victim. Pepper balls are another less lethal projectile, something like a paintball, that release chemical irritants on impact. The claim that these are “nonlethal projectiles” is misleading, as such rounds can and do cause death, and are particularly dangerous if they strike a victim in the head.

Ferguson police spent $77,500 on other items, including helmets, shin guards, riot shields, batons, and 2,000 sets of plastic handcuffs.

The Guardian reported that Missouri state highway patrol Captain Tim Hull admitted that his force has recently made similar purchases, but he would not reveal the details. Likewise, St. Louis police Chief Sam Dotson told the Associated Press that he purchased $325,000 in “civil disobedience equipment,” though he did not give specific details about what was bought.

These purchases show that the ruling class, far from intending to tone down its military-style response to mass demonstrations, has instead committed to a broader and even more authoritarian reaction to future expressions of social opposition.

At the same time as the police prepare for physical violence against demonstrators, elements of the state with insider knowledge of the grand jury proceedings have carried out an ongoing campaign to vilify Michael Brown and exonerate his killer through a series of controlled leaks to the press of grand jury testimony.

The press, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, New York Times, andWashington Post, has uncritically reprinted these one-sided leaks from the grand jury testimony, while presenting information in a way that would lead the public to believe Wilson’s story.

The latest in this shameful spectacle was an article published last week in theSt. Louis Post-Dispatc h, entitled “Source: Darren Wilson says Michael Brown kept charging at him,” which it claimed to be “the most detailed account of Wilson’s version of the Aug. 9 event to be made public.”

In a companion piece, the Post-Dispatch claimed that the autopsy of Michael Brown supported the claim of Wilson that Michael Brown had reached for the officer’s gun. Post-Dispatch writers quoted forensic pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek as saying that Michael Brown’s autopsy “supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun, if he has gunpowder particulate material in the wound.”

The same article quoted her as saying, “If he has his hand near the gun when it goes off, he’s going for the officer’s gun.”

Melinek, who is an assistant clinical professor of pathology at the University of California, subsequently told the Washington Post that her words were taken out of context.

She denied telling Post-Dispatch reporters that a gunshot wound on Brown’s hand definitively showed that he was reaching for Wilson’s gun during a struggle while the officer was in a police SUV and Brown was standing at the driver’s window.

“Bullet trajectory analysis is complex, and you cannot interpret autopsy reports in a vacuum,” Melinek wrote in an e-mail to the Washington Post. “You need the scene data and the witness statements. When a forensic expert says something ‘appears to be’ or is ‘consistent with’ the findings, that doesn’t mean it is the only explanation. It means it is one possible explanation.”

On her blog, Dr. Melinek describes the Post-Dispatch quotes as “inaccurate and misleading.”

“I read the report, and spent half an hour on the phone with the reporter explaining Michael Brown’s autopsy report line-by-line, and I told her not to quote me – but that I would send her quotes she could use in an e-mail. The next morning, I found snippets of phrases from our conversation taken out of context in her article in the Post-Dispatch ,” she writes.

The blog post specifically refutes the claim that Melinek said, “he’s going for the gun,” which quote the Post-Dispatch apparently fabricated out of whole cloth. Post-Dispatch editor Gilbert Bailon told the Washington Post that his paper stands by its article.

The author also recommends:

College police across the US armed with military-grade weaponry
[24 October 2014]

The police-military crackdown in Ferguson, the assault on democratic rights, and the record of the World Socialist Web Site
[6 September 2014]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/31/ferg-o31.html

Relatives of disappeared students confront Mexico’s president

By Rafael Azul

31 October 2014

Family members of the disappeared Ayotzinapa student teachers (normalistas)met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on October 29, 33 days after the massacre that left three students (and three others) dead, several others wounded and 43 disappeared.

After the five-hour closed-door meeting, the relatives left with a sense of increased anger and disappointment, and with their longstanding distrust toward the government confirmed.

“It was a meeting of simple promises when we need things to happen; we need our comrades alive at the school, “declared David Flores, a student leader from the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal College.

The relatives confronted the president, demanding answers that were not given. “Why was it that after the army patrol found the wounded students that had been left behind by the attackers, they did nothing to take them to hospitals?” declared Nicolás Andrés Cuadro whose son’s lower jaw was destroyed by a bullet and could have died from asphyxia. “Who ordered the execution style murder?” asked Marta Isela Echeverría, whose brother was one of the massacred students.

Seething anger was present in the accounts that some of the parents gave to the press.

Emiliano Navarrete recounted to the Mexico City daily La Jornada: “I told the president that I did not come to this meeting to ask a favor but to demand, as a Mexican, that he tell me why did bullets rain on our children. My son did not disappear; men in uniform kidnapped him. I demanded that he respond why was the mayor not questioned from day one? Why was he allowed to escape like a rat? Are you, mister president also going to flee like the rest?”

Navarrete and many of the relatives suspect that Federal authorities in Mexico City share responsibility for the massacre and kidnapping with the governments of the city of Iguala and of the State of Guerrero.

Another parent, Felipe de la Cruz, said: “We told the president that we do not trust his government and that if he did not feel competent to produce results, that he should call in the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.”

In a press conference, President Peña Nieto declared that he and the parents had “come to an understanding.” The parents rejected that bland and pro-forma statement; they reported having had to pressure the president into putting his signature on what he had agreed to verbally.

This includes an intensified search for the students and giving rural providing schools with the dignity and funding that they deserve. The government also agreed that it would stop the practice of accusing rural normalistas of being connected to political guerrilla groups, thus making them “fair game” for repression by the Mexican State.

The meeting between the parents and the president failed to come up with a credible narrative of what happened the night of September 26. Rather than the truth, the Peña Nieto administration seems to be looking to construct a narrative that will quiet things in the street, circumscribe the consequences to a few suspects in Iguala, Copula and Guerrero, and, above all limit the political fall-out for the ruling elites, beneficiaries themselves of the sale of cocaine, opium and heroin, methamphetamines and marihuana and engaged in a decades-long one-sided civil war on youth, workers and small farmers.

A report in the El Proceso.com web page about the search for bodies in the Cocula garbage dump, reads more like a Keystone Cops study in incompetence, with the reporters left wondering whether the government in fact wants the students to be found.

Fifty-six “suspects” are now in custody. Each arrest is accompanied by the reports of new “confessions” and new leads. Yet nothing is found. This is not surprising given the police state methods used to catch these suspects and extract “confessions,” through arbitrary arrests, torture and beatings.

On Tuesday in Cocula, relatives of the missing normalistas rallied in protest charging that federal police officers had arrested and tortured them with no warrants.

The police also broke into other homes, supposedly looking for Guerreros Unidos gang members: “They broke the locks to my home, beat my brother and father, asking were we kept weapons and how many bodies we had buried,” said Guadalupe, daughter of one of the victims of the assault.

Irma Arrollo, whose son (a farmer) Gustavo was arrested on October 21, toldEl Proceso: “They allowed me to see my son for 15 minutes. He told me that he had been beaten. They put bags of water on his head. They hit him.” Pointing at her calf she added: “he was all scratched on this side like he had been dragged around. They told him he was guilty, that he was a Guerreros Unidos member. They accused him of things that were false.”

“For days they had come many, many, many times, carrying out sweeps in the fields, until they came up with ‘guilty’ people,” said Arrolo.

Attorney General Murillo assured the press on Monday that “all the power of the Mexican State” is now working on the investigation.

As more low-level alleged suspects are picked up from the fields of Cocula and Iguala, those more directly implicated in having ordered the massacre, José Luis Abarca (PRD, Party of the Democratic Revolution), the mayor of Iguala, and his police chief, Felipe Flores, are still at large.

This is not the first incident involving Abarca and the criminal syndicates. At the end of last May, he responded violently to a strike and protests by miners in Iguala against Grupo México-owned mines in Taxco. The protests were led by the Unión Popular Emiliano Zapata (UPEZ)

On May 29, Abarca told a group of UPEZ activists “stop f***ing around with me. I have people that work for me that can take care of you.”

On the evening of May 30, protest leaders Arturo Hernandez, Angel Román, Rafael Bandera, and five others were abducted by an armed group, blindfolded and transported to be killed. At the scene were Abarca and Flores, who ordered the torture of the men and their execution. Four managed to flee. Three bodies were found and one person was never accounted for.

At the funeral of one of the victims, agricultural consultant and PRD leader Arturo Hernandez, it is reported that thousands of miners lined the streets with their helmets on and standing at attention.

Despite efforts and testimony by the surviving victims, neither Abarca nor Flores was ever brought to justice. Amnesty international called on the federal government (under Enrique Peña Nieto) to investigate, but were turned away.

Even the PRD showed total indifference, despite the fact that Hernandez had been a founding member of the PRD in Guerrero. Indifference also, was shown by the Obama administration in Washington, even though the case had been presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and was well known.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/31/mexi-o31.html

Australian data retention bill means mass surveillance

By Mike Head

31 October 2014

The Australian data retention bill, released yesterday, reveals the underlying agenda behind the expanded “anti-terrorism” laws that the Liberal-National government is pushing through parliament with the backing of the opposition Labor Party.

The “metadata” bill provides for mass surveillance, via the storage of vast amounts of phone and on-line information, directed against the entire population.

The bill will compel all Internet providers and social media platforms to retain data for two years so that the security services can trawl through it. This will permit them to compile a detailed picture of everyone’s life, including political views, friends and associates, geographical locations and even spending habits.

That surveillance will facilitate the use of the draconian powers handed to the government and the police/intelligence agencies under two bills already passed this month. It will also feed into the global network headed by the US National Security Agency (NSA), whose spying on hundreds of millions of people around the world was exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

On the pretext of protecting ordinary people from Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other Islamic extremists, these laws go far beyond that supposed purpose. They demonstrate the real “enemy,” as far as the political establishment is concerned, is the population itself.

When the data retention power was first proposed by the previous Labor government in 2013, it aroused such widespread opposition that Labor shelved the plan until after last year’s election. During that campaign, both major parties buried any mention of it. Now, it has been brought forward once more, against a backdrop of renewed US-led war in the Middle East and constant “terrorist” scares.

Unveiled without notice yesterday, after months of backroom discussion, the bill does not define the “metadata” that must be stored. Instead, that will be prescribed by regulations, effectively giving the government a free hand.

At their media conference, Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull insisted that the bill did not cover the “content” of communications, nor permit the tracking of web browsing. Those assurances are meaningless, however, even though they are covered by vague clauses in the bill.

That is because the information to be kept will include everything relating to the identities of users and anyone with whom they communicate; the time and duration of every use; and the locations of mobile devices and computers involved. As intelligence commentators have explained, that is enough to amass a comprehensive dossier on anyone.

The bill’s memorandum contains a table of the data that must be stored, but then states that this is “not exhaustive.” Vodafone, a major telecommunications operator, warned that the system could extend to automated machine-to-machine devices, which include Eftpos terminals, vending machines and in-car navigational systems.

Earlier this month, iiNet, a large Internet provider, published a reportdisclosing the extensive information that the government wants retained. It demolished the government’s claim that the bill would only involve what the telco companies already stored. The list included “upload/download volumes” and the “identifiers” of all people communicating with a subscriber.

Yesterday, the government admitted that the data would exceed the information that the companies currently keep. Communications Minister Turnbull said the companies would get “substantial” payments to store the extra data. He refused to put a figure on the amount, but iiNet said its initial bill alone could run to $600 million.

iiNet chief regulator officer Steve Dalby warned that the industry would look for the cheapest cost option—cloud storage hosted out of China. Such cloud storage heightens privacy concerns. Narelle Clark from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network said: “This kind of system will create a large honeypot with people who don’t have good intents and purposes.”

There will be an unprecedented expansion of government monitoring. Already, according to Australian Communications and Media Authority statistics, more than 580,000 telecommunications intercepts were permitted last year. These intercepts, by many government bodies, require no judicial warrants, simply “self-authorisation” by the agencies involved—a practice that will continue.

The government claimed that the data retention bill would limit this system by confining it to “criminal law-enforcement agencies.” Yet, this covers all the police and intelligence services. Moreover, the bill states that the list of authorised agencies can be expanded by the communications minister.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin admitted that the bill could “absolutely” help authorities target anyone who “illegally” downloads or shares content. Industry analysts said media and entertainment conglomerates would subpoena the data to sue those accused of using free or cheap download services.

In another attempt to defuse public opposition, the government declared that access to metadata was critical for criminal investigations. Turnbull told parliament that included “murder, serious sexual assaults, drug trafficking and kidnapping,” as well as “counter-terrorism, counter-espionage, cybersecurity, organised crime.”

Turnbull was seeking to divert attention from the universal character of the data storage, which is designed to track the activities of the vast majority of people. This is under conditions of increasing social unrest and political disaffection with the ruling elite’s agenda of war, austerity, widening inequality and abrogation of basic legal and democratic rights.

The data bill is the third tranche of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government’s “counter-terrorism” legislation. The first bill, already passed, expands the computer hacking powers of the spy agencies and imposes jail terms of up to 10 years for anyone (not just journalists) who exposes an undercover “special intelligence operation,” such as the infiltration of a political party.

The second bill, the “foreign fighters bill” that parliament rubberstamped yesterday, extends the terrorism laws in many ways. Notably it outlaws “promoting” terrorism, which could include posting social media content opposing Australian involvement in the Iraq-Syria war.

The Labor Party, which unconditionally supports the war, has already assisted the government to get the first two bills passed as quickly as possible. It immediately signalled its readiness to do the same on the data retention powers.

“We believe fundamentally in the promotion of national security,” Labor leader Bill Shorten said yesterday. “The security agencies say that they need metadata retained for two years.” He declared that Labor would help “get the balance right” on “legitimate concerns for privacy” via a review by the bipartisan joint parliamentary committee on security. The same committee signed off on the first two bills, with purely token “oversight” measures.

The Greens spokesman, Senator Scott Ludlam, claimed that his party would “draw a line” at mandatory data retention. But he accepted the official rationale for the bill, telling the Business Spectator there were “entirely legitimate law enforcement and anti-corruption uses for metadata, and no-one really contests that.”

The Greens have a long record of posturing as critics of terrorism legislation, while voting for key measures to strengthen them. As on the Abbott government’s first two bills, their “opposition” will consist of moving cosmetic amendments to try to lend some kind of legitimacy to unvarnished police-state provisions.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/31/data-o31.html

Video shows “firing squad” police killing of Michigan man

Notes on police violence

By EP Bannon and Tom Hall

31 October 2014

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a video captured by a police dashboard camera depicting the killing of Milton Hall, a 49-year-old mentally ill homeless man, in July of 2012 by police officers in Saginaw, Michigan. Mark Fancher, a lawyer with the ACLU of Michigan, called Hall’s killing a death by “firing squad.”

The video was released as part of testimony by the ACLU to a hearing of the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on police violence in America.

The video shows eight police officers surrounding Hall in a suburban parking lot with weapons drawn. One officer continually threatens Hall with a snarling police dog, prompting Hall to produce a small pocketknife to defend himself. Hall assumes a clearly defensive posture and at no point does he approach or come within ten feet of any of the officers.

The video shows police unleashing a hail of gunfire in the style of a firing squad, firing over 45 bullets within the space of several seconds, hitting Hall 14 times, and continuing to fire even after he collapses to the ground. One officer then turns Hall over and handcuffs him, pressing his boot against Hall’s back.

Despite the fact that the scene was captured on video and witnessed by several bystanders, no officers have been charged. In January, the Justice Department announced that it would not bring charges against Hall’s killers, declaring that “this tragic event does not present sufficient evidence of willful misconduct to lead to a federal criminal prosecution.”

The release of the video comes only a few weeks after the family of Tony Mitchell, an unarmed man who was killed by police in northern Michigan on July 14, filed a lawsuit in federal court.

Autopsy of Darren Hunt shows police shot him in the back

A state autopsy released Tuesday of a young man shot by police in September while he was wearing a costume sword concluded that most of the gunshot wounds he received were to his back. The autopsy found that Darren Hunt, 22, was shot six times, including four times in the back. This new revelation contradicts claims by police that officers had shot and killed the young man in order to protect themselves.

“I think that means they were pursuing him, he was running away. He was probably scared to death,” said Robert Sykes, an attorney for the Hunt family.

Hunt was shot September 10 as he was walking around a strip mall in Saratoga Springs, Utah, dressed as a Japanese anime character. He had been carrying a sword, a part of his costume, which he had purchased at an Asian gift shop. Police allege that they had responded to a 911 call regarding a “suspicious person” wielding a “samurai-type sword.” Officers claim they fired at Hunt when he brandished his sword and then charged at them while swinging the sword.

The stories of the officers do not match with witnesses to the scene, which claim they saw officers shoot Hunt in the back as he fled. Sykes noted that a picture taken of Hunt by a bystander moments before the killing shows him smiling as he talked to two officers.

Military armored vehicle d eployed to Collect Civil Judgment in Small Town

Earlier this month, the Marathon County Sheriff’s Department in Wisconsin deployed 24 armed officers and a military armored vehicle to collect a civil judgment from an elderly man. The department used the show of force against 75-year-old Roger Hoeppner, who the town had concluded owed $80,000 in fees over alleged misuse of his property. The dispute arose over the presence of wood pallets and old tractors on Hoeppner’s 20-acre plot of land, which the town claimed were not in compliance with zoning standards.

“Rather than provide Mr. Hoeppner or his counsel notice…and attempt to collect without spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on the military-style maneuvers, the town unilaterally decided to enforce its civil judgment” using a show of force, Hoeppner’s attorney, Ryan Lister, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Hoeppner called Lister when he saw the deputies and armored vehicle outside his home. As Lister was on his way to Hoeppner’s house, he was stopped by a roadblock that was kept up until after his client was escorted from the premises. Deputies handcuffed Hoeppner and brought him to his bank, where he agreed to pay the civil judgment in their custody.

Marathon County sheriff’s officials have refused to apologize for the display of force despite public outcry. Captain Greg Bean, dismissed criticism of his department’s action saying, “People may not always understand why, but an armored vehicle is almost a necessity now.”

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/31/brut-o31.html

Israeli provocations ignite growing Palestinian revolt in Jerusalem

By Bill Van Auken

31 October 2014

Following a police crackdown over the shooting of a right-wing Zionist political figure, East Jerusalem, home to a population of 350,000 Palestinians, appears to be on the brink of a new Intifada, the third such popular uprising against Israeli oppression since the late 1980s.

Yehuda Glick, an American-born rabbi who has made a career of staging provocations at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, was shot and seriously wounded Wednesday night. Struck by four bullets, he was reported Thursday to be in critical but stable condition.

His assailant was apparently a former Palestinian political prisoner who worked at a restaurant where Glick and others were holding a conference for those calling for the destruction of the mosque, considered Islam’s third holiest site, and its replacement by a Jewish temple.

Attending the conference were leading politicians including Moshe Feigin, the deputy leader of the Knesset. Last summer, in the midst of the war on Gaza, Feigin called for the Palestinian territory to be razed “to its foundations” and survivors to be “concentrated” in “tent encampments” to clear the way for Israeli occupation.

Glick’s alleged assailant, Moataz Hejazi, was killed by Israeli police and soldiers, hundreds of whom surrounded his home in the predawn hours Thursday. While authorities claimed that police retaliated after being fired upon, neighbors testified that Hejazi was unarmed and was shot while trying to flee across the roof of his house.

As he lay wounded on the roof, the neighbors said, soldiers finished him off by dropping a water tank on his body. The killing touched off a new round of clashes between stone-throwing Palestinian youth and Israeli security forces using stun grenades, tear gas, batons and rubber bullets.

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered hundreds of border police transferred from the occupied West Bank to the Old City of Jerusalem in an attempt to quell the unrest. It also ordered the Al-Aqsa mosque site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, to be closed off entirely to both Muslims and Jews. Late Thursday night, the Israeli police announced that the site was being reopened immediately, but men under the age of 50 would be barred from the mosque’s Friday prayers.

The last time such a complete shutdown was imposed came in 2000, in the wake of the provocative visit to the site by Ariel Sharon, then the leader of the Israeli right-wing opposition, which touched off the second Intifada.

Fatah, the main political faction in the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, called for a “day of rage” Friday. An announcement carried by the official PA news agency, WAFA, stated: “Fatah calls to its fighters and to the masses of the Palestinian people to aid the Al-Aqsa Mosque and occupied Jerusalem.”

Glick, a resident of a West Bank orthodox Jewish settlement near Hebron and a political operative within the right-wing Likud party, gained notoriety for staging provocations at the Al-Aqsa mosque, a site that was seized along with the rest of occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Israel has since annexed East Jerusalem in what is regarded in the rest of the world as a violation of international law.

Until now, the Israeli government has barred Jews from praying at the site. However, earlier this year, the Israeli Knesset began debating legislation that would amend this rule and assert full “Israeli sovereignty over Al-Aqsa. Israeli authorities had previously banned Glick from the site for fear that he would provoke a violent confrontation. Earlier this year, however, Israeli security forces escorted Glick and other Zionist extremists there, touching off confrontations.

His alleged assailant, Moataz Hejazi, had spent nearly 12 years in Israeli prisons, most of them in solitary confinement. Chairman of the Palestinian Department of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe on Thursday described Hejazi as “one of the heroes of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement,” who had “faced death slowly in Israeli occupation jails where he was savagely tortured.”

Hejazi’s fate was similar to that of another Palestinian from East Jerusalem, Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, 21, who was shot to death by Israeli police after driving his car into passengers getting off a train, killing two, a three-month-old baby and an Ecuadorean immigrant.

Israeli authorities immediately classified the incident as a terrorist attack and identified al-Shaludi as a Hamas activist. The young man’s family, however, denied that he was a member of Hamas. They said he had recently spent 14 months in Israeli prison for throwing stones at security forces.

“They kept on harassing him and summoning him for questioning over and over again and they tried to enlist him into working for them, but he repeatedly refused,” his mother told the Palestinian Ma’an News. “They threatened him, saying he would never find work or be able to continue his education or have a normal life,” she said.

The news agency quoted relatives as saying that al-Shaludi had been brutally tortured in prison and came out traumatized. The mother recounted that “Only hours before the incident, she had taken her son to the doctor who had advised him to see a therapist after days of exhibiting signs of mental exhaustion.”

Silwan, where the al-Shaludi family lives, has been the target of right-wing Zionist settlers who have recently taken over a number of houses in the area. After the incident, the settlers organized a demonstration, chanting “death to Arabs,” throwing rocks at homes and cars and attacking several Palestinians.

East Jerusalem has been the scene of continuous confrontations since the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy who was beaten, doused with gasoline and burned to death by right-wing Zionists last July. The latest incidents have only heightened the conflict. Summing up the situation, Barak Ravid, the diplomatic correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, declared on Twitter: “The 3rd Intifada is already here—If there is anybody that still doesn’t get it.”

Late last week, it was reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu had signed off on plans to speed up construction of 1,060 housing units in East Jerusalem and 2,000 in the West Bank, once again expanding Zionist settlements in the occupied territories. The move, which was reportedly made in response to an ultimatum from Netanyahu’s coalition partner, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett of the HaBayit HaYehudi Party, once again made a mockery of the US-orchestrated “peace process” and the proposal for a so-called “two-state solution.”

This humiliating exposure of the fraud of US Middle East policy, particularly as the Obama administration attempts to cobble together Arab support for its latest military intervention in Iraq and Syria, has ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tel Aviv.

This found expression in the controversy surrounding an article published in the Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg, quoting a senior administration official as describing Netanyahu as a “chickenshit” and a “coward,” who was only interested in “protecting himself from political defeat” and would do nothing “to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians.”

Netanyahu responded to the report by telling the Knesset that he was “under attack simply for defending Israel.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry, Thursday, disassociated himself and the administration from the remark, calling it “disgraceful, unacceptable, and damaging” and condemning “anybody who uses language such as was used in this article.” He insisted that Washington would continue to work “quietly and effectively” on promoting the “peace process” charade.

Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy wrote a telling piece on the verbal clash Thursday entitled “Who’s the real chickenshit?”

“There’s something absurdly infantile in an administration that utters rude put-downs like a child, hides behind anonymous, cowardly interviews and at the same time promises to provide Israel with another F-35 squadron,” he wrote.

The real “chickenshit,” Levy concluded, was the US president: “Obama let Netanyahu continue building in the settlements, striking the fatal blow to the two-state solution dead. He allowed Israel to launch another criminal, unrestrained offensive in Gaza without uttering a peep. His administration continued to provide Israel with an automatic shield in the UN and continued preventing Europe from changing its policy. Why did he do it? Out of conviction for his cause? Only out of cowardice.”

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/31/jeru-o31.html

Corporations Act To Make Congress A Wholly Owned Subsidiary

By Richard Eskow

October 31, 2014 “ICH” – As Election Day approaches, two reports show us exactly how corrupted our political system has become. Unless voters come out in force, it looks like corporate money is about to buy itself another house of Congress.

The Wall Street Journal analyzed filings from the Federal Election Commission and concluded that

In a significant shift, business groups gave more money to Republican candidates than to Democrats in seven of the most competitive Senate races in recent months, in some cases taking the unusual step of betting against sitting senators.

The Journal found that corporate PACs gave most of their donations to Democrats in the early part of the campaign. That fits with a longstanding pattern: big-business interests shower incumbents with money to encourage special treatment, both during the election year and in the upcoming term.

But giving has shifted dramatically since June. The Journal discovered that Republican candidates received the lion’s share of corporate campaign contributions in the July-to-September time period. The cash-generating power of incumbency had faded – for Democrats.

One reason for the shift, according to sources, is a sense that Democrats are the underdogs. “Wall Street expects return on investment,” a brokerage executive told the Journal. “It makes no sense to contribute to a losing campaign.”

The other reason, of course, is ideologically based. Corporations feel more comfortable abandoning incumbent Democrats than they do turning their backs on more reliably loyal Republicans. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has been awash in corporate cash this year, for example – thanks to his far-right stance, his chances of reelection, and the position of influence he would hold as Majority Leader if the GOP captures the Senate.

In a related report, Public Citizen analyzed the flow of “dark money” (from groups which don’t have to disclose their donors) and found that the United States Chamber of Commerce, the largest dark-money spender, “is leaving a huge footprint in almost every race it enters.”

As of October 25, the Chamber had spent $31.8 million on House and Senate races. The second-largest dark-money spender, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, had spent $23.5 million. Other big-spending dark-money groups include “Patriot Majority USA,” the extremist “Americans for Prosperity,” and the National Rifle Association.

Public Citizen found that the Chamber was “the biggest spender among non-disclosing outside groups in 28 of 35 races in which it has gotten involved. It is the second-biggest non-disclosing spender in three races, and the third-biggest dark money spender in four races.”

This dark money is being spent in as lopsided a manner as that of the business PACs analyzed by the Wall Street Journal, with Public Citizen concluding that “almost all of the money the Chamber has spent has gone to aid Republicans or hinder Democrats … The Chamber has not spent any money supporting Democrats.”

The Nation’s George Zornick (who we interviewed about the election last week on The Zero Hour) notes that “the Chamber is a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization, meaning it doesn’t have to disclose its donors.” Zornick adds that publicly available data reveals that “much of the Chamber’s money has generally come from titans in the oil, banking and agriculture industries, among others.”

In the past, many Congressional Democrats were able to count on the power of incumbency to trump party affiliation or the “liberal” label when it came time to collect corporate cash. But as Republicans have become increasingly shameless in their subservience to business interests – remember “Washington is here to serve the banks”? – corporations may sense that the time is coming when no longer need to compromise with government at all. From the Wall Street Journal:

“It’s increasingly likely we’re going to reestablish a pro-business majority in the Senate,” said Rob Engstrom, national political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which mostly backs conservative candidates. He said President Barack Obama and other party leaders had made Democratic candidates “vulnerable, so companies aren’t going to write PAC checks to candidates who fundamentally don’t represent their interests.”

If the incumbents in Washington haven’t been representing corporate interests effectively, it’s hard to imagine who could. Both corporate profits and the personal wealth of the 1 percent soared in the aftermath of a financial crisis which left most Americans worse off than ever before.

Perhaps Engstrom meant to say “companies aren’t going to write PAC checks to candidates who don’t solely represent their interests.” From the looks of things, Corporate America is no longer content with buying political influence. Now it wants to turn Congress into a wholly owned subsidiary. And it may well succeed, unless the voters thwart them on Tuesday.

For Democrats in Congress, perhaps the moral of the story is this: Don’t chase their money, because they’ll still betray you in the end – just as they did on Social Security. Instead of kowtowing to them, fight them. You may not be able to outspend your opponents, but that option seems to be disappearing anyway. At least that way you’ll have the voters on your side.

For the American people, the moral of this story couldn’t be clearer: If we don’t get money out of politics, we’ll lose our democracy altogether.

Campaign for America’s Future

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40105.htm

This Nation of Cowards

By William Rivers Pitt

October 31, 2014 “ICH” – “Truthout ” – It is likely that most of us, myself included, will live out our entire lives and die without ever meeting someone who willingly and purposefully volunteers to spend their vacation thousands of miles away, tending to people with diseases that make the talking heads on CNN and Fox want to hide under the bed. Kaci Hickox, a nurse from Maine who graduated from Johns Hopkins, is one such person.

In 2010, Hickox traveled overseas with the organization Doctors Without Borders to treat people suffering from yellow fever, one of several trips she made with that organization. Until last Friday, she was in Sierra Leone for a month, spending her vacation time helping to treat people infected with Ebola, the virus that has been burning through western Africa at an unprecedented rate. Kaci Hickox went to one of the most unstable countries in the world to help fight a deadly disease because someone had to, and so she raised her hand.

On Friday, she came home to a timorous nation of cowards.

That same day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo teamed up with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to establish a mandatory 21-day quarantine for any health workers returning from West Africa. When she landed at the ironically-named Liberty International Airport in Newark, she informed an immigration official that she had just returned from Sierra Leone, and was immediately hustled into a room. For the next several hours, she was questioned harshly by several people wearing bio-suits without being told exactly what was going on. According to her, nobody seemed to be in charge.

One man whose gun was visible under his bio-suit, in Hickox own words, “barked questions at me as if I was a criminal.” After several hours passed, she was brought to University Hospital in Newark in a speeding sirens-blaring lights-flashing caravan of eight police cars. Upon arrival, she was stuffed into a quarantine tent with scant furniture, a port-o-potty and no shower, and was informed that this would be her home for the next twenty-one days.

Kaci Hickox, in her own words:

I had spent a month watching children die, alone. I had witnessed human tragedy unfold before my eyes. I had tried to help when much of the world has looked on and done nothing.

At the hospital, I was escorted to a tent that sat outside of the building. The infectious disease and emergency department doctors took my temperature and other vitals and looked puzzled. “Your temperature is 98.6,” they said. “You don’t have a fever but we were told you had a fever.”

After my temperature was recorded as 98.6 on the oral thermometer, the doctor decided to see what the forehead scanner records. It read 101. The doctor felts my neck and looked at the temperature again. “There’s no way you have a fever,” he said. “Your face is just flushed.”

My blood was taken and tested for Ebola. It came back negative.

I sat alone in the isolation tent and thought of many colleagues who will return home to America and face the same ordeal. Will they be made to feel like criminals and prisoners?

Hickox began raising Hell about her treatment and the violation of her basic rights. The right-wing blogosphere launched itself into action, denouncing her for being a Democrat and dismissing her complaints because she voted for President Obama. Gov. Christie, one of the duo who ordered her mandatory quarantine, stood by his decision because, as he said, it was his job to protect the citizens of New Jersey. His concern for his constituents was evident, given that he was more than a thousand miles away when he defended his quarantine policy, campaigning for Rick Scott in Florida.

On Monday, Christie was forced to retreat, announcing that Kaci Hickox would be “allowed” to serve out the remainder of her mandatory quarantine at home.

“Allowed.”

“I didn’t reverse my decision,” said Gov. Christie later on Monday while still being so deeply concerned for his constituents that he was still campaigning for Gov. Scott in Florida, when pressed on his sudden change of heart. “She hadn’t had any symptoms for 24 hours. And she tested negative for Ebola. So there was no reason to keep her. The reason she was put into the hospital in the first place was because she was running a high fever and was symptomatic.”

Lies. Hickox had no fever. She was not symptomatic. She remains so. Yet she has been “allowed” to go home from involuntary detention by a politician who clearly doesn’t have the facts, but made sure she would be detained, as he campaigns for another politician in the Sunshine State.

New York Gov. Cuomo, the other side of this mandatory quarantine coin, took the time to invite any health worker detained after returning from their heroic work to “read my book” as a way to pass the time. One can understand why he would choose a civil liberties crisis to pitch his deep thoughts: at the time of this publication, Cuomo’s book has sold less than a thousand copies. That’s not a very impressive sales number for a salesman selling himself as Vice-Presidential material in the run-up to the 2016 election…and then he, like Christie, backpedaled on his mandatory quarantine plan.

The American Bar Association has weighed in on the legality of the Christie/Cuomo mandatory quarantine program. “States are required to protect civil liberties during public health emergencies,” they wrote. “Quarantine and isolation orders must be conducted in accordance with substantive and procedural due process, and any restrictions of civil liberties should be legal and as minimally restrictive as reasonably possible.” Kaci Hickox would seem to agree.According to Reuters, Hickox intends to file a federal lawsuit on the grounds that her involuntary confinement was a violation of her civil rights.

When she wins that suit, I will raise a toast to her: a woman who volunteered to send herself into peril to assuage the suffering of others, who returned home with no fever and no symptoms, but was quarantined like a bug in a bottle because two craven politicians decided to catch the frantic media-driven wave and show how they were being Tough On Ebola in the War On Ebola, to the detriment of Kaci Hickox and other health workers who have more courage in the moon of their pinkie fingernail than those two governors have in their whole pander-prone bodies.

“Allowed.”

“The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny,” Aesop tells us. These days, the tyrant will justify that tyranny by playing to the fears of the people. Kaci Hickox is but one example of a nation that has entirely surrendered to those fears, both real and imagined, because those fears are a facile way for TV networks to get ratings, and for politicians to get coverage by stoking those fears, which creates more fear, which generates ratings, which makes political careers. Lather rinse repeat.

This is what happens in a nation trained to be fearful by a media and political establishment which profits from that fear. We have seen it with terrorism, and with WMD in Iraq, and Bird Flu, and “They’re coming for your guns,” and immigration, and now ISIS, and in so many other moments as well. Now, it is Ebola, which is dangerous to be sure, but not to the point that we explode the Bill of Rights, again. For the record, it seems the CDC would seem to agree.

This is what happens to an ill-informed populace which is not taught to be strong, and fair, and true to the ideals of their founding, but is instead convinced by the very entities tasked to protect and inform them that they are, actually, about to die at the hands of this week’s bloviated threat.

This is how a nation of cowards is made.

Mission accomplished.

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.

Copyright, Truthout.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40107.htm

The World Must Judge America’s Human Rights Abuses

By Margaret Kimberley

October 31, 2014 “ICH” – “BAR “- Black people in this country are brutalized by police on a daily basis. That has always been true but thanks to modern technology there is a steady stream of proof caught on video. Accessing the internet means inevitably being confronted with awful imagery such as Marlene Pinnock being beaten by a highway patrolman in California. We see Eric Garner murdered by the NYPD, pleading that he couldn’t breathe.

These videos may or may not assist with prosecutions. Footage showed the late Rodney King being beaten by California police in 1991. The officers were indicted, a rarity, but a jury acquitted them anyway, making a mockery of the old saying “seeing is believing.” Common sense wisdom doesn’t count for much if it threatens to upend white supremacy. No matter how seemingly iron clad the case, police rarely face criminal charges.

Such was the case of Milton Hall, a mentally ill black man shot to death by Saginaw, Michigan, police on July 1, 2012. A camera inside one of the patrol cars shows Hall, surrounded by police, armed only with a small pen knife. He is unable to harm anyone, given that he was surrounded by seven cops and a police dog, yet they fired forty-six shots with fourteen of them striking and killing Hall.

Local prosecutors did not charge the officers and the Obama/Holder Department of Justice did not see fit to do anything either. After investigating they concluded that prosecution was not warranted. “Even if the officers were mistaken in their assessment of the threat posed by Hall, this would not establish that the officers acted willfully, or with an unlawful intent, when using deadly force against Hall. Accordingly, this tragic event does not present sufficient evidence of willful misconduct to give rise to a federal criminal prosecution of the police officers involved.”

The ACLU of Michigan not only pushed for local and federal action, but has taken its protest to a new and very important level. On October 27, 2014, Mark Fancher, Racial Justice Project Attorney for the ACLU of Michigan, testified before an international body regarding the federal government’s refusal to prosecute Hall’s “death by firing squad.” The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is an arm of the Organization of American States. It is mandated to “promote the observance and protection of human rights in the hemisphere.”

The IAHCR does not have the power to punish any individual or government for Hall’s killing, but the hearing had a very important purpose. ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael Steinberg put it simply. He called the testimony “a wake-up call for the desperate need to address police misconduct against the black citizens of this country.” He added, “The power behind these international tribunals is to draw attention to the problem and to put pressure on the United States to abide by human rights principles.”

The United States must be condemned before the nations of the world. Americans should not be allowed to behave as if human rights abuses only occur in far away nations while police in this country commit murder in broad daylight without fear of punishment.

The refusal of the federal government to charge Milton Hall’s killers is a bad omen for anyone wanting to see justice done for Michael Brown. Black Agenda Report has already revealed how the Justice Department uses media leaks to claim that the “bar is too high” to prosecute the officer who shot and killed the fleeing teenager.

Obama and attorney general Eric Holder have no intention of prosecuting police murder, no matter what videos or other evidence show. Barack Obama is just not that into black people. Instead he sends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to pacify an angry public and fool them into thinking that black people will have reasons to hope. Sharpton and Jackson made appearances in Saginaw as they did in Ferguson, Missouri, but the presence of the two “leaders” accomplished nothing, as the Obama administration intended all along.

Rodney King finally had another day in court after the acquittal sparked an uprising in Los Angeles. Fifty three people died, millions of dollars in property was damaged and the political system was frightened. Federal prosecutors in the Bush administration charged the officers with civil rights violations. They won convictions against two of them and they later served time in prison.

Riots should not be a means of guaranteeing justice but the deck is stacked against black people who are victimized by police. If Eric Holder doesn’t prosecute Michael Brown’s killer any resulting violence ought to be called the Barack Obama Riots. President Kill List is able to make the case for punishment when it suits him. The man who claims the right to designate and kill terrorists shouldn’t be allowed to claim that there isn’t enough evidence to prosecute real criminals at home.

The ACLU of Michigan is to be commended for taking this action of exposing American injustice to the world. Just as the United States government calls for sanctions and boycotts of countries it doesn’t like, the rest of the world ought to penalize this country for the continuation of unpunished violence directed at black people. Legal cases must be made against the United States at the IAHCR and with any other entity which can bring our plight to the world. Expecting Obama and Holder to act on our behalf is just a foolish dream.

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

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40106.htm

Report to U.N. Calls Bullshit on Obama’s ‘Look Forward, Not Backwards’ Approach to Torture

By Murtaza Hussain

October 31, 2014 “ICH” – “The Intercept” – Months after President Obama frankly admitted that the United States had “tortured some folks” as part of the War on Terror, a new report submitted to the United Nations Committee Against Torture has been released that excoriates his administration for shielding the officials responsible from prosecution.

The report describes the post-9/11 torture program as “breathtaking in scope”, and indicts both the Bush and Obama administrations for complicity in it – the former through design and implementation, and the latter through its ongoing attempts to obstruct justice. Noting that the program caused grievous harm to countless individuals and in many cases went as far as murder, the report calls for the United States to “promptly and impartially prosecute senior military and civilian officials responsible for authorizing, acquiescing, or consenting in any way to acts of torture.”

In specifically naming former President George W. Bush, Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo and former CIA contractor James Mitchell, among many others, as individuals who sanctioned torture at the highest levels, the report highlights a gaping hole in President Obama’s promise to reassert America’s moral standing during his administration. Not only have the cited individuals not been charged with any crime for their role in the torture program, Obama has repeatedly reiterated his mantra of “looking forward, not backwards” to protect them from accountability.

Needless to say, you shouldn’t try that defense in court if you’re an ordinary American on trial for, say, a drug crime.

It’s also worth remembering that, horrific as it was, the torture regime described in the report was only a tiny part of the wide-ranging human rights abuses the United States committed after 9/11. It doesn’t even account for the network of prisons where hundreds of thousands of people were detained in Iraq and Afghanistan – many of whom sufferedbeatings, rape and murder at the hands of U.S. soldiers.

The environment that allowed such treatment was again authorized at the highest levels, but just as with the CIA program the only people to receive any legal sanction for these actions have been low-level soldiers who’ve essentially been used as scapegoats for the crimes of their superiors.

By refusing to prosecute Bush-era officials for their culpability in major human rights abuses such as the CIA program and Abu Ghraib, President Obama is not just failing to enforce justice but is essentially guaranteeing that such abuses will happen again in the future. His administration has demonstrated that even if government officials perpetrate the most heinous crimes imaginable, they will still be able to rely on their peers to conceal their wrongdoing and protect them from prosecution. This not only erodes the rule of law, it also helps create a culture of impunity that will inevitably give rise to such actions once again.

The UN report cites former Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as describing the Bush administration’s legal definition of torture as, “so narrow that it would have exculpated Saddam Hussein.” To his credit Barack Obama has finally called a spade a spade and identified Bush officials actions for what they were: torture. Having done so, it’s now incumbent on him to stop protecting the officials who authorized this crime from legal scrutiny.

© First Look Media. All Rights Reserved

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40104.htm

Modern Day America: One Step Away from the Third Reich

By John Stanton

Unbeknownst to most Americans the United States is presently under thirty presidential declared states of emergency. They confer vast powers on the Executive Branch including the ability to financially incapacitate any person or organization in the United States, seize control of the nation’s communications infrastructure, mobilize military forces, expand the permissible size of the military without congressional authorization, and extend tours of duty without consent from service personnel. Declared states of emergency may also activate Presidential Emergency Action Documents and other continuity-of-government procedures which confer powers on the President, such as the unilateral suspension of habeas corpus—that appear fundamentally opposed to the American constitutional order. Although the National Emergencies Act, by its plain language, requires the Congress to vote every six months on whether a declared national emergency should continue, Congress has done only once in the nearly forty year history of the Act.

— Patrick Thronson, Michigan Journal of Law (2013, Vol 46).

October 31, 2014 “ICH” – “Dissident Voice” – A bit of irony, perhaps, that on November 4, 2014—as Americans go to the polls to cast their ballots for a slate of politicians at the local, state and federal levels—the august citizens of the United States will also celebrate the birth of the National Security Agency (NSA).

On November 4, 1952 the NSA was created by a Presidential Executive Order signed by then president Harry Truman. Earlier that year, in January 1952, Truman’s state of the union address focused on the Korean War, the global Soviet-Communist threat, the “Iran oil situation”, and the need to increase the production of US military equipment for use by American forces, and for transfer to Western European Allies. Truman called on Americans to seek guidance in the God of Peace even as a brutal shadow war was being waged by the United States to eliminate popularly elected “leftist” governments.

In 1953 Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected to the American presidency and with him came John Foster and Allan Dulles, two political appointees who would, it turns out, seek the counsel and expertise of “former” Nazi executioners, scientists and intelligence operatives. J Edgar Hoover, then director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was already on the case using whatever resources were at his disposal—including Nazis–to hunt down unionists, communists, dissenters and radicals wherever they might be.  According to the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Truman had this to say about Hoover and his FBI, “We want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail… Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him.”

From 1953-1961, Eisenhower, as Commander in Chief, constructed a nascent military-intelligence-law enforcement-industrial complex influenced directly by Nazi ideology and technological know-how. No wonder he warned the world about his creation, the military-industrial complex. At one time in the early 21st Century it was uncomfortable to call out America’s ties to the Nazis. But that has changed particularly with the release of Eric Lichtblau’s The Nazis Next Door(2014) and “The Collaboration” by Ben Urwand. It has also been confirmed by the overthrow of a nationally elected leader in Ukraine—Victor Yanukovych–and the open support of neo-Nazi groups largely responsible for that event. Is it a coincidence that the head of the CIA, John Brennan, visited with the neo-Nazi usurpers not long after the coup given the CIA’s history?

Do You Want to Know a Secret, do, da, do?

According to Lichtblau, writing in the New York Times: “The full tally of Nazis-turned-spies is probably much higher’, said Norman Goda, a University of Florida historian…but many records remain classified even today, making a complete count impossible. U.S. agencies directly or indirectly hired numerous ex-Nazi police officials and East European collaborators who were manifestly guilty of war crimes, he said. Information was readily available that these were compromised men. The wide use of Nazi spies grew out of a Cold War mentality shared by two titans of intelligence in the 1950s: Mr. Hoover, the longtime F.B.I. director, and Mr. Dulles, the C.I.A. director.”

Over at Antiwar.com, in “Federal Agencies Just Doing Whatever They Want Now”, Lucy Steigerwald comments wryly on Lichtblau’s findings:

…the CIA hid their precious assets from Nazi hunters and prosecutors trying to deport then-old men in the 1980s and even into the ‘90s. Most disturbing, one of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann’s little buddies, Otto von Bolschwing, was protected until 1982, when he conveniently died of a brain disorder before he could be deported or prosecuted. Famously, Nazi rocket scientists were picked up by America to prevent their expertise from falling into Soviet hands. Maybe an exception to the prickly feeling that letting heinous war criminals off the hook is not what America was supposed to be doing when it won the good war in a heroically-sepia montage could be made for geniuses like Wernher Von Braun. Von Braun was a rocket scientist and “honorary” SS member under the Nazis, and he helped America get to the moon (which is neat, so that apparently makes his debated level of involvement/enthusiasm for the party acceptable.) What exactly did von Bolschwing contribute to America after happily joining the SS in 1933 to make ignoring his crimes worthwhile? What’s the purpose of this kind of grim revelation? There are several.

One, they diminish the moral high ground about the Second World War that the US clings to desperately to this day. Yes, everyone who isn’t literally Adolph Hitler gets to feel pretty good about themselves, so anyone not allied with Hitler must be doing the right thing. Yet, helping to plan the Final Solution is forgivable if the CIA really wants you around. Another more contemporary reason to be horrified by this revelation is that it is just one outrage of many. Sharing the CIA’s dark corner is most of the other big-name, secretive agencies. For the past 18 months, the National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive campaign of spying has been big news. Less prominent were stories that suggest the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are also playing the part of secretive, unaccountable rulers.

Welcome to the Reich, American Style

William Binney, former NSA employee and whistleblower, stated that the NSA had gone “totalitarian”. In an interview with DW he likened the NSA and the US government to the Third Reich.

Binney: “Sure, they haven’t gone that far yet [as the Nazis and East German Stassi], but they tried to shut down newspaper reporters like Jim Risen…Look at the NDAA Section 1021, that gave President Obama the ability to define someone as a terrorist threat and have the military incarcerate them indefinitely without due process. That’s the same as the special order 48 issued in 1933 by the Nazis, [the so-called Reichstag Fire Decree]. Read that – it says exactly the same thing. These were totalitarian processes that were instituted…Totalitarianism comes in the form first of knowledge of people and what they’re doing, and then it starts to transition into using that power against people. That’s what’s happening – in terms of newspaper reporters, in terms of crimes. That’s a direct violation of our constitution.

DW: But surely the difference is that there was an ideological regime behind the Stasi and the Nazis.

Binney: You mean like putting people like John Kiriakou in prison for exposing torture and giving the torturers immunity? That’s what our country’s coming to. That’s what we did. That’s disgraceful. The motives of totalitarian states are not exactly the same every time, but they’re very similar: power, control and money…We’re focusing now on everyone on the planet – that’s a change from focusing on organizations that were attempting to do nasty things. When you focus on everybody, you’re moving down that path towards population control.”

Ingeniously Produced from Concentration Camps: Data “Comes to Light”

Many advances in warfare can be traced to Nazi innovations built on the backs of tortured souls. For example, air and ship crew survivability in frigid seas is just one of them:

…the Germans noted the terrible loss of critical personnel in sudden cold water immersion accidents. The sinking of the Bismarck and loss of airmen who bailed out alive and well into the cold North Sea during the Battle of Britain caused their physiologists and aviation medicine physicians to examine the problem. They commenced a large Research and Development program, which in part was the cause for the infamous Dachau experiments. They were the first to observe the “after drop” or continuation in reduction of body core temperature after being withdrawn from the cold water. They also experimented with survival suits and the Deutsches Textilforschunginstitut in München-Gladbach, ingeniously produced one that provided the insulation using soap bubbles which appears to have gone into limited service.

Another example is the development of the military aircraft “ejection seat”. In Achtung! Schleuder-Sitzaparat by Chris Carry, German engineering was far afield of American efforts in pilot safety.

With the acquisition by the US of both German databases in egress research and actual examples of the German Heinkel explosive cartridge ejection seat immediately after the war had ended, the US began to vigorously attempt to gain greater knowledge in this overlooked area of aviation technology. The new American developmental research spurred on by acquisition of German wartime data branched off into two distinctly different approaches towards the same end, one taken by the US Air Force and one by the US Navy.

Exceptionalism and Innovative Torture Techniques Led to Technological Advances

How could human beings engage in such hideous experiments on other human beings? Well, that is a time tested formula: Indoctrinate the masses into thinking that all others besides, say, Americans, are inferior, unexceptional, demons and insects. The world is witnessing just that as the US government, its allies and its media and academic proxies seek to reduce the Russians, Arabs, Chinese, Iranians, and the immigrants, unemployed and impoverished in the United States, down to the level of parasitic microbes.

Just how does that mentality work?

For that answer we turn to the UK’s Telegraph for an article written in 2008 by Richard Evans:

The answer springs from the fact that medicine was both dominant in the world of science under the Third Reich, and closely allied to the Nazi project… After all, German medical science had uncovered the causes of several major diseases and contributed massively to improving the health of the population over the previous decades. Surely, therefore, it was justified in eliminating negative influences as well? What underpinned this behavior was a widespread belief that some people were less than human, relegated to a lower plane of existence by their inherited degeneracy – or their race. For German doctors, a camp inmate was either a racially inferior subhuman, a vicious criminal, a traitor to the German cause, or more than one of the above. Such beings had no right to life or wellbeing – indeed, it was logical that they should be sacrificed in the interests of the survival and triumph of the German race, just as that race had to be strengthened by the elimination of the inferior, degenerate elements within it.

Evans continues on describing the torture:

SS doctors used inmates to test treatments for injuries sustained in battle, cutting open their calves and sewing bits of glass or wood or gauze impregnated with bacteria into the wounds, sometimes even smashing the prisoners’ bones with hammers to create a more realistic effect; again, the results were presented to scientific conferences without anyone offering any criticism of the methods employed. Perhaps the most enthusiastic user of human guinea pigs was the ambitious young SS doctor Sigmund Rascher, who employed camp inmates at Dachau to test the human body’s reactions to rapid decompression and lack of oxygen, in an attempt to help pilots forced to parachute out of their planes at high altitudes. He called some of his research sessions “terminal experiments”. He measured the time it took his subjects to die as their air supply was gradually thinned out. He showed his work, which led to the deaths of between 70 and 80 prisoners, to a conference of Luftwaffe medical experts in September 1942. The following month, Rascher presented the results of another experiment to a conference of 95 medical scientists in Nuremberg. This time, he showed how long inmates dressed in Luftwaffe uniforms and life jackets could survive in cold water, simulating conditions in the North Sea. The average time that elapsed before death, he reported, was 70 minutes. None of those listening to him raised any ethical objections.

Albert Camus offers a sort of prayer for these dark times:

All I ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect on murder and to make a choice. After that, we can distinguish those who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves or the accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all their force and being. Since this terrible dividing line does actually exist, it will be a gain if it be clearly marked. Over the expanse of five continents throughout the coming years an endless struggle is going to be pursued between violence and friendly persuasion, a struggle in which, granted, the former has a thousand times the chances of success than that of the latter. But I have always held that, if he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward. And henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions.

John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in political and national security affairs. He wrote The Raptor’s Eye, and his latest book is US Army Human Terrain System. He can be reached at: captainkong22@gmail.com.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40109.htm

The Chickenshit Lobby Is Mad As Hell

– but just how mad are they?

By Justin Raimondo

October 31, 2014 “ICH” – “Antiwar” – Israel, Israel, Israel, Israel – can we ever escape the endless kvetching of its partisans? In the media, in both houses of Congress, on the campuses and in the streets, Israel’s fifth column in America is everywhere, making its presence felt. From Chuck Hagel’s confirmation battle to the public relations campaignaccompanying their latest Gaza massacre, the Jewish state’s on-the-ground army of American flacks, publicists, and fanatic rank-and-filers mobilizes the moment someone looks cross-eyed at Bibi Netanyahu – and the Chickenshit scandal has them screaming to high heaven.

The scandal was created, unsurprisingly, by Israel’s semi-official flack-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, a former Israeli prison guard turned journalist, whose pronouncements carry the authority of someone with impeccable connections in both Tel Aviv and Washington. Writing in The Atlantic, he reports:

“The other day I was talking to a senior Obama administration official about the foreign leader who seems to frustrate the White House and the State Department the most. ‘The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit’ this official said …

Goldberg has a carefully cultivated image as a moderate-to-liberal Obama sympathizer, and he goes into his familiar riff about how the rapidly fraying US-Israeli relationship is largely a function of Bibi’s truculence. Yet it’s clear Goldberg – who surely knew what the response to his reporting would be, even inside the President’s own party – is appalled by this display of candor:

“’The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,’ the official said, expanding the definition of what a chickenshit Israeli prime minister looks like. ‘The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He’s not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he’s not [Ariel] Sharon, he’s certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts.’”

The Lebanese and Gazans might quibble with the notion that Bibi’s “scared to launch wars,” but then again those weren’t wars, they were massacres. And why should Bibi fight anyone who can possibly fight back when he has the United States to do his dirty work for him?

Goldberg’s assessment of the rupture is that “The fault for this breakdown in relations can be assigned in good part to the junior partner in the relationship, Netanyahu” – but perhaps Bibi doesn’t recognize his junior status because that isn’t the way it worked during most of the Bush years.

Obama is apparently much less willing than his predecessor to sacrifice American lives while Bibi directs the action from behind the scenes. The President’s initial reluctance to get more deeply involved in Syria, not to mention his eagerness to get the heck out of Iraq ASAP, had Tel Aviv – and its American amen corner – fuming. On the other side of the equation, the dramatic escalation of Israel’s “settlement”-building campaign has at least some in the Obama administration infused with a “red-hot anger,” as Goldberg reports the phrase used by one Obama administration official, possibly the same one cited here:

“I ran this notion by another senior official who deals with the Israel file regularly. This official agreed that Netanyahu is a ‘chickenshit’ on matters related to the comatose peace process, but added that he’s also a ‘coward’ on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat. The official said the Obama administration no longer believes that Netanyahu would launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to keep the regime in Tehran from building an atomic arsenal. ‘It’s too late for him to do anything. Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.’”

The reality is that there was never any possibility of an Israeli strike, as I pointed out in 2011, when speculation was at an all-time high:

“The problem with this alleged plan is that Israel doesn’t have the military capacity to do the job and do it well: Iran’s nuclear facilities are enclosed within hardened sites, and are spread out to such a degree that Israeli war planes would have trouble reaching them. While the Israelis have recently tested a long-range missile that has the capacity to hit Iranian targets, the idea that they could take out all the intended targets in one fell swoop is simply a fantasy. Therefore, this alleged “debate” taking place within the Israeli leadership, complete with a phony “investigation” by Netanyahu into who leaked the nonexistent Israeli attack ‘plan,’ is a non-event. The whole thing, in short, is a bluff.

“But who is being bluffed here? Not the Iranians, who are surely aware of Israel’s incapacity. The volume of the war hysteria is being turned up with one purpose in mind: the Israelis want the US to do their dirty work for them. This is a threat aimed not only – or even primarily – at Iran, but at us.” 

The Obama administration is well-aware of Israel’s technical incapacity, as is Goldberg’s source: so what, exactly, is the purpose of this manufactured controversy?

The Israelis are hoping a propaganda campaign in the US will subvert the administration’s plans to reach a deal with Iran. As Goldberg reports;

“Netanyahu has told several people I’ve spoken to in recent days that he has ‘written off’ the Obama administration, and plans to speak directly to Congress and to the American people should an Iran nuclear deal be reached.”

Goldberg’s contribution to this whiny narrative – “Israel has been thrown under the bus!” – is pretty clear, but then again none of this is surprising. After all, what is Goldberg doing in America aside from acting as a kind of semiofficial (albeit ostensibly self-critical) Voice of Israel in the US media?

What’s surprising is how Netanyahu, in a speech to the Knesset, took the opportunity to answer his critics in the Obama administration: “Netanyahu angrily insisted he was ‘under attack simply for defending Israel,’ adding that he ‘cherished’ Israel’s relationship with the US.”

The famously combative Israeli Prime Minister went on to say:

“When there are pressures on Israel to concede its security, the easiest thing to do is to concede. You get a round of applause, ceremonies on grassy knolls, and then come the missiles and the tunnels.”

Bibi, who spent many years in the United States, is surely cognizant of what his “grassy knoll” reference connotes. You can argue it was just an infelicitous phrase, or that Bibi was referring to himself, not Obama. Maybe so. But what if, say, an Iranian official, even a low-ranking one, had said such a thing? The uproar would be deafening. And so the question must be asked: was Bibi threatening the President of the United States?

If we take seriously Goldberg’s depiction of the poisoned relationship between Bibi and Obama, the possibility can’t be completely dismissed.

The Chickenshit Lobby, otherwise known as Israel’s amen corner in the US, is mad as hell – but just how mad are they? I don’t know the answer to that question, but as the prospect of a peace agreement with Iran looms larger, those whose job it is to protect the President need to take this potential threat seriously. As we’ve seen recently, the White Houseisn’t exactly an impregnable fortress. In the meantime, it’s time to start reevaluating the “special relationship” in light of an Israeli leader who talks about the “grassy knoll” while denouncing an American president.

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author ofReclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40103.htm

Afghan Retreat Echoes of Vietnam Defeat

By Finian Cunningham

October 30, 2014 “ICH” – “Press TV” – It didn’t quite garner the same media highlight, but nevertheless there was the unmistakable comparison this week between the evacuation of American troops from southern Afghanistan and the Fall of Saigon, South Vietnam, in 1975.

Both events mark embarrassing retreats by a failing American empire whose hubris always manages to deny reality until the illusion of power finally comes crashing down.

This week thousands of US and British troops were hurriedly airlifted from the giant military base known as Camp Bastion in southern Helmand Province.

It was a huge logistical operation involving a fleet of transport planes and helicopters landing and taking off over a 24-hour period.

The scene of hasty imperial removal from Helmand reminded one of the classic photograph taken in 1975 by UPI photographer Hubert Van Es, which captured American Huey choppers lifting hundreds of desperate personnel from off the rooftop of the CIA headquarters in Saigon ahead of imminent defeat by Vietnamese insurgents.

This week in Helmand the evacuating troops were the last of the US-led NATO force that has occupied Afghanistan for the past 13 years. At its peak, there were 140,000 American troops in the country with the second biggest contingency being the British, along with soldiers from nearly 50 other nations.

Now Camp Bastion has been handed over to Afghan troops and police, who will take over the daunting task of maintaining security across the country against a deadly resurgence of Taliban militants.

Officially, the US-led international force is to wind down its operation in Afghanistan at the end of this year, but some 10,000 American military and CIA will remain in the country in a “support role” to national security forces under a deal signed between Washington and the new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Just like the Fall of Saigon in April 1975, in which thousands of American personnel were scrambled out the country ahead of the Vietnamese victory, the retreat from Afghanistan this week signals another humiliating defeat for the warmongers in Washington.

Not only a humiliating defeat, but the end of a long and bloody chronicle of futile war. Thirteen years ago, the Americans invaded Afghanistan allegedly to topple a fundamentalist Taliban regime and eradicate an international source of terrorism led by Saudi al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Tens of thousands of deaths later, plus trillions of dollars billed to the American taxpayers, the US troops are clearing out from a country that is left in worst shape. The American-installed government can barely maintain security in the capital, Kabul, never mind the surrounding regions. What’s more terrorism of the Al-Qaeda brand has spread internationally eliciting the deployment of even more American militarism abroad, and the ramping up of state security powers within the US and its NATO allies.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban are resurgent not only in their southern heartlands, but have taken over large parts of the east, west and north of the country, where they previously had little presence. Schools and other civic administration in these areas are now reportedly run, not by the US-backed government in Kabul, but by the militants.

Cultivation of poppy for heroin production – a main source of finance for the Taliban warlords – has reached an all-time high with over 200,000 hectares under cultivation. Nearly half of all Afghan poppy is harvested in Helmand Province, where US President Obama launched his much-vaunted surge of 30,000 extra marines in 2009-2010. Despite Washington spending $7.6 billion to curb poppy production, Afghanistan has emerged as the world’s biggest source of heroin, while drug addiction in the US is reportedly soaring.

On security matters, between March and August this year, nearly 1,000 Afghan troops and 2,200 police officers were killed in militant attacks. That represents the worst casualty rate for local forces over the past 13 years.

With the last of the US-led foreign forces pulling out this week, there is an ominous sense of the security levee bursting across Afghanistan.

If anything, the prognosis for Afghanistan is a lot worse than it was for Iraq where US troops beat a similar hasty retreat three years ago.

By comparison, Afghanistan has a much more active insurgency raging even as the Americans are pulling out. Iraq has gone on to descend into chaos, so the portent for Afghanistan would seem a lot worse.

Reuters news agency reported the view of US Marine Staff Sergeant Kenneth Oswood, who participated in both the Iraq withdrawal and this week’s evacuation from Afghanistan. He said: “It’s a lot different this time. Closing out Iraq, when we got there, we were told there hadn’t been a shot fired in anger at us in years. And then you come here and they are still shooting at us.”

The US marine added: “It’s almost like it’s not over here, and we’re just kind of handing it over to someone else to fight.”

More like handing it over to someone else to do the dying.

The “exceptional” Americans in Washington like to refer to their foreign interventions as “nation building.” Like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, among dozens of other unfortunate countries to have hosted American “nation builders” over the past century, the people of these wretched lands have experienced Washington’s reverse Midas Touch. Far from turning to gold, everything Washington touches brings death and destruction.

And in the end when the American destroyers finally pack up and run, it is the people that remain who must pick up the pieces and actually begin the real process of national development. How easier it would be if Washington just kept its imperialist, predatory hands off others.

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40097.htm

Whose Side Is Turkey On?

By Patrick Cockburn

October 31, 2014 “ICH” – “LRB” – Over the summer Isis – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – defeated the Iraqi army, the Syrian army, the Syrian rebels and the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga; it established a state stretching from Baghdad to Aleppo and from Syria’s northern border to the deserts of Iraq in the south. Ethnic and religious groups of which the world had barely heard – including the Yazidis of Sinjar and the Chaldean Christians of Mosul – became victims of Isis cruelty and sectarian bigotry. In September, Isis turned its attention to the two and a half million Syrian Kurds who had gained de facto autonomy in three cantons just south of the Turkish border. One of these cantons, centred on the town of Kobani, became the target of a determined assault. By 6 October, Isis fighters had fought their way into the centre of the town. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan predicted that its fall was imminent; John Kerry spoke of the ‘tragedy’ of Kobani, but claimed – implausibly – that its capture wouldn’t be of great significance. A well-known Kurdish fighter, Arin Mirkan, blew herself up as the Isis fighters advanced: it looked like a sign of despair and impending defeat.

In attacking Kobani, the Isis leadership wanted to prove that it could still defeat its enemies despite the US airstrikes against it, which began in Iraq on 8 August and were extended to Syria on 23 September. As they poured into Kobani Isis fighters chanted: ‘The Islamic State remains, the Islamic State expands.’ In the past, Isis has chosen – a tactical decision – to abandon battles it didn’t think it was going to win. But the five-week battle for Kobani had gone on too long and been too well publicised for its militants to withdraw without loss of prestige. The appeal of the Islamic State to Sunnis in Syria, Iraq and across the world derives from a sense that its victories are God-given and inevitable, so any failure damages its claim to divine support.

But the inevitable Isis victory at Kobani didn’t happen. On 19 October, in a reversal of previous policy, US aircraft dropped arms, ammunition and medicine to the town’s defenders. Under American pressure, Turkey announced on the same day that it would allow Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga safe passage from northern Iraq to Kobani; Kurdish fighters have now recaptured part of the town. Washington had realised that, given Obama’s rhetoric about his plan ‘to degrade and destroy’ Isis, and with congressional elections only a month away, it couldn’t afford to allow the militants yet another victory. And this particular victory would in all likelihood have been followed by a massacre of surviving Kurds in front of the TV cameras assembled on the Turkish side of the border. When the siege began, US air support for the defenders of Kobani had been desultory; for fear of offending Turkey the US air force had avoided liaising with Kurdish fighters on the ground. By the middle of October the policy had changed, and the Kurds started giving detailed targeting information to the Americans, enabling them to destroy Isis tanks and artillery. Previously, Isis commanders had been skilful in hiding their equipment and dispersing their men. In the air campaign so far, only 632 out of 6600 missions have resulted in actual attacks. But as they sought to storm Kobani, Isis leaders had to concentrate their forces in identifiable positions and became vulnerable. In one 48-hour period there were nearly forty US airstrikes, some only fifty yards from the Kurdish front line.

It wasn’t US air support alone that made the difference. In Kobani, for the first time, Isis was fighting an enemy – the People’s Defence Units (YPG) and its political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) – that in important respects resembled itself. The PYD is the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which since 1984 has been fighting for self-rule for the 15 million Turkish Kurds. Like Isis, the PKK combines fanatical ideological commitment with military expertise and experience gained in long years of guerrilla war. Marxist-Leninist in its original ideology, the PKK is run from the top and seeks to monopolise power within the Kurdish community, whether in Turkey or Syria. The party’s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, the object of a powerful personality cult, issues instructions from his Turkish prison on an island in the Sea of Marmara. The PKK’s military leadership operates from a stronghold in the Qandil Mountain in northern Iraq, one of the great natural fortresses of the world. Most of its fighters, estimated to number seven thousand, withdrew from Turkey under the terms of a ceasefire in 2013, and today move from camp to camp in the deep gorges and valleys of the Qandil. They are highly disciplined and intensely dedicated to the cause of Kurdish nationalism: this has enabled them to wage a war for three decades against the enormous Turkish army, always undeterred despite the devastating losses they have suffered. The PKK, like Isis, emphasises martyrdom: fallen fighters are buried in carefully tended cemeteries full of rose bushes high in the mountains, with elaborate tombstones over the graves. Pictures of Ocalan are everywhere: six or seven years ago, I visited a hamlet in Qandil occupied by the PKK; overlooking it was an enormous picture of Ocalan picked out in coloured stones on the side of a nearby mountain. It’s one of the few guerrilla bases that can be seen from space.

Syria and Iraq are full of armies and militias that don’t fight anybody who can shoot back, but the PKK and its Syrian affiliates, the PYD and YPG, are different. Often criticised by other Kurds as Stalinist and undemocratic, they at least have the capacity to fight for their own communities. The Islamic State’s string of victories against superior forces earlier this year came about because it was fighting soldiers, such as those in the Iraqi army, who are low in morale and poorly supplied with weapons, ammunition and food, thanks to corrupt and incompetent commanders, many of whom are liable to flee. When a few thousand Isis fighters invaded Mosul in June they were in theory facing sixty thousand Iraqi soldiers and police. But the real figure was probably only a third of that: the rest were either just names on paper, with the officers pocketing the salaries; or they did exist but were handing over half their pay to their commanders in return for never going near an army barracks. Not much has improved in the four months since the fall of Mosul on 9 June. According to an Iraqi politician, a recent official inspection of an Iraqi armoured division ‘that was meant to have 120 tanks and 10,000 soldiers, revealed that it had 68 tanks and just 2000 soldiers’. The Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga – literally ‘those who confront death’ – aren’t immensely effective either. They are often regarded as better soldiers than the soldiers in the Iraqi army, but their reputation was won thirty years ago when they were fighting Saddam; they have not done much fighting since, except in the Kurdish civil wars. Even before they were routed by Isis in Sinjar in August, a close observer of the peshmerga referred to them derisively as ‘pêche melba’; they were, he said, ‘only good for mountain ambushes’.

The Islamic State’s success has been helped not just by its enemies’ incompetence but also by the divisions evident between them. John Kerry boasts of having put together a coalition of sixty countries all pledged to oppose Isis, but from the beginning it was clear that many important members weren’t too concerned about the Isis threat. When the bombing of Syria began in September, Obama announced with pride that Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Turkey were all joining the US as military partners against Isis. But, as the Americans knew, these were all Sunni states which had played a central role in fostering the jihadis in Syria and Iraq. This was a political problem for the US, as Joe Biden revealed to the embarrassment of the administration in a talk at Harvard on 2 October. He said that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had promoted ‘a proxy Sunni-Shia war’ in Syria and ‘poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaida and the extremist element of jihadis coming from other parts of the world’. He admitted that the moderate Syrian rebels, supposedly central to US policy in Syria, were a negligible military force. Biden later apologised for his words, but what he had said was demonstrably true and reflects what the administration in Washington really believes. Though they expressed outrage at Biden’s frankness, America’s Sunni allies swiftly confirmed the limits of their co-operation. Prince al-Waleed bin Talal al-Saud, a business magnate and member of the Saudi royal family, said: ‘Saudi Arabia will not be involved directly in fighting Isis in Iraq or Syria, because this does not really affect our country explicitly.’ In Turkey, Erdoğan said that so far as he was concerned the PKK was just as bad as Isis.

Excluded from this bizarre coalition were almost all those actually fighting Isis, including Iran, the Syrian army, the Syrian Kurds and the Shia militias in Iraq. This mess has been much to the advantage of the Islamic State, as illustrated by an incident in northern Iraq in early August when Obama sent US special forces to Mount Sinjar to monitor the danger to the thousands of Yazidis trapped there. Ethnically Kurdish but with their own non-Islamic religion, the Yazidis had fled their towns and cities to escape massacre and enslavement by Isis. The US soldiers arrived by helicopter and were efficiently guarded and shown around by uniformed Kurdish militiamen. But soon afterwards the Yazidis – who had been hoping to be rescued or at least helped by the Americans – were horrified to see the US soldiers hurriedly climb back into their helicopter and fly away. The reason for their swift departure, it was revealed later in Washington, was that the officer in charge of the US detachment had spoken to his Kurdish guards and discovered that they weren’t the US-friendly peshmerga of the Kurdistan Regional Government but PKK fighters – still listed as ‘terrorists’ by the US, despite the central role they have played in helping the Yazidis and driving back Isis. It was only when Kobani was on the verge of falling that Washington accepted it had no choice but to co-operate with the PYD: it was, after all, practically the only effective force still fighting Isis on the ground.

And then there was the Turkish problem. US planes attacking Isis forces in Kobani had to fly 1200 miles from their bases in the Gulf because Turkey wouldn’t allow the use of its airbase at Incirlik, just a hundred miles from Kobani. By not preventing reinforcements, weapons and ammunition from reaching Isis in Kobani, Ankara was showing that it would prefer Isis to hold the town: anything was better than the PYD. Turkey’s position had been clear since July 2012, when the Syrian army, under pressure from rebels elsewhere, pulled out of the main Kurdish areas. The Syrian Kurds, long persecuted by Damascus and politically marginal, suddenly won de facto autonomy under increasing PKK authority. Living mostly along the border with Turkey, a strategically important area to Isis, the Kurds unexpectedly became players in the struggle for power in a disintegrating Syria. This was an unwelcome development for the Turks. The dominant political and military organisations of the Syrian Kurds were branches of the PKK and obeyed instructions from Ocalan and the military leadership in Qandil. The PKK insurgents, who had fought for so long for some form of self-rule in Turkey, now ruled a quasi-state in Syria centred on the cities of Qamishli, Kobani and Afrin. Much of the Syrian border region was likely to remain in Kurdish hands, since the Syrian government and its opponents were both too weak to do anything about it. Ankara may not be the master chess player collaborating with Isis to break Kurdish power, as conspiracy theorists believe, but it saw the advantage to itself of allowing Isis to weaken the Syrian Kurds. It was never a very far-sighted policy: if Isis succeeded in taking Kobani, and thus humiliating the US, the Americans’ supposed ally Turkey would be seen as partly responsible, after sealing off the town. In the event, the Turkish change of course was embarrassingly speedy. Within hours of Erdoğan saying that Turkey wouldn’t help the PYD terrorists, permission was being given for Iraqi Kurds to reinforce the PYD fighters at Kobani.

Turkey’s volte face was the latest in a series of miscalculations it had made about developments in Syria since the first uprising against Assad in 2011. Erdoğan’s government could have held the balance of power between Assad and his opponents, but instead convinced itself that Assad – like Gaddafi in Libya – would inevitably be overthrown. When this failed to happen, Ankara gave its support to jihadi groups financed by the Gulf monarchies: these included al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, and Isis. Turkey played much the same role in supporting the jihadis in Syria as Pakistan had done supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. The estimated 12,000 foreign jihadis fighting in Syria, over which there is so much apprehension in Europe and the US, almost all entered via what became known as ‘the jihadis’ highway’, using Turkish border crossing points while the guards looked the other way. In the second half of 2013, as the US put pressure on Turkey, these routes became harder to access but Isis militants still cross the frontier without too much difficulty. The exact nature of the relationship between the Turkish intelligence services and Isis and al-Nusra remains cloudy but there is strong evidence for a degree of collaboration. When Syrian rebels led by al-Nusra captured the Armenian town of Kassab in Syrian government-held territory early this year, it seemed that the Turks had allowed them to operate from inside Turkish territory. Also mysterious was the case of the 49 members of the Turkish Consulate in Mosul who stayed in the city as it was taken by Isis; they were held hostage in Raqqa, the Islamic State’s Syrian capital, then unexpectedly released after four months in exchange for Isis prisoners held in Turkey.

Had Erdoğan chosen to help the Kurds trapped in Kobani rather than sealing them off, he might have strengthened the peace process between his government and the Turkish Kurds. Instead, his actions provoked protests and rioting by Kurds across Turkey; in towns and villages where there had been no Kurdish demonstrations in recent history tyres were burned and 44 people were killed. For the first time in two years, Turkish military aircraft struck at PKK positions in the south-east of the country. It appears that Erdoğan had thrown away one of the main achievements of his years in power: the beginnings of a negotiated end to the Kurdish armed insurgency. Ethnic hostility and abuse between Turks and Kurds have now increased. The police suppressed anti-Isis demonstrations but left pro-Isis demonstrations alone. Some 72 refugees who had fled to Turkey from Kobani were sent back into the town. When five PYD members were arrested by the Turkish army they were described by the military as ‘separatist terrorists’. There were hysterical outbursts from Erdoğan’s supporters: the mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek, tweeted that ‘there are people in the east who pass themselves off as Kurdish but are actually atheist Armenians by origin.’ The Turkish media, increasingly subservient to or intimidated by the government, played down the seriousness of the demonstrations. CNN Turk, famous for showing a documentary on penguins at the height of the Gezi Park demonstrations last year, chose to broadcast a documentary on honeybees during the Kurdish protests.

How great a setback would it be for Isis if it failed to capture Kobani? Its reputation for always defeating its enemies would be damaged, but it has shown that it can stand up to US airstrikes even when its forces are concentrated in one place. The caliphate declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on 29 June is still expanding: its biggest victories, in Anbar Province, have given it another quarter of Iraq. A series of well-planned attacks in September saw Isis capture territory around Fallujah, forty miles west of Baghdad. An Iraqi army camp at Saqlawiyah was besieged for a week and overrun: three hundred Iraqi army soldiers were killed. As in the past, the army proved incapable of staging an effective counteroffensive despite support from US airstrikes. On 2 October, Isis launched a series of attacks which captured Hit, a town north of Ramadi, leaving the government holding only a single army base in the area. Isis forces are today very close to the Sunni enclaves in west Baghdad: until now these have remained quiet, though every other Sunni area in the country has been in turmoil. According to Isis prisoners, the Isis cells in the city are waiting for orders to rise up in co-ordination with an attack from outside the capital. Isis might not be able to seize all of Baghdad, a city of seven million people (the majority Shia), but it could take the Sunni areas and cause panic throughout the capital. In wealthy mixed districts like al-Mansour in west Baghdad half the inhabitants have left for Jordan or the Gulf because they expect an Isis assault. ‘I think Isis will attack Baghdad, if only to take the Sunni enclaves,’ one resident said. ‘If they hold even part of the capital they will add credibility to their claim to have established a state.’ Meanwhile, the government and the local media doggedly play down the seriousness of the threat of an Isis invasion in order to prevent mass flight to safer Shia areas in the south.

The replacement of Nouri al-Maliki’s corrupt and dysfunctional government by Haider al-Abadi hasn’t made as much difference as its foreign backers would like. Because the army is performing no better than before, the main fighting forces facing Isis are the Shia militias. Highly sectarian and often criminalised, they are fighting hard around Baghdad to drive back Isis and cleanse mixed areas of the Sunni population. Sunnis are often picked up at checkpoints, held for ransoms of tens of thousands of dollars and usually murdered even when the money is paid. Amnesty International says that the militias, including the Badr Brigade and Asaib Ahl al Haq, operate with total immunity; it has accused the Shia-dominated government of ‘sanctioning war crimes’. With the Iraqi government and the US paying out big sums of money to businessmen, tribal leaders and anybody else who says they will fight Isis, local warlords are on the rise again: between twenty and thirty new militias have been created since June. This means that Iraqi Sunnis have no choice but to stick with Isis. The only alternative is the return of ferocious Shia militiamen who suspect all Sunnis of supporting the Islamic State. Having barely recovered from the last war, Iraq is being wrecked by a new one. Whatever happens at Kobani, Isis is not going to implode. Foreign intervention will only increase the level of violence and the Sunni-Shia civil war will gather force, with no end in sight.

Copyright © LRB Limited 2014

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40110.htm

ISIS: the Useful Enemy Kobani Kurds Expose the Hypocrisy of the Coalition Against ISIS

By Ismael Hossein-zadeh

October 31, 2014 “ICH” -The dark force of ISIS is apparently an invincible and unstoppable war juggernaut that is mercilessly killing and conquering in pursuit of establishing an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In reality, however, it is not as out of control as it appears. It is, indeed, carefully controlled and managed by its creators and supporters, that is, by the United States and its allies in the regions—those who now pretend to have established a coalition to fight it! The U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other allies in the region do not really need to fight ISIS to (allegedly) destroy it; all they need to do to extinguish its hellish flames is stop supplying fuel for its fire, that is, stop supplying it with funds, mercenaries, military training and armaments.

There are many ways to show the fact that, in subtle ways, ISIS benefactors control its operations and direct its activities in accordance with their own geopolitical interests. One way is to pay attention to its purported mission: to dismantle the corrupt and illegitimate regimes in Iraq and Syria and replace them with a “pure” Islamic state under the rule of a “pious caliphate.” Despite this professed mission to fight the dictatorial regimes that have tarnished Islam, however, ISIS does not question the most corrupt, dictatorial and illegitimate regimes in the region—such as the Saudi, Qatari, Kuwaiti and Jordanian regimes that fund and arm its operations.

Another way is to compare ISIS’s attack (in early August) on the Iraqi Kurds in Irbil with its current attack on the Syrian Kurds in Kobani. When Irbil came under attack by ISIS, the U.S. unleashed the full force of its air power in concert with the Kurdish peshmerga fighters to repel the attack.

By contrast, while the Kurdish city of Kobani in Northern Syria is being attacked by the disproportionately better armed forces of ISIS, and thousands of its besieged residents face certain mass killings if it falls, the forces of the “coalition to fight ISIS” are watching—in effect, playing a game of hide-and-seek, or perhaps trick-or-treat, with ISIS—as the outgunned and outmanned Kurdish forces are valiantly fighting to death against the attackers. Only occasionally the coalition forces carry out bombing missions that seem to be essentially theatrical, or just for the record.

So, why are the Kurds in Kobani treated differently than those in Irbil? I find Ajamu Baraka’s answer to this question quite insightful:

“The reason why the Kurds of Kobani are to be sacrificed stems from the fact that they are the wrong kind of Kurds. Masoud Barzani and the bourgeois Kurds of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) are the “good Kurds” and the predominant force among the Kurds of Iraq. Their control of almost 45% of Iraqi oil reserves and the booming business that they have been involved in with U.S. oil companies and Israel since their ‘liberation’ with the U.S. invasion makes them a valued asset for the U.S. The same goes for Turkey where despite the historic oppression of Kurds in Turkey, the government does a robust business with the Kurds of Iraq” (Source).

While the U.S., Turkey and their allies in the region do not view KDP as a threat to their geopolitical plans (at least for now), they do so when it comes to the “bad” Kurds in the self-governing area in Northern Syria, led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG). Contrary to KDP that tends to shun the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey in order not to antagonize the Turks, the United States and their allies in the region, YPG welcomes support from PKK in its fight against ISIS.

Turkey’s overriding interest in Syria is not so much against ISIS as it is against the Syrian Kurds, as well as the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad; because the rabidly anti-Kurd regime in Ankara fears that the weakened regime of Assad may not be able to do away with the self-governing Kurds in Kobani and the surrounding Kurdish areas. The Turkish regime is concerned that if the Kobani Kurds succeed in fending off the ISIS forces, their success and their experience of self-government in the Kobani region, may serve as a tempting model of self-rule for the 15-million Kurds in Turkey. The Turks are also concerned that the success of the Syrian Kurds against ISIS would thwart their long-harbored ambitions to occupy and/or annex the oil-rich Kurdish region in Northern Syria—hence their insistence on a buffer or no-fly zone in that region.

This helps explain why the Turkish regime insists that the overthrow of the Assad regime must take precedence over the fight against ISIS. It also explains why it is feverishly trying to prevent the Kurdish volunteers to cross its border with Syria to help the besieged Kobani defenders against the brutal ISIS attack—in effect, helping ISIS against the Kurds. The inaction or half-hearted action of the United States in the face of the preventable slaughter of the Syrian Kurds, which makes it complicit in the carnage, can be explained by its political horse-trading with Turkey in exchange for the Turks’ collaboration with the pursuit of its imperialistic interests in the region.

The U.S. approach to ISIS would be better understood when it is viewed in the context of its overall objectives in the region—and beyond. That overriding objective, shared and reinforced by its client states, is to undermine or eliminate “the axis of resistance,” consisting of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and, to a lesser extent, Shia forces in Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Achievement of this goal would also be achievement of another, even broader, goal: undermining Russia’s influence and alliances in the region and, by extension, in other parts of the world—for example, its critically important role within both the Shanghai Cooperation Council (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) and the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

To intervene in order to achieve these goals, the U.S. and its allies need pretexts and/or enemies—even if it means inventing or manufacturing such enemies. Without ISIS, resumption of U.S. military operations in Iraq and extension of those operations into Syria would have been difficult to justify to the American people. A year or so ago, the Obama administration’s drive to attack Syria was thwarted by the opposition from the American people and, therefore, the U.S. congress. The rise of ISIS quickly turned that opposition to support.

Viewed in this light, ISIS can be seen as essentially another (newly manufactured) instrument in the tool-box of U.S. foreign policy, which includes “global terrorism,” the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, weapons of mass destruction, Iran’s nuclear technology, Al-Qaeda, and many other radical Islamic groupings—all by-products of, or blowbacks to, imperialistic U.S. foreign policies.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion

Copyright © CounterPunch

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40108.htm

The CIA torture cover-up continues

31 October 2014

One of the numerous issues being carefully avoided by the political establishment in the US midterm elections, now less than one week away, is the constitutional crisis surrounding the plot to cover up torture carried out by the CIA.

All of the institutions of government are complicit in the cover-up, which is centered on preventing the publication of a Senate Intelligence Committee summary detailing US torture practices far exceeding in scope and brutality those made public so far. The logic behind the cover-up is simple: the report details crimes so harrowing that its publication would prove politically explosive.

While the Senate report was finished in 2012, it has yet to see the light of day. This summer, the Obama administration postponed the release of an executive summary in order to give those CIA officials most culpable for state torture a chance to review the document and redact the most criminal material. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough—a close ally of CIA Director John Brennan, who helped implement torture policy while in the Bush administration—is playing the key role in overseeing negotiations between the CIA and the Senate on the scope of the CIA’s redactions.

The Intercept reported on October 24 that the CIA has insisted on redacting, among other things, the pseudonyms used by the agency to mask the identities of those responsible for carrying out torture. The redactions it is demanding have reportedly made the document as a whole unintelligible.

The dispute between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA is aimed at ensuring that any release will be delayed until at least after the midterm elections, after which it is hoped that the document can be buried altogether. The Senate itself is functioning as a willful accomplice in this process—since key Senators of both political parties have the document and could leak it at any time.

At the same time, in response to an ACLU lawsuit petitioning for the release of the Senate report summary under the Freedom of Information Act, the Obama administration filed a motion Tuesday requesting that a federal court once again delay the release. The filing marks the fourth time the Department of Justice has attempted to prevent publication.

In the text of the motion, the Department of Justice claims that the request for a delay was made on behalf of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which “has asked the Department to ask this Court for one additional extension.”

The timing of the most recent delay underscores the damning character of the contents of the report summary. As The Hill noted, a release “could have caused distractions for Democratic candidates just a week ahead of high-stakes midterm elections.” By “distractions” is meant an element of social and political reality—the crimes of the CIA are something that no one in the political establishment wants to talk about.

Let us recall that the crimes at issue include not only torture—which one person with knowledge of the Senate report called “medieval,” including holding detainees under water to the point of death—but also further crimes that flowed from these crimes. It was revealed earlier this year that the CIA hacked the computers of Senate staff members tasked with researching the torture programs and threatened the staffers with criminal prosecution. Although these brazenly unconstitutional acts are proof that the CIA acts as a law unto itself, these revelations too have been dropped.

Nor is CIA torture the only crime for which the intelligence apparatus is guilty. Nearly one and a half years have passed since Edward Snowden provided proof of massive government surveillance. Yet each week brings new details of an immense spying apparatus that pries into the lives of hundreds of millions throughout the world with the help of a network of government agencies and private corporations. The Obama administration’s fig-leaf pretense of “reform” in response to these revelations has been entirely dropped.

In these actions, one gets a glimpse of an intelligence agency that operates outside of all legal constraints. The chief spymasters, and the military generals with whom they are closely associated, act as the real kingmakers, and the individuals who populate the official branches of government combine cowardice and complicity in varying proportions.

Speaking of the growing power of the military and its associated agencies, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned in his 1962 farewell address of “the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power” at the hands of “the military industrial complex.”

The situation today goes far beyond what Eisenhower could have imagined. The size of the intelligence apparatus in the United States is enormous, sucking up tens of billions of dollars every year in official spending and “black budgets” hidden from the American people. As for the military, its official budget stands at over half a trillion dollars.

The launching of the “war on terror” in 2001 marked a new stage in the growth of the military-intelligence agencies, as the government’s drive to war abroad became ever more closely tied to the establishment of the framework for a police state domestically.

The growing power of the “military-intelligence-industrial complex” corresponds to two related processes: the explosion of imperialist violence abroad and the growth of social antagonisms at home.

Lenin, citing Engels, referred to the state as consisting fundamentally of “bodies of armed men.” The essential purpose of this instrument of violence and repression is to uphold class rule—in the United States, the defense of the interests of an increasingly parasitic financial aristocracy. The more naked the class relations and the more severe the class antagonisms, the more openly does this essential purpose of the state express itself.

Eric London

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/31/pers-o31.html

Pentagon claims “Russian aggression” against NATO

By Patrick Martin

31 October 2014

The Obama administration and the Pentagon are stoking up military tensions with Russia in the wake of the October 26 Ukrainian parliamentary elections, claiming that flights by small numbers of warplanes over international waters Wednesday constituted “political saber-rattling” and even “Russian aggression.”

The latter characterization was made by the top general in the US Army, Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno, in an interview Wednesday with CNN. Given that the flights never crossed the airspace of any country, Odierno’s claim is deliberately inflammatory. Under Article Five of the NATO charter, “Russian aggression” would provide a legal pretext for a US military strike against the nuclear-armed power.

According to a press release issued by NATO headquarters in Belgium, there were a total of four flights by Russian warplanes in European waters Tuesday and Wednesday. “These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace,” the NATO statement said, although it acknowledged that the flights were over international waters and did not violate any country’s airspace.

On Tuesday, seven Russian planes left their base at Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave wedged between Poland and Lithuania (the former Konigsberg, capital of German East Prussia until the end of World War II). They flew north along the coast of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia into the Gulf of Finland, landing at a base in Russia. German, Danish, Swedish and Finnish warplanes shadowed the Russian flight at various stages.

Finland and Sweden are not NATO members, but they have been working more closely with NATO since the US- and German-backed coup in Ukraine earlier this year. Last month Sweden claimed that two Russian warplanes had violated its airspace, and earlier this month the Swedish navy spent a week searching unsuccessfully for a suspected Russian submarine in the country’s territorial waters in the Baltic Sea.

On Wednesday, seven Russian planes, perhaps the same seven, left the base in north Russia and flew back along the Baltic coast to Kaliningrad. They were monitored by Portuguese NATO warplanes based in Estonia and Lithuania.

Also Wednesday, four Russian planes, two bombers and two fighters, flew from southern Russia into the Black Sea in the direction of Turkey, where they were monitored by Turkish fighters until they turned back.

Again on Wednesday, eight Russian planes, four bombers and four refueling planes, flew from northern Russia into the Norwegian Sea, passing along the coast of Norway into the North Sea and then the Atlantic. Two of the bombers continued west and south, around the British Isles as far south as Portugal, before turning back and returning to Russia by the same route. NATO warplanes from Norway, Britain and Portugal monitored the Russian planes at various stages.

A further reported incident turned out to be a case of mistaken identification, as British Royal Air Force planes escorted a Russian-built plane into Stansted airport outside London on Wednesday. The plane was a civilian freighter from Latvia that had no connection to any Russian military maneuvers.

The Wall Street Journal, one the leading spokesmen for American militarism, gave outsized coverage to the Russian actions, citing the comment of “a senior Obama administration official,” to the effect that, “There is a troubling trend of out-of-area events being increasingly used by Russia along its periphery for political saber-rattling, with probing incursions by air and sea by the Russian military becoming more commonplace and flagrant.”

The Journal also cited the remark of Odierno about “Russian aggression,” and carried an interview with the incoming NATO secretary-general, former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who beat the drums for the continued buildup of NATO military forces in eastern Europe, close to Russia’s borders.

Stoltenberg discussed the massive buildup of NATO, including the creation of the Spearhead Force, the provocatively named NATO unit set up in response to the eruption of tensions with Russia over the coup in Ukraine.

The NATO official said, “The plan we agreed on is the biggest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War. We have more planes in the air—five times as many as we had a year ago. We have more ships in the Baltic and the Black Seas, and we have a substantial increase in boots on the ground, exercises, and troops on a rotational basis in our eastern allied countries.”

Stoltenberg explained that in addition to rapid-response troops, the Spearhead Force is “partly about command-and-control elements which are going to be in our eastern allied countries: the Baltic countries, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. Those command-and-control components are important because that will also increase our ability to reinforce. And in addition, prepositioning of equipment and supplies will even more increase the possibility to reinforce.”

While the Obama administration, NATO and the servile US media portray Russia as the aggressor, the military flights as described on Tuesday and Wednesday were neither provocative nor illegal under international law. There was no effort by the Russian warplanes to challenge NATO defenses or cause alarm.

This is in sharp contrast to the US practice throughout the Cold War, when the Pentagon regularly engaged in what were called DE SOTO operations, a codename applied to aerial probes against the borders of the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact countries in eastern Europe, China, North Vietnam and North Korea.

DE SOTO operations usually involved American bombers simulating an attack on one of the targeted countries, provoking a response from air defense forces, while electronic warfare planes monitored and charted the location of radar installations and other facilities for future targeting. The most notorious of these actions was the simulated attack on Soviet Far East defenses in September 1983, leading to the shooting down of KAL Flight 007 by a Soviet air defense fighter, which mistook the off-course passenger jet for a US warplane.

The claims of unusual Russian military flights were part of a week of increasing US pressure on Russia. On Monday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke by phone with the newly appointed defense minister of Ukraine, Gen. Col. Stepan Poltorak.

According to a Pentagon spokesman, “Secretary Hagel discussed with Minister Poltorak the types of security assistance that the United States is providing to address Ukrainian defense requirements.” A US-Ukraine Joint Commission recently held its first meeting in Kyiv, the official noted, building on present military-to-military contacts.

On Tuesday came reports in the American media that Russian-based hackers had breached some computer networks at the White House earlier this month, triggering an investigation by the FBI, the National Security Agency and the Secret Service. No Obama administration official went on record over the alleged incident, preferring to feed anonymous anti-Russian comments to theWashington Post and many other press outlets.

The Post noted that an earlier alleged Russian hacking incident in 2008 “helped galvanize the effort to create US Cyber Command, a military organization dedicated to defending the country’s critical computer systems,” adding that, “When directed by the president or defense secretary, Cyber Command can undertake offensive operations.”

On Wednesday, Hagel addressed the Washington Ideas Festival, sponsored by the Atlantic magazine, outlining a perspective that the magazine described as “Get used to endless war.”

Hagel told interviewer James Fallows, “I think we are living through one of these historic, defining time. We are seeing a new world order—post-World War II, post-Soviet Union implosion—being built.”

At one point Fallows asked Hagel, “When will the United States see some end to these wars, especially the now 13-year war in Iraq-Afghanistan?” Hagel’s response was, in effect, don’t hold your breath.

“What we’re seeing in the Middle East with ISIS-ISIL is going to require a steady, long-term effort,” he said. “Unfortunately, I see these things continuing to stay out there, Jim. I think we’re in for longer-term challenge here than maybe any of us would hope. But that’s the world that we live in, and we’ve got to be honest about that.”

He then went on to list “all the other dimensions—the rise of China, what Russia has been doing the last six months; pandemic disease, Ebola being an example,” as examples of issues that will require mobilization of the US military in some form.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/31/nato-o31.html

Modern Day America: One Step Away from the Third Reich

31.10.2014

By John Stanton
Modern Day America: One Step Away from the Third Reich. 53872.jpeg

Unbeknownst to most Americans the United States is presently under thirty presidential declared states of emergency. They confer vast powers on the Executive Branch including the ability to financially incapacitate any person or organization in the United States, seize control of the nation’s communications infrastructure, mobilize military forces, expand the permissible size of the military without congressional authorization, and extend tours of duty without consent from service personnel. Declared states of emergency may also activate Presidential Emergency Action Documents and other continuity-of-government procedures which confer powers on the President, such as the unilateral suspension of habeas corpus-that appear fundamentally opposed to the American constitutional order. Although the National Emergencies Act, by its plain language, requires the Congress to vote every six months on whether a declared national emergency should continue, Congress has done only once in the nearly forty year history of the Act.” Patrick Thronson, Michigan Journal of Law (2013, Vol 46).

A bit of irony, perhaps, that on November 4, 2014-as Americans go to the polls to cast their ballots for a slate of politicians at the local, state and federal levels-the august citizens of the United States will also celebrate the birth of the National Security Agency (NSA).

On November 4, 1952 the NSA was created by a Presidential Executive Order signed by then president Harry Truman. Earlier that year, in January 1952, Truman’s state of the union address focused on the Korean War, the global Soviet-Communist threat, the “Iran oil situation”, and the need to increase the production of US military equipment for use by American forces, and for transfer to Western European Allies. Truman called on Americans to seek guidance in the God of Peace even as a brutal shadow war was being waged by the United States to eliminate popularly elected “leftist” governments.

In 1953 Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected to the American presidency and with him came John Foster and Allan Dulles, two political appointees who would, it turns out, seek the counsel and expertise of “former” Nazi executioners, scientists and intelligence operatives. J Edgar Hoover, then director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was already on the case using whatever resources were at his disposal-including Nazis–to hunt down unionists, communists, dissenters and radicals wherever they might be.  According to the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Truman had this to say about Hoover and his FBI, “We want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail… Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him.”

From 1953-1961, Eisenhower, as Commander in Chief, constructed a nascent military-intelligence-law enforcement-industrial complex influenced directly by Nazi ideology and technological know-how. No wonder he warned the world about his creation, the military-industrial complex. At one time in the early 21st Century it was uncomfortable to call out America’s ties to the Nazis. But that has changed particularly with the release of Eric Lichtblau’s The Nazis Next Door (2014) and The Collaboration by Ben Urwand. It has also been confirmed by the overthrow of a nationally elected leader in Ukraine-Victor Yanukovych–and the open support of neo-Nazi groups largely responsible for that event. Is it a coincidence that the head of the CIA, John Brennan,visited with the neo-Nazi usurpers not long after the coup given the CIA’s history?

Do You Want to Know a Secret, do, da, do?

According to Lichtblau, writing in the New York Times, “The full tally of Nazis-turned-spies is probably much higher’, said Norman Goda, a University of Florida historian…but many records remain classified even today, making a complete count impossible. U.S. agencies directly or indirectly hired numerous ex-Nazi police officials and East European collaborators who were manifestly guilty of war crimes, he said. Information was readily available that these were compromised men. The wide use of Nazi spies grew out of a Cold War mentality shared by two titans of intelligence in the 1950s: Mr. Hoover, the longtime F.B.I. director, and Mr. Dulles, the C.I.A. director.”

Over at Antiwar.com, in “Federal Agencies Just Doing Whatever They Want Now”, Lucy Steigerwaldcomments wryly on Lichtblau’s findings. “…the CIA hid their precious assets from Nazi hunters and prosecutors trying to deport then-old men in the 1980s and even into the ’90s. Most disturbing, one of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann’s little buddies, Otto von Bolschwing, was protected until 1982, when he conveniently died of a brain disorder before he could be deported or prosecuted. Famously, Nazi rocket scientists were picked up by America to prevent their expertise from falling into Soviet hands. Maybe an exception to the prickly feeling that letting heinous war criminals off the hook is not what America was supposed to be doing when it won the good war in a heroically-sepia montage could be made for geniuses like Wernher Von Braun. Von Braun was a rocket scientist and “honorary” SS member under the Nazis, and he helped America get to the moon (which is neat, so that apparently makes his debated level of involvement/enthusiasm for the party acceptable.) What exactly did von Bolschwing contribute to America after happily joining the SS in 1933 to make ignoring his crimes worthwhile? What’s the purpose of this kind of grim revelation? There are several.

One, they diminish the moral high ground about the Second World War that the US clings to desperately to this day. Yes, everyone who isn’t literally Adolph Hitler gets to feel pretty good about themselves, so anyone not allied with Hitler must be doing the right thing. Yet, helping to plan the Final Solution is forgivable if the CIA really wants you around. Another more contemporary reason to be horrified by this revelation is that it is just one outrage of many. Sharing the CIA’s dark corner is most of the other big-name, secretive agencies. For the past 18 months, the National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive campaign of spying has been big news. Less prominent were stories that suggest the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are also playing the part of secretive, unaccountable rulers.”

Welcome to the Reich, American Style

William Binney, former NSA employee and whistleblower, stated that the NSA had gone “totalitarian”. In an interview with DW he likened the NSA and the US government to the Third Reich.

Binney: “Sure, they haven’t gone that far yet [as the Nazis and East German Stassi], but they tried to shut down newspaper reporters like Jim Risen…Look at the NDAA Section 1021, that gave President Obama the ability to define someone as a terrorist threat and have the military incarcerate them indefinitely without due process. That’s the same as the special order 48 issued in 1933 by the Nazis, [the so-called Reichstag Fire Decree]. Read that – it says exactly the same thing. These were totalitarian processes that were instituted…Totalitarianism comes in the form first of knowledge of people and what they’re doing, and then it starts to transition into using that power against people. That’s what’s happening – in terms of newspaper reporters, in terms of crimes. That’s a direct violation of our constitution.

DW: But surely the difference is that there was an ideological regime behind the Stasi and the Nazis.

Binney: You mean like putting people like John Kiriakou in prison for exposing torture and giving the torturers immunity? That’s what our country’s coming to. That’s what we did. That’s disgraceful. The motives of totalitarian states are not exactly the same every time, but they’re very similar: power, control and money…We’re focusing now on everyone on the planet – that’s a change from focusing on organizations that were attempting to do nasty things. When you focus on everybody, you’re moving down that path towards population control.”

Ingeniously Produced from Concentration Camps: Data “Comes to Light”

Many advances in warfare can be traced to Nazi innovations built on the backs of tortured souls. For example, air and ship crew survivability in frigid seas is just one of them: “…the Germans noted the terrible loss of critical personnel in sudden cold water immersion accidents. The sinking of the Bismarck and loss of airmen who bailed out alive and well into the cold North Sea during the Battle of Britain caused their physiologists and aviation medicine physicians to examine the problem. They commenced a large Research and Development program, which in part was the cause for the infamous Dachau experiments. They were the first to observe the “after drop” or continuation in reduction of body core temperature after being withdrawn from the cold water. They also experimented with survival suits and the Deutsches Textilforschunginstitut in München-Gladbach, ingeniously produced one that provided the insulation using soap bubbles which appears to have gone into limited service.”

Another example is the development of the military aircraft “ejection seat”. In Achtung! Schleuder-Sitzaparatby Chris Carry, German engineering was far afield of American efforts in pilot safety.  “With the acquisition by the US of both German databases in egress research and actual examples of the German Heinkel explosive cartridge ejection seat immediately after the war had ended, the US began to vigorously attempt to gain greater knowledge in this overlooked area of aviation technology. The new American developmental research spurred on by acquisition of German wartime data branched off into two distinctly different approaches towards the same end, one taken by the US Air Force and one by the US Navy.”

Exceptionalism and Innovative Torture Techniques Led to Technological Advances

How could human beings engage in such hideous experiments on other human beings? Well, that is a time tested formula: Indoctrinate the masses into thinking that all others besides, say, Americans, are inferior, unexceptional, demons and insects. The world is witnessing just that as the US government, its allies and its media and academic proxies seek to reduce the Russians, Arabs, Chinese, Iranians, and the immigrants, unemployed and impoverished in the United States down to the level of parasitic microbes.

Just how does that mentality work?

For that answer we turn to the UK’s Telegraph for an article written in 2008 by Richard Evans. “The answer springs from the fact that medicine was both dominant in the world of science under the Third Reich, and closely allied to the Nazi project… After all, German medical science had uncovered the causes of several major diseases and contributed massively to improving the health of the population over the previous decades. Surely, therefore, it was justified in eliminating negative influences as well? What underpinned this behavior was a widespread belief that some people were less than human, relegated to a lower plane of existence by their inherited degeneracy – or their race. For German doctors, a camp inmate was either a racially inferior subhuman, a vicious criminal, a traitor to the German cause, or more than one of the above. Such beings had no right to life or wellbeing – indeed, it was logical that they should be sacrificed in the interests of the survival and triumph of the German race, just as that race had to be strengthened by the elimination of the inferior, degenerate elements within it.”

Evans continues on describing the torture: “SS doctors used inmates to test treatments for injuries sustained in battle, cutting open their calves and sewing bits of glass or wood or gauze impregnated with bacteria into the wounds, sometimes even smashing the prisoners’ bones with hammers to create a more realistic effect; again, the results were presented to scientific conferences without anyone offering any criticism of the methods employed. Perhaps the most enthusiastic user of human guinea pigs was the ambitious young SS doctor Sigmund Rascher, who employed camp inmates at Dachau to test the human body’s reactions to rapid decompression and lack of oxygen, in an attempt to help pilots forced to parachute out of their planes at high altitudes. He called some of his research sessions “terminal experiments”. He measured the time it took his subjects to die as their air supply was gradually thinned out. He showed his work, which led to the deaths of between 70 and 80 prisoners, to a conference of Luftwaffe medical experts in September 1942. The following month, Rascher presented the results of another experiment to a conference of 95 medical scientists in Nuremberg. This time, he showed how long inmates dressed in Luftwaffe uniforms and life jackets could survive in cold water, simulating conditions in the North Sea. The average time that elapsed before death, he reported, was 70 minutes. None of those listening to him raised any ethical objections.”

Albert Camus offers a sort of prayer for these dark times. “All I ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect on murder and to make a choice. After that, we can distinguish those who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves or the accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all their force and being. Since this terrible dividing line does actually exist, it will be a gain if it be clearly marked. Over the expanse of five continents throughout the coming years an endless struggle is going to be pursued between violence and friendly persuasion, a struggle in which, granted, the former has a thousand times the chances of success than that of the latter. But I have always held that, if he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward. And henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions.”

John Stanton writes on national security and political matters. Reach him at captainkong22@gmail.com

http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/31-10-2014/128936-modern_day_america-0/

Universities at the Service of Big Business and Military Interests. The Fate of Australia’s National University (ANU)

Global Research, October 30, 2014

university-money-400x265They don’t quite get it, but given their stance on education, the answer is simple.  Australia’s Abbott government have always had an elementary understanding of how tertiary education operates.  They are the wreckers who got to university on affordable, in some cases even free education.  Perhaps their very existence is an object lesson of sorts, the warning that every education brings with it the potential to turn the pupil into a Trojan horse.

Government members are particularly riled this month by moves from the Australian National University to divest its interests in various fossil fuel and resource companies.  Such actions made Coalition members purple in the face.  Treasurer Joe Hockey, in repudiating his own stance on supposedly “free market” choices, took issue with the university’s investment choice to jettison its shares in Santos, Illuka Resources, Independence Group, Newcrest Mining, Sandfire Resources, Oil Search and Sirius Resources.

Becoming a cranky, and somewhat amateurish financial advisor, Hockey suggested that the ANU were “removed from the reality of what is helping drive the Australian economy and create more employment.  Sometimes the view looks different from the lofty rooms of a university.”[1]

Others have taken the move as a denigration, again revealing the rather bizarre perception that mining giants and resource companies are gentle, noble creators of wealth rather than inefficient purloiners of the earth’s resources.  It has left such individuals as Tim Buckley, former head of equity research at Citigroup, baffled.  “I find it absolutely bizarre because, the last time I checked, investment managers have the right to change their portfolios.”

The view has been expressed in an open letter signed by various Australian luminaries, including former Liberal leaders John Hewson and Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.  “For politicians to try to bully, coerce and influence this university is just outrageous.”[2]  For Hewson, the dark hand of the Minerals Council might have been involved.  “It virtually owned the previous government and appears to have large influence over this one.”

The Coalition’s childish indignation has ignored the fact that there is a global divestment campaign of various groups, be they religious, educational or financial, to step away from companies whose aims and objects vary from their own.  The Rockefeller family stole a march last month, shifting its focus from fossil fuels to renewables.

Others have followed.  The Anglican Diocese of Perth, Bishop Tim Wilmott, would rather see the Church’s money invested in renewables.  He does not speak purely terms of dripping altruism for the environment – he is also aware of good business sense.  The “smart money” as he terms it, is also “moving into renewables as well.”  The universities are merely following the same track.

Funding and investment decisions for universities is always contentious.  In a sense, the autonomy of the modern university in terms of its governance and decisions is fictitious.  They have become part of the military industrial complex, standing shoulder to shoulder with the same companies that produce drones and missiles and carve up the earth’s fossil fuels.  US President Dwight D. Eisenhower was already putting his finger on it in his departing speech (Jan 17, 1961) famous for noting the preponderance of the military complex in American life:

“Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields.  In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research.  Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.”[3]

Universities, notably in such highly industrialised societies as the United States, have become receiving institutions for representatives of big business and military interests.  In Australia, the focus is more on unhealthy links to polluting industries such as coal.  Mining magnates roam the continent like giants, when in truth they should be treated like museum piece dinosaurs.  Donations, funds, and raising money have become hopelessly linked to appointments and positions of power, suggesting a toxic romance between government policy and university production.  Hockey, in that sense, is proving to be brazenly ignorant about the links. Far from being loftily distant, the university room shares facilities with those of government in all too many areas.

University spots have become parking sinecures for the war machine just as they have become places for those who have served their country with appropriate messianic zeal.  As noted by Darwin Bond-Graham, specifically with regards to the University of California system, “Plenty of UC’s leaders, from Chancellors to the Regents to the President have been insiders in the Pentagon, the nuclear weapons complex, and other branches of the warfare state.”[4]

The UC’s tenth president, David Prescott Barrows, was a supreme example.  During his time as head of the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes, he proved to be a patrician moulder of Filipino subjects in terms of culture and a good splash of racial enticement.  “The race is physically small, but agile, athletic and comely.”  The bullying Hockey, should he ever find himself in the unlikely position of being a University chancellor, will prove far less colourful.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Notes

US Government Sanitizes Vietnam War History

Global Research, October 30, 2014

Ancien-militaire-vietnamien-tenant-une-photo-de-lui-même-avant-sa-contamination-par-lAgent-OrangeFor many years after the Vietnam War, we enjoyed the “Vietnam syndrome,” in which US presidents hesitated to launch substantial military attacks on other countries. They feared intense opposition akin to the powerful movement that helped bring an end to the war in Vietnam. But in 1991, at the end of the Gulf War, George H.W. Bush declared, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all!”

With George W. Bush’s wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and Barack Obama’s drone wars in seven Muslim-majority countries and his escalating wars in Iraq and Syria, we have apparently moved beyond the Vietnam syndrome. By planting disinformation in the public realm, the government has built support for its recent wars, as it did with Vietnam.

Now the Pentagon is planning to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War by launching a $30 million program to rewrite and sanitize its history. Replete with a fancy interactive website, the effort is aimed at teaching schoolchildren a revisionist history of the war. The program is focused on honoring our service members who fought in Vietnam. But conspicuously absent from the website is a description of the antiwar movement, at the heart of which was the GI movement.

Thousands of GIs participated in the antiwar movement. Many felt betrayed by their government. They established coffee houses and underground newspapers where they shared information about resistance. During the course of the war, more than 500,000 soldiers deserted. The strength of the rebellion of ground troops caused the military to shift to an air war. Ultimately, the war claimed the lives of 58,000 Americans. Untold numbers were wounded and returned with post-traumatic stress disorder. In an astounding statistic, more Vietnam veterans have committed suicide than were killed in the war.

Millions of Americans, many of us students on college campuses, marched, demonstrated, spoke out, sang and protested against the war. Thousands were arrested and some, at Kent State and Jackson State, were killed. The military draft and images of dead Vietnamese galvanized the movement. On November 15, 1969, in what was the largest protest demonstration in Washington, DC, at that time, 250,000 people marched on the nation’s capital, demanding an end to the war. Yet the Pentagon’s website merely refers to it as a “massive protest.”

But Americans weren’t the only ones dying. Between 2 and 3 million Indochinese – in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia – were killed. War crimes – such as the My Lai massacre – were common. In 1968, US soldiers slaughtered 500 unarmed old men, women and children in the Vietnamese village of My Lai. Yet the Pentagon website refers only to the “My Lai Incident,” despite the fact that it is customarily referred to as a massacre.

One of the most shameful legacies of the Vietnam War is the US military’s use of the deadly defoliant Agent Orange, dioxin. The military sprayed it unsparingly over much of Vietnam’s land. An estimated 3 million Vietnamese still suffer the effects of those deadly chemical defoliants. Tens of thousands of US soldiers were also affected. It has caused birth defects in hundreds of thousands of children, both in Vietnam and the United States. It is currently affecting the second and third generations of people directly exposed to Agent Orange decades ago. Certain cancers, diabetes, and spina bifida and other serious birth defects can be traced to Agent Orange exposure. In addition, the chemicals destroyed much of the natural environment of Vietnam; the soil in many “hot spots” near former US army bases remains contaminated.

In the Paris Peace Accords signed in 1973, the Nixon administration pledged to contribute $3 billion toward healing the wounds of war and the post-war reconstruction of Vietnam. That promise remains unfulfilled.

Despite the continuing damage and injury wrought by Agent Orange, the Pentagon website makes scant mention of “Operation Ranch Hand.” It says that from 1961 to 1971, the US sprayed 18 million gallons of chemicals over 20 percent of South Vietnam’s jungles and 36 percent of its mangrove forests. But the website does not cite the devastating effects of that spraying.

The incomplete history contained on the Pentagon website stirred more than 500 veterans of the US peace movement during the Vietnam era to sign a petition to Lt. Gen. Claude M. “Mick” Kicklighter. It asks that the official program “include viewpoints, speakers and educational materials that represent a full and fair reflection of the issues which divided our country during the war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.” The petition cites the “many thousands of veterans” who opposed the war, the “draft refusals of many thousands of young Americans,” the “millions who exercised their rights as American citizens by marching, praying, organizing moratoriums, writing letters to Congress,” and “those who were tried by our government for civil disobedience or who died in protests.” And, the petition says, “very importantly, we cannot forget the millions of victims of the war, both military and civilian, who died in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, nor those who perished or were hurt in its aftermath by land mines, unexploded ordnance, Agent Orange and refugee flight.”

Antiwar activists who signed the petition include Tom Hayden and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. “All of us remember that the Pentagon got us into this war in Vietnam with its version of the truth,” Hayden said in an interview with The New York Times. “If you conduct a war, you shouldn’t be in charge of narrating it,” he added.

Veterans for Peace (VFP) is organizing an alternative commemoration of the Vietnam War. “One of the biggest concerns for us,” VFP executive director Michael McPhearson told the Times, “is that if a full narrative is not remembered, the government will use the narrative it creates to continue to conduct wars around the world – as a propaganda tool.”

Indeed, just as Lyndon B. Johnson used the manufactured Tonkin Gulf incident as a pretext to escalate the Vietnam War, George W. Bush relied on mythical weapons of mass destruction to justify his war on Iraq, and the “war on terror” to justify his invasion of Afghanistan. And Obama justifies his drone wars by citing national security considerations, even though he creates more enemies of the United States as he kills thousands of civilians. ISIS and Khorasan (which no one in Syria heard of until about three weeks ago) are the new enemies Obama is using to justify his wars in Iraq and Syria, although he admits they pose no imminent threat to the United States. The Vietnam syndrome has been replaced by the “Permanent War.”

It is no cliché that those who ignore history are bound to repeat it. Unless we are provided an honest accounting of the disgraceful history of the US war on Vietnam, we will be ill equipped to protest the current and future wars conducted in our name.

Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-government-sanitizes-vietnam-war-history/5410891

The End Of The Anti-War Movement?

war-good-for-few-400x336

I have to wonder what’s up when only about 100 people turn out to meet and greet the President of The United States at an alleged anti-war rally in downtown San Francisco. There was at least five days advance notice, and Vice President Biden was in town earlier in the week, so it’s not like it was a surprise visit. No, in fact it was a $25,000 per plate (no seconds) fundraiser at the W Hotel in San Francisco. The plethora of stop-the-war, environmental, and workers rights organizations that have sprung up over the last few decades don’t seem to see the connection between their organizations mission statement, and other issues that are related to their cause. In most cases these issues are joined at the hip.

There have been several disappointing turnouts at protests this year. Most of them have been organized by well established NGO’s. There was supposed to be a big anti-war protest in front of U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein’s office this Spring that never materialized. Only about 50 people showed up at Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s office to protest the genocide in Gaza this past August. And the Occupy S.F. Third Convergence in September was just…sad.

The events that drew the biggest crowds recently in the San Francisco Bay Area were organized by groups like the Arab Resource Organizing Committee and the Arab Youth Organization. Thousands of people of all ages and ethnicities marched to the Port of Oakland to block the unloading of the ZIM ship from Israel. Earlier in the year, there was a large rally and march in downtown San Francisco to protest the ongoing genocide in Palestine, and several smaller demonstrations as well. While these rallies drew thousands of people, could the numbers reflect that many people were on spring break or summer vacation? In any event, the rogue state of Israel goes about business as usual.

If the first casualty of war is the truth, the second is the environment. The March Against Monsanto protesters must also be there to march for Gaza. The anti-war movement must realize that the U.S.military is the largest consumer of oil on the planet; we are fighting wars in order to be able to fight wars. The anti- pipeline and fracking cadre has to realize that Roundup and other Big Ag chemicals are also major sources of pollution, both in their production and application. Workers rights organizations also have to fight to end the wars that are killing their family members. The money the healthcare, housing, and education NGO’s are clamoring for is currently being given to war profiteers, rogue states, and autocrats. The people’s money.

Part of the problem is that many protests are driven by emotion, rather than logic. Protests tend to be large at the beginning of events like Gaza or Keystone, but then the energy dissipates. There is no end game for what is going to be accomplished, consequently there is no plan of action to get there. Demonstrations becomes social networking events, which is a good thing, and a bad thing. The good is that people actually get off their buttisimos, walk in the fresh air and sunshine, and interact with other humans. The bad is that you feel like you’ve actually done accomplished something. Having been part of a movement that actually ended a war (Vietnam), I can tell you uh, no, you haven’t. As far as I can tell it’s business as usual for the U.S. of A.

And when was the last time there was an anti-nuke protest? I recorded this Fukushima “Die-In” at the Japanese Consulate, but who is protesting the irradiated fish and other animals showing up on the West Coast? The depleted uranium still being used in Iraq and Afghanistan? The displacement of indigenous communities through resource extraction? Contamination of aquifers, soils, and the atmosphere by uranium minining? The growing stockpiles, sophistication, and horror of modern nuclear weapons? Or of weapons in general, especially the “gun in every home” mentality afflicting this country?

Living as I do two blocks from Twitter headquarters, I keep asking: “Will they ever turn a profit?” No, seriously, what I have been asking for lo these many years is: “When will there be a ‘Twitter Revolution’ in this country?” When will the millions of disenfranchised citizens tweeter each other and say: “I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!?”

Twitter is really more like a entertainment medium than a communication tool; a great way to sell advertising and burn up cellular credits, or whatever the telecoms do to make the billions they make. There’s just too much “stuff” on Twitter, or MyFace, or SpaceBook. Maybe a simple email, text, chat, VoIP call would be more effective in mobilizing people? How about a community potluck? With pinata’s! Food, music, and children always bring people together. Advertising? Not so much.

Perhaps it’s time the “anti-war movement” died. Protests are a relic of the 19th and 20th centuries. Maybe it’s time for a solutions-oriented strategy that demands “the government” perform the function it was created for. If it is incapable of meeting the needs of the people, it is obligated to dissolve itself, as called for in the constitution.

A “Pro Human Rights” movement would demand an immediate cessation of hostilities, universal healthcare and education, abolition of student debt, the complete overhaul of the “criminal justice” industrial complex, starting with local police departments, food and housing subsidies for everyone, reparations for indigenous people and the descendants of slaves, decommissioning all nuclear power plants, an immediate halt to fossil fuel extraction, and the end of animal exploitation, beginning with “pets,” zoo’s, and “theme parks.” For starters.

Quanah Brightman of United Native Americans told me that some of the tribes get together for a monthly “Bear” meeting. Maybe the thousands of sometimes redundant and competing NGO’s can adopt this indigenous tradition, like the founding fathers “adopted” the Iroquois constitution, or Great Law of Peace (obviously, they left something out). Currently, the powers that be have “the movement” divided and conquered. The only way anything will be accomplished is if organizations and individuals work together for a common purpose. Ending “wars and rumors of wars” is the first step to social justice for all.

Joseph Thomas is a San Francisco writer, photographer, and digital media producer.

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http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-end-of-the-anti-war-movement/5410905

The World Must Judge America’s Human Rights Abuses

Global Research, October 30, 2014
Black Agenda Report 29 October 2014

police_brutality_by_pixelworlds-d5ey6nn-400x576Black people in this country are brutalized by police on a daily basis. That has always been true but thanks to modern technology there is a steady stream of proof caught on video. Accessing the internet means inevitably being confronted with awful imagery such as Marlene Pinnock being beaten by a highway patrolman in California. We see Eric Garner murdered by the NYPD, pleading that he couldn’t breathe.

These videos may or may not assist with prosecutions. Footage showed the late Rodney King being beaten by California police in 1991. The officers were indicted, a rarity, but a jury acquitted them anyway, making a mockery of the old saying “seeing is believing.” Common sense wisdom doesn’t count for much if it threatens to upend white supremacy. No matter how seemingly iron clad the case, police rarely face criminal charges.

Such was the case of Milton Hall, a mentally ill black man shot to death by Saginaw, Michigan, police on July 1, 2012. A camera inside one of the patrol cars shows Hall, surrounded by police, armed only with a small pen knife. He is unable to harm anyone, given that he was surrounded by seven cops and a police dog, yet they fired forty-six shots with fourteen of them striking and killing Hall.

Local prosecutors did not charge the officers and the Obama/Holder Department of Justice did not see fit to do anything either. After investigating they concluded that prosecution was not warranted. “Even if the officers were mistaken in their assessment of the threat posed by Hall, this would not establish that the officers acted willfully, or with an unlawful intent, when using deadly force against Hall. Accordingly, this tragic event does not present sufficient evidence of willful misconduct to give rise to a federal criminal prosecution of the police officers involved.”

The ACLU of Michigan not only pushed for local and federal action, but has taken its protest to a new and very important level. On October 27, 2014, Mark Fancher, Racial Justice Project Attorney for the ACLU of Michigan, testified before an international body regarding the federal government’s refusal to prosecute Hall’s “death by firing squad.” The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is an arm of the Organization of American States. It is mandated to “promote the observance and protection of human rights in the hemisphere.”

The IAHCR does not have the power to punish any individual or government for Hall’s killing, but the hearing had a very important purpose. ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael Steinberg put it simply. He called the testimony “a wake-up call for the desperate need to address police misconduct against the black citizens of this country.” He added, “The power behind these international tribunals is to draw attention to the problem and to put pressure on the United States to abide by human rights principles.”

The United States must be condemned before the nations of the world. Americans should not be allowed to behave as if human rights abuses only occur in far away nations while police in this country commit murder in broad daylight without fear of punishment.

The refusal of the federal government to charge Milton Hall’s killers is a bad omen for anyone wanting to see justice done for Michael Brown. Black Agenda Report has already revealed how the Justice Department uses media leaks to claim that the “bar is too high” to prosecute the officer who shot and killed the fleeing teenager.

Obama and attorney general Eric Holder have no intention of prosecuting police murder, no matter what videos or other evidence show. Barack Obama is just not that into black people. Instead he sends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to pacify an angry public and fool them into thinking that black people will have reasons to hope. Sharpton and Jackson made appearances in Saginaw as they did in Ferguson, Missouri, but the presence of the two “leaders” accomplished nothing, as the Obama administration intended all along.

Rodney King finally had another day in court after the acquittal sparked an uprising in Los Angeles. Fifty three people died, millions of dollars in property was damaged and the political system was frightened. Federal prosecutors in the Bush administration charged the officers with civil rights violations. They won convictions against two of them and they later served time in prison.

Riots should not be a means of guaranteeing justice but the deck is stacked against black people who are victimized by police. If Eric Holder doesn’t prosecute Michael Brown’s killer any resulting violence ought to be called the Barack Obama Riots. President Kill List is able to make the case for punishment when it suits him. The man who claims the right to designate and kill terrorists shouldn’t be allowed to claim that there isn’t enough evidence to prosecute real criminals at home.

The ACLU of Michigan is to be commended for taking this action of exposing American injustice to the world. Just as the United States government calls for sanctions and boycotts of countries it doesn’t like, the rest of the world ought to penalize this country for the continuation of unpunished violence directed at black people. Legal cases must be made against the United States at the IAHCR and with any other entity which can bring our plight to the world. Expecting Obama and Holder to act on our behalf is just a foolish dream.

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

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-world-must-judge-americas-human-rights-abuses/5410877

The Naked Class Politics of Ebola

Global Research, October 30, 2014
Convincing Reasons 19 October 2014

Ebola-Cuba-400x266Just as a glass prism differentiates sunlight into its component colours, corresponding to the different wavelengths, the Ebola crisis ravaging three West African countries has produced three distinct responses, corresponding to the three principal classes of capitalist society.

Ebola is a disease caused by a virus, that is to say, a natural phenomenon. But that is only a small part of the story. Ebola is also an epidemic, and the causes and conditions of the epidemic are social, economic, and political rather than natural. Outside of these social and economic conditions, the disease would have been contained or even eliminated long before now. The Ebola catastrophe is as much a product of the global capitalist crisis as are the carnage in Syria and Iraq, the housing shortage in New Zealand, and racist cop murders in the United States, and the solution to it is just as much a question of the class struggle.

For four centuries West Africa was plundered of its human resources, in the form of the slave trade. Entire kingdoms and cultures were shackled to the hunger of the European powers for slaves, others were ground to dust by the incessant slave raiding. Alongside this came the plunder of the region’s natural resources. The lands along the Gulf of Guinea were called the Grain Coast, Ivory Coast, Gold Coast and Slave Coast – countries named not for the peoples who inhabited them but the commodities which they supplied to the conquering powers. (Côte d’Ivoire retains the name to this day, though its great elephant herds have been reduced to a tiny remnant). Whatever railways, roads and infrastructure the colonial powers built were for the purpose of speeding the extraction of these commodities.

Through the surge of freedom struggles following the Second World War, these countries threw off the shackles of colonial political rule – and in the process produced some of the finest thinkers and fighters the world has ever known. But the economic exploitation didn’t let up for a minute. Nigerian oil, Liberian rubber, Ivorian cocoa, Guinean bauxite still flowed to markets in the former colonial powers, principally France, Britain, and the United States* (and more recently, to China and India) at rock-bottom prices dictated by the buyer.

To the extent that modern industry has developed, such as the oil industry in Nigeria, it has been at a colossal environmental and human cost. The Niger River delta, a rainforest, wetland and mangrove area with exceptionally high biodiversity, where Nigeria’s oil industry is centred, has been degraded by decades of easily preventable oil spills, the drinking water, farmland, fisheries of its thirty million people poisoned.

The three countries at the centre of the Ebola epidemic are among the most impoverished in the world. The permanent legacy of centuries of uninterrupted plunder is chronic and widespread malnutrition, dirt roads, poor or non-existent sanitation, unreliable or non-existent electric power, and one doctor per 100,000 inhabitants. These are the conditions in which an Ebola outbreak becomes an epidemic. “Before the outbreak, Liberia’s only lab capable of testing blood for highly infectious diseases was the Liberian Institute on Biomedical Research—a compound of World War II-era buildings and rusted cages that used to house chimpanzee test subjects. The bat-infested facility could only process 40 blood specimens a day and the electricity only worked intermittently,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “Bomi’s Liberia Government Hospital hasn’t had a working X-ray machine since the machine’s processor ‘blew up’ two years ago. The hospital had to shut for a month after its first Ebola case appeared in June.”

However, Ebola does not present a major threat to the continued extraction of Africa’s natural wealth. Thus, the bourgeois response to the epidemic has been notable for its numb indifference to the death and suffering, and its consequent economic dislocations.

For several months after the existence of Ebola was confirmed in the three countries of West Africa, the world bourgeoisie did nothing to assist them to combat the disease and prevent it from spreading. On the contrary, their first actions were to withdraw such minimal assistance schemes that were operating. In July the United States withdrew all its Peace Corps volunteers from the three countries, including those engaged in health education programs – at the very time when health education programs were urgently needed.

The burden of providing trained medical personnel was left to a handful of charities, especially Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières).

The Australian government publicly announced their refusal to send medical personnel into the region. “We aren’t going to send Australian doctors and nurses into harm’s way without being absolutely confident that all of the risks are being properly managed. And at the moment we cannot be confident that that is the case,”Prime Minister Tony Abbot said. The government of Israel took a similar stance.

In August British Airways suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone against the protests of those governments. Christopher Stokes, director of Médecins Sans Frontières in Brussels, added: “Airlines have shut down many flights and the unintended consequence has been to slow and hamper the relief effort, paradoxically increasing the risk of this epidemic spreading across countries in west Africa first, then potentially elsewhere. We have to stop Ebola at source and this means we have to be able to go there.”

The bourgeois response became a lot noisier when the first cases of Ebola were diagnosed in the imperialist countries, but the isolationist character of the response remained the same: protecting those unaffected at the expense of those most affected or directly threatened by the epidemic.

Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, who developed symptoms in the US six days after arriving from Liberia, was treated as a hostile vector of contagion rather than a human being in need of treatment. Dallas County prosecutor publicly discussed laying criminal charges against Duncan if he should survive. The prosecutor’s spokesperson Debbie Denmon said, “If he ends up being on his deathbed, it would be inhumane to file charges,’ she said. ‘It’s a delicate situation.” Duncan later died.

Under increasing pressure to be seen to be doing something, some imperialist governments began announcing aid packages, mostly limited to money and equipment, and chiding each other for not doing enough. US President Barack Obama declared it to be a “security crisis” – not a health crisis – and promised troops, making it clear they would stay well away from any person who might be infected with the disease. One month later, not one of the 17 special tent-based treatment centers promised by the US is yet operational.

By mid-October, with the crisis growing daily, only a tiny proportion of the money and equipment promised had been delivered. Médecins Sans Frontières spokesperson Christopher Stokes said it was “ridiculous” that volunteers working for his charity were bearing the brunt of care in the worst-affected countries. MSF runs about 700 out of the 1,000 beds available in treatment facilities Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the BBC. Above all, it was trained medical personnel that was needed – labor – and the bourgeoisie, while it commands vast resources of labor in capitalist industry, came up well short of the need in that regard. “Money and materials are important, but those two things alone cannot stop Ebola virus transmission,” Dr Margaret Chan, director-general at the World Health Organization, said last month. “Human resources are clearly our most important need.”

If the bourgeois response to the Ebola crisis has been one of indifference, the response of the petty-bourgeoisie has been marked by panic and unscientific speculation. The petty-bourgeoisie is a dependent class, beholden to the big bourgeoisie for its privileges, yet in constant fear of being cast down into the working class, and hence wracked by insecurities.

Panic in the face of this threat has been consciously whipped up in big-business press coverage and statements by the authorities. For example, Anthony Banbury, chief of the UN’s Ebola mission, said in early October that “there is a chance the deadly virus could mutate to become infectious through the air.”

Such claims have no scientific foundation. While viruses do evolve and mutate, no human virus has ever been known to change its mode of transmission. Alarmist predictions and speculations such as this are an attempt to frighten the bourgeoisie into taking action on the epidemic.

Having lost any connection to verifiable fact, the natural extension of such speculations is into the realm of conspiracy theories. The Liberian Daily Observer newspaper ran an article by Liberian-American academic Dr Cyril Broderick claiming that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was deliberately initiated by US military medical researchers who were experimenting on the virus as a possible biological weapon.

In another speculation that wraps several fears into one, Forbes Magazine reported Al Shimkus, a Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, as saying that “the Islamic State may already be thinking of using Ebola as a low-tech weapon of bio-terror,” raising the fear that IS members might infect themselves and then deliberately spread the disease to others.

Broderick’s speculation is not totally implausible. The US military and public health authorities, including the Centre for Disease Control which is prominently involved in the Ebola response, have a proven record of carrying out clinical trials and medical experiments on unknowing human subjects, especially Black people, including one where people in Guatemala were deliberately infected with syphilis without their knowledge. The poisonous legacy of these government crimes has not been forgotten, nor should it ever be. Broderick’s conspiracy theory rests on the fully justified distrust of these institutions, which runs deepest among people of African descent.

But none of these speculations and conspiracy theories is backed up by any verifiable evidence; they remain purely speculative and, like all speculations, essentially idle. By focusing attention on the question “what if,” they become yet another obstacle to facing the known facts of the situation, the urgent question of what is.

The meeting-point of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois responses to the Ebola crisis, where inaction masquerading as “taking action” combines with anti-scientific irrationalism, must undoubtedly be the policies adopted by the US and UK to carry out body-temperature screening at the airport for passengers arriving from West Africa. Given the nature of the Ebola condition, the fact that symptoms can take up to 21 days after the date of infection to appear, and then strike rapidly and severely, such border checks could not possibly prevent more than a tiny fraction of infected travelers from crossing a border. At the same time, they will inevitably “catch” great numbers of people with body temperatures raised for other reasons, thereby diverting resources further from where they are needed. David Mabey, professor of communicable diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said “the screening was a complete waste of time.”

The working class has only its labor to contribute, yet that labor is the key to solving the crisis. The proletarian response to the Ebola crisis is exemplified by the unselfish actions of the West African health workers, who are carrying out the socially necessary tasks of caring for the patients, collecting and burying bodies, and educating the population in prevention and containment measures. They do this despite inadequate safety equipment, serious threats to their own health, inadequate pay, and despite sometimes being ostracized in their own communities. The shortages of medical personnel are being overcome by dozens of volunteers.

A Guardian report on the “Ebola burial boys” of Sierra Leone describes the situation: “One morning, residents in Kailahun [Sierra Leone] woke up to find their only bank closed. Those with cars fled. Life did slowly pick up again, but a state of emergency in July shut down schools. Soldiers poured in to quarantine entire communities and, in these lush farming hills, trade slowed to a trickle.”

In desperation, 20 young men signed up for the burial teams, each paid $100 (£61) a month for the task. ‘Hunger is killing more people than Ebola,’ said Abraham Kamara, 21, a fellow digger. They work to rigorous standards enforced by the Red Cross, but pay a heavy price.

“When I’m passing, people I know say, ‘don’t come near me’!” Jusson said. He looked skyward for a moment before continuing: “I try to explain to them. If we don’t volunteer to do this, there’ll be nobody to bury the dead bodies because all of us will be infected.”

The proletariat is an international class; its watchword is solidarity. Solidarity differs from aid. Solidarity means tying one’s fate to that of the people you are aiding. Given the real personal dangers to the health of those caring for Ebola patients, no matter how careful they are, this distinction is crucial to understanding the different international responses. Solidarity and isolationism are opposites.

In stark contrast to the response of the imperialist world has been the outstanding solidarity offered by the one country where the working class hold state power: Cuba. When the call went out for volunteer health workers to go to West Africa, fifteen thousand experienced health workers stepped forward, living proof of Che Guevara’s statement: “to be a revolutionary doctor, there must first be a revolution.” This is in a country of 11 million people, under extreme economic pressure from the US blockade, a country which already has 50,000 health workers serving overseas in 66 countries.

103 nurses and 62 doctors selected from among the 15,000 arrived in Sierra Leone in early October, a further 296 will go to Guinea and Liberia shortly. The Cuban government has indicated its willingness to send still more personnel, provided there is enough funding and infrastructure to support them.

This commitment has many precedents. The Cuban people – a large proportion of who are descended from African slaves – made a similar commitment to Africa by sending volunteers to defend newly-independent Angola from attack by apartheid South Africa in 1975. (Recently declassified documents have revealed that the US Secretary of State at the time, Henry Kissinger, was so incensed by this that he drew up plans to ‘smash Cuba’ with airstrikes in response.)

Nelson Mandela said of Cuba’s action in Angola, “It was in prison when I first heard of the massive assistance that the Cuban internationalist forces provided to the people of Angola, on such a scale that one hesitated to believe; when the Angolans came under combined attack of South African, CIA-financed FNLA, mercenary, UNITA, and Zairean troops in 1975.”

“We in Africa are used to being victims of countries wanting to carve up our territory or subvert our sovereignty. It is unparalleled in African history to have another people rise to the defense of one of us.”
“We know also that this was a popular action in Cuba. We are aware that those who fought and died in Angola were only a small proportion of those who volunteered. For the Cuban people internationalism is not merely a word but something that we have seen practiced to the benefit of large sections of humankind.”

Asked about the dangers involved in volunteering to join the medical mission in Sierra Leone, Julio César Gómez Ramírez, a nurse who is going to West Africa with the brigade said, “I’m not afraid. We’ve been taught to help others. Like many of my compañeros, I participated in the war in Angola, and we risked our lives there. This isn’t more difficult.”

On several occasions during this crisis the health workers in Liberia, Nigeria, and elsewhere have engaged in strikes to demand adequate safety protection while they carry out their perilous tasks, and to demand payment of unpaid wages and adequate compensation for the dangers involved in their work. These struggles are an essential part of advancing the fight against the disease.

A lesson from history is relevant here. A hundred years ago and more, tuberculosis was a killer disease afflicting workers in the advanced capitalist countries in Europe and elsewhere. It is commonly believed that the scourge of tuberculosis was overcome (at least in the imperialist countries) by the development of antibiotic vaccines and cures. This is false. Long before the antibiotics were widely used, death rates from tuberculosis had been steadily decreasing. By the time the antibiotics were widely used in the post-World-War-2 world, 90% of the decline in tuberculosis mortality had already been achieved. The reduction had taken place as a consequence of working class struggles for decent housing and higher wages – and consequently, better nutrition.

Today the working class is rapidly growing and strengthening in West Africa. Powered chiefly by oil exploitation in Nigeria, Ghana, and offshore developments in several regions along the Gulf of Guinea including Liberia, a process of social transformation is underway. This is bringing into being the class that has the power to drive back Ebola and all the social and economic conditions that gave rise to it.

* Footnote: The United States is a former colonial power in West Africa. The state of Liberia was founded as a settler-colony for former slaves who wanted to return to Africa. The “Americos” in Liberia formed a distinct social layer in Liberia, who held, up to 1980, a monopoly on political power. Liberia still has strong commercial ties with the United States today.

James Robb, a communist at large living in New Zealand, blogs at convincing reasons.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-naked-class-politics-of-ebola/5410882

Quebec Solidaire renews appeals to big business PQ

By Louis Girard and Richard Dufour

30 October 2014

Taking its lead from the demagogic campaign the Yes camp mounted in the recent Scottish referendum, Québec Solidaire (QS) is appealing to the big business Parti Québécois (PQ) to give it and other “left” forces a greater place in their joint push for an independent or “sovereign” Quebec.

With the PQ largely discredited among working people due to its repeated imposition of massive social spending cuts, the QS is seeking to convince the PQ that it needs to mobilize a broader, popular coalition if it is revive support for the creation of a third imperialist state in North America.

Amir Khadir, one of the three QS deputies in the Quebec legislature, published a statement on his blog on the day of the Scottish referendum, gushing with enthusiasm for the Yes campaign of Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party (SNP). “At the heart of the concept of independence” in Scotland, declared Khadir, “is the defense of public services and generous social policies that affect ordinary people.”

Echoing these thoughts, Françoise David, the QS’s parliamentary leader, declared that the Yes camp in Scotland based itself “on a rejection of austerity, the advocacy of a system of health care for all and the development of renewable energy.”

In reality, the SNP is a right-wing nationalist party, traditionally known in working class circles as the “Tartan Tories.” It speaks for a section of the Scottish ruling class that dreams of making Scotland a magnet for foreign capital and a hub of international finance by creating a new capitalist nation-state based on cheap labor and low taxation.

That is why the SNP focused its campaign on a pledge for a massive reduction in taxes for big corporations. At the same time, it promised that an independent Scotland would join NATO—currently at the center of the provocations the Western imperialist powers are mounting against Russia over the Ukraine—and immediately seek membership in the European Union, the main instigator of the austerity measures that are wreaking devastation throughout Europe.

Québec Solidaire’s praise of the SNP is an overture to the PQ and an attempt to convince it to emulate the mainline Scottish nationalists in giving the “left” a prominent role in the push for Quebec sovereignty.

One of the Quebec elite’s two government parties for the past four decades, the PQ advocates independence as a means of advancing the economic and political interests of Quebec big business at the expense of their rivals in English Canada, especially the Bay Street banks and Calgary oil barons. Quebec indépendantiste nationalism is also a weapon for maintaining the bourgeoisie’s political-ideological control of Quebec workers, dividing them from their class brothers and sisters in the rest of Canada, the United States, and around the world.

That Québec Solidaire is eager to offer the PQ its help in giving a “progressive” gloss to its Quebec independence project is spelled out by Khadir in his blog. “The formula used by the SNP,” he writes, “is reminiscent of the combativeness of [former PQ Premier Jacques] Parizeau, who was fully aware of the liberating potential, regarding social policy, of the campaign for independence. He placed great emphasis on the social question in the Yes camp [in the 1995 Quebec referendum], looking to the Partners for Sovereignty to rally support, if not a craze, for independence.”

Khadir is here celebrating the pro-independence “rainbow coalition” Parizeau created in the run-up to the October 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty. This purported multi-class alliance brought together the Parti Québécois, to which several of the current leaders of Québec Solidaire then belonged; the Bloc Québécois of Lucien Bouchard, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister; the Action démocratique du Québec, a right-wing populist party that would later evolve into the CAQ (Coalition for Quebec’s Future); the Quebec Federation of Labour (QFL), Confederation of National Trade Unions (CNTU) and other unions; and most of the pseudo-left groups in Quebec, including the Pabloite Gauche Socialiste (Socialist Left)

Parizeau, himself the scion of one of Quebec’s big bourgeois families, remains today at the age of 84 a charismatic figure in the Quebec separatist movement. At the end of September, in a speech recorded for an independence rally in Montreal, Parizeau criticized the “lack of clarity” in the PQ’s current stance on achieving independence and argued “that the independence cause” needs to “be bolstered by an autonomous movement of civil society.”

This appeal was not lost on Amir Khadir, who was present at the event, which was co-sponsored by the Conseil de la souverainet é (Council for Quebec), an organization led by the PQ and to which the QS belongs. Like Parizeau, Khadir bemoans the fact that “the sovereignty movement is not in great shape at the moment.” The solution for “reviving the independence flame” is, he claims, “to give the initiative to all those members throughout Quebec who are prepared to think and work together.”

The new coalition for sovereignty proposed by Parizeau is music to the ears of Québec Solidaire, who believe it will give them access to positions of power and influence. But for workers it constitutes a trap—a mechanism for once again subordinating them to the PQ and for preventing the emergence of a working-class political movement in opposition to capitalist austerity and orientated to uniting the struggles of Quebec workers with those of workers across Canada and internationally.

Parizeau’s 1995 “rainbow coalition” prepared the political ground for a massive post-referendum assault on the working class, in which the unions, in the name of “national unity,” joined big business in endorsing the PQ’s “zero deficit” drive and the elimination of tens of thousands of health care and education jobs.

In the years that followed, the PQ government imposed massive social spending cuts and, once the budget was balanced, huge tax cuts for big business and the rich; that is, they followed the same path as their reputed federalist opponents in the federal Liberal government of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.

The PQ lost power in 2003 to the Liberals under Jean Charest, which over the next 10 years intensified all the attacks launched by the PQ on public services and the wages and jobs of the workers who administer them.

The PQ’s long anti-working class record—it also imposed brutal social spending cuts in 1982-83—in no way deters Québec Solidaire from seeking to ally with this big business party. In his blog on Scotland, Khadir whitewashes the reactionary PQ governments. “The women and men who led this movement often acted to the best of their ability, in all sincerity,” he writes. “But major mistakes were made in power and these have cost the independence movement dear.”

For Québec Solidaire, the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs in health and education—a terrible blow from which these essential public services have never recovered—and its promotion of anti-Muslim bigotry with its so-called Quebec secular Charter are just “errors.” Not measures aimed at implementing the austerity program demanded by the whole ruling class, Quebecois and Canadian.

Oriented towards the PQ and the pro-capitalist unions, QS speaks for privileged sections of the middle class, who resent the massive increase in the wealth and power of the top 1 percent and the transnationals, but above all fear and seek to prevent a working class challenge to the capitalist system.

Despite its “left” pretensions, carefully cultivated by the media, Québec Solidaire has already shown its readiness to support wholesale attacks on workers in order to gain acceptance as an establishment party and win a major place within the PQ-led sovereignty coalition. Like the unions, QS has responded to the Liberals’ Bill 3 by saying it is ready to support major cuts in the pensions of municipal workers and the take-home pay of municipal workers as long as these cuts are “negotiated.”

During the province-wide 2012 student strike, when tens of thousands of young people were in the streets for seven months and a real possibility existed for the development of a working-class counter-offensive against capitalist austerity, Québec Solidaire intervened to help the unions suppress the movement and corral it behind the election of a PQ government. In June 2012, QS proposed that the PQ join it in an electoral alliance and on the eve of the September 2012 election it pledged unconditional support to a PQ minority government if QS were to hold the balance of power.

Québec Solidaire then feigned disappointment over the huge budget cuts imposed by the PQ government of Pauline Marois in order to continue its role as “left” ally and friendly critic of the fellow sovereignist PQ. And in the face of the frontal assault on public services being mounted by the Liberal government that was elected this spring, QS has made it known that it accepts the necessity to control and limit social spending, thereby lending legitimacy to a new round of draconian austerity measures.

The dismantling of jobs, public services, and social rights is the programme imposed everywhere by the financial markets to make the working class pay for the historic crisis of world capitalism. To confront this, workers must reject every attempt to divide them along ethnic, linguistic and national lines–-including the Scottish and Quebec separatism promoted by Québec Solidaire—and build their international unity in the common struggle against the global profit system.

These authors also recommend:

Vote No in the Scottish referendum: Fight for a Socialist Britain!
[18 September 2014]

The Scottish referendum: Lessons from Quebec
 [17 September 2014]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/30/queb-o30.html

South Africa metalworkers union announces formation of new party

By Thabo Seseane Jr.

30 October 2014

The crisis in South Africa’s ruling tripartite alliance intensified on October 27, when National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) General Secretary Irvin Jim announced that the union would be forming its own political party, the United Front, to “explore the possibility of socialism in South Africa.” This claim is simply left-sounding doubletalk to cover the jockeying for position of rival factions that are all committed to the defence of capitalism in South Africa.

The ruling alliance is composed of the governing African National Congress (ANC), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the Stalinist South African Communist Party. COSATU’s biggest affiliate, NUMSA, withdrew its support for the ANC in the May elections, declaring the party no longer represented workers’ interests. Jim was quick to point out that NUMSA is not abandoning COSATU. This is despite the fact that COSATU’s top executives are debating whether to expel NUMSA for signing up workers outside its industry in violation of federation policy. “[F]or the sake of unity,” a decision has been put off until November 7, when NUMSA will once again be expected to give reasons why it should not be expelled or suspended.

COSATU leaders also postponed making a call on the fate of the organization’s general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. A favourite of NUMSA, Vavi is accused of various improprieties, including directing COSATU business to companies in which his relatives have stakes. He was suspended from his post by a COSATU Central Executive Committee faction led by President S’dumo Dlamini. Vavi returned to work in April after eight months off, following a South Gauteng High Court verdict that overturned the suspension as in violation of procedure.

The ANC took fright at developments in COSATU in the run-up to the May elections. An ANC-led task team was established to try to prevent a split in the federation, which claims a membership of 2.2 million workers and forms an influential component of the ANC electoral support base.

Led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a millionaire businessman, the task team delivered its final report on COSATU factionalism on October 21. It called for any disciplinary action to be taken against Vavi to be “fair.” Business Day reported, “The report also concluded that defending the ANC should never be done at the expense of defending and protecting workers belonging to COSATU.”

Defending the ANC is invariably done at the expense of workers.

By fostering illusions in the person of Vavi, the NUMSA press statement announcing the United Front continues the fraud that any member of the tripartite alliance is capable of being a defender of working-class interests. “Vavi is seen as a threat to the ambitions of the right-wing capitalist forces within and outside the former liberation movement,” the statement reads, “which see a COSATU under his leadership as obstructing their capitalist ambitions.”

Vavi’s United Front is no threat to anyone’s capitalist ambitions. He is as much a beneficiary of the framework of capitalist property relations as are people like Ramaphosa.

The NUMSA statement continues, “NUMSA will not hand over COSATU to individuals and groups…who have no interest in defending the principles, values, resolutions, policies and constitution of COSATU.”

There is nothing in COSATU worth defending from the point of view of workers. At stake for the wealthy union bureaucrats, however, are their fat salaries, privileges and a degree of control over the revolutionary impulses of the working class, which they fear and loathe.

It is this attitude that informed the decision to found the United Front. This party will not, as NUMSA claims, “explore the possibility of socialism.” On the contrary, it will aim to pre-empt those workers who might be drawn to a genuinely independent political movement seeking to install a revolutionary socialist government.

The United Front decision comes at a time of heightened class tension. Already during apartheid, South Africa was one of the world’s most unequal societies. This inequality has only worsened since the ANC came to power. The response of the working class has dashed the hopes of the business and political elites. These circles had hoped that a majority-black government would smooth over the intensified exploitation of the working class following the end of white minority rule.

Instead, South African workers remain among the worlds most militant. From 2005 onwards, there was a surge in the number of working days lost to strikes. In addition, violent protests against municipal corruption and incompetence have spread across the country. This has earned South Africa the pejorative title (in the eyes of global capital) of “protest capital of the world.”

Those behind the United Front and other factions of the elite have not been able to ignore the sense of betrayal and outrage among workers.

The manoeuvres by NUMSU to found a new party began in the immediate aftermath of the August 2012 Marikana massacre in which 34 platinum miners were shot dead and 78 wounded by South African police. This led to the mass discrediting of the ANC, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and COSATU, who were all responsible and who defended it. The massacre took place during a bitter strike of platinum workers who were demanding an increase in monthly wages to 12,500 South African Rand [US$1,200].

A section of the trade union bureaucracy concluded that it was no longer possible to remain in an alliance with ANC President Jacob Zuma and Vice President Ramaphosa, who were the architects of the massacre. At that point NUMSA placed itself at the head of sections of the bureaucracy who are seeking to create a suitable device to contain the growing anger of the working class.

This is also why the ANC in Gauteng has come out in opposition to the widely-hated electronic tolling (e-tolls) of the province’s highways, which the national government seeks to enforce. Under the aegis of ANC Gauteng Chairman Paul Mashatile and provincial premier David Makhura, a panel of experts was convened to assess the decision to institute e-tolls.

All along, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters had said that the panel’s findings would have no effect on the national government’s decision in favour of e-tolls. Peters was forced into a humiliating climbdown on October 20, by conceding that her department will now make its own submissions to the Gauteng e-toll review panel, after having snubbed it for months.

This may be an indication of a factional realignment in the ANC. If so, it means that the upper hand belongs to a group around Ramaphosa, as opposed to that in favour of Zuma, whom Ramaphosa is expected to succeed in 2019.

Mashatile and Makhura, known supporters of Ramaphosa, are thus serving notice that they too expect a place in the sun. They will, however, reap no rewards if the ANC suffers in the 2016 municipal elections as much as it did in the May elections, when its provincial vote slumped by 11 percentage points. In an attempt to stanch this loss of support, Mashatile and Makhura are siding with popular sentiment on the matter of e-tolls.

The announcement of the United Front should be viewed in the same light. A faction of trade union bureaucrats sympathetic to Irvin Jim and Zwelinzima Vavi seeks an advantage over the faction led by S’dumo Dlamini. For that purpose and that alone, they hope to corral a section of the working class into a sham called the United Front.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/30/safr-o30.html

Ukraine’s recession continues to deepen

By David Levine

30 October 2014

National elections were held in Ukraine on Sunday as social conditions in the country continue to deteriorate due to neoliberal austerity policies imposed by a series of post-Soviet governments, and recently intensified under agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other creditors of the near-bankrupt state. The recession has been further aggravated by ongoing fighting between government and rebel forces in the east of the country.

Industrial production in Ukraine in August had fallen by 21.4 percent compared with August 2013, and by 16.6 percent in September compared with September 2013. In Donetsk Province, the drop between September 2013 and September 2014 amounted to 59.5 percent, while in Luhansk Province it was 85 percent.

Imports fell by 23.5 percent over the first nine months of 2014 as compared to the analogous period of the previous year, while exports fell by 6.8 percent—despite the temporary favorable trade terms that the European Union (EU) is currently applying to Ukraine.

Coal production in Ukraine fell by 60 percent between August 2013 and August 2014. More than half of the country’s mines are located in rebel-controlled territory in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. Many of them have been flooded and will require months to restore.

Officials from Ukraine, Russia, and the European Union are currently involved in three-way talks in Brussels to resolve Ukraine’s gas supply crisis. Russia stopped supplying gas to Ukraine in June over the latter’s inability to pay a $5.3 billion debt to the Russian energy corporation Gazprom for gas already supplied. European Commission president José Manuel Barroso stated last Thursday that the European Commission would provide up to $1 billion to Ukraine for gas purchases from Russia, but no more.

About 70 percent of the electric power in Ukraine is produced from coal and gas. Thus, the country also faces a power supply crisis. Much of Ukraine, including the capital city Kiev, has been experiencing rolling blackouts of at least two hours per day.

As for heating, thermostats in Kiev residential buildings are to be set at 16-17° C (61-63° F) this winter due to shortages. Hot water supply in Kiev had been shut off for most of the summer, and has been turned back on only within recent weeks. As of October 24, 3 percent of Kiev residences remained without hot water. The situation is worse in much of the rest of the country.

The World Bank, which had previously predicted that the Ukrainian economy would contract by 5 percent this year, has revised that figure up to 8 percent. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has predicted a decline of 9 percent. Vitaly Vavrishchuk, chief analyst of the Ukrainian investment house SP Advisers, wrote in liga.net that his company predicts a fall of 9.5 percent in 2014 and a further decline of 4.3 percent in 2015. He also expects a decline of 30-35 percent in capital investments in Ukraine in 2014.

Since January this year, wage arrears owed by employers to employees has grown by 53 percent to 1.4 billion hryvnia ($110 million). This number is likely grossly understated because, according to the state Fiscal Service, 70-80 percent of Ukrainian employers pay their employees under the table. About half of Ukraine’s workforce is working “illegally,” according to Yury Ruban, head of the Presidential Administration’s Humanitarian Policy Department.

According to the Ukrainian state statistical agency, the registered unemployment rate is currently a mere 1.6 percent. However, according to Serhiy Marchenko, director of development of the popular jobs web site work.ua, the labor market has fallen by 20-25 percent over the past year. The number of jobs posted to the web site has been declining since early 2013, while the number of résumés posted grows by about 20-30 percent per month. The number of jobs posted in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces have fallen over the past year by about 90 percent and 96 percent, respectively.

According to Ukrainian economist Oleh Bohomolov, the level of unreported unemployment is at least ten times the official rate. Bohomolov also notes that the unemployed in Ukraine are frequently compelled to participate in works programs that pay 1000 hryvnia (about $77) per month. “For that much money, its cheaper to stay at home,” he noted.

Average real wages in the first eight months of 2014 were 3399 hryvnia, representing a 3.1 percent decline from the analogous period of the previous year. These figures are also likely very inaccurate, both for the reasons stated above and because the official inflation rate does not accurately reflect real increases in the cost of living.

According to the Ukrainian State Statistical Agency, inflation between September 2013 and September 2014 amounted to 17.5 percent, while the IMF and World Bank predict that total inflation in 2014 will amount to 19 percent.

In keeping with IMF requirements, the government has raised residential utility rates. In the 2013-2014 winter, gas for heating was sold at the level of 2.91-3.1 hryvnia per square meter, while in the 2014-2015 winter season it will be on the level of 10-11 hryvnia. Volodymyr Demchyshyn, head of the government agency for housing utilities, has noted that for the average two-room apartment this will amount to about 500 hryvnia per month—nearly one-third of the average monthly pension of 1670 hryvnia. Aggregate housing utility costs have risen by about 90 percent this year. Further rate increases of 40 percent are planned for 2015.

Inflation indexing of pensions has been frozen since last year. Despite modest nominal increases, pensions have therefore shrunk. Meanwhile, consumer medicine prices have risen by two to three times.

Retail gasoline prices have risen by approximately 35 percent since the beginning of the year—despite a drop in oil prices of approximately 20 percent. The rise is largely attributable to a decline in the national currency, the hryvnia. The dollar has risen by 58 percent against the hryvnia over the past year, from 8.17 to 12.95 hryvnia per US dollar.

The government is considering abolishing price controls over “socially significant” goods, including meat, fish, milk, eggs, sugar, and other basic groceries.

According to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, about 11.8 billion hryvnia ($911 million) will be needed to rebuild infrastructure destroyed in the embattled eastern provinces.

At a press conference organized by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti,Oleg Ustenko of the right-wing think tank Bleyzer Foundation noted that Ukraine is expected to have a budget deficit of about 11.5 percent, not far from the 13 percent that Greece experienced just before its government defaulted. “A country with an 11 percent budget deficit that is also undertaking military operations cannot function. This is well understood in Washington,” he said.

In addition to Ustenko, commentators from countries on both sides of the Ukraine conflict have emphasized that Ukraine’s solvency at present is dependent upon aid from the IMF. The IMF had calculated that Ukraine needed $35 billion in foreign aid in May, but revised that figure to $55 billion in September. As Dennis Lachtman of the American Enterprise Institute noted in a comment for The Hill, “if the repeated upscaling of the financing needs of the IMF-EU Greek bailout program is any precedent, one should not be surprised if the total official bailout cost for Ukraine came closer to $100 billion rather than the $55 billion that the IMF is now estimating.”

Ratings agency Moody’s has suggested that at the end of this year Russia will likely demand repayment of a $3 billion loan made last year (the loan is separate from and additional to Ukraine’s gas debt to Gazprom mentioned above). “An acceleration of payments on this eurobond in turn could in our view trigger a cross-default event in all other eurobonds,” Moody’s stated. In other words, if Ukraine fails to pay its debt to Russia, it will set off a chain reaction of creditors demanding repayment of their loans from Ukraine, resulting in default.

These considerations shed light on the fact that, in spite of the anti-Russian orientation of the current Ukrainian regime, Moscow, as a major creditor and vital source of gas supplies, continues to wield immense potential political influence. As Kiev’s financial desperation increases, so does its dependence on all of its creditors, including those in Russia. The anti-Russian project begun last November in Ukraine at the instigation of Western governments was predicated on the assumption that the IMF, the EU and other Western institutions would be able to lessen Ukraine’s dependence on Russia. This assumption will be proven wrong in the event of a Ukrainian default.

The impact of a default will not only intensify the crisis of Ukraine’s economy. By throwing the puppet regime of President Petro Poroshenko into crisis, it will provide the impetus for a further escalation in the ongoing conflict between Russia and the Western powers led by the United States and Germany.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/30/ukec-o30.html

Turkey allows Kurdish reinforcements into Syrian town of Kobani

By Peter Symonds

30 October 2014

Under intensive pressure from Washington, the Turkish government has allowed Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters to cross its territory to reinforce Syrian Kurds battling Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militia for the town of Kobani.

According to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which controls the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, some 160 of its peshmerga fighters crossed into Turkey via a road convoy and an airlift to the southern Turkish city of Sanliurfa early yesterday. They were expected to cross into Syria and reach Kobani later in the day.

KRG spokesman Safeen Dizayee told Reuters last weekend that the peshmerga would primarily provide back-up support, with artillery and other weaponry. “It will not be combat troops as such, at this point anyway,” he said. Syrian Kurdish fighters in Kobani have appealed for heavier weaponry for weeks to counter the well-armed ISIS militia.

Every aspect of the deployment, including the size and weaponry of the peshmerga force, has been surrounded by bitter haggling between the Turkish government, the KRG in Iraq and the YPG militia, the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Kobani.

Just last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the PYD as “a terrorist organisation” like the outlawed separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, with which the PYD is affiliated. Ankara has refused to allow PKK fighters to cross the border into Kobani or to provide medical treatment for Syrian Kurds wounded in battle.

The Turkish government, which has well-established ties to the KRG in Iraq, backed the dispatch of peshmerga to Kobani as means of undermining the PYD. However, it was not so keen about the supply of heavy weapons, fearing that they might fall into the hands of the PKK’s Syrian allies.

For its part, the PYD, distrustful of Ankara’s motives, sought to limit the involvement of the peshmerga. The initial KRG offer was for a force of 2,000 but that was wound back to 200, then 150, in negotiations with the Syrian Kurds.

The PYD is similarly cautious about offers of assistance from the Western-backed coalition of militia groups known as the Free Syria Army (FSA), which is seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad. The CIA has armed and supported FSA factions from a facility based in Turkey known as the Military Operations Centre.

With Turkish support, the FSA initially offered to send 1,300 troops to Kobani. The latest reports indicate that a group of 50 arrived in the town, after travelling through Turkish territory.

The FSA has previously clashed with Kurdish fighters in the Syrian city of Aleppo. For its part, the PYD has used the civil war in Syria to establish its control of Kurdish regions in the north of the country, while refusing to side with efforts to oust Assad.

The US has expended considerable effort in preventing the fall of Kobani to ISIS. Many of the US air strikes inside Syria have been directed against ISIS targets in or near the town. Of the 14 air attacks in Syria and Iraq on Tuesday and Wednesday, US Central Command reported that eight were near Kobani.

Critics have questioned the strategic value of focussing on the medium-sized Kurdish town near the Turkish border. Speaking to the Telegraph last weekend, a former British army brigadier Ben Barry suggested that the Obama administration was playing to the media, which is able to cover the battle from Turkish territory. “The CNN factor was at play,” Barry said, indicating that Kobani was a distraction from more important military targets.

In fact, the US is using the opportunity to forge closer ties with the various Kurdish militia groups as Washington pursues its broader aim of reviving its plans, shelved in September last year, for regime-change in Syria. From Washington’s standpoint, Kobani could provide a new beachhead inside Syria from which to mount operations against Assad.

As well as pro-Western FSA and peshmerga fighters, the US is seeking to cultivate the PYD, despite the PYD’s previous reluctance to take sides against Assad. The Syrian Kurdish militia was already coordinating its operations with the US military and the air strikes. The US State Department has held talks with the PYD, even though the PYD’s Turkish ally, the PKK, is still on the US list of terrorist organisations. Last week, three American military transports dropped 24 tonnes of small arms and ammunition and 10 tonnes of medical supplies to Kobani, despite Turkish objections.

The US military is also tacitly collaborating with the PKK inside Iraq, where PKK fighters fought alongside peshmerga forces and are credited with playing a crucial role in repelling ISIS offensives. The American military has a joint operation centre at Irbil in northern Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region. The CIA and US military have long established ties with the Kurdish nationalist parties, having used the region as a base of operations against Saddam Hussein’s regime before the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

“We welcome the deployment of peshmerga fighters and weapons from the Kurdistan region to Kobani,” Brett McGurk, US deputy special presidential envoy for the coalition against ISIS, declared yesterday. Reporting the comments, a Wall Street Journal article declared that the operation coordinated by Turkey, Syrian Kurds and Iraqi Kurds marked “a turning point” and noted the willingness of Kurdish factions in Iraq and Syria to “set aside deep ideological rifts.”

As for the PKK and its Syrian PYD affiliate, they have no objections to collaborating with US imperialism as it wages another criminal neo-colonial war in the Middle East. Like the more established Kurdish bourgeois nationalist organisations in the region, their perspective of a separate Kurdish state is based on an accommodation with the major powers. Such manoeuvring with imperialism, which has a long and sordid history, has produced disaster after disaster for the Kurdish people.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/30/syri-o30.html

The trade unions and the Detroit bankruptcy

30 October 2014

The Detroit bankruptcy case, which will conclude with a federal judge’s November 7 ruling on the city’s restructuring plan, has brought to light once again the anti-working class character of the trade unions.

In their closing arguments before the federal bankruptcy judge, Steven Rhodes, on Monday, the representatives of the city and the state gloated that they had so quickly wrapped up the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. The “radical” restructuring plan, said Jones Day attorney Bruce Bennett, had not been “watered down.” Indeed, the final proposal includes savage attacks on the working class—including pension cuts in violation of the state constitution and the virtual elimination of retiree health benefits.

Michigan’s special attorney general, Steven Howell, told the court the “Chapter 9 filing had not been popular.” Nevertheless, the initial objectors “were now supporters,” he said, singling out the unions as examples of the “new spirit of cooperation” in Detroit.

Howell was acknowledging that the unions have played a critical role in the conspiracy to rob workers of basic social rights—a conspiracy involving the Democratic mayor and City Council, the Republican governor, the Obama administration, Judge Rhodes and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. The “spirit of cooperation” is directed against the widespread anger of workers throughout the Detroit area over the measures that are being implemented on behalf of the banks and large bondholders.

Throughout the bankruptcy, the unions have acted not as defenders of the workers, but as creditors with some of the biggest claims on the city’s assets. The token opposition that the unions presented early on was aimed at securing a better deal for the wealthy executives who run them.

In the end, the unions declared their support for the “restructuring,” i.e., plundering, of the city in exchange for control of a half-billion-dollar health care investment fund, known as a VEBA. In his closing statements, Claude Montgomery, the attorney for the union-affiliated retiree committee, praised the “strategic decision” of Rhodes to bring the unions onboard in a so-called “grand bargain.”

The retiree committee was advised by Ron Bloom. A senior vice president at the Wall Street investment firm Lazard, Bloom previously worked for the United Steelworkers union, helping protect the interests of the union officials as they collaborated with Wall Street asset strippers to destroy the jobs and pensions of hundreds of thousands of workers during the downsizing of the steel industry.

He later served as President Obama’s point man with the United Auto Workers union during the forced bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009. In exchange for billions of dollars in corporate shares to fund its VEBAs, the UAW agreed to halve the wages of new workers, impose twelve-hour shifts, and enforce other cost reductions that have led to record profits for the Detroit auto makers.

The Obama administration has fully supported the Detroit bankruptcy, which it sees as a model for destroying the pensions and health benefits of millions of teachers, firefighters and other state and municipal workers across the country.

There is no limit to the greed and corruption of the individuals who run the unions. But the role of the unions in the Detroit bankruptcy reflects more than the repulsive subjective traits of the union leaders. It is rooted in the basic class character of these organizations.

Contrary to the claims of the various fake-left organizations that operate within and on the periphery of the unions, these are not working class organizations. They cannot be “reformed” and made to serve the workers’ interests. They are instruments of the state and the ruling class, dedicated to blocking any struggle by workers against the dictates of the corporations and banks.

The antagonistic relationship of the unions to the working class is bound up with their political alliance with the Democratic Party and their commitment to the defense of the capitalist system.

The mass industrial unions in the United States, including the UAW, were established through bitter struggles of workers in defense of their basic rights. Detroit was a center of these struggles in the 1930s, the home of semi-insurrectionary class battles that took on the character of a civil war against the corporations. However, the trade union movement was led by a conservative bureaucracy that worked to channel mass opposition behind the Democratic Party and subordinate the working class to the profit system.

With the globalization of production, which gave transnational corporations the ability to shift production to low-wage regions of the world, the rug was pulled from underneath these nationally-based organizations. In every country, the unions responded by abandoning any resistance to factory closings, mass layoffs and wage-cutting in the name of making their “own” capitalists more competitive.

It has been more than 30 years since the American unions called a major national strike. They have imposed one disastrous concessions contract on the workers after another.

While the transformation of the unions at first proceeded most rapidly in the US, the process has been the same in every country. Earlier this month, officials of the German IG Metall union who sit on Volkswagen’s executive board delivered a 400-page report outlining how the company could slash jobs and labor costs and triple its profits by the end of 2017.

On a world scale, the ruling classes are engaged in a social counterrevolution aimed at turning the clock back more than a century and destroying every gain won by the working class. Detroit has been singled out in part because of the historic role of the city’s auto workers in the mass industrial struggles of the 1930s.

But today the unions are lined up with the bosses and the government against the workers. To fight back, workers must build new organizations of struggle that are democratically controlled by the rank-and-file.

At the same time, the Detroit bankruptcy has shown the necessity for workers to break with the Democrats and take up an independent struggle against the existing political system and the capitalist economic system it defends.

Jerry White

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/30/pers-o30.html

Europe threatened with deflationary spiral

Amidst slowdown in global economy

By Barry Grey

30 October 2014

New data released this week on the German economy has intensified fears that Europe’s euro zone is slipping into its third recession in six years and may have entered a downward deflationary spiral of the type that led to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

According to the IFO Business Climate Index for October, German business confidence has fallen to its lowest point since August of 2012. The October survey showed confidence falling to 103.2 this month as compared to 104.7 for September. The new reading was lower than economists’ forecast of 104.3. It was the sixth straight monthly decline.

The dismal business confidence figure follows a series of reports showing that Europe’s biggest economy is contracting. German industrial production fell 4 percent between July and August. Factory orders and exports in August saw their steepest plunge since 2009. The country’s gross domestic product shrank in the April-June quarter. Its inflation rate is just 0.8 percent, far below the target set by the Bundesbank and the European Central Bank (ECB).

Earlier this month, the German government cut its 2014 economic growth forecast to 1.2 percent from 1.8 percent, and its 2015 projection to 1.3 percent from 2 percent. Following the release of the new IFO report on Monday, Germany’s Chamber of Commerce slashed its growth forecast for 2015 to 0.8 percent.

“The outlook for the German economy deteriorated once again,” said IFO President Hans-Werner Sinn in a news release. Joerg Kraemer, chief economist at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt, was quoted by Bloomberg News as saying, “The latest numbers from the industrial sector are very worrisome. The third quarter was probably worse than expected. The economy may have stagnated at best.”

Germany, the industrial powerhouse of Europe, was supposed to be the engine that would pull the continent out of its economic malaise. Instead, its highly export-dependent economy is being undermined by a global slowdown in demand, including from China, its third largest market, the so-called “emerging economies” such as Brazil, and the rest of Europe. The government’s own policies—economic sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, war in the Middle East, and relentless austerity throughout Europe—are contributing to Germany’s slump.

Germany’s downturn is part of a general crisis in the 18-nation euro zone. Growth in the region came to halt in the second quarter and its overall inflation rate, at 0.3 percent, is hovering on the edge of outright deflation.

These conditions prevail despite massive infusions of cash into the financial markets by the central banks of the US, Europe and Japan. The ECB, in a desperate attempt to stave off outright deflation, has slashed its benchmark interest rate to 0.05 percent and launched a modified version of the US Federal Reserve’s “quantitative easing” program, under which the central bank essentially prints money to buy bonds.

In an another sign of the worsening crisis, the Swedish central bank on Tuesday unexpectedly cut its benchmark interest rate to zero. The Riksbank also slashed its growth projection for 2015.

Sweden, which has the highest unemployment rate in Scandinavia, has seen falling prices in 16 of the past 24 months. The country’s inflation rate has remained below the Riksbank’s 2 percent target for almost three years. After a year of zero inflation in 2013, the Riksbank has predicted a minus 0.2 percent inflation rate this year.

The current (October 25-31) issue of the British Economist magazine focuses on the deflationary crisis in Europe and its disastrous global implications. In a lead editorial headlined “The world’s biggest economic problem: Deflation in the euro zone is all too close and extremely dangerous,” the magazine notes that Europe’s slump is part of a global tendency. It cites the fact that China is now growing more slowly than at any time since 2009.

To back up its warnings on the danger of a deflationary spiral—in which falling prices create a vicious cycle of bankruptcies and layoffs leading to more bankruptcies and layoffs—the Economist notes that inflation rates are well below central bank targets in the US and China as well as Europe. Of the 46 countries whose central banks target inflation, the magazine writes, 30 are below their target.

In Europe itself, prices are falling in eight countries. In Italy, Spain and Greece, inflation is below zero.

The Economist goes on to note that the International Monetary Fund has estimated the odds of deflation in the euro zone, defined as two quarters of falling prices in a 12-month span, at 30 percent for the coming year.

“As debt burdens soar from Italy to Greece,” writes the magazine, “investors will take fright, populist politicians will gain ground, and—sooner rather than later—the euro will collapse.”

The Economist, speaking in behalf of British capitalism and the City of London, flays German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her opposition to any backing off on austerity and prescribes more cash for the financial markets combined with so-called “structural reforms” of the European economies—a euphemism for the destruction of job protections, pensions and what remains of the European welfare state.

Other British newspapers have weighed in behind the Economist. TheTelegraph in an article Monday decried the ECB’s failure to include the risk of deflation in its just-completed “stress test” of European banks. The newspaper noted that prices have fallen over the past six months in roughly half of the euro zone and the “proportion of goods in [its] price basket has jumped to 31 percent.”

The Financial Times on Tuesday quoted George Magnus, senior economic adviser at UBS bank, as saying, “Not only is deflation a clear and present danger, it’s already happening in some countries.”

The deflationary trend in Europe is increasingly impacting the already fragile US economy. Several indexes released Tuesday point to a weakening of economic activity.

The Commerce Department reported that orders for durable goods—products such as heavy machinery designed to last more than three years—fell 1.3 percent in September from the prior month. It followed a record 18.3 percent decline in August and belied the forecasts of economists, who had predicted a 0.7 percent increase.

A category of durable goods called “core capital goods,” which is used to measure business investment, fell 1.7 percent last month, its biggest drop since January.

In a separate report, the Institute of Supply Management reported that its gauge of manufacturing declined to 56.6 in September from 59 in August.

A survey of home prices showed a continuing slowdown in the housing market. The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas gained 5.6 percent in August over the previous year, the slowest year-on-year increase in nearly two years. On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, prices in the 20 cities fell 0.1 percent for the month.

The housing figures follow an earlier report that spending at US retailers declined in September, the first drop since January.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Cliff Waldman, an economist with the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, saying, “The darkening world economic and geopolitical picture is having an impact.”

The infusion of trillions of dollars of virtually free credit into the banks and financial markets by the US Federal Reserve and other central banks has failed to resolve the capitalist breakdown that began with the Wall Street crash of September 2008. The conditions of the vast majority of the planet’s inhabitants continue to worsen.

The banks and corporations have not used their windfall to invest in production and create jobs for the unemployed. They have either hoarded the money, used it to buy back their own stock to drive up its price, or engaged in other parasitical activities. The real economy remains virtually moribund.

The unprecedented monetary stimulus—combined with ruthless austerity against the working class—has benefited the financial aristocracy, increasing its vast wealth and its share of the world’s resources. At the same time, it has fostered new forms of speculation and all of the fraudulent and criminal activities that accompany it. The same tendencies that triggered the crash of 2008 are again at work, leading inevitably to a new financial collapse.

In an article Monday on the emergence of a new market in “asset-backed securities” based on sub-prime auto loans—a mirror of the sub-prime home mortgage Ponzi scheme that collapsed six years ago—the Financial Timesnoted that issuance of junk-rated corporate bonds has hit a new record high.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/30/econ-o30.html

EU may tighten sanctions against Russia

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EU may tighten sanctions against Russia if Moscow recognizes the results of the coming elections in the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk that are scheduled to take place on November 2.

Brussels believes that the elections in the breakaway republics violate the Minsk agreements. Accordingly, recognizing these elections legitimate, Russia does not contribute to the resolution of the crisis, but rather to its transformation into a frozen conflict, European officials said. It was also said that the EU arsenal had more opportunities for tightening the sanctions against Russia.

A source in the Russian government, in turn, confirmed the existence of a closed addendum to the Minsk agreements that envisaged the elections in the Donbass before November 3. Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned them in his speech at Valdai discussion club in Sochi. At the same time, it was said that neither Russia, nor Ukraine confirmed the existence of secret agreements in their interaction with European officials. Thus, Brussels will proceed from the fact that there are no additional arrangements at all, lenta.ru reports.

On Wednesday, the European Commission condemned Russia’s intention to recognize the elections in the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic. Brussels officials reminded that the Minsk agreements between Kiev and Donetsk and Luhansk self-proclaimed republics provided for early local elections in accordance with Ukrainian legislation. The elections of the heads of the parliaments of the two republics, in the opinion of the Commission, come contrary to the Minsk protocol and undermine “the progress in finding a sustainable political solution within that framework.”

Meanwhile, spokespeople for the Russian Foreign Ministry said that attempts to alienate some aspects from the Minsk agreements jeopardized the peace process in the east of Ukraine.

“Attempts to artificially, in a form of ultimatum, isolate some aspects from the complex of interrelated Minsk agreements – the date of the local elections, to make it a certain criterion of “behavior” of the sides, may undermine the entire peace process and turn it into a hostage of geopolitical ambitions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Russian diplomats believe that Europe wants to postpone the vote in the two breakaway republics.

“In general, it appears that all arguments of the partners against the November 2 elections aim to maximally delay them, apparently in a hope that with the onset of cold weather,  problems of the local population will aggravate, which will affect the general mood and the election turnout,” Russian officials said.

The position of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics on the election date does not contradict to the Minsk agreements:

“The position regarding the elections of November 2 is legitimate and fully complies with the agreements achieved in Minsk,” officials with the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation believes that the vote in the breakaway republics will allow to start a constructive dialogue, whereas Russia will contribute to this on its part.

Pravda.Ru

http://english.pravda.ru/world/ussr/30-10-2014/128930-eu_russia_sanctions_ukraine-0/

Nobel Prize: Hardly Noble Politics

30.10.2014

By Gouthama Siddarthan

Nobel Prize: Hardly Noble Politics. 53863.jpeg

It is really a great achievement of the Nobel award committee that it has created an environment in which criticism of the Nobel prizes is always rubbished and in which controversies are taken just as part and parcel of the scenario of the Nobel awards announcements. The committee has successfully infused the global psyche with a total indifference to, and an utter contempt for any valid and reasonable criticism from really serious and progressive-thinking writers and intellectuals. This can be termed as a feat on the part of the Nobel committee.

Now its announcement of literary award for French novelist Patrick Modiano has come like a bolt out of the blue. Its suddenness stems from the fact that all along the global media have been abuzz with speculations of a Nobel literary prize for Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. Also touted as Nobel award probables were American writer Philip Roth, French writer of Czech origin Milan Kundera, Ukrainian writer Svetlana Alexiyovich and Syrian poet Adonis.

However, it was Murakami whose name has been raising a lot of expectations. His works have been celebrated as both literary and commercial; yet they have been taking on more western colors than native Japanese. He too has declared himself as “an outcast of the Japanese literary world”.

Global media have idolized him, not without reasons. They are carried away by the way Murakami presented a fusion of literary and commercial features; a sort of modern outlook. Another reason for the rapture with which he is being read is that he conforms to the new dictum that only those writings projecting Western or European thoughts can be described as world literature. It is this tacit dictum that has been sunk into the psyche of global writers. Publishers’ international market politics too can be fitted into this scenario.

Now we can have a keen look at the writers who have stirred the media’s speculations about the Nobel honor.

Milan Kundera’s writings emerged on the scene when discussion of modern writing was globally threadbare. His important novel, “Immortality” hogged the global limelight; the literary world started paying a riveted attention to his writings. His short stories have a game-like appeal, revealing varied dimensions of writing. They describe the human mind’s weird thought processes interestingly and aesthetically and also the absurdity of human life as part of the rules of life game and its multi-dimensional crises. His book, “The Art of the Novel” discusses the aesthetics of writing, exploring various dimensions and possibilities of the art of novel.

Syrian poet Adonis is a very important personality in that he has given an expression to Arab life and brought Sufi thinking to bear on his poetry. This poet, who has been living in exile on account of his controversial political stances, has been regularly nominated for the Nobel prize since 1988.

Similarly, the writing of Svetlana Alexiyovich are regarded by critics as a literary documentation of the emotional tailspin of the Soviet and post-Soviet individual in the backdrop of the historic events such as Soviet-Afghan war, the Soviet Union’s downfall, the Chernobyl disaster etc. Russian literature that stagnated during 1950-60 is now resurrecting itself and traversing a revival trajectory. Russian literary critic Elena Dimov says: “Modern Russian writers are diverse and incredibly talented, and they did the almost impossible: they restored the Russian public’s trust in the written word after decades of government-ruled literature.” (Contemporary Russian Literature)

The Nobel Committee’s aversion to leftist thinkers and sympathisers has been reflected in its operations since the days of Soviet Russia.

From 1901 to 1912, the Nobel Award Committee had given prizes with a slant in its selection of awardees, though it justified its decisions, saying that it was conforming to the principles propounded in the will of its founder Alfred Nobel. That was why great writers such as Tolstoy, Ibsen, Emile Zola, Mark Twain etc. were bypassed. The committee had recommended awards to the writers of countries and their allies, which said they preferred to be neutral in the First World War. Moreover, there was a history of bias which was manifest in the fact that great Russian writers Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov never managed to get onto the Nobel list, all because of a bitter animosity prevailing at that time between Sweden and Russia.

At that time, it was a fad in the arts world to criticize Soviet Russia. During the period of Stalinist repression and suppression of artists, anti-Soviet thinkers and anti-establishment writers were going on in a full swing. Andrei Sinyavsky, an important writer, was up in arms against Soviet atrocities. Under the pseudonym of “Abram Tertz,” he wrote a book, “On Socialist Realism” (1959), criticizing the then-much-touted Soviet principle of socialist realism. From underground, he continued to criticize the Soviet establishment through novels of metaphor, allegories and fantasy writings. In his novel, “The Makepeace Experiment” (1963), he presents a satiric portrait of Lenin set in a heroic image, branding the Russian thought system Marxian utopianism.

This kind of anti-establishment post-modernism turned into magical realism in the Latin American countries where anti-dictatorial agitations were going on. The Nobel-winning novel, “The Tin Drum”, written by Gunther Grass, which projected the hero Oskar Matzerath as shrinking into a dwarf to protest Nazism belongs to the magical realist genre.

As a descendant of Andrei Sinyavsky, Boris Pasternak castigated his own country of ‘Iron Curtain’ and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958. But he was not allowed by the Soviet government to receive the award. Hence, a dejected and depressed Pasternak poured out his emotions in his poem, “Nobel Prize.” The line from his poem “I am done, like a beast in a cage” captured the blues of his vexed mind.

In a similar way, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who, in his novel, ‘Cancer Ward’, saw Soviet Russia as a metaphor for the cancer ward and whose another novel “The Gulag Archipelago” shed light on the seamy side of the Russian society, was honoured with the Nobel prize in 1970. Poet Joseph Brodsky, who was sent to the concentration camp during the Stalin regime for criticising the government, was also given the Nobel prize in 1987.

Consequently, the Nobel Committee was bombarded with charges that it honoured only the anti-Leftist writers and in order to counter the criticism, it went out of its way to honour Left-leaning writers such as Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre, Marquez. However, it should be pointed out here that these writers’ creative world was purely literary. Camus’ writings focused on the absurdity of human life. Sartre put forward existential thoughts involving the modern man’s life. (It is a different controversy that he refused to accept the Nobel honour). It should be kept in mind that Marquez’s writings exude magical realism.

Thus, the Nobel prize is beset with endless controversies, political motives and pressures and vested interests.

However, I am not projecting these writers.

In the global media politics, Third World writers’ names continued to be suppressed. (Sometimes, as if in reservation system, they get recognition). No media project and talk about writings in the Third World, nor about the post-colonial political aesthetics. The micro political operations behind the scenes dish out awards in the name of art and aesthetics for what is generally touted as standard and serious writings. Alternative cultures or alternative writings are not recognized properly. Only those writers conforming to the western parameters are considered to be worthy of consideration for awards.

The Nobel prize is not only an attention-grabbing honour, but also a power structure.

In this regard, Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o must be mentioned. He was not much taken note of by any media except The Guardian.

He says, “If a language is to be brought under colonial domination, the best way is to impose upon it the power of the colonists’ language and make a literary impact upon it. The colonists could trumpet about the supremacy and lofty features of their own language and make it a symbol of social status, thereby creating an inferiority complex among the speakers of the native language and castrating it”.

He has been writing adamantly in his mother tongue Gikuyu about the post-colonial politics. His books have been translated into several languages. His critics explain how his novel, “Petals of Blood”, published in 1977, portrays the residual western culture, capitalism and political changes which have become warp and woof of the Kenyan life after the end of the British reign in Kenya. His different viewpoints about alternative politics, alternative writings and alternative culture are considered as paramount against the backdrop of the present post-colonial milieu. He must have been chosen for the Nobel prize.

I will plumb for Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o who has been fighting tooth and nail the micro-politics and power centre enshrined in the European literature and who has been proclaiming the power and depth of his own cultural foundation and literary strength of his language.

Well! What are the reasons cited by the Nobel Committee for selection of French writer Patrick Modiano for the honour?

Modiano’s writings have captured in vivid details the sorrows of Jews, the atrocities perpetrated by Nazis and loss of social identity. He has reconstructed powerfully in his writings the events that led to the invasion of France by Germany during the World War II. The grief-stricken life and turbulent human emotions under the foreign occupation have been successfully and aesthetically metamorphosed into a mosaic of creativity. That is what the Nobel Committee says, justifying the honour for the French writer.

What is the art that the committee speaks about? And what is the writing aesthetics that it puts forward?

It is not known still how long the Nobel prize committee members will continue to harp on writings dealing with the World War II. Nowadays battles are waged in several parts of the world, whose inhuman and cruel face is no less macabre and morbid than the Holocaust. In the chess game of the international politics, the ordinary human life is broken to pieces. Human life has become absurd in the post-modernist milieu, as man seems to be metamorphosing into the Kafkaesque beetle, caught as he is in the vortex of racial, post-colonial and religious politics.

The western thinkers, who pigeonhole the wars waged between big forces as I, II and III World Wars, seem to be blissfully unaware of the inhuman and dastardly attacks on small racial communities and blatant genocides happening in the Third World. To them, such attacks do not come under the label of war. In the name of fighting terror, how the dominant racial communities are preaching and practicing racial chauvinism and perpetrating atrocities on the lesser communities….. all these go unnoticed. The loss of social identity that Modiano speaks about in his writings is actually occurring in the Third World battles nowadays.

In the concrete world, hi-tech weapons and chemical arms keep on attacking human bodies. At the same time, in the abstract world, a variety of political power-oriented thoughts are tearing apart the fabric of human life. The absurdity of the ‘battle politics’ unfolds before us as the essence of human life, as if it were anonymous. The illusion of this anonymity is an art.

This is the art that the Third World creative artists are conjuring up.

Do the Nobel authorities take into account the writings that pierced the flesh and blood of wars happening in the Third World countries such as Africa, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Latin America etc.? Do they take into consideration the racial and post-colonial outlooks, values and realities?

In this context, our Tamil poet Piramil’s poem comes back to mind. “A feather that falls apart from the wing moves on, writing on the inexhaustible pages of wind the life of a bird”. A feather that peels off a bird’s wings is not just a feather; it is a history; an art. This thought is the crux of the Third World countries’ art of life.

Are the Nobel committee members naïve enough not to understand all these things? Are they not steeped in the imperialistic power, dominant values and micropolitcs?

Yet, why did they choose Modiano, a Jewish author, for the award? Let us dig out the micropolitics behind it.

The Israelites’ Zionist domination is eliminating Muslims in the Gaza Strip in Palestine. Jews today are a far cry from the Jews suppressed during the World War II. The old scenes have changed. Now unfolds a new scene that shows them at their most valiant, at their most dominant and at their most powerful.

Yet it is the Zionists’ hidden agenda that the ground reality should not be viewed from a critical perspective. They want the old Jewish tales of woe to be told again and again; how they lost their identity must be dusted off and narrated seamlessly. Art must be created to delineate the force of dharma with which they rose from the dead like the phoenix. The present-day reality must be relegated to the background and a post-modernist reality projected before the world.

How wonderful this post-modernist politics!

This is the ‘Art-Truth-Politics’ that British playwright Harold Pinter spoke about in his Nobel prize acceptance speech in 2005.

Gouthama Siddarthan

(Gouthama Siddarthan  is a noted columnist, short-story writer, essayist and a micro-political critic in Tamil, who is a reputed name in the Tamil neo-literary circle. He can be reached at  unnatham[at]gmail.com )

http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/30-10-2014/128925-nobel_prize-0/

Rise Up America, Rise Up!

A letter to an American activist

By Mohammed Mesbahi

October 30, 2014 “ICH” –  The time has come when America must rapidly transform its values through a more inclusive and spiritual vision, based upon a just sharing of the world’s resources. It is up to you, the youth of America, to lead the way by organising a non-stop demonstration in every state, until that nationwide wave of peaceful protest eventually catches on globally.

What has caused the United States of America, such a great nation, to sink to the depths of turmoil and confusion that it finds itself in today? A country that was founded upon the ideals of freedom, justice and democracy, but that has increasingly lost its way and degraded these noble concepts – to the extent that the Statue of Liberty should really bow her head and reassemble her broken shackles, and let go her flaming torch. Those shackles should represent the ugly and imprisoning idea of the American Dream as it manifests in a highly commercialised and divided society, with such dire repercussions for the rest of the world. An idea that breeds more and more division, fear and injustice, and that has led successive American governments to arrogantly domineer other nations. An idea that continues to debase the goodwill of ordinary Americans and push the entire country towards catastrophe, unless it dramatically changes course with all humility and a sense of urgency.

Why don’t most of us perceive the dangers inherent in pursuing the American Dream? Everyone understands its meaning in a general sense, in terms of the desire to be successful, rich and happy. But few of us reflect on how this dream has progressively misled the people of America from sustaining the true values of their nation – indeed a dream that was originally built on theft from the indigenous peoples that rightfully inhabited the continent. For underlying the American Dream is the drive for profit through an ever intensifying path of commercialisation, which is the necessary basis for fulfilling America’s desire to have a wealthy and superior way of life. The American Dream was not abducted by commercialisation, but freely given to it ever since its inception. And in that process the Land of Liberty has become the chief proponent of a market forces ideology that it ruthlessly exported throughout the world, leading to social upheaval in almost every country and escalating international tension.

From an inner or psychological perspective the American Dream should really be perceived as a self-centred and harmful concept, in that it leads so many people to seek wealth and success as a means to finding an ever elusive happiness, regardless of the consequences for others. It is a big lie that millions of young people continue to fall for, one that poses a very effective tool for the forces of commercialisation to manipulate and misguide us. Because in our desire to become a ‘somebody’, to become ever more wealthy and perhaps even famous and powerful, it is not long before our personalities are influenced by greed and indifference which inevitably causes a dysfunction of our emotional intelligence. When perceived inwardly it is greed per se that separates us from the reality of the heart and its attributes, and directly influences us to become indifferent to the suffering or wellbeing of others. Even if we do not yearn to become rich and successful by dint of our fame or achievements, the social conditioning of the American Dream still causes us to distort our life purpose through the narrow, materialistic and selfish pursuit of our individual happiness. Rarely does the question then occur to us: what about the others who didn’t make it? Does the American Dream mean that we have to cancel them from America?

The reality of One Humanity

The one who is heavily conditioned by the American Dream is subject to a form of mental blindness in which they see only themselves, and not the spiritual reality of our interconnected lives among seven billion people. Their love is often crushed in such a way that they are proud to call themselves a patriotic American, even in the midst of other people living in loneliness and misery all around them. This pernicious conditioning also encourages children to grow up with the idea that America is the most important country in the world (if not the only continent that exists), leading them to enter into adulthood with little awareness of the extreme poverty and hardship that is experienced by the people of other nations. It is not uncommon for those who live in the United States to have absolutely no idea where Africa is situated on a world map, for example, let alone any notion of how devastating American foreign policy is for countless innocent people in far-away regions.

The very phrase ‘American Dream’ is divisive and divorced from spiritual reality, a phrase that is sustained by a wrong devotional attachment to an aspirational idea. And that idea has always been nurtured by an emotional sense of pride that has misguided generations of ordinary Americans from perceiving the reality of One Humanity. No matter how the American Dream is defined in a dictionary, from an spiritual point of view that idea will always be associated with division and injustice as we have seen in evidence throughout the twentieth century, and still continue to see. It is in fact a peculiarly self-centred idea in that is only unconsciously tinted with spiritual aspiration, for if it was inspired by a truly spiritual vision then it would have been the One Humanity Dream, and nothing else besides. As a consequence the American Dream has always separated itself from the highest ideal of the commons; that is, the common good of One Humanity.

It’s natural for the people of America to love their country and their way of life, if they find they can fit into that way of life and close their minds to the world’s problems. But the American Dream of individual prosperity and happiness is not connected to reality anymore, not in light of all the crises and mass injustices that plague the Earth today. To carry on repeating the Pledge of Allegiance every morning is a narrow-minded and meaningless gesture in this respect, so long as America fails to open her arms to the rest of the world. Can you imagine pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America with your hand on heart, while your other hand holds a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – which declares that everyone in the world has the right to liberty and justice, and not only Americans? Would that make any sense, and how would that feel – knowing that millions of people are needlessly dying from hunger and poverty each year, while so much of the world’s resources are hoarded and wasted in affluent countries, particularly within the United States? Notwithstanding the dire poverty that is quietly experienced by millions of people within America itself, who are mostly unheard of and hidden as if they didn’t exist.

The true American Dream – a dream that represents the soul of the nation as a whole – is to help and uplift the world in cooperation with other countries. But that is very different from the old idea of the American Dream that has crystallised over many generations, and exists with its polar opposite in the form of socialism and communism. A true and noble concept should be inclusive and not exclusive, and yet both the capitalist and communist nations have failed to live up to their respective visions of equality and justice, and have instead violated human rights on a colossal scale and instigated widespread global conflict. Despite all the pain and suffering these ideologies have caused both before and after the two World Wars, none of the major powers have learnt the necessary lesson of sacrifice or adopted a true path of multilateral cooperation and economic sharing. And in the unique case of America, whose presidents still espouse their role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity, it has continually chosen to go the opposite way by pursuing an aggressive self-interest that is thinly disguised as national security.

A deceiving world philanthropist

We may argue that the United States has given so much in overseas aid, but it really assumes the role of a deceiving world philanthropist by first exploiting other countries through unjust trade and illegal wars, thereafter donating a tiny proportion of its ill-gotten gains to help alleviate the suffering that it also caused. And that aid represents utter hypocrisy when billions of dollars are given to help poor or distressed foreign countries, while millions of citizens within the United States are sadly ignored by their government. Why has America recently given a billion dollars of aid to Ukraine in Eastern Europe, for example, while it abandons the poor and marginalised people of its own in Detroit? As any activist knows, it is because the federal government primarily serves its strategic self-interest and opportunities for profit, which is the game of commercialisation that has gradually fused with the old idea of the American Dream until both are now virtually synonymous.

For too long has America been guided by this harmful concept that is sustained by the pursuit of profit and power, thereby damaging the lives of other nations with scant regard for its self-professed values of democracy, freedom and justice. If nothing else, the sorry state of America today shows that political and business leaders need a total re-education along more spiritual lines, based on the principle of right human relationship. America has to drastically change its priorities, towards itself and towards the world, so that common sense, humility and compassion become the shining hallmarks of its government and society. Yet even to state this unavoidable truth sounds like a fantasy when most of those in a position of power are held sway by the forces of commercialisation, in which context the basic spiritual values of humanity almost appear to be utopian.

Unless America radically changes its ways it is about to go down a dark and dangerous alley for some time to come, one in which riots, violence and all kinds of social upheaval could increasingly take place. Such is the by-product of continuing to follow an individualistic and divisive idea of progress, as evidenced in all the neuroses, hatred and crime that has long been rampant across the nation. The political process in the United States has become so corrupt and profit-oriented, together with a national debt that is clearly unpayable, that a prolonged period of financial turmoil will undoubtedly worsen in the years ahead. And the prospects are dire for a nation that still trains its citizens to believe in, with pride, their right to achieve an extravagant level of personal wealth and material comfort, no matter what the cost in terms of environmental ruin and the exploitation of poorer countries. Now that the prospect of indefinitely sustaining the American way of life has become a palpable absurdity, many citizens across the nation are beginning to question with a sense of deep foreboding: ‘where is the hope that our leaders vainly promised, and what is the fate that will soon befall us?’

There is no question that the people of goodwill throughout America must rise up in unison together, and peaceably resist against the government’s polices as it profits from wars and defends corporate interests, instead of helping ordinary people in their approaching time of greatest need. Who is going to help Detroit now that it is bankrupt, for example – will it be the Pentagon or the CIA, who usurp so much of the nation’s income and resources? America has become like a dysfunctional family in which, by analogy, the children are being abused and neglected until they are eventually forced to leave home and look after themselves. In a similar way, the government in Washington is like the parent who is failing to look after all her children – namely the fifty states, many of whom like Detroit may soon fall into crisis as the economy melts. Is it not inevitable that many of these states will ultimately abandon Washington completely? Because it is the people of Detroit who made Detroit, the people of New Orleans who made New Orleans, and not Washington.

The popular demonstrations that spread across the United States in 2011 revealed how many intelligent young people have had enough of the American Dream and all it represents, even if that awareness is felt unconsciously. And that act of demonstrating as one in peaceful protest is actually an expression of love and maturity, as well as intelligence. Because in love there is freedom in the truest sense – a freedom from the old, from injustice, from the grand theft and corruption that has blighted America’s profounder greatness for so many years. Those who stand in the streets and uphold the real meaning of liberty and justice are the ones who Americans should be duly proud of, instead of clinging onto a false pride in the so-called American way of life.

The real heroes of America

Many of the Occupy protesters perceived with common sense how the American Dream has misled and divided an entire nation, and given America a vulgar reputation on the global stage. They are the real heroes of the nation, the ones who should be standing on top of the Statue of Liberty and lighting her torch. They are the ones who want to live with maturity and responsibility, rather than allowing their free will to be constantly manipulated by big corporations and self-serving politicians. They are the ones who are denouncing the forces of commercialisation that hide behind the American Dream, and that incessantly try to misdirect our attention by telling us what to think and what to do, instead of allowing us to live freely in the moment of now with honesty and detachment. Of course there are many others who still strongly believe in the American Dream with a misplaced sense of pride, and who therefore looked at the tents in Zuccotti Park with bewilderment and misunderstanding, and even felt that the protesters were betraying the American way of life. But the hour is coming when all the people of America will have to ask themselves: what is the meaning of this way of life, and where is it leading us?

The government and police may believe that they have eliminated those tents from public areas, but they do not realise that they cannot eliminate all the tents that remain in the hearts of America’s youth. The politicians are gravely mistaken if they believe those tents will not return, because they are already multiplying more and more, silently and gradually from heart to heart. It may seem as if nothing is happening right now, but it is foreseeable that sooner or later there will not be just one encampment of tents in a city park, but an entire nation of tents that cannot be dismantled by even the national guard. Thus perhaps the hour is also coming when the police must ask themselves what justice really means, and what is the meaning of law and order. Perhaps they should set up a special body within the Department of Justice to study the political causes of social unrest, and then tell the government to stop causing that unrest through their harmful policies and wrong priorities. For if the government is creating disorder and injustice, does it make any sense that it calls on the police to bring back order and stand for justice? When the many people on the streets are compassionate and intelligent, and out of love they leave their homes to demonstrate for justice in accordance with its true meaning? Should the police continue to arrest and bully their fellow citizens who valiantly march with such goodwill, or should they turn their attention towards the government and say: enough is enough! We are human beings and not machines, and we will no longer follow your corrupt orders to stand against our own people!

For the time being, the predominant laws of commercialisation have swept away those tents and protests from our towns and city squares. But if we look carefully within ourselves, we can see that a planetary tent has begun to vibrate in our consciousness. Now is the time for us to begin constructing this planetary tent in a collaborative endeavour, and to build it in such a way that finally, when we look up into its dome, we can see the reflection of all the faces of every human being around the world. Now is the time for the youth of America to show us the way, and to call upon the youth of other nations to help build this planetary tent together. Let the youth of America seize upon the old idea of the American Dream, and transform it by aligning their hearts and minds with a more inclusive and spiritual vision. Let them take it to the river of freedom and justice, and like a child that places a paper boat on a running stream, let them release the American Dream onto its destined course. It can be done, it should be done, and it must be done with urgency! For the world is changing now with rapid speed, and a new hope for humanity is emerging. It is up to you, the youth of America, to show us the way by organising a non-stop demonstration in every state, until that nationwide wave of nonviolent protest eventually catches on globally.

All those groups who seek a just and sustainable society based on right human relationship should quickly come together, mindful of the fact that it will take time to structure a common vision of change. Do not be discouraged by the pundits in ties and suits who speak on television about your marches and sit-ins, saying that you have no leadership or clear demands. Most of those complacent critics have no idea what is taking place in the hearts and minds of America’s youth today. And it is to be expected that an inclusive call for justice and freedom cannot be structured to begin with, because the forces of commercialisation are like a powerful magnet that constantly overwhelms and pulls us in different directions. So do not worry about how to structure your call through formal demands or institutional arrangements, but instead continue untiringly with your creative demonstrations, and in this way try to inspire the rest of the world to join you. Perhaps this is the surest way to structure love in the minds of all of us, where common sense and goodwill will be the norm in our relationship to each other and to the world.

Sharing is the master key

Through the unification of our efforts we may quickly realise that the principle of sharing is the master key for structuring our expression of love in society. One of the foremost attributes of this mistaken and neglected principle is to bring people together in freedom and joy, which was beautifully if transiently realised in the spontaneous protest movements of recent years within many cities worldwide. Compared to many violent revolutions witnessed throughout modern history, we can feel that something new has arisen in the expression of these huge demonstrations in their togetherness and joyful celebration, away from all the ‘isms’ of the past and the divisive poison of commercialisation. And that new factor is the releasing of the heart en masse among many thousands of people, by simply allowing the heart to speak and express itself into the world.

If we empty our minds of intellectual content and look at the world through the perception of the heart, the first thing we see is not injustice but solely a lack of love. Indeed it is the non-expression of love in a body politic that brings about the expression of injustice per se, which can only be remedied through human processes and governmental policies that are predicated upon the principle of sharing. The youth of America must know that freedom has never, and will never exist without love and sharing. Today we live in such complex and commercialised societies that even love has become a wounded, sorrowful and meaningless word. And yet our lives together could be so joyful, liberated and creative if only we shared the world’s resources more equitably among us all.

Therefore it is imperative that we set aside some time to reflect upon the meaning of sharing in relation to the political economy and our everyday lives, for sharing is our trustiest guide to the expression of a healthy, sustainable life with justice. We are not talking about socialism, or communism, or any other political ism; we are talking about the universal principle that, when implemented into social and economic policies by our governments, can finally heal our ailing societies and solve so many of the world’s problems. Why are we demonstrating after all, if not for the love and joy that has been taken away from all of us? Why are we demonstrating, if not for the extremes of poverty and wealth that has divided us from one another in a world of plenty, where millions starve while only the few live in excessive luxury? Why are we demonstrating, if not for the ideologies and isms that are constantly thrown at us in such a polarised and demoralised society, where each day feels the same as every other day in its soullessness and anxiety? Surely the occupy protests were not only initiated to change politics and reform the economy, but also to regain our joy of living and spiritually re-occupy our hearts. Are we only fighting for the sake of our children and future generations, or also because we yearn for something better for ourselves – to live each day afresh and new with a sense of connectedness and purpose, free from the constant stress and money-making that suppresses who we truly are?

Even from a strictly rational perspective it is strategically advantageous to be among masses who call for the principle of sharing to be implemented by our governments, rather than to engage in an endless fight against capitalism or the system. The youth should also know that when we assume a position of anti-capitalism, we immediately fall into the mouth of the wolf that is commercialisation. The system wants us to adopt the mind-set of ‘anti’ and ‘isms’, because capitalism itself is a very clever and sophisticated ism that voraciously feeds off our opposition and antagonism. While we have the right to express anger and oppose the systemic causes of injustice, it is futile to fight against the system because the forces mobilised to defend it are so formidable and apparently within the law. The moment we oppose those forces they will immediately bring us down and humiliate us, and cunningly push us towards violence. And that violence will beget further violence, which is exactly what the system wants in order to defend and perpetuate itself.

We should therefore be very cognisant of falling into this trap, and should not even entertain a thought in our minds of being ‘against’ or ‘anti’ the inequities of our society. We should rather work with our heart, because this is where the forces of commercialisation cannot get in. It is the heart and not the idea itself that unites us, for within the wisdom of one human heart lies the wisdom of all humanity. A revolution that is instigated via ideology invariably leads to further social division and violence, but a revolution that originates via the engagement of the heart will naturally lead to common sense, togetherness, sharing, and of course love. Could it be that through millions of people coming together and calling for sharing as the means to achieving justice, even the establishment pundits and the police will eventually come and join us?

Sharing, freedom and justice for all

So let’s permanently gather in the streets and wisely articulate the yearning of our hearts, away from all the isms and our wrong education of the past. Let’s not demand that our government restructures itself and the economy in the name of socialism, capitalism or any other ism, but rather in the name of who we are – that is, in the name of we the people who are born with an equal right to evolve in freedom, dignity and peace. This is the shift in consciousness that is necessary to change America and the world, which can only arise in the absence of any thought of ideology or personal self-interest. We know that all the problems in society are escalating day by day, and it is impossible to go on living as we did before: we are tired of those selfish and materialistic ways, we don’t want to return to that bygone era, and besides we can no longer afford to. So let’s demand a just sharing of resources and not be concerned when the pundits call us naïve, knowing that the call for sharing comes from the heart when fused with common sense and reason. Let’s refuse to conform any longer to the maleficent game of commercialisation, and instead let’s demonstrate for a new way of life, a new world and a new dispensation.

We don’t need to stand against this or that, but only for sharing, freedom and justice. This should be the triangle of our demands, in that same order: for the sharing of wealth and power, freedom in every meaningful sense – political, economic and civil, and thence social justice for one and all. A new era for America will never begin with a complicated list of policy demands, however, but only through a concerted and continuous call for everyone in the country to be fed, sheltered, educated and protected with universal access to the basic necessities of life, including healthcare and social security. Such is the straightforward nature of the demands that we can ask our governments to meet on a nationwide level: to prioritise the daily concerns of ordinary people, and to stop acting like private accountants who preside in office merely to negotiate contracts for big corporations. Which means, at the very least, that our elected leaders must stop pouring billions of dollars into the machinery of war, and instead redirect the nation’s resources towards securing peoples’ essential needs and creating useful employment. What demand can be more simple: to serve the populace in its entirety, or to immediately get out and make way for those who will!

At the same time let’s be aware that there is no such thing as an American justice, but only justice per se. And the concept of freedom does not represent or belong to America alone – it represents life, wherever you are, and belongs to love itself. Such has it always been, and always will be. In this way our demands should not be confined to American national interests, which was a crucial mistake of the Occupy movement in its first manifestation. Why don’t we also uphold a vision of sharing, freedom and justice for our brothers and sisters in other countries? Why say we are the 99% of all the people in America, and not the 99% of all the 7 billion people throughout the world? We have already focused on our national priorities for as long as we can remember, but now is the time for our shared concerns to embrace the needs of the world as a whole. It’s time to ennoble ourselves with dignity when we go out in peaceful protest, and toexpand our consciousness to the global level on the basis of our morality, empathy and compassion for those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

Clearly the problems that are happening in America are also happening across the world, as reflected in the mass protests that are now periodically erupting in diverse countries on an unprecedented scale. By hailing our common demands from a truly international perspective of justice and equality, we will therefore be more encouraged to see other groups doing the same in other cities overseas, and vice versa. Together we will galvanise each other to carry on participating in around-the-clock demonstrations, which is why we must protest with an urgent sense of global priorities in order to gain more and more support. This is how the youth of America can inspire the rest of the world to join them, and how the call for sharing can rapidly grow on a worldwide scale: by upholding the concerns not of the 99% of 300 million people in America, but of the 99% of 7 billion people with whom we share our planetary home.

Resurrecting Article 25

From this understanding we should adopt as our slogan Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which will naturally structure our uprisings at home and light the way for demonstrations in other countries. As the venerable Article states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” Nowhere in the world are these basic rights fulfilled for everyone, and for the evident reasons we have acknowledged above – such as the laws that protect the interests of elite privilege and commercialisation, and the politics of international competition that effectively renounces the founding vision of the United Nations. The covert manoeuvrings of American foreign policy is, in itself, the denial of Article 25 for many millions of the world’s people, in conjunction with the self-interested and divisive economic strategies of all the other major powers. Yet still the United States government shamelessly professes that it stands for global justice and human rights, in the midst of 40,000 people dying every day from preventable diseases and poverty. Do they take us for fools, or shall we continue to remain silent while this daily massacre endures?

If we identify ourselves with the common good of One Humanity, it is thus appropriate that we uphold Article 25 as a slogan that represents the hearts and minds of everyone in the world. We all want peace, we all want justice, we all want a clean and safe environment; but before we ask for that peace and justice for ourselves, we want to see an irrevocable end to the blasphemy of hunger and penury in a bountiful world. It is not only a question of morality and justice, but of strategy and common sense in relation to our awareness and intelligence. We’ve been fighting capitalism and the system for hundreds of years, and yet the situation is getting worse and worse for the majority poor and excluded: hence now is the time to change our tactics by advocating for Article 25 as a universal approach for transformative world change.

With millions upon millions of people in every country calling for this Article to be guaranteed by our respective governments, we cannot underestimate the uplifting effect it will have on our societies and our collective consciousness. Never before have we witnessed vast numbers of people in the street calling for the abolition of extreme poverty, as expressed in ceaseless worldwide actions of solidarity and massed goodwill. Can we envision what may happen if American activists lead the way in advocating, by this means, for international governmental policies based on the principle of sharing? We can be sure that New York City will be full of tents and non-stop protest activity, because the poor will also join in and strengthen the call for their basic rights to be fulfilled. And above all, billions of people will heed the call in other continents, from Africa and Asia to South America, because then we are talking about their lives too.

So let this be our resounding call: not to instigate a revolution ‘against’ this rotten system we live in, which becomes a nonsense when our voices get lost in the interminable fighting of ideologies and isms. The system is here to stay, in one form or another, so we should rather transform it through a wholly inclusive, indefatigable demand for what is most urgent and important: which is to immediately guarantee the human rights in Article 25 for every man, woman and child in every nation. Just imagine how easily this could be achieved if our governments were impelled by overwhelming public pressure to completely reorder their priorities, and to work in genuine cooperation with other nations to share the resources of the world. As history has often revealed, even a handful of people can create unbelievable changes on this Earth if they are in the right place at the right time with an idea whose time has come. And now is the time for us to breathe life once again into The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, until she drops her torch in protest and holds up a giant banner that reads: “Article 25: The True American Dream!”

RISE UP, AMERICA, RISE UP!

I miss those tents and those occupiers who lifted my hopes upwards into the light. 

Where are you people?

I can still feel your pain and your aspirations.

I can still hear your voices in the heat of the night.

I miss your faces, your joy, your call for a new life. I miss you all.

Where are you people?

For you are the hope of all the world, if only you knew. 

Mohammed Mesbahi is founder and chair of Share the World’s Resources, a London-based independent civil society organization campaigning for a fairer sharing of wealth, power and resources within and between nations.http://www.sharing.org/

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40101.htm

Risky Business “Easy Money” Mel Watt Loosens Lending on Mortgages

By Mike Whitney

Here we go again.

Last week, the country’s biggest mortgage lenders scored a couple of key victories that will allow them to ease lending standards, crank out more toxic assets, and inflate another housing bubble.  Here’s what’s going on.

On Monday,  the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Mel Watt, announced that Fannie and Freddie would slash the minimum down-payment requirement on mortgages from 5 percent to 3 percent while making loans more available to people with spotty credit. If this all sounds hauntingly familiar, it should. It was less than 7 years ago that shoddy lending practices blew up the financial system precipitating the deepest slump since the Great Depression. Now Watt wants to repeat that catastrophe by pumping up another credit bubble. Here’s the story from the Washington Post:

“When it comes to taking out a mortgage, two factors can stand in the way: the price of the mortgage,…and the borrower’s credit profile.”

On Monday, the head of the agency that oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac outlined … how he plans to make it easier for borrowers on both fronts. Mel Watt, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, did not give exact timing on the initiatives. But most of them are designed to encourage the industry to extend mortgages to a broader swath of borrowers.

Here’s what Watt said about his plans in a speech at the Mortgage Bankers Association annual convention in Las Vegas:

Saving enough money for a downpayment is often cited as the toughest hurdle for first-time buyers in particular. Watt said that Fannie and Freddie are working to develop “sensible and responsible” guidelines that will allow them to buy mortgages with down payments as low as 3 percent, instead of the 5 percent minimum that both institutions currently require.”

Does Watt really want to “encourage the industry to extend mortgages to a broader swath of borrowers” or is this just another scam to enrich bankers at the expense of the public?  It might be worth noting at this point that Watt’s political history casts doubt on his real objectives.   According to Open Secrets, among the Top 20 contributors to Watt’s 2009-2010 campaign were Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup Inc., Bank of New York Mellon, American bankers Association, US Bancorp, and The National Association of Realtors. (“Top 20 Contributors, 2009-2010“, Open Secrets)

Man oh man,  this guy’s got all of Wall Street rooting for him. Why is that, I wonder? Is it because he’s faithfully executing his office and defending the public’s interests or is it because he’s a reliable stooge who brings home the bacon for fatcat bankers and their brood?

This is such a farce, isn’t it? I mean, c’mon, do you really think that the big banks make political contributions out of the kindness of their heart or because they want something in return?  And do you really think that a guy who is supported by Goldman Sachs has your “best interests” in mind?  Don’t make me laugh.

The reason that Obama picked Watt was because he knew he could be trusted to do whatever Wall Street wanted, and that’s precisely what he’s doing. Smaller down payments and looser underwriting are just the beginning; teaser rates, balloon payments, and liars loans are bound to follow. In fact, there’s a funny story about credit scores in the Washington Post that explains what’s really going on behind the scenes. See if you can figure it out:

 “Most housing advocates agree that a bigger bang for the buck would come from having lenders lower the unusually high credit scores that they’re now demanding from borrowers.

After the housing market tanked, Fannie and Freddie forced the industry to buy back billions of dollars in loans. In a bid to protect themselves from further financial penalties, lenders reacted by imposing credit scores that exceed what Fannie and Freddie require. Housing experts say the push to hold lenders accountable for loose lending practices of the past steered the industry toward the highest-quality borrowers, undermining the mission of Fannie and Freddie to serve the broader population, including low- to moderate- income borrowers.

Today, the average credit score on a loan backed by Fannie and Freddie is close to 745, versus about 710 in the early 2000s, according to Moody’s Analytics. And lenders say they won’t ease up until the government clarifies rules that dictate when Fannie and Freddie can take action against them.” (Washington Post)

Can you see what’s going on? The banks have been requiring higher credit scores than Fannie or Freddie.

But why? After all, the banks are in the lending business, so the more loans they issue the more money they make, right?

Right. But the banks don’t care about the short-term dough. They’d rather withhold credit and slow the economy in order to blackmail the government into doing what they want.

And what do they want?

They want looser regulations and they want to know that Fannie and Freddie aren’t going to demand their money back (“put backs”) when they sell them crappy mortgages that won’t get repaid. You see, the banks figure that once they’ve off-loaded a loan to Fannie and Freddie, their job is done.  So, if the mortgage blows up two months later, they don’t think they should have to pay for it. They want the taxpayer to pay for it. That’s what they’ve been whining about for the last 5 years. And that’s what Watt is trying to fix for them. Here’s the story from Dave Dayen:

“Watt signaled to mortgage bankers that they can loosen their underwriting standards, and that Fannie and Freddie will purchase the loans anyway, without much recourse if they turn sour. The lending industry welcomed the announcement as a way to ease uncertainty and boost home purchases, a key indicator for the economy. But it’s actually a surrender to the incorrect idea that expanding risky lending can create economic growth.

Watt’s remarks come amid a concerted effort by the mortgage industry to roll back regulations meant to prevent the type of housing market that nearly obliterated the economy in 2008. Bankers have complained to the media that the oppressive hand of government prevents them from lending to anyone with less-than-perfect credit. Average borrower credit scores are historically high, and lenders make even eligible borrowers jump through enough hoops to garner publicity. Why, even Ben Bernanke can’t get a refinance done! (Actually, he could, and fairly easily, but the anecdote serves the industry’s argument.)

(“The Mortgage Industry Is Strangling the Housing Market and Blaming the Government“, Dave Dayen, The New Republic)

Can you see what a fraud this is?  6 years have passed since Lehman crashed and the scum-sucking bankers are still  fighting tooth-and-nail to unwind the meager provisions that have been put in place to avoid another system-shattering disaster. It’s crazy. These guys should all be in Gitmo pounding rocks and instead they’re setting the regulatory agenda. Explain that to me? And this whole thing about blackmailing the government because they don’t want to be held responsible for the bad mortgages they sold to the GSE’s is particularly irritating. Here’s more from Dave Dayen:

“After the housing market tanked, Fannie and Freddie forced the industry to buy back billions of dollars in loans. In a bid to protect themselves from further financial penalties, lenders reacted by imposing credit scores that exceed what Fannie and Freddie require. ….And lenders say they won’t ease up until the government clarifies rules that dictate when Fannie and Freddie can take action against them.”

So the industry has engaged in an insidious tactic: tightening lending well beyond required standards, and then claiming the GSEs make it impossible for them to do business. For example, Fannie and Freddie require a minimum 680 credit score to purchase most loans, but lenders are setting their targets at 740. They are rejecting eligible borrowers….so they can profit much more from a regulation-free zone down the line.

So, I ask you, dear reader; is that blackmail or is it blackmail?

And what does Watt mean when he talks about “developing sensible and responsible guidelines’ that will allow them (borrowers) to buy mortgages with down payments as low as 3 percent”?

What a joke.  Using traditional underwriting standards, (the likes of which had been used for  the entire post-war period until we handed the system over to the banks) a lender would require a 10 or 20 percent down, decent credit scores, and a job. The only reason Watt wants to wave those requirements is so the banks can fire-up the old credit engine and dump more crap-ass mortgages on Uncle Sam.  That’s the whole thing in a nutshell. It’s infuriating!

Let me fill you in on a little secret: Down payments matter! In fact, people who put more down on a home (who have “more skin in the game”) are much less likely to default.  According to David Battany, executive vice president of PennyMac, “there is a strong correlation between down payments to mortgage default. The risk of default almost doubles with every 1%.”

Economist Dean Baker says the same thing in a recent blog post:

“The delinquency rate, which closely follows the default rate, is several times higher for people who put 5 percent or less down on a house than for people who put 20 percent or more down.

Contrary to what some folks seem to believe, getting moderate income people into a home that they subsequently lose to foreclosure or a distressed sale is not an effective way for them to build wealth, even if it does help build the wealth of the banks.”

(“Low Down Payment Mortgages Have Much Higher Default Rates“, Dean Baker, CEPR)

Now take a look at this chart from Dr. Housing Bubble which helps to illustrate the dangers of low down payments in terms of increased delinquencies:

Data on mortgage delinquencies by downpayment. Source:  Felix Salmon 

“When the mortgage industry starts complaining about the 14 million people who would be denied the chance to buy a qualified mortgage if they don’t have a 5% downpayment, it’s worth remembering that qualified mortgages for people who don’t have a 5% downpayment have a delinquency rate of 16% over the course of the whole housing cycle.” (“Why a sizable down payment is important“, Dr. Housing Bubble)

So despite what Watt thinks,  higher down payments mean fewer defaults, fewer foreclosures, fewer shocks to the market, and greater financial stability.

And here’s something else that Watt should mull over:  The housing market isn’t broken and doesn’t need to be fixed.  It’s doing just fine, thank you very much. First of all, sales and prices are already above their historic trend. Check it out from economist Dean Baker:

 “If we compare total sales (new and existing homes) with sales in the pre-bubble years 1993-1995, they would actually be somewhat higher today, even after adjusting for population growth. While there may be an issue of many people being unable to qualify for mortgages because of their credit history, this does not appear to be having a negative effect on the state of market. Prices are already about 20 percent above their trend levels.” (“Total Home Sales Are At or Above Trend“, Dean Baker, CEPR)

Got it? Sales and prices are ALREADY where they should be, so there’s no need to lower down payments and ease credit to start another orgy of speculation. We don’t need that.

Second, the quality of today’s mortgages ARE BETTER THAN EVER, so why mess with success? Take a look at this from Black Knight Financial Services and you’ll see what I mean:

“Today, the Data and Analytics division of Black Knight Financial Services … released its November Mortgage Monitor Report, which found that loans originated in 2013 are proving to be the best-performing mortgages on record…..

“Looking at the most current mortgage origination data, several points become clear,” said Herb Blecher, senior vice president of Black Knight Financial Services’ Data & Analytics division. “First is that heightened credit standards have resulted in this year being the best-performing vintage on record. Even adjusting for some of these changes, such as credit scores and loan-to-values, we are seeing total delinquencies for 2013 loans at extremely low levels across every product category.”

(“Black Knight Financial Services’ Mortgage Performance Data Shows 2013 Loans Best Performing on Record“, LPS)

Okay, so sales and prices are fine and mortgage quality is excellent. So why not leave the bloody system alone? As the saying goes: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But you know why they’re going to keep tinkering with the housing market. Everyone knows why. It’s because the banks can’t inflate another big-honking credit bubble unless they churn out zillions of shi**y mortgages that they offload onto Fannie and Freddie. That’s just the name of the game: Grind out the product (mortgages), pack it into sausages (securities and bonds), leverage up to your eyeballs (borrow as much as humanly possible), and dump the junk-paper on yield-chasing baboons who think they’re buying triple A “risk free” bonds.

Garbage in, garbage out.  Isn’t this how the banks make their money?

You bet it is, and in that regard things have gotten a helluva a lot scarier since last Wednesday’s announcement that the banks are NOT going to be required to hold any capital against the securities they create from bundles of mortgages.

Huh?

You read that right. According to the New York Times:  “there will be no risk retention to speak of, at least on residential mortgage loans that are securitized.”

But how can that be, after all, it wasn’t subprime mortgages that blew up the financial system (subprime mortgages only totaled $1.5 at their peak), but the nearly $10 trillion in subprime infected mortgage-backed securities (MBS) that stopped trading in the secondary market after a French Bank stopped taking redemptions in July 2007. (a full year before the crisis brought down Lehman Brothers) . That’s what brought the whole rattling financial system to a grinding halt. Clearly, if the banks had had a stake in those shabby MBS— that is, if they were required to set aside 5 or 10 percent capital as insurance in the event that some of these toxic assets went south– then the whole financial collapse could have been avoided, right?

Right. It could have been avoided. But the banks don’t want to hold any capital against their stockpile of rancid assets, in fact, they don’t want to use their own freaking money at all, which is why 90 percent of all mortgages are financed by Uncle Sugar. It’s because the banks are just as broke as they were in 2008 when the system went off the cliff. Here’s a summary from the New York Times:

“Once upon a time, those who made loans would profit only if the loan were paid back. If the borrower defaulted, the lender would suffer.

That idea must have seemed quaint in 2005, as the mortgage lending boom reached a peak on the back of mushrooming private securitizations of mortgages, which were intended to transfer the risk away from those who made the loans to investors with no real knowledge of what was going on.

Less well remembered is that there was a raft of real estate securitizations once before, in the 1920s. The securities were not as complicated, but they had the same goal — making it possible for lenders to profit without risking capital.

The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 set out to clean that up. Now, there would be “risk retention.” Lenders would have to have “skin in the game.” Not 100 percent of the risk, as in the old days when banks made mortgage loans and retained them until they were paid back, but enough to make the banks care whether the loans were repaid.

At least that was the idea. The details were left to regulators, and it took more than four years for them to settle on the details, which they did this week.

The result is that there will be no risk retention to speak of, at least on residential mortgage loans that are securitized.

“…..Under Dodd-Frank, the general rule was to be that if a lender wanted to securitize mortgages, that lender had to keep at least 5 percent of the risk…….But when the final rule was adopted this week, that idea was dropped.”  (“Banks Again Avoid Having Any Skin in the Game”, New York Times)

No skin in the game, you say?

That means the taxpayer is accepting 100 percent of the risk. How fair is that?

Let’s review: The banks used to lend money to creditworthy borrowers and keep the loans on their books.

They don’t do that anymore, in fact, they’re not really banks at all, they’re just intermediaries who sell their loans to the USG or investors.

This arrangement has changed the incentives structure. Now the goal is quantity not quality.  “How many loans can I churn-out and dump on Uncle Sam or mutual funds etc.” That’s how bankers think now.  That’s the objective.

Regulations are bad because regulations stipulate that loans must be of a certain quality, which reduces the volume of loans and shrinks profits. (Can’t have that!) Therefore, the banks must use their money to hand-pick their own regulators  (“You’re doin’ a heckuva job, Mel”) and ferociously lobby against any rules that limit their ability to issue credit to anyone who can fog a mirror. Now you understand how modern-day banking works.

It would be hard to imagine a more corrupt system.

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

See also –

Does This Look Like A Housing Recovery To You?: Homeownership Rate 2014We just learned that the homeownership rate in the United States has fallen to the lowest level in 19 years. But of course this is not a new trend.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40100.htm

20-Year CBS News Veteran, Details Massive Censorship and Propaganda in Mainstream Media

By Michael Krieger

Journalists should be dark, funny, mean people. It’s appropriate for their antagonistic, adversarial role.

– Matt Taibbi, in this New York Magazine article

Reporters on the ground aren’t necessarily ideological, Attkisson says, but the major network news decisions get made by a handful of New York execs who read the same papers and think the same thoughts.

Often they dream up stories beforehand and turn the reporters into “casting agents,” told “we need to find someone who will say . . .” that a given policy is good or bad. “We’re asked to create a reality that fits their New York image of what they believe,” she writes.

– From the excellent New York Post article: Ex-CBS reporter’s book reveals how liberal media protects Obama

October 30, 2014 “ICH” – “LB” – Earlier this week, I published a piece titled, Former CBS Reporter Accuses Government of Secretly Planting Classified Docs on Her Computer, which I thought was incredible in its own right, yet the information in that post seems almost trite compared to the flood of information Attkisson has revealed to theNew York Post’s Kyle Smith.

The following excerpts from the piece will confirm all of your worst suspicions about mainstream media:

Sharyl Attkisson is an unreasonable woman. Important people have told her so.

When the longtime CBS reporter asked for details about reinforcements sent to the Benghazi compound during the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack, White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor replied, “I give up, Sharyl . . . I’ll work with more reasonable folks that follow up, I guess.”

Another White House flack, Eric Schultz, didn’t like being pressed for answers about the Fast and Furious scandal in which American agents directed guns into the arms of Mexican drug lords. “Goddammit, Sharyl!” he screamed at her. “The Washington Post is reasonable, the LA Times is reasonable, The New York Times is reasonable. You’re the only one who’s not reasonable!”

Interesting, because as Matt Taibbi notes in the quote at the top, investigative journalists are not supposed to be reasonable. I digress…

In nearly 20 years at CBS News, she has done many stories attacking Republicans and corporate America, and she points out that TV news, being reluctant to offend its advertisers, has become more and more skittish about, for instance, stories questioning pharmaceutical companies or car manufacturers.

Working on a piece that raised questions about the American Red Cross disaster response, she says a boss told her, “We must do nothing to upset our corporate partners . . . until the stock splits.” (Parent company Viacom and CBS split in 2006).

Reporters on the ground aren’t necessarily ideological, Attkisson says, but the major network news decisions get made by a handful of New York execs who read the same papers and think the same thoughts.

Often they dream up stories beforehand and turn the reporters into “casting agents,” told “we need to find someone who will say . . .” that a given policy is good or bad. “We’re asked to create a reality that fits their New York image of what they believe,” she writes.

Reporting on the many green-energy firms such as Solyndra that went belly-up after burning through hundreds of millions in Washington handouts, Attkisson ran into increasing difficulty getting her stories on the air. A colleague told her about the following exchange: “[The stories] are pretty significant,” said a news exec. “Maybe we should be airing some of them on the ‘Evening News?’ ” Replied the program’s chief Pat Shevlin, “What’s the matter, don’t you support green energy?”

Says Attkisson: That’s like saying you’re anti-medicine if you point out pharmaceutical company fraud.

One of her bosses had a rule that conservative analysts must always be labeled conservatives, but liberal analysts were simply “analysts.” “And if a conservative analyst’s opinion really rubbed the supervisor the wrong way,” says Attkisson, “she might rewrite the script to label him a ‘right-wing’ analyst.”

In mid-October 2012, with the presidential election coming up, Attkisson says CBS suddenly lost interest in airing her reporting on the Benghazi attacks. “The light switch turns off,” she writes. “Most of my Benghazi stories from that point on would be reported not on television, but on the Web.”

Two expressions that became especially popular with CBS News brass, she says, were “incremental” and “piling on.” These are code for “excuses for stories they really don’t want, even as we observe that developments on stories they like are aired in the tiniest of increments.”

Hey, kids, we found two more Americans who say they like their ObamaCare! Let’s do a lengthy segment.

When the White House didn’t like her reporting, it would make clear where the real power lay. A flack would send a blistering e-mail to her boss, David Rhodes, CBS News’ president — and Rhodes’s brother Ben, a top national security advisor to President Obama.

I had no idea that the President of CBS News’ brother was a top national security advisor to President Obama, did you?

Attkisson, who received an Emmy and the Edward R. Murrow award for her trailblazing work on the story, says she made top CBS brass “incensed” when she appeared on Laura Ingraham’s radio show and mentioned that Obama administration officials called her up to literally scream at her while she was working the story.

One angry CBS exec called to tell Attkisson that Ingraham is “extremely, extremely far right” and that Attkisson shouldn’t appear on her show anymore. Attkisson was puzzled, noting that CBS reporters aren’t barred from appearing on lefty MSNBC shows.

No interview with Holder aired but “after that weekend e-mail exchange, nothing is the same at work,” Attkisson writes. “The Evening News” began killing her stories on Fast and Furious, with one producer telling Attkisson, “You’ve reported everything. There’s really nothing left to say.”

Sensing the political waters had become too treacherous, Attkisson did what she thought was an easy sell on a school-lunch fraud story that “CBS This Morning” “enthusiastically accepted,” she says, and was racing to get on air, when suddenly “the light switch went off . . . we couldn’t figure out what they saw as a political angle to this story.”

The story had nothing to do with Michelle Obama, but Attkisson figures that the first lady’s association with school lunches, and/or her friendship with “CBS This Morning” host Gayle King, might have had something to do with execs now telling her the story “wasn’t interesting to their audience, after all.”

The who charade is completely incestuous.

Meanwhile, she says, though no one confronted her directly, a “whisper campaign” began; “If I offered a story on pretty much any legitimate controversy involving government, instead of being considered a good journalistic watchdog, I was anti-Obama.”

Yet it was Attkisson who broke the story that the Bush administration had once run a gun-walking program similar to Fast and Furious, called Wide Receiver. She did dozens of tough-minded stories on Bush’s FDA, the TARP program and contractors such as Halliburton. She once inspired a seven-minute segment on “The Rachel Maddow Show” with her reporting on the suspicious charity of a Republican congressman, Steve Buyer.

All I have to say is thank you CBS, or should I say SeeBS. Thank you for being so horrible at reporting that you have opened an enormous gap for myself and countless others in alternative media to fill. I genuinely couldn’t have done it without your incompetence.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40095.htm

The Moral Blindness of our Leading Liberals

By Chris Floyd

October 30, 2014 “ICH” – Behold the quintessential earnest progressive liberal in the highest moral dudgeon: Digby railing with thunderous fury at the possibility (the very distinct possibility) that Barack Obama is going to suppress the Senate’s report on CIA torture. Digby quotes the recent letter from some of Obama’s fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureates, who are calling on Obama to release the report (and close the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, for good measure.) Worthy sentiments and justifiable anger indeed. But then Digby adds this gloss:

“Honestly, if they deep six the report (or redact it so heavily that it’s meaningless) I think President Obama has no choice but to give back his prize. There’s [sic] a lot of actions he’s taken as president that people could claim disqualify him for the prize anyway. Arguments about the dirty wars and targeted assassination programs alone will go on for generations. But one can, at least, say they represent some form of modern warfare and that the President of a military Empire is always going to be required to deal in such ugly matters. (That, in fact, s one reason why it was ludicrous to give him the prize in the first place — he runs the most powerful killing machine on the planet.)

But however you see his performance as Commander in Chief, There can be no debate about torture. It’s a war crime. It should be prosecuted. But even if they cannot do that, covering it up is to be complicit.”

Old cynic that I am, I must admit that even my grizzled jaw dropped as I read these words. “Arguments about the dirty wars and targeted assassination programs alone will go on for generations.” This, again, is from one of our leading liberal lights. She thinks dirty wars — secret incursions into other nations to murder, subvert, wreak havoc, terrorize — are open to debate. She thinks that “targeted assassination programs” — one of which is run directly out of the White House, with regular weekly meetings where Obama and his advisors tick off names of human beings to be killed without warning, without the slightest pretense of judicial process or rule of law — will be argued about for generations. The morality of death squads and dirty wars is something about which serious, concerned citizens can disagree and debate, apparently.

Running a death squad — which, among many others, kills American citizens without due process, then, just for the hell of it, murders their children: this doesn’t put a person beyond the pale of acceptable human behavior. Not at all. It’s something we can argue about, sure; but not only is it within the parameters of acceptable behavior, it does not even disqualify you from enthusiastic political support, not even from earnest, peace-loving antiwar liberals like Digby, who fought tooth and nail to keep Obama running his death squads and dirty wars in 2012. (And if he could run for a third term there is no doubt — none whatsoever — that he would have fierce backing of the earnest, peace-loving antiwar liberals like Digby.)

But my poor jaw had not yet done descending. For Digby, astonishingly, goes on to offer one of those arguments for state murder and the Nuremberg-level war crime of carrying out “dirty wars” on the sovereign territory of other nations:“One can, at least, say they represent some form of modern warfare and that the President of a military Empire is always going to be required to deal in such ugly matters.”

Now, I’m sure we are all to understand that Digby herself wouldn’t make that argument. But she does see its point. She thinks it’s something that can be debated. She might not like it, she might even oppose it (while of course never opposing the continuation of its perpetrator in power). But from the gritty, savvy realpolitik perspective that our earnest progressive liberals are always so keen to show they understand and appreciate, you can certainly make that argument and remain within the bounds of respectable debate in Digby’s eyes.

Isn’t this a wonderment? A progressive, peace-loving liberalism that can accept a president actually checking off names on a death list, like Stalin in the Politburo — that can accept “dirty wars” that have slaughtered thousands of innocent civilians and destabilized whole regions, breeding more violence and terror. And although Digby has criticized such actions, it is obvious that none of them have put Obama beyond the moral pale for her. He’s still within the bounds of acceptable realpolitik. (“Hey, the guy has to run a military Empire. What’s he supposed to do?”). He is still — if only just — on “our” side.

Wholesale murder, wanton destruction, untold — and unnecessary — anguish and grief and suffering and turmoil: these things can be borne, if reluctantly, by our liberal progressive peace-lovers. But torture — that, apparently, is the one thing that is beyond the pale. And in this particular case, it is not even torture being carried out by the Obama administration. (There is torture still going on, of course, but it’s not at issue in the Senate report on past CIA actions which has so fixated our progressive liberals.) No, just the mere act of covering up a report on past torture is, for Digby, a step too far at last. Killing, mayhem, subversion — well OK, if you have to; but torture — why, that’s “a war crime”! There can be absolutely “no debate about torture.”

But here the obvious question arises: why not? If you can swallow all the rest and still support the perpetrator, why draw the line at torture? If, by Digby’s own logic, you can “at least” make the argument that dirty wars and death squads “represent some form of modern warfare” — then why not torture? Why not lump it in with those other “forms of modern warfare”? “Hey, we do lots of things now that used to be considered war crimes — because we now face new dangers in our modern warfare. We have to kill people without due process, we have wage dirty wars — and every now and then, we have to get rough with a prisoner. If you can support a president who murders and subverts, why not support him when he tortures, or covers up for torturers?”

What is that makes torture worse than actually murdering innocent people? Why is torture an undebatable war crime, but blowing up children sleeping in their homes in some Pakistani village is something that can be “argued about” — indeed, such an open moral question that the debate will go on “for generations”?

The truth, of course, is that murder and dirty war are even worse than torture. But all of them partake of a radical evil that should put any perpetrator beyond the pale, making the person a war criminal who indeed “should be prosecuted.” But if our earnest progressive liberals took off their blinders and acknowledged this truth — then what? They would have to admit that they have been supporting — with however much showy reluctance and “savvy” constructive criticism — the perpetrator of monstrous war crimes.

So they focus on what is, relatively speaking, the lesser evil. Probably because most of them believe that Obama really has abolished torture in our far-flung gulags and bases and “secret facilities,” rather than just entrenching it and codifying it with new manuals and different jargon. So in the end, Obama is not really that evil, is he? Since they cannot accept the full moral import of the death squads and dirty wars, they expend their righteous fury on the safer and more limited ground of torture. Or again, in this case, on “complicity” with torture, by covering up a report on the crimes committed years ago by the real bad guys, from the other side of the partisan divide: the Bush gang.

But let’s say that Obama does quash or whitewash the report, confirming his “complicity” in torture. What then? What condign punishment does our morally furious liberal progressive envision for him in that case? Impeachment? Prosecution? Imprisonment? No. If Obama does this really, really bad thing — which is so much worse than murdering people and waging dirty war — then Digby believes he should … he should … give his Nobel Peace Prize back.

That’s it. Pretty rough, huh? That would really teach him a lesson, if he had to do that!

But even if Digby’s worst fears come to pass, is there anyone who believes that she would then disown the president, break with him, denounce him publicly as a war criminal? Of course not. She, and the other earnest progressive liberals, will continue to support him — with loving chastisement and sad shakes of the head, to be sure — but they’ve got his back.

And we will see them on the hustings for Hilary Clinton when the time comes for her to perpetrate these same moral outrages, these same war crimes. Their partisan tribalism blinds them to the fullness of the reality that confronts us. (And I know how that works; I suffered from the same tribal blindness for many, many years.) They cannot genuinely and effectively oppose the monstrous system of military Empire because, in the end, what is most important to them is not stopping the system — but making sure that one of “theirs” is running it.

Chris Floyd blogs at http://www.chris-floyd.com

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40092.htm

Fighting for Survival in the Sinai: Egypt’s Convenient War

By Ramzy Baroud

October 30, 2014 “ICH” – Sinai is both heaven and hell. This triangular desert boasts an arid landscape of hopeless horizons often interrupted by leftover military hardware from previous wars. The land is comprised of breathtaking beaches, incredible history, and a fusion of fascinating cultures that reach back into the past as far as ancient times can possibly go. This thrilling land of contradictions is amazing, yet lethal.

But Sinai is also a place where hundreds of thousands of mostly poor people struggle to survive against incredible odds. Although poverty and illiteracy in Egypt can reach exceptional heights, hardship in Sinai is especially worse.

Since Israel returned the last of Sinai territories to Egypt in 1982, I visited the place nearly ten times, the last being two years ago. And each time, the situation seemed considerably worse.

There was once a time when Sinai thrived in hope; that’s when much of Sinai was being reclaimed by Egypt, one piece at a time. Israel bargained every step of the way, before it finally left Taba, but not before having gained many conditions. It even placed limits on the number of Egyptian soldiers that could be simultaneously stationed in Sinai at a given time. Since then, the desert the size of 60,000 sq km has been impossible to control.

Not that Sinai – perceived as unruly and ungovernable land, rife with drug dealers, kidnappers, and, as of late of “jihadists” and “terrorists” – needs more military force. Violence in Sinai often goes unreported. The area is almost vacant of any independent journalists. News of killings, arrests, torture and a whole host of human rights violations arrive in bits and pieces, hardly ever followed by informed investigations. Few, if any are ever held accountable.

But violence emerging from Sinai itself, however predicable, considering the level of misery, destitution and poverty, is often extenuated by the media and exploited by Cairo to the maximum. The overall nature of violence in Sinai remains a mystery, and not by accident. The explanation is almost always politically motivated, followed by pre-calculated moves to blame certain parties and punish others. This is unlikely to change soon.

Following well-coordinated attacks that killed scores of security personnel in northeast Sinai on Friday, 24 October, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addressed Egyptians in a televised speech as he was surrounded by a throng of men in military fatigues. Even before any thorough investigation, or any clear evidence, he denounced the “foreign hands” behind the attacks.

He took on the “foreign powers who are trying to break Egypt’s back,” vowing to fight extremism in a long-term campaign. Washington quickly offered its support for the proposed campaign. Even Palestinian Authority PresidentMahmoud Abbas declared his support.

Israeli media were particularly interested in the proposed Egyptian security measures. Radio Israel and the Jerusalem Post cited Egyptian media reports on 25 October, saying that “the government plans to establish a buffer zone along the Sinai frontier with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.”

Hamas, which is struggling to cope with the aftermath of Israel’s massive 51-day war on the Strip and is working to end the siege, has no interest in carrying out bloody attacks on Egyptian soldiers that will prolong the suffering of Gazans and further alienate the movement.

The Post quoted Egypt’s Al-Yom a-Sab’a: “The Egyptian buffer will extend between 1.5 and 3 kilometres. The security forces will work to clear the area of underground tunnels leading to Gaza and it will also level any buildings and structures that could be used to conceal smuggling activity.

Other arbitrary actions are also expected to be taken which will further the isolation of Gaza. Is this why Mahmoud Abbas is particularly sympathetic to the ‘anti-terror’ measures initiated by Sisi?

If the intentions are truly to curb attacks in Sinai, knee-jerk military solutions will backfire. Past government violent campaigns only frustrated a difficult situation in Sinai, where poverty stands at 45 percent.

In his speech, Sisi called on Egyptians to “be aware of what is being hatched against us”. “All that is happening to us is known to us and we expected it and talked about it before 3 July,” he said, referring to the day the military overthrewMohammed Morsi.

But Sinai turmoil has preceded the revolution, the election of Morsi, the coup and all the rest. The security vacuum that followed Egypt’s recent turmoil has indeed exasperated violence in the Sinai Peninsula, but that violence was rooted in a largely different political reality.

The deadly Sinai bombings of October 2004, and attack on tourists in April 2005, on Sharm el-Sheikh resort in the same year, and on Dahab in 2006, were all indicative of a different kind of war launched by militants and tribesmen. Sinai has been exploited by large multinationals who created perfectly serene communities for wealthy European and rich Arab tourists, but excluded the Bedouins, who had been promised major economic rewards. However, they got none.

The National Project for the Development of the Sinai was supposed to inject $20.5 billion into Sinai infrastructure between 1995 to 2017. That proved to be just hype; a mixture of unfinished projects and robust speeches. Sinai is only remembered in national celebrations to merely further highlight the might of the military that liberated it. And now, it’s demonised as a terrorist hub for the same reason.

After the final Israeli withdrawal from Sinai in 1982, the population of the Peninsula had to contend with issues pertaining to their group identity. Their tribal affiliations were too great to be discounted, but their eagerness to be included in the larger Egyptian society was euphoric. But Cairo did so little to bring Sinai’s population, especially the Bedouins, any closer. With time, disillusionment grew into resentment, and eventually violence. They are angry, and have every right to feel that way.

As long as Cairo continues to view Sinai with suspiscion and mistrust, using the desert and its inhabitants as a platform for political opportunities to be exploited, thus carrying out one violent campaign after another to reassert the relevance of the army, these sad episodes will continue. The people of Sinai have suffered tremendously from neglect and poverty and now, extreme violence. Sisi’s promised campaign of yet more security solutions, will hardly ease Sinai’s burden, or bring an iota of hope to its disheartened people.

Ramzy Baroud is a PhD scholar in People’s History at the University of Exeter. He is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40094.htm

Canada’s Heart of Darkness. Democracy and Civility Foregone?

By Jim Miles

October 30, 2014 “ICH” – “Palestine Chronicle” – Once upon a time, Canada was able to create  the illusion that it was the “peaceable kingdom”, an illusion accepted domestically and arguably by most of the rest of the world.  This history has  been well discredited with newer historical research outlining how Canada’s position as a “peacekeeper,” generally under UN auspices, remained effectively within the realm of U.S. foreign policy, just with a kinder gentler face. 

Over the past decade, Canada has made a clear and distinct turn towards its inner ‘heart of darkness’, becoming much more overt about its right wing militarized alignment with the U.S. empire and its demands.  It has done so to the extent of front-running – or trying to out do – the hubris and arrogance of the U.S. in its declamations of its self-righteousness concerning international affairs (with similar impacts on domestic affairs).

Much if not all of this is due to Canada’s (neo)Conservative government under Stephen Harper.  Harper himself has declared that Canada will be a different nation when he is finished with his reign of office.  Harper’s background is of a fundamentalist-dominionist Christian ideology that he himself hides reasonably well but which shows up quite frequently in his supporters and in caucus.  He is determined to create a domestic order that is ruled by giving freedom to corporations, in alliance with the banksters, to do as they require to harvest the wealth of the country for their own benefit.

The two recent attacks on uniformed Canadian soldiers by ‘lone wolf’ attackers is well known at least to those attending to western media.  It was the latest incident on Parliament Hill with the murder of an Honour Guard at Ottawa’s War Memorial that has created the most significant response.

The government response while rightly denouncing the violence of the actions highlights some of the double standards and the direction that the current government wants to go.  Many of the comments used descriptors such as “unexpected,” “shocking,” “senseless,” and “we’ll never be the same.”

What the comments truly highlight is the ignorance of the speakers concerning Canada’s role in global affairs historically and within current events in the Middle East.  Some kind of action like this was probably very much expected (otherwise, why a watch list of 90+ individuals?), and while the act of murder is a shock to those witnessing it and suffering from it, it is not a shock in the political usage of the word.  Senseless, yes, for those not cognizant of the various psychological combinations of disempowerment, drugs, alienation, and religious dogma.  But the ‘senselessness’  goes deeper into Canada’s changing role in world affairs.

When Harper spoke to Parliament the day after the Ottawa killing, he spoke of the support he had received from other countries, mentioning by name the UK, Australia, the U.S. and Israel.  An interesting conglomeration – of settler colonial states birthed by the racist empire of the British.  Perhaps this is taking it too far, but it is as only as far as Harper has gone with his more militant foreign policy.

Without qualification Harper supports Israel’s ongoing use of warfare against the people of Gaza, supports the ideology of Israel’s foundational myths, and supports its actions in the West Bank and Jerusalem.  He supported the U.S. in their role in destroying the government of Libya, to the extent of honouring the jet fighter pilots who bombed army units and infrastructure well beyond the intent of a ‘no fly zone’.  He has sided with the other minions of the western powers in demonizing Putin while supporting the neo-Nazis in the Ukraine who overthrew a duly – if corrupt – elected government.

Ironically he has supported the U.S. in Syria by backing the Islamist militants trying to overthrow Assad, who have morphed into ISIS which is supported and supplied by Saudi Arabia and Qatar among other Arab countries who are our supposed allies. And these militants had morphed into shape from the U.S.’ obliteration of the Iraqi state, following its lack of success in Afghanistan.  Turkey, a fellow NATO ally member, has until recently allowed ISIS to beat up on the Kurds as it plays out a triple game in the region without too much concern for which militant is the good guy or the bad guy.

These are Canada’s actions in the world today.  Backing the U.S. in its increasing desperation to save its global hegemony, supporting autocratic monarchies (FYI – Saudi Arabia beheaded 26 people in August using only the authority of Wahhabi religious law to do so), supporting the attempts to revive the Cold War mythology of the evils of Russia and Putin, accusing them  of threatening “NATO’s doorstep” when it is NATO that has advanced 700 km towards the Russian border, and supporting the ongoing colonial-settler apartheid of Israel.

And then we wonder why Canada has suffered these attacks.  The ‘senseless’ aspect of it all is Canada’s role in global affairs.  Various pundits in Canada are arguing about the significance of these events, in particular because the Harper regime was intending to introduce new legislation to give CSIS (Canada’s security services) and the RCMP (its national police force) and other police more surveillance powers and more powers of pre-emptive interventions.

Current Justice Minister Peter MacKay has defended the idea of new legislation allowing greater surveillance for terrorists, adding that it also allows for more surveillance of undefined criminal acts.  With the current governments mind-set that could easily become translated to mean people who are protesting against corporations, for the environment, against government initiatives in general.  To the pundits credit on CBC, they agreed that the idea was far too open and intrusive.

One of the pundits argued that Canadians would normalize the surveillance as the U.S. and the UK people had done, without changing the essence of democracy in those countries.  It is easily arguable that true democracy does not exist in either of those countries as they are mainly controlled by the corporate-military-political elites.  Sure, we all have a vote, but the real deals are made behind closed doors in secret meetings, a distinct lack of surveillance there.

One of the more ironic comments from a pundit returns to the idea of the violence of the people who committed these acts of terror.  After mentioning briefly several violent acts by different people in the U.S. and Canada, Muslim and Christian alike, he said it was the “willingness to use violence that unites them.”

That sadly returns the argument back to the countries that gave verbal sympathy to the Canadian government after the second killing.  It is these very countries, on a  much larger scale, that have an underlying violence that unites them.  Violence used domestically during their years of formation, violence ongoing against subjugated racial/religious groups, violence against other countries who are made to appear as the evil ‘other’ and thus to be destroyed or violently contained.

Final picture, of Justice Minister MacKay wearing a t-shirt printed with a high powered automatic rifle at a Conservative fundraiser supported by the National Firearms Association.  Ironically, that same association does not want the surveillance bill,C-13, to pass, “We think that this is probably the most draconian step towards police interference in people’s lives since George Orwell revealed the potential for it when he wrote 1984.”

It comes full circle to the vanished illusion of the “peaceable kingdom.”  Canada’s democracy and civility is a tarnished and cracked veneer disguising an underlying racial prejudice and fear of the ‘other’, a legacy of colonial-settler violence inherited from the British empire.  Stephen Harper and his (neo) Conservative government have exposed these flaws in our supposedly democratic civilizational superiority with his violence towards the people of the world and the violence towards the land and people domestically.  Our inner heart of darknes has been revealed.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40098.htm

The Cheney-Powell-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz Strategy: An Evaluation

By Michael S. Rozeff

October 30, 2014 “ICH” – “Lew Rockwell” -The U.S. never demobilized after the Cold War ended. It constructed new missions for its military. It adopted a new post-Cold War strategy but kept its military forces intact.

Americans received no peace dividend. To the contrary, as the years have passed and America’s wars have proliferated, Americans have expended enormous wealth.

The war policies of Barack Obama and George W. Bush grew out of defense plans of the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations. These plans maintained the Cold War mentality. This involved the U.S. constantly being heavily armed against foes and enemies. The Defense Department planners transmuted “Global threats” of the Cold War into “regional challenges and opportunities.” These plans retained a U.S. military force structure suitable for a wartime situation, rather than the actual peacetime situation.

In order to keep the U.S. on a military footing despite being at peace, these plans replaced the Soviet Union with an array of other justifications.  They appealed to such goals as maintaining regional stability, being able to fight two wars, defending American overseas interests in natural resources, warding off foreign threats, fighting terrorism and preventing the emergence of rivals. The planners multiplied missions and magnified their importance.

In the past, no such goals had ever prevented the U.S. from demobilizing and returning to a peacetime posture. None of these goals was ever serious enough or regarded as so serious as to require that the U.S. be on a continuous war footing. The U.S. had not before regarded itself as a sole superpower. It had not conceived itself as having these missions to fulfill, with the attendant military superiority and applications of force that they implied.

It is argued below that the defense policy plans were constructed so as to justify the military. The justifications and arguments they contained failed to reflect all sorts of realities. Consequently, when put into practice, they have failed miserably. They have not lived up to the aspirations of the planners.

In its planning, the U.S. established  missions for itself that relied on war and force. The missions were broad, open-ended, vague, and subject to interpretation. They opened up into new pro-active vistas. The language of the plans often sounded innocuous or even sensible and reasonable, but they were disturbing in many ways. Carrying over the Cold War mentality, they blithely referred to democracy as if it were a criterion of goodness and as if peace required its extension everywhere. American interests everywhere were taken for granted. The plans were  global in scope. The seeds of pre-emptive warfare were planted.

In the January, 1993 document containing “Defense Strategy for the 1990s”, Dick Cheney would write

“Together with our allies, we must preclude hostile nondemocratic powers from dominating regions critical to our interests and otherwise work to build an international environment conducive to our values.”

Plans to extend NATO were in place:

“The second goal is to strengthen and extend the system of defense arrangements that binds democratic and like-minded nations together in common defense against aggression…”

The U.S. planned full spectrum dominance everywhere. Any country that the U.S. regarded as nondemocratic became an automatic threat, especially if its region contained resources that the U.S. regarded as critical:

“The third goal is to preclude any hostile power from dominating a region critical to our interests, and also thereby to strengthen the barriers against the reemergence of a global threat to the interests of the United States and our allies. These regions include Europe, East Asia, the Middle East/Persian Gulf, and Latin America. Consolidated, nondemocratic control of the resources of such a critical region could generate a significant threat to our security.”

Defense was redefined to include activities that involved social and political changes in foreign regions under the theory that doing this produced a good known as reduced regional instability. The U.S. would spread democracy in its own defense. Under the umbrella of national security policy, the U.S. would see fit to meddle in all sorts of way and in all sorts of regions and countries:

“The fourth goal is to help preclude conflict by reducing sources of regional instability and to limit violence should conflict occur. Within the broader national security policy of encouraging the spread and consolidation of democratic government and open economic systems, the Defense Department furthers these ends through efforts to counter terrorism, drug trafficking, and other threats to internal democratic order, assistance to peacekeeping efforts; the provision of humanitarian and security assistance; limits on the spread of militarily significant technology, particularly the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction along with the means to deliver them; and the use of defense-to-defense contacts to assist in strengthening civil-military institutions and encourage reductions in the economic burden of military spending.”

Pre-emption and spreading democracy became part of U.S. doctrine:

“Our strategy is designed to preclude threats and to encourage trends that advance U.S. security objectives in the future. This is not simply within our means; it is critical to our future security…If we and other leading democracies continue to build a democratic security community, a much safer world is likely to emerge.”

In 2002, David Armstrong identified some of the U.S. defense planning and strategy documents that have guided major elements of U.S. foreign policy for about the past 25 years. He identified the men directly responsible for drawing up these plans and strategies as Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld. Some of these documents are available here, here, here, and here. As time went on, the plans and strategies evolved. In May of 1997, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen issued a new Quadrennial Defense Review.

In a journal article published in 2011, Alexandra Homolar writes that between 1989 and 1995, these formal defense reviews

“provided a medium for political bargaining between key actors in the defence policymaking community which enabled the maintenance of core elements of the status quo. This bargaining process lead to a rearticulation of actors’ interests that in turn enabled a new strategic consensus to emerge that preserved many of the principal pillars of US Cold War defence policy, the linchpin of which was a shared belief in the need to maintain an absolute superiority in US military power.”

She also identifies Powell, Cheney and Wolfowitz as key players. Les Aspin resisted the direction being taken, but Bill Clinton acceded. She concludes

“…all major defence reviews in the post-Cold War era have underlined the US status as the sole military superpower and the will to persist as the world’s preeminent military power as well as the willingness to resort to the use of military force, despite a strategic environment where manifest military threats to US interests appeared to have declined substantially. In short, the maintenance of ‘unipolarity’ quickly became defined as a central objective of US defence policy in the post-Cold War era…At the same time, this reconfiguration of US strategic objectives served to avert radical changes within the US defence establishment.”

These defense plans that embody the Cheney-Powell-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz (CPRW) strategy would lead to the U.S. war policies of the twenty-first century. They would lead to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya among others. They would lead to the effort to oust Syria’s government, to sanctions on Iran and Russia, and to drone warfare in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. They would lead to the blowback of 9/11 and to the Islamic State. They would lead to the Department of Homeland Security, to the growth of the national security state, and to the TSA. They would lead to confrontation with Russia over Ukraine and to a Pacific “pivot” that confronts China. They would lead to AFRICOM.

The planners saw their plans as relevant for the next 100 years, and they have not yet been proven incorrect in their assessment. Even though these plans in practice have produced enormous failures that can be traced back to the false assumptions and mistaken ideas of the planners, the U.S. government has yet to acknowledge its failures much less alter its basic presumptions.

Under the Cheney-Powell-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz (CPRW) strategy, a huge military is kept alive and U.S. policy is reshaped around that military force. The CPRW strategy creates a military force structure that’s not needed for maintaining peace or for security. This has major negative effects. For one thing, the U.S. government then has options to apply military force throughout the world. The missions are so broad that the government has the option of making continuous war, but more importantly it has the option of making war at junctures that favor swaying domestic political outcomes. War at chosen junctures brings certain benefits to government officials, including a way to re-align domestic political opposition and a way to win elections. The result is wars being made for political purposes. Second, politicians who have their own personal reasons for making war have a ready-made tool to do so. Third, any group with the skill to work the levers of government power or convince officials can instigate wars for its own reasons. Project for a New American Century (PNAC) did just that. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were also associated with PNAC. These groups can mobilize important segments of the public in support of their aims. Fourth, even if war is avoided, the U.S. government stands ready to intervene in almost any country for almost any reason. This meddling has very high costs. Beside being difficult to reverse, it ties the U.S. into local and regional predicaments that the U.S. cannot resolve. Where a regional hegemon might be able to keep order, the U.S. cannot. Regional instability rises.

The CPRW strategy created a standing war-making machine, and a standing war-making machine is an invitation to the making of war. Consequently, the wrong wars in the wrong places and for the wrong reasons become more probable. Wars for non-rational reasons or without rational calculation of the war’s costs and benefits become more likely. Because it provides the military means, the CPRW strategy encourages government and those who influence government to push other nations around and dominate them in the name of doing good. At the same time, the CPRW strategy reflects this aim to begin with.

A tremendous gulf divides the lofty CPRW strategy of the elite defense establishment from the results that have actually occurred on the ground when these plans were put into practice.

“But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”

Instead of a safer world, the world is less safe. Cheney’s defense document contains one erroneous statement after another, which explains why his best-laid schemes went astray. For example, he wrote

“One of the primary tasks we face today in shaping the future is carrying long standing alliances into the new era, and turning old enmities into new cooperative relationships. If we and other leading democracies continue to build a democratic security community, a much safer world is likely to emerge.”

Extending NATO’s life and range to Russia’s borders didn’t make Russia more cooperative. How could it possibly do so? Withdrawing from the ABM treaty didn’t achieve that end either. How could it do anything but interfere with cooperation? The U.S. built and extended its “democratic security community”, but that hasn’t made the world safer.

Cheney opined that

“Our fundamental belief in democracy and human rights gives other nations confidence that our significant military power threatens no one’s aspirations for peaceful democratic progress.”

How believable is it that the U.S. could grow in strength but others would not feel threatened? That might well be a first in human history, but Cheney thought that American exceptionalism (its “fundamental belief in democracy and human rights”) assured this result. How could other nations not feel threatened when the U.S. in practice used its military power to violate human rights and to violate international law?

Cheney’s thinking in this 1993 document, which was U.S. official doctrine, made this assertion:

“Similarly, NATO’s new strategy not only reflects an adjustment to the reduced threat environment in Europe but equally it reassures our former adversaries of the truly defensive nature of the NATO alliance.”

The NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 showed how wrong his thinking was. The role of NATO in the Libyan campaign provided a further instance. NATO’s response to the Ukrainian conflict makes total hash out of this statement.

One last example of many that could be cited shows again that the U.S. plans were shaped without sufficient regard to realities. The documents live in a rarified world of their own in which the writers seem to think that what they express about the world actually makes it so. It doesn’t. Their ignorance of everything involved is so vast that they could not help but go wrong. Cheney wrote

“Our ability to reduce sources of regional instability and to limit violence should conflict occur also is critical to shaping the environment This includes, for example, updating our strategy to counter the proliferation of militarily significant technology, particularly the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction along with the means to deliver them. Our traditional export control efforts must not only be updated and strengthened in this new era, but supplemented by political dissuasion, bilateral and multilateral negotiations, and inspection and destruction missions, as illustrated in the case of Iraq.”

There was a fixation on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction revealed here and elsewhere in the thought of American defense planners. They seem to have lost all sense of proportion. Accompanying this was the sense that it was up to the U.S. to “reduce sources of regional instability”. Why? And could it be done? Cheney was intent on “shaping the environment”, another fixation. Why attempt this? Was this really necessary for security of Americans? Is it even feasible? Were Cheney and his planners even cognizant of the difficulties in doing so? He thought this was “critical”. Why? How much difference does it really make to Americans if various regions have changes or instability? Isn’t this as old as the hills?

Here we have Cheney piling up one erroneous, distorted or wild idea atop another. Eventually these ideas would lead him and Bush to an attack on Iraq. These ideas could be made to sound sensible and logical by practitioners of the art of persuasion on talk shows, interviews and speeches; but they are all flawed and they led to disaster, it being widely thought, as is easy to document, that the decision to invade Iraq was a huge policy blunder.

The CPRW plans and strategy are official U.S. policy to this date. They are a loser.

Michael S. Rozeff [msroz@buffalo.edu] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York. He is the author of the free e-book Essays on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book The U.S. Constitution and Money: Corruption and Decline.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40093.htm

Latest Putin-bashing Invention: Putin About To Be Sacrificed

By The Saker

October 30, 2014 “ICH” –  I am getting a flood of emails asking me about the article Putin’s Head – Who will remove the head of Russian President Putin and offer it on a platter to the U.S.? (also here) I normally don’t comment any of the nonsense which circulates on the Internet, but this one seems to have a lot of people worried.

Friends, the key to the entire article is right at the beginning: “It seems that Russian authorities have found a way towards accommodation with the West. Liberals have become more powerful and are leading the talks“.  Every word in these two sentences is utterly false.  For one thing, Putin is “the Russian authorities”.  His power stems from three sources:

1) He was elected by the Russian people
2) He is solidly backed by the “power ministries” (Internal, Security, Military, Police, Intelligence, Emergencies)
3) His current popularity is somewhere in the high 80%

In other words, removing him would be legally impossible, physically impossible and politically impossible.

Second, if anybody seriously believes that Putin is seeking an accommodation with the West then he/she simply needs to listen to his latest speech at the Valdai club to come to realize that far from seeking any accommodation, Putin is fully ready for a long confrontation with the AngloZionist Empire.

Finally, because of their failure to overthrow Putin during the Presidential elections and, even more so, because of the civil war in the Ukraine, the Russian liberals have never been weaker then before: they are associated with the nightmarish 1990s and they are seen as allies of any and all Russia-hating forces be it Wahabi Chechens or Ukrainian Nazis and as tool of the US/EU/NATO.

Finally, when the authors write “Russian “patriots” dream stubbornly of convincing today’s President to imitate Stalin or Ivan The Terrible” they are completely misrepresenting the ideology and wordview of the Russian patriotic movement.

This worthless article is a typical example of the kind of anti-Putin propaganda organized by the US: if they cannot demonize him, they at least show him as weak and about to be sacrificed.  There will be much more of that nonsense in the future and I urge you all to simply ignore it.

The Saker

http://www.vineyardsaker.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/latest-putin-bashing-invention-putin.html

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40102.htm

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