Monthly Archives: November 2014

New Australian Terrorism Bill to Facilitate Targeted Military Killings

Global Research, November 30, 2014
World Socialist Web Site 29 November 2014

australian-flagFor the third time in two months, the Australian Senate has signed off another “counter-terrorism” bill that grants unprecedented powers to the intelligence and military apparatus.

The latest laws, rubberstamped this week, allow the government to designate individuals and “classes” of Australians who can be attacked, and potentially killed, during military operations on the basis of information supplied by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the overseas spy agency.

Fully backed by the Labor Party opposition, the Liberal-National government’s legislation also dramatically widens the capacity of the government and the security services to impose control orders, a form of detention without trial.

On the pretext of combatting the alleged dangers posed by a relatively small number of Australians—reportedly about 200—supposedly fighting for, or supporting, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government is again introducing provisions that can, and will, be used against anyone perceived as a political threat to the ruling establishment.

Citing an Australian Federal Police submission that the involvement of Australians with ISIS “totally changed” the “security environment,” the government insists that it must have powers that go far beyond the barrage of “anti-terrorism” laws already introduced over the past decade.

All the false claims made by Washington and its allies to launch the fraudulent “war on terrorism,” exploiting the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, are being revived and magnified. Then, the US government and its partners declared that “everything has changed,” in order to both invade Afghanistan and Iraq, and erect police-state frameworks domestically.

Today, under the cover of fighting ISIS, a renewed war is underway to secure hegemony over the Middle East, and fundamental legal and democratic rights are being further dismantled at home.

The latest bill allows a single government minister, or in “emergency” situations an intelligence chief, to authorise ASIS to give the Australian Defence Force (ADF) intelligence on “one or more members of a class of Australian persons” and to assist the ADF in activities likely to “have a direct effect” on them. This is a euphemism for being targeted for military attack or assassination.

In effect, government ministers will be able to place Australians on “kill lists,” like those drawn up by US President Barack Obama for drone attacks. Without any criminal charges even being laid, let alone proven in court, designated people or “classes” of people can be executed. Due to overwhelming public opposition to it, the death penalty was abolished decades ago in Australia, but now it is being authorised by military means.

Nothing in the provision confines its operation to Iraq, ISIS or even terrorism. “Classes” of people can be specified on the basis that they “are, or are likely to be, involved in an activity or activities that are, or are likely to be, a threat to security.”

“Security” is defined by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) Act. That definition is sweeping. It includes “politically motivated violence,” which is also defined in far-reaching terms, such as “acts or threats of violence or unlawful harm that are intended or likely to achieve a political objective, whether in Australia or elsewhere.”

Those who can authorise lethal ASIS collaboration with the military include the prime minister, defence minister, foreign minister and attorney-general. In an undefined “emergency” this can be done orally, i.e., over the phone.

Such authorisations will also allow the ADF to supply information from ASIS, and two other intelligence agencies, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO), to Australia’s military partners, most obviously the United States.

As documented in detail by US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, the ASD, Australia’s electronic eavesdropping service, is already an integral part of the NSA’s global mass surveillance network. Moreover, the US-controlled “Joint Defence Facility” at Pine Gap in central Australia plays a key role in the illegal US drone assassination program in Central Asia and the Middle East, helping to locate the targets marked for extrajudicial execution by President Obama and his officials.

In the Senate, Attorney-General George Brandis dismissed as “preposterous” suggestions, made in written submissions by legal and civil liberties bodies, that the new bill permits the targeted killing of Australians. But he did not rule out the possibility. Brandis’s stance flies in the face of amedia briefing on November 5 by the ADF’s chief of joint operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston, who stated unequivocally that the military would attack anyone, including Australian citizens, in order to achieve “military objectives.”

The latest bill’s other main feature will expand the use of control orders, which were first introduced in 2005, following a terrorist “alert” issued by the Howard government. Control orders can range from full house arrest to wearing a tracking device, ceasing employment and being banned from using the Internet or a phone.

Control orders can be imposed without any criminal charge, simply on the “balance of probabilities” that the order would help prevent a terrorist act. Those grounds will now be extended to preventing “support” for a terrorist act or support for “hostile activity in a foreign country.” People accused of advocating opposition to Australian military interventions, for example, could be placed under house arrest.

This bill is the third tranche of the Abbott government’s “security” legislation. The first, the “ASIO powers bill,” permits the spy agencies to covertly take control of computer networks and imposes jail terms of up to 10 years on anyone who exposes their undercover operations

The second tranche, dubbed the “foreign fighters bill,” includes lengthy jail terms for supporting “subversive activity” in any country, or for even indirectly and recklessly “promoting” terrorism. Afourth tranche, the yet-to-be-passed “metadata retention bill,” provides for surveillance of the entire population, via the storage of all telecommunications and on-line information.

As with the Abbott government’s first two tranches, Labor gave complete support to the latest bill, after a few cosmetic modifications recommended by a bipartisan parliamentary committee. Again, too, the Greens criticised aspects of the legislation, while emphasising their underlying support for the spy and military apparatus and the fraudulent “war on terrorism.” Far from opposing the new powers, Greens Senator Penny Wright called for “greater parliamentary and public debate” about “having a government being able to kill its own citizens in foreign countries.”

From its inception in 2001, the “war on terrorism” has been a sham. It is a cover for wars and invasions by the US and its allies, seeking domination over the Middle East, and for the imposition of draconian powers domestically to deal with popular opposition to the program of militarism and austerity being driven by the corporate elite.

At Home and Abroad, UN Report Details Abysmal US Record of Abuse

Torture, indefinite detention, excessive force, and systematic discrimination and mistreatment have become part of the nation’s modern legacy

By Jon Queally

November 30, 2014 “ICH” – “Common Dreams” – –  An official report by the United Nations Committee Against Torture released Friday found that the United States has a long way to go if it wants to actually earn its claimed position as a leader in the world on human rights.

Following a lengthy review of recent and current practices regarding torture, imprisonment, policing, immigration policies, and the overall legacy of the Bush and Obama administration’s execution of the so-called ‘War on Terror,’ the committee report (pdf) found the U.S. government in gross violation when it comes to protecting basic principles of the Convention Against Torture, which the U.S. ratified in 1994, as well as other international treaties.

This was the first full review of the U.S. human rights record by the UN body since 2006 and the release of the report follows a two-day hearing in Geneva earlier this month in which representatives of the Obama administration offered testimony and answered questions to the review panel. The report’s findings do not reflect well on the U.S., a nation that continues to tout itself as a leader on such issues despite the enormous amount of criticism aimed at policies of torture and indefinite detention implemented in the years following September 11, 2001, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that followed, and the global military campaign taking place on several continents and numerous countries that continues to this day.

In addition to calling for full accountability for the worst torture practices that happened during the Bush administration, the panel also demanded the Obama administration end the continued harsh treatment of foreign detainees at its offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba. As Reuters notes, the panel’s report criticized what it called a continued U.S. failure to fully investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment of terrorism suspects held in U.S. custody abroad, “evidenced by the limited number of criminal prosecutions and convictions”.

According to the report:

The Committee expresses its grave concern over the extraordinary rendition, secret detention and interrogation programme operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) between 2001 and 2008, which involved numerous hum an rights violations, including torture, ill – treatment and enforced disappearance of persons suspected of involvement in terrorism – related crimes. While noting the content and scope of Presidential E.O. 13491, the Committee regrets the scant information pr ovided by the State party with regard to the now shuttered network of secret detention facilities, which formed part of the high – value detainee programme publicly referred to by President Bush on 6 September 2006. It also regrets the lack of information pr ovided on the practices of extraordinary rendition and enforced disappearance; and, on the extent of the CIA’s abusive interrogation techniques used on suspected terrorists, such as waterboarding.

As The Guardian reports:

Many of the harshest criticisms are reserved for the Bush administration’s excesses between 2001 and 2009. But the committee is critical of how the current US government has failed, in its view, to clean up the mess that was created in the wake of 9/11.

In particular, it wants to see the US acknowledge torture as a specific criminal offence at the federal level, thereby removing possible loopholes in the law. It also urges the US Senate select committee on intelligence to publish as quickly as possible its report into the CIA’s historic detention and interrogation programme that has been caught up in political wrangling for months.

“The Obama administration needs to match its rhetoric with actions by supporting full accountability for torture,” said Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s human rights program, in response to the report. “As a start, that means allowing the release of the Senate’s torture report summary without redactions that would defeat report’s primary purpose, which is to expose the full extent of government abuse. It also means ensuring a top-to-bottom criminal investigation of the torture that occurred.”

The report says that though the U.S. has tough anti-torture statutes on the books, it has not gone far enough in some areas to guarantee that no loopholes exist and has done far too little to allow redress for violations that have already occurred. In terms of recommendations, panel’s report “calls for the declassification of torture evidence, in particular Guantanamo detainees’ accounts of torture” and said the U.S. “should ensure that all victims of torture are able to access a remedy and obtain redress, wherever acts of torture occurred and regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator or the victim. “

In addition to criticizing other policies related to military engagement abroad, the committee slammed the U.S. for many of its domestic policies, including prolonged solitary confinement of those in prison; charges of “prolonged suffering” for those exposed to “botched” state executions; heavy-handed and discriminatory policing practices in the nation’s cities; the treatment of juveniles in the criminal justice system; and serious problems with its immigration enforcement policies.

As protests related to the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri continue this week, the UN panel specifically referred to the “frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals.”

Speaking with reporters, panel member Alessio Bruni said, “We recommend that all instances of police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officers are investigated promptly, effectively and impartially by an independent mechanism.”

“This report – along with the voices of Americans protesting around the country this week – is a wake-up call for police who think they can act with impunity,” said ACLU’s Dakwar. “It’s time for systemic policing reforms and effective oversight that make sure law enforcement agencies treat all citizens with equal respect and hold officers accountable when they cross the line.”

Waistband-Reaching Syndrome Could Get You Killed

The Bizarre Compulsion of Black Men to “Reach for their Waistbands”

By John Eskow

November 30, 2014 “ICH” – “Counterpunch” –  If police accounts are to be believed, there is a bizarre urge among young, unarmed black men to provoke their own murder by “reaching for their waistbands” when cops are aiming service revolvers at them.

Just this week we heard Officer Darren Wilson claim that one of the reasons he killed Michael Brown was that the young man “reached for his waistband,” and–in what I guess was just an incredibly weird coincidence–we heard Cleveland police claim they killed a 12-year-old kid with a toy gun because he also “reached for his waistband.”

But this odd compulsion is not a new one.  In 2011, fully half of all the young black men shot by LA cops were cut down because–again, if police accounts are to be believed–they too were “reaching for their waistbands.”  The epidemic also spread to Houston, where multiple police accounts cite the same excuse.  Oscar Grant, the young man killed by Oakland cops on a subway platform–and the subject of the movie “Fruitvale Station”–was shot for the exact same reason.

If police accounts are to be believed, this compulsion only exists among young black men.  I have been approached by angry or frustrated cops several times in my life–twice as an angry young protestor, eager to defy them– and have never felt even the slightest urge to reach for my waistband.  Maybe white skin contains a protein that protects against this terrible compulsion?

And exactly what is it that these dead young men were hoping to find in those waistbands? Given the Cosby-condemned fashion of wearing saggy jeans, these kids have to reach pretty far down to reach their waistbands==a posture which would leave them completely defenseless against an armed cop.  What a powerful compulsion this must be!

I’ve spent a good amount of time on police ridearounds in New Orleans. If you want to see young black men, New Orleans at 3 AM is a good place to do so.  I remember one night as my cop hosts were rolling up slowly on  a kid they suspected of a robbery: no shirt, Saints cap, saggy jeans exposing his boxer shorts.  The kid sauntered on with an exaggerated cool: he  knew the cops were watching him, and the cops knew that he knew.  One of the cops poked my elbow, chuckled, and said: “Watch this.  That kid’s gonna break.”  “When?” I asked.  “The second he reaches down to hitch up his drawers.”  As I watched, another cop counted down: “Three seconds to drawa–hitchin’.  Two…one…”

At just that second, the kid reached down, hitched up his drawas, and “broke”–took off sprinting down an alley.  They pursued him for a while, then lost interest.  It was the only time I ever saw any gesture that was even vaguely waistband-related, and ithe kid only did it so that he could run without being tripped by his  low-slung Levis.

Two weeks later, one of the cops in that squad car–a funny guy, a seemingly decent guy, you would’ve liked him–was briefly suspended, pending the investigation of an “incident” in which he shot and killed a young black man in the black man’s own back yard.

The kid had reached for his waistband, if police accounts are to be believed.

My old squad-car host was cleared in a few days and returned to duty.

This has gone on far too long.  I am going to take my own mixed-race son to a neurologist today, if not sooner, to have him checked for traces of this horrible Waistband-Reaching Syndrome.  I’m concerned that, one day, it could get him killed…

…if police accounts are to be believed.

John Eskow is a writer and musician. He wrote or co-wrote the movies Air America, The Mask of Zorro, and Pink Cadillac, as well as the novel Smokestack Lightning. He is a contributor to Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence.. He can be reached at:

The US/UK Campaign to Demonize Social Media Companies as Terrorist Allies

By Glenn Greenwald

November 30, 2014 “ICH” – “The Intercept” – In May, 2013, a British Army soldier, Lee Rigby, was killed on a suburban London street by two Muslim British citizens, who said they were acting to avenge years of killings of innocent Muslims by the British military in, among other places, Afghanistan and Iraq. One of the attackers, Michael Adebolajo, had also been detained and tortured in 2010 in Kenya with the likely complicity of Her Majesty’s Government. The brutal attack on Rigby was instantly branded “terrorism” (despite its targeting of a soldier of a nation at war) and caused intense and virtually universal indignation in the UK.

In response, the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee resolved to investigate why the attack happened and whether it could have been prevented. Ensuring that nothing undesirable would occur, the investigation was led by the Committee’s chair, the long-time conservative government functionary Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Yesterday, Sir Malcolm’s Committee issued its findings in a 191-page report. It contains some highly predictable conclusions, but also some quite remarkable ones.

Predictably, the report, while offering some criticisms, completely cleared the British intelligence agencies of any responsibility for the attack. It concluded: “we do not consider that any of the Agencies’ errors, when taken individually, were significant enough to have affected the outcome,” and “we do not consider that, given what the Agencies knew at the time, they were in the position to prevent the murder.”

But while British intelligence agencies bear no blame, the Committee identified the real culprit, which it claimed could have – but culpably failed – to stop the attack: an unnamed U.S. social media company (now reported to be Facebook). The Committee noted that one of Rigby’s killers, Michael Adebowale, had an online conversation (presumably on Facebook) with an “individual overseas” in December, 2012, in which Adebowale said “that he intended to murder a soldier.”

Sir Malcolm’s Committee claimed that the British intelligence agencies such as GCHQ and MI5 – despite being among the most aggressive and unrestrained electronic surveillance forces on the planet – had no possible way to have accessed that exchange. But, the Committee said, the social media company not only had the ability – but also the duty – to monitor the communications of all its users and report anything suspicious to the UK Government. Its failure to do so in this case, claimed the report, was the proximate cause of why the attack was not stopped (had the British agencies had access to this exchange, “there is a significant possibility that MI5 would then have been able to prevent the attack”).

All of this, argued the report, underscores how social media companies have become terrorist-helpers due to their refusal to monitor and report their users’ communications to the British Government. Here is this warped blame-shifting in the Committee’s own words:

The report then goes on to lecture social media companies that they must conduct themselves differently in the future:

The companies should accept that they have a responsibility to notify the relevant authorities when an automatic trigger indicating terrorism is activated and allow the authorities, whether the US or UK, to take the next step.

And Sir Macolm’s Committee all but scoffs at the notion that having these companies monitor and report their users’ conversations might actually violate privacy and turn these companies into skulking spy agencies for the state. Sir Macolm’s Committee notes that “several of the companies attributed the lack of monitoring to the need to protect their users’ privacy,” but, it proclaimed, “that argument should not be allowed to prevail” when it comes to “terrorist atrocities.”

Also predictably, the report does far more than merely complain about this. Instead, it does what the U.S. and UK Governments have been doing for almost 15 years now: brazenly exploits the fears and emotions surrounding this attack to demand still more spying powers for itself. In particular, it demands changes to the legal obligations of U.S. social media companies “either through legislation” in the U.S. or “by a treaty with the UK which places an obligation on US companies to provide this information” – i.e., whatever is requested by the UK Government.

The irony of Her Majesty’s Government blaming others for its own intelligence failures is stark indeed. This is a government that indiscriminately collects so much of the world’s private communications that they literally don’t know what to do with it. Among the documentspublished in my book was a GCHQ slide boasting that it “has massive access to international internet communications” and “we receive upwards of 50 billion events per day (and growing)”.

In fact, Sir Macolm’s report itself makes clear that the intelligence agencies of Her Majesty’s Government already collect such massive quantities of private communications that they have no ability even to understand what they’ve collected: in other words, they can’t detect terror plotting because they’re overloaded with the communications of millions of innocent people around the world, or are too busy trying to figure out the identities of visitors to the WikiLeaks website or ensnare hactivists in “honey traps” and thus unable to monitor actual terrorists. From the report (redactions in original):

In fact, the UK Government had in its possession information that would have triggered suspicions about one of the attackers, but the report itself notes that “GCHQ’s failure to report an item of intelligence which revealed contact between an unknown individual (later identified as Adebowale) and the AQAP extremist CHARLIE was significant.” This is a government that collects so much of people’s private communications that they have no idea what they are collecting.

But it’s never enough. A single attack on a single soldier is instantly and brazenly exploited to demand even more spying powers, to insist on new laws and treaties giving them even more access to more private communications. Nobody – including al Qaeda or ISIS – so effectively terrorizes U.S. and British citizens as much as their own governments do.

The Guardian‘s coverage of Sir Malcolm’s report is superb. Beyond the comprehensive reporting, they have an article detailing the (justifiable) indignation of tech companies over the blame-shifting report, the comments of a former British terrorism official on the stupidity of imposing such obligations on social media companies, an editorial and an op-ed arguing that British intelligence agencies have primary responsibility to stop such attacks yet failed to connect the ample “dots” they had, and, best of all, a piece from the paper’s home affairs editor Alan Travis denouncing the report’s conclusions “as outrageous as it is wrong-headed” as “a case of shooting the messenger.”

But there’s something else significant going on here that I want to highlight. All of this is part of a clear and definitely coordinated campaign by the U.S. and UK Governments to demonize social media companies as terrorist-helpers in order to force them to act as (even more) obedient snooping agents for the National Security State.

It is well-established that, prior to the Snowden reporting, Silicon Valley companies were secret, eager and vital participants in the growing Surveillance State. Once their role was revealed, and they perceived those disclosures threatening to their future profit-making, they instantly adopted a PR tactic of presenting themselves as Guardians of Privacy. Much of that is simply self-serving re-branding, but some of it, as I described last week, are genuine improvements in the technological means of protecting user privacy, such as the encryption products now being offered by Apple and Google, motivated by the belief that, post-Snowden, parading around as privacy protectors is necessary to stay competitive.

The U.S. and UK surveillance agencies are genuinely petrified of encryption, because, although not perfect, it presents a serious impediment to their ability to spy on the internet. But these governments have a problem: they function in what is effectively an oligarchy, which means that tech giants like Google – which fund and thus control political officials – are far too rich and powerful to be meaningfully controlled. Even in the 1990s, the tech sector was able to prevent the Clinton administration – exploiting the Oklahoma City bombing – from enacting legislation to require backdoors into all encryption. These companies are vastly more powerful now, and there is almost no prospect that meaningful legislation could be enacted to limit their product choices.

Instead, the U.S. and UK Governments are trying to pressure these companies to do what they had been doing – limitlessly cooperating with the Surveillance State – through a PR pressure campaign. Right now, in a post-Snowden world, the PR incentive framework for these companies pushes them to demonstrate a commitment to privacy. As Sir Malcom’s report noted:

Encryption is also becoming a market differentiator, particularly after the NSA leaks, as individuals have become more concerned about the privacy of their communications. MI5: “one of the effects of the Snowden disclosures has been to accelerate the use of default encryption by the internet companies.”

That is the incentive formula the National Security State is desperate to change. And the strategy for doing so is to depict these companies as Friends of the Terrorists, endangering public safety, every time they refuse dictates to help spy.

FBI Director James Comey in September said at a Press Conference about ISIS: “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law,” while the New York Times printed this: “‘Terrorists will figure this out,’ along with savvy criminals and paranoid dictators, one senior official predicted.” True to form, British security officials were even more unhinged, as the newly appointed GCHQ chief accused social media companies of becoming the “command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals.”

Just yesterday, Lord West, “a former admiral who served as UK security minister until 2010″said that Snowden revelations have killed people due to increased encryption use: “Since the revelations of the traitor Snowden, terrorist groups, in particular Isil (Islamic State), have changed their methods of communications and shifted to other ways of talking to each other. Consequently there are people dying who actually would now be alive.” Meanwhile, former NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly called the Snowden disclosures “the worst leak” because “we see major corporations having difficulty doing business outside the US and, as a result, putting impenetrable encryption in their products which ultimately hurts the whole law enforcement effort.”

The plan, quite obviously, is to make it untenable for these companies ever to offer privacy protections or market encryption products by demonizing them as Allies of the Terrorists when they do. Just behold the blatant fear-mongering near the end of Sir Malcolm’s report:

The irony here is obvious, as even post-Snowden, these tech companies – despite their newly minted PR campaign – continue to play a vital, cooperative role in the Surveillance State. Sir Malcolm’s report itself recognizes that “the companies we contacted all confirmed that, if UK authorities requested information in an emergency situation, they would provide that information.” And Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and the like continue to be in bed with the U.S. and UK National Security State in all sorts of untoward ways. It’s stunning that anyone could maintain a straight face while depicting Facebook, of all companies, as some sort of excessive privacy guardian. As the Guardian‘s Travis noted, “Facebook even has a team in Dublin handling standard British requests and another dedicated team in California dealing with emergencies.”

Still, even the smallest gestures of defiance, symbolic protection of user privacy, and minimal responsiveness to user demand, cannot be tolerated by “Collect it All” snooping agencies. And thus every “terror” attack, no matter how limited in scope, is instantly seized upon to manipulate public emotions into acquiescing to more surveillance powers, while the message is simultaneously sent that anyone who resists the Surveillance State is a friend and ally of terrorists, pedophiles, and all other sorts of menacing criminals. That is the campaign which Sir Malcolm’s odious little report was clearly designed to advance.

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Correction: This article originally and erroneously referred to the knighted Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee as “Sir Rifkind” rather than his proper medieval title: “Sir Malcolm.” The Intercept sincerely apologizes for this gauche breach of aristocratic protocol.

The High Cost of Empire Maintenance

Every year, congressional delegations and government officials rack up millions of dollars worth of publicly funded distractions abroad.

By Philip Giraldi

November 30, 2014 “ICH” – “American Conservative” – Running an empire is not cheap.

The revelation that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has run up $4.7 million in travel expenses, over 930,000 miles, and a total of 373 days on the road in his five years in office should not surprise anyone, until one realizes that the numbers conceal as much as they reveal. As the Secretary travels by military aircraft and naval vessels, the cost of getting from point A to point B is not included, nor are a lot of the related staffing expenses as they are taken care of by Defense Department personnel who would be getting paid anyway.

Even with those sunk costs, however, managing visitors nevertheless compromises the ability of the local mission or command to carry out its normal duties. In my experience, the visit of a senior bureaucrat, a congressional delegation, or a high-ranking military officer overseas is both a money pit and a time-waster as it invariably requires weeks of preparation prior to the arrival of the potentate.

Congressmen are notorious for their worldwide travel as part of “Congressional Delegations” (CODELs), which are intended to be both “fact-finding” and “educational.” Most CODEL visits not surprisingly occur in the summer when Congress is in recess, and sometimes lack seriousness or even any recognizable agenda. Sixteen congressmen traveled to Rome in March to attend the installation of Pope Francis at a cost of $63,000, a relatively small expense by government standards, but nevertheless a gesture that should have been paid for either through a private foundation or by the congressmen themselves.

America’s legislators are also prone to travel with their families and staffs in tow, particularly when the destination is desirable. Phony agendas are frequently contrived with the cooperation of the local U.S. Embassies to permit the government to plausibly pay for the supernumeraries. This includes spouses attending the opening of a school or visiting a hospital. Generally speaking, a meeting with local officials during a CODEL is sufficient to justify the trip. That is the “fact finding” part and the rest is “educational.” CODELs traditionally traveled VIP on military aircraft to many destinations, but new post-sequester regulations now require them to travel on commercial carriers. By claiming that they have to work immediately upon arrival in a foreign destination they are able to upgrade to Business Class.

Congressmen and staffers frequently also benefit from trips arranged by lobbyists, interest groups, or even foreign governments. Sen. John McCain’s frequent maladroit appearances in international hot spots are often privately funded. In a notorious case recounted in theWashington Post, “About a dozen congressional staffers flew business class on a trip to China last summer [2012] and stayed at luxury hotels while touring the Great Wall and the Forbidden City and receiving a ‘briefing on ancient artifacts and dynasties’ at the Shanghai Museum. The all-expenses-paid visit came courtesy of China.”

And some other senior officials are even less inclined to stay at home. Hillary Clinton loggedalmost one million miles while visiting 111 countries during her tenure as secretary of state, and John Kerry will likely easily surpass that record having visited 51 countries and totaled over 520,000 air miles in his first year alone.

Secretaries of state travel on a specially equipped Boeing 757 and have many of the security and communications add-ons that accompany the president, including advanced Secret Service teams and supporting aircraft to carry journalists and staff. But at least Clinton and Kerry had a good excuse for their peripatetic ways: dealing with foreigners is in their job description. As for the actual costs of all the travel, those remain a state secret and would probably be misleading even if an attempt were made to break them down. As the aircraft, crew, security details, and communications staff are supplied by the government and are paid for whether they are being used or not, it is difficult to separate out discretionary costs. Hotels, meals, and entertainment expenses have not been made public for such official travel and are not accessible through the Freedom of Information Act.

Perhaps not surprisingly the greatest abuse of the taxpayer-funded travel privilege comes from the White House, which routinely under both Republicans and Democrats mixes “official” trips with fundraisers and other activities that are strictly partisan politics in a deliberate attempt to have a nod to government business pay for the politicking. President Barack Obama is indeed the “most well-traveled”  president in U.S. history and also the most expensive.

The Democratic National Committee is supposed to reimburse the government for any costs that relate to electioneering or fundraising, but Obama, like his predecessors and contrary to his pledges of “transparency in government,” has refused to reveal just how much that amounts to. It is to be presumed that infrastructure costs including $228,000 per hour for Air Force One alone are considered to be a fixed expense, as is security and ground transportation, which all suggests that the actual reimbursement might well be more notional than real, meaning that it would be embarrassing to actually reveal how little it is.

Watchdog group estimates of Obama travel, including more than $7 million spent on vacations to Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard and an appearance on the Jay Leno show in 2013, run to over $44 million. A 13-hour cameo appearance at the Nelson Mandela funeral cost $11 million and included a bill for 127 hotel rooms.

Estimates for presidential travel costs should be considered to be minimalist as many actual expenses are picked up in other ways, including the White House operating budget, or are not included. And First Lady Michelle is also on the government dime when she travels separately. A recent “non-political” trip to China had her staying at the Westin Hotel at $8,400 per night, a suite that had been considered unacceptable for an earlier visit by Vice President Joe Biden because it was too expensive.

What arguments are made for all the traveling and the expense that is involved, a phenomenon that is unique to the U.S. government? The president represents the country in international fora and while one might disagree with the rationalizations for some of the travel, few would dispute that it is generally speaking a necessary evil. What is not necessary is the imperial entourage that accompanies the president, reported to be for some trips a second 747 for the media and other guests, three cargo planes, a total of 900 fellow travelers and staff, and a supply of armored vehicles.

For travelers from the intelligence and defense establishments there is an understanding that being briefed in Washington is not the same as visiting a field operation and seeing how things function first hand. The only problem with that argument is that the visits of senior officials and military officers are carefully orchestrated and prepared, meaning that the insights gained are carefully managed and pretty much identical to those that would be obtained from a briefer back at home without being able to look out the window and see sand dunes.

It is also sometimes argued that a visit to the field allows senior management to mix with lower ranks to obtain their views and insights, but in my 20 years of experience in government I never witnessed a situation in which congressmen or flag officers were allowed to mingle with the lower rank and file unsupervised. Secretary Mabus indeed describes a chance encounter with a junior officer in Hawaii during which she vented about her career prospects because she could not serve on a submarine. Mabus changed the rules to permit her to serve underwater, but citing the conversation as justifying his travel to Honolulu is in reality a thin justification for a lot of unnecessary expense.

A more persuasive argument is that in the context of American empire it is desirable to visit the client states to convince the local allies that they are truly respected and loved by the Mandarins in Washington. That argument has some cogency as I can recall visits to overseas posts by Congressional Delegations and senior bureaucrats that largely consisted of series of briefings and social gatherings intended not necessarily to educate or inform but rather to reinforce the bond between the two nations. It is of course difficult to calculate how much such contact is worth and impossible to say whether it is justified at a time of government-wide fiscal restraint.

What is certain is that no foreign legislature enables its elected officials to travel as intensively as the U.S. Congress. And no head of state costs as much as President Obama.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

Nuclear Chicken in the Middle East

By Eric Margolis

November 30, 2014 “ICH” – To no surprise, nuclear talks between Iran and major world powers have become stalemated.

Iran will not sink “to its knees” to win a nuclear deal with the great powers, said its leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after the failure of six months of talks in Vienna.

However, the talks will continue until at least next March. Pity the poor negotiators: besides being excruciatingly boring, dealing with the tough, savvy Iranians is like pulling teeth. The only nationality I ever saw get the better of Iranians in negotiations were Armenians.

The United States has been waging economic and political warfare on the Islamic Republic since 1979. Only Cuba has been pounded longer. Both have suffered hugely.

Of late, Iranian nuclear scientists and technicians have been murdered in broad daylight. Nuclear installations have been sabotaged. The Stuxnet virus allegedly unleashed by the US and Israel against Iran’s centrifuges risked a catastrophic explosion or the release of nuclear contamination. In neighboring, Iraq, some 300 of its former nuclear technicians and scientists have been mysteriously murdered during the US occupation.

Iran’s economy has been very seriously damaged by the US-led boycott and commercial restrictions. Iranians are suffering mounting inflation, shortages of goods, and a collapsing currency. Iranians are fed up being the target of western sanctions.

In a major concession, last summer Iran converted or diluted 200kg of uranium enriched to 20%, rendering its unusable for any potential further enrichment into nuclear weapons fuel.

The UN Atomic Energy Agency certified this procedure. The balance of Iran’s uranium stockpile is at 5% – adequate for energy production but not for weapons. Half its 20,000 centrifuges used to enrich uranium are shut down. UN inspectors or cameras closely watch Iranian nuclear installations – not to mention American and Israeli satellites.

So why does Iran stick to its guns – at least so far – and refuse make a deal limiting or ending its production of nuclear fuel? Why endure all the political and economic punishment and the never very distant threat of attack by the US and/or Israel?

First, because nuclear energy has become a potent nationalist symbol for Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini has repeatedly asserted that what he calls the “western colonial powers” (read the US, Britain, France) have long sought to deny modern technology to the Muslim world in order to keep it backward and dependent on them. This is, of course, just what Imperial Britain did with India.

Iranians point to the dire example of Iraq – the most industrialized and technologically advanced Arab nation – that was destroyed, they say, for this very reason.

A self-sufficient nuclear power industry will help assure Iran’s economic and political independence and a time when oil reserves in this nation of 70 million are falling. Nuclear power is a UN-granted right so long as it stays peaceful. Iran’s nuclear industry has been vigorously inspected for over a decade by the UN, with no major violations discovered.

Ayatollah Khomeini has issued a fatwah (religious decree) banning nuclear weapons, vowing that Iran would never possess or use them. US intelligence has repeatedly stated that Iran has no nuclear weapons.

Ironically, its is the existing declared nuclear powers – the US, Russia, China, France, Britain – who are in violation of the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty. The pact denied nuclear weapons to other nations provided that the signatories rapidly eliminate their nuclear arsenals. Four decades later, none have complied with the treaty, while Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea have all secretly built nuclear arsenals.

But this does not matter to Iran’s many enemies. They continue to raise a hue and cry. Way back in 2006, Israel was claiming Iran would have a nuclear weapon “in six months.” We have heard similar claims ever since.

Since no nuclear weapons have been identified in Iran, its enemies now insist Tehran is taking peaceful nuclear energy to the “breakout” point, from which a dash to nuclear weapons in 3-6 months will be possible. What they don’t discuss is that besides Iran not having any nuclear weapons, it will have a very difficult task miniaturizing and hardening one to fit it into a missile warhead. Tehran lacks reliable, accurate medium-range missiles to deliver a nuclear strike. Its Shahab-3 is a glorified Soviet/North Korean Scud that is wildly inaccurate, mechanically unreliable, and slow to fuel.

Even so, Israel and its US Congressional allies now insist the danger is a mad mullah in Tehran deciding to commit nuclear hara-kiri to destroy Israel. The “mad mullah” was a favorite bogeyman of the Victorian British Empire. Iran’s leadership is neither mad, stupid nor suicidal.

Far more important, who would Iran attack if it had nuclear weapons? The USA or Israel? Iran has no long-range missiles. Iran would be vaporized minutes after launching a nuclear strike. Israel’s extensive nuclear arsenal – missiles, strike aircraft, submarine launched missiles – would survive any surprise first strike. Iran would be quickly destroyed by Israel’s counter-strike.

The real reason for simmering hostility between Israel and Iran is Palestine. Now that most of the feeble Arab states have been removed from the former anti-Israel coalition, the only remaining stalwart defender of Palestinian rights – and opponent of Israel’s total absorption of the West Bank and Golan – is Iran.

For Israel’s security, the best option is to make peace with Iran – which used to be a close Iranian ally. But Israel’s current hard right leaders are determined to cement Israel’s rule over the West Bank even if it means risking war with Iran.

Israel cleverly concealed its nuclear weapons program from American inspectors, according to defector Mordechai Vanunu. Israel no doubt fears that Iran is doing exactly the same. My long-standing proposal has been for Israel and Iran to mutually inspect one-another’s nuclear facilities along with UN staff.

But time for a reasonable solution to Iran’s nuclear challenge is running out. Once the Republicans take over the US Senate is January, 2015, Israel’s influence over Congress will become decisive and irresistible. Iran knows this and is feeling the pressure mounting.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2014

If Drone Strikes Are Acceptable, So Are Suicide Bombings

By Tim Holmes

November 30, 2014 “ICH” – “Medium” –  “Clinical”, “surgical”, “targeted”, “precision”. As US massacres-by-drone continue across the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia, their ugly accomplice is the bastardisation of language. Human rights group Reprieve have justcalculated the number of innocent victims each drone strike claims, posing the question: by what standards are 1,150 civilians — almost half a World Trade Centre — an acceptable price for 41 “terrorist suspects”? How is this “surgical precision”?

That’s assuming the targets are who we are told. In almost every case, we are forced to take the US government at its word.

The media play along. Yet if Russia or Iran bombed Western “terrorists” day in, day out, would journalists take their word for it? Would we allow such attacks to continue all but unnoticed?

Instead, the US presents itself as a surgeon at the operating table — as do the press. A choice metaphor transforms brutal violence into humanitarian aid: if cutting someone open is gruesome, “surgery” sounds friendly — a temporary, restorative, proportionate act for the patient’s good.

The contrast with Western discourse on “terrorism” — that is, Muslim retaliation against the West — could hardly be more blatant. “They” are barbarians; their killings wilful, bloodthirsty, indiscriminate.

In 2001, the Guardian contrasted

“the west’s commitment to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties and the terrorists’ proven wish to cause as many civilian casualties as possible … Let them do their worst, we shall do our best, as Churchill put it. That is still a key difference.”

In fact, US policy resembles Israel’s war crimes under brutal megalomaniac Ariel Sharon — who, in one infamous incident, dropped a one-tonne bomb on a densely-populated civilian area in Gaza, claiming to target one man.

As Israel-Palestine scholar Norman Finkelstein points out, if Hamas bombed a bus, claiming “we meant only to target the bus, not the passengers”, people would laugh. Yet from Israel and Western governments, we take the same absurdities deadly seriously.

In 2001, Bush’s lawless kidnapping and torture at Guantanamo Bay horrified and disturbed the world.

Now, imprisonment without trial continues — and alongside it, execution without trial. Where Bush began by kidnapping, Obama assassinates.

Drone strikes have butchered 28 innocent people for every “suspect” targeted. Is that morally acceptable?

If so, why not an attack that kills 4 jihadists and 52 civilians? Applying the moral logic of drone strikes, we would have to declare it a great success.

Yet this is a description of the 7 July 2005 bombings in London.

We commit grave acts of terror on a single pretext: that our targets might commit grave acts of terror.

How do our governments get away with it? Why do drone strikes prompt so little response?

The first answer is that they are invisible. They take place in distant, unfamiliar countries, and we see almost no footage.

The second is propaganda. The Pentagon labels victims “enemy combatants” — when mentioning them at all. Rather than challenge the label, the media echoes it.

The third is racism. To imagine that our governments would use drone strikes in America or Britain is laughable. We would have no difficulty recognising them as acts of terror; their perpetrators would be tried and punished.

Yet so little value do we assign lives in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan that deliberate mass executions barely raise an eyebrow.

Even this, though, casts Obama’s policy in too kind a light.

In some cases there is no evidence that our targets are “terrorist suspects” at all.

Second, the US undertakes “signature strikes”: NSA spies tease out “suspicious patterns of behaviour” in their data; anyone flagged up is executed. (Reprieve’s latest figures omit these cases.)

Third, the Pentagon conducts “double-tap” strikes, hitting the same area twice in quick succession, bombing anyone trying to help the victims of the first attack.

Fourth, as the New York Times discovered, the White House “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants … unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent”. “Shoot first, ask questions later”; “guilty until proven innocent”: these used to be scathing, satirical phrases. Under Obama, they are policy.

Just as they would here, drone strikes in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia make people angry and want to hit back. So to commit mass murder, the Western public pays twice — both today, in public funds, and tomorrow, in the inevitable violent backlash against us.

IS want Western Countries to Invade What’s The Purpose of “Global” Terrorism?

By Gwynne Dyer

November 30, 2014 “ICH” –  “We will not be cowed by these sick terrorists,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron after ISIS produced a grisly video of the mass beheading of Syrian captives by foreign jihadis who allegedly included British fighters. “We will not be intimidated,” said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper after the recent attacks in Montreal and Ottawa.

As if the purpose of terrorist attacks in Western countries was to cow and intimidate them.

You hear this sort of rhetoric from Western leaders all the time, but Harper went further, and demonstrated exactly how they get it wrong. “(This) will lead us to…redouble our efforts to work with our allies around the world and fight against the terrorist organizations who brutalize those in other countries with the hope of bringing their savagery to our shores. They will have no safe haven.” Sound familiar?

Sure enough, there are now half a dozen Canadian planes bombing ISIS jihadis in Iraq (although it’s unlikely that either of the Canadian attackers, both converts to radical Islam, had any contact with foreign terrorist organizations). But Harper has got the logic completely backwards.

The purpose of major terrorist activities directed at the West, from the 9/11 attacks to ISIS videos, is not to “cow” or “intimidate” Western countries. It is to get those countries to bomb Muslim countries or, better yet, invade them.

The terrorists want to come to power in Muslim countries, not in Canada or Britain or the U.S. And the best way to establish your revolutionary credentials and recruit local supporters is to get the West to attack you.

That’s what Osama bin Laden wanted in 2001. (He hoped for an American invasion of Afghanistan, but he got an unexpected bonus in the US invasion of Iraq.) The ISIS videos of Western hostages being beheaded are intended to get Western countries involved in the fight against them, because that’s how you build local support. So far, the strategy is working just fine.

The “Global Terrorism Index”, published annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace, reported last week that fatalities due to terrorism have risen fivefold in the 13 years since the 9/11 attacks, despite the U.S.-led “war on terror” that has spent $4.4 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and anti-terrorist operations elsewhere. But it’s not really “despite” those wars. It’s largely because of them.

The invasions, the drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Africa, the whole lumbering apparatus of the “global war on terrorism” have not killed the terrorist beast. They have fed it, and the beast has grown very large. 3,361 people were killed by terrorism in 2000; 17,958 were killed by it last year.

At least 80 percent of these people were Muslims, and the vast majority of those who killed them were also Muslims: the terrorists of Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and al-Qaeda and its offspring in other parts of the world (like al-Shebab in north-east Africa).

That is not to say that terrorism is a particularly Muslim technique. Its historical roots lie in European struggles against oppressive regimes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it gained huge currency in liberation struggles against the European colonial empires after the Second World War. Even the Stern Gang in Israel and the Irish Republican Army can be seen as part of this wave.

Later waves of fashion in terrorism included the European, Latin American, and Japanese “urban terrorist” movements of the 1970s and 80s—Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany, Red Brigades in Italy, Montoneros in Argentina, Japanese Red Army, and so on—none of which has any political success at all. Specifically “Islamic” terrorism really begins only in the 1990s, with the rise of radical, anachronistic forms of Sunni Islam.

Only about five percent of the victims of this latest wave of terrorism lived in developed countries, but it was their deaths, and their governments’ ignorant responses to them, that provided the fuel for the spectacular growth of jihadi extremism. So what can be done about it?

The Global Terrorism Index has some useful observations to offer about that, too. It points out that a great many terrorist organisations have actually gone out of business in the past 45 years. Only 10 percent of them actually won, took power, and disbanded their terrorist wings. And only seven percent were eliminated by the direct application of military force.

Eighty percent of them were ended by a combination of better policing and the creation of a political process that addressed the grievances of those who supported the terrorism. You don’t fix the problem by fighting poverty or raising educational levels; that kind of thing has almost nothing to do with the rise of terrorism. You have to deal with the particular grievances that obsess specific ethnic, religious or political groups.

And above all, keep foreigners out of the process. Their interventions
always make matters worse. Which is why the terrorists love them so much.

Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

Canada’s Bizarre Foreign/ Domestic Policies Entanglement. Votes against “Combatting Glorification of Nazism” Resolution at United Nations

Global Research, November 29, 2014
Palestine Chronicle

Canada-300Canada’s parliament is currently embroiled in a rather weird partisan sex scandal that makes all parties look like moral disasters (listen to Harper quote “Canadian values” now).  While that has attracted all the attention of the media, a small news item emerged from RT News that managed to attract some small attention from the Canadian Press.  

In a short item noted by the National Post, Canada’s representative at the Third Committee (1) of the UN General Assembly voted “No” for a policy statement with the voting title “Combatting glorification of Nazism, neo-nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

According to the Post, “Canada objected because the resolution has a “narrow focus” and it draws on the controversial declarations of the 2009 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which Canada regards as anti-Semitic.”  Well, no not really, as the focus of the statement is rather broad, and the declarations of the 2009 Durban Conference are not anti-Semitic and cover much territory.

The Post article continues with the Canadian spokesperson saying the resolution  “regrettably includes references which are counterproductive to this goal, including by seeking to limit freedom of expression, assembly and opinion.”  If the reader cares to read the resolution, it most certainly does not “limit freedom of expression, assembly and opinion.”  Or is Canada becoming proud of its new fascistic warrior outlook in foreign policy?

The main irony from this article was the vote count.  115 states voted for the resolution, 3 opposed it, and 55 abstained.  Given Canada’s unqualified support of Israeli actions against Palestinians, the full irony is that Israel voted “yes” while Canada voted “no” along with the Ukraine and the U.S. (2)   It raises the question as to what is really going on with Canadian foreign/domestic policy – or are the Harper Conservatives just being their typical neoconservative knee-jerk uncritical unanalytical selves?   It is difficult to tell.

The current resolution refers to many previous UN resolutions and documents, the Nuremberg trials, and states in part:

Alarmed,  in  this  regard,  at  the  spread  in  many  parts  of  the  world  of  various extremist  political  parties,  movements  and  groups,  including  neo-Nazis  and skinhead groups, as well as similar extremist ideological movements….

Reaffirms  the relevant provisions of the Durban  Declaration and  of the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference, in which States condemned.  the  persistence  and resurgence of neo-Nazism, neo-Fascism  and violent  nationalist ideologies based on racial  and national  prejudice and  stated that  those phenomena could never be justified in any instance or in any circumstances;

Expresses deep concern about the glorification, in any form, of the Nazi movement,  neo-Nazism  and  former  members  of  the  Waffen  SS  organization, including by erecting monuments and memorials and holding public demonstrations in  the  name  of  the  glorification  of  the  Nazi  past,  the  Nazi  movement  and neo-Nazism,  as  well  as  by  declaring  or  attempting  to  declare  such  members  and those  who  fought  against  the  anti-Hitler  coalition  and  collaborated  with  the  Nazi movement participants in national liberation movements;

So Canada is voting “no” to protect its neo-Nazi self?  Or to protect the neo-Nazis in the Ukraine?  To pretend it thinks independently of Israel?  To indicate it is still a willing follower of the U.S.?  All of the above?

Because this vote refers to the Durban conference frequently, it might be best to look there.

Indigenous rights are mentioned frequently throughout the Durban statement.  This presents a triple entendre for Canada.  Its own record on indigenous rights is terrible.  Its support of Israel denies the indigenous rights of the Palestinians.  Its anti-Russian rhetoric denies the indigenous rights of the former Russian states of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Another interesting aspect of the Durban document are its statements about globalization.   The negative effects could include “poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization, social exclusion, cultural homogenization and economic disparities which may occur along racial lines.”   Canada’s recent acquisition to ‘free’ trade agreements with China and the EU are anything but free, except for the corporations to rule within their own set of ‘laws’ while ignoring domestic laws – including the indigenous rights of Canada’s First Nations.  I find it interesting how all these become entangled with one another.

As for Israel, the Durban document states, “We recall that the Holocaust must never be forgotten….” as well as a single statement on Palestine under the “Indigenous people” section:

We are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation. We recognize the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent State and we recognize the right to security for all States in the region, including Israel, and call upon all States to support the peace process and bring it to an early conclusion;

The document also includes statements about race, religion, women’s and children’s rights, xenophobia, discrimination, education and other elements of a just and fair society, hardly a “narrow focus.”

So what is Canada up to?  Probably no good.   Not denying fascism – in contradiction of its usual unqualified support of Israel;  protesting against the recognition of the negative effects of globalization, in particular because of the “indigenous” components and its ramifications domestically and for Israel;  attempting another poke in the eye for Putin (Russia voted “yes” for the document) while trying to be the tough guy on the block for the Ukrainian neo-Nazis.

Canada is trying to juggle multiple conflicting and entangled ideas.  This document never made it to mainstream media  – the Post only referenced it because RT News had picked it up and as the neo-cons main media support, was angling for anti-Putin comments on the blog.  That would indicate the willingness of Canada’s mainstream media to avoid critical thinking and analysis of Canada’s entangled and bizarre foreign/domestic policies on multiple issues. As usual for the ‘new’ Canada, command and control affects the news.

Now as I was saying about sex between MPs….


(1) The General Assembly allocates to the Third Committee, agenda items relating to a range of social, humanitarian affairs and human rights issues that affect people all over the world.

(2) The 55 abstentions were mostly EU/NATO countries, an interesting avoidance of concerns about their own rising right wing movements and their relationships with Russia vis a vis the Ukraine.

“Islamic State” (ISIS) Supply Lines, Influx of Fighters and Weapons Protected by Turkey in Liaison with NATO

Germany’s DW Report

Global Research, November 29, 2014
Land Destroyer Report

isis_small-400x266Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) published a video report of immense implications – possibly the first national broadcaster in the West to admit that the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) is supplied not by “black market oil” or “hostage ransoms” but billions of dollars worth of supplies carried into Syria across NATO member Turkey’s borders via hundreds of trucks a day.

The report titled, “‘IS’ supply channels through Turkey,” confirms what has been reported by geopolitical analysts since at least as early as 2011 – that NATO member Turkey has allowed a torrent in supplies, fighters, and weapons to cross its borders unopposed to resupply ISIS positions inside of Syria.
In one surreal scene from the DW report, anti-Syria terrorists are seen walking across the border and literally shot dead just on the other side by Kurdish fighters.

Local residents and merchants interviewed by Germany’s DW admitted that commerce with Syria benefiting them had ended since the conflict began and that the supplies trucks carry as they stream across the border originates from “western Turkey.” The DW report does not elaborate on what “western Turkey” means, but it most likely refers to Ankara, various ports used by NATO, and of course NATO’s Incirlik Air Base.

While DW’s report claims no one knows who is arranging the shipments, it does reveal that the very torrent of trucks its film crew documented was officially denied by the Turkish government in Ankara. It is a certainty that Turkey is not only aware of this, but directly complicit, as is NATO who has feigned a desire to defeat ISIS but has failed to expose and uproot ISIS’ multinational sponsorship and more importantly, has refused to cut its supply lines – an elementary prerequisite of any military strategy.

ISIS Menace Was NATO All Along

ISIS supply lines leading from NATO territory should be of no surprise.

As reported since as early as 2007, the US and its regional accomplices conspired to use Al Qaeda and other armed extremists in a bid to reorder North Africa and the Middle East. It would be Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his article, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” that explicitly stated (emphasis added):

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

Of course, these “extremist groups” who “espouse a militant vision of Islam” and are “sympathetic to Al Qaeda,” describe the “Islamic State” verbatim. ISIS constitutes NATO’s mercenary expeditionary force, ravaging its enemies by proxy from Libya in North Africa to Lebanon and Syria in the Levant, to Iraq and even to the borders of Iran. Its seemingly inexhaustible supply of weapons, cash, and fighters can only be explained by multinational state sponsorship and safe havens provided by NATO ISIS’ enemies – primarily Syria, Hezbollah, Iran, and Iraq – cannot strike. DW’s report specifically notes how ISIS terrorists regularly flee certain demise in Syria by seeking safe haven in Turkey.

One of NATO’s primary goals since as early as 2012, was to use various pretexts to expand such safe havens, or “buffer zones,” into Syrian territory itself, protected by NATO military forces from which “rebels” could operate. Had they succeeded, DW camera crews would probably be filming convoys staging in cities like Idlib and Allepo instead of along Turkey’s border with Syria.

With the documented conspiracy of the US and its allies to create a sectarian mercenary force aligned to Al Qaeda, the so-called “moderate rebels” the US has openly backed in Syria now fully revealed as sectarian extremists, and now with DW documenting a torrent of supplies originating in Turkey, it is clear that the ISIS menace NATO poses as the solution to, was in fact NATO all along. What is  revealed is a foreign policy so staggeringly insidious, few are able to believe it, even with international broadcasters like DW showing ISIS’ supply lines leading from NATO territory itself.

Love among the ruins of capitalism

By John Fleming

St. Louis, Missouri, USA


For a crowd is not company, and talk but the tinkling of cymbals,

and faces but a gallery of pictures, where there is no love–Franics Bacon

They have no compassion, just “the cult of the self” (C. Lasch), each trying to manipulate the attention of others, and thus wrote Seneca satis magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus, but unwilling to pay attention to anyone but themself; if it is not about themself, they are not interested. They are violent, and gun each other down at an alarming rate, but it were merely to protect property. They maliciously call the police on each other, and to those Fascists, he who calls the police first is in the right. Burn the house down to fry an egg, and use a police sledge hammer to swat a fly. If Jesus did come back to earth, an American would call the police on Him.

America is the most backward society on earth. The duplicity is astonishing, but the aim is always celebrity and money and power. There is no other value in that barren land. Preachers do not preach, and teachers do not teach because they have another sociological function. The police do not “serve and protect” the peope they beat, Taser, illegally arrest and shoot because their true sociological function is the annihilation of the Bill of Rights and grass roots political action to overthrow the profit system. The police accordingly enjoy de facto immunity for their many crimes. The L.A. police who beat Rodney King were found not guilty of beating Rodney King, and policeman WIlson who gunned down an unarmed black man was not prosecuted for gunning down the seventeen-year-old unarmed black man.

They exult marriage yet every other union results in divorce, the people being incompatible with all humanity; hence they bounce around from relationship to relationship, mindlessly and mistakenly bringing “kids” into the world where they receive the worst parental care of all. The children variously hate, rule and manipulate their parents. Even stable loving marriages are characterized by manipulation. Their “love” extends to the highest rate of imprisonment, jailing and hospital-imprisonment in the world. Judges, prosecutors and police are corrupt, all employed by the same entity, the county, yet they maintain the lie that their corruption is unbiased and objective. Judges become prosecutors, and vice-versa, judges know all the prosecutors, and vice-versa. Judges and magistrates casually sentence a man to 20 years in prison and then leave at 1p.m. for a leisurely work day while people languish in jail awaiting, but convicted of nothing, the disposition of their case. The jails hence are in reality functioning as prisons. To make money, states are using the prison boom to farm out cheap prison labor (13 cents an hour for the inmate), and millions in revenue for stadiums and arenas and gambling casinos. See how these Christians love one another?

They are corrupt, toting their children, vinum deamonum, and images of their children–figs out of thistles–as trophies for more manipulation of others’ attention. Still wouldst thou perform, but they have eyes in vain. They are out-and-out conformists–all alike!–and do not dwell among the unbtrtodden ways, and the cliche taking the road less traveled is never done.

Being the world’s foremost opportunists, taking to lucrative fame as a fish to water, and getting an endorsement agent, and what one will, they have no insight into their own misery. Of class not a word, Habit rules the unreflecting herd. Since they do not think and cannot reason, they have no hope, til the system collapses entirely. They are corrupt, hailing as “wounded warriors” and “POW/MIA” the criminals who bomb others they never met. Multis utile in bellum. Their charity is corrupt, being woefully inadequate, overpublicized, though ever so little, and the media never asks why charity must be so haphazard and unorganized, with the usual high-salaried sinecures at the top, instead of organized by government. Finally, they are corrupt because they are blind to the ruling class, corporate-censorship of the media and to propaganda with a thick layer of sentimentality. Judging by television, the poor are exploiting the rich at an unprecedented tempo. There’s a divinty that shapes our ends–but not the end of this monstrosity.

The solution to class and social warfare remains the classless society, sub aspectus aeternitatis.

John Fleming

St. Louis

Missouri, USA

New Australian terrorism bill to facilitate targeted military killings

By Mike Head

29 November 2014

For the third time in two months, the Australian Senate has signed off another “counter-terrorism” bill that grants unprecedented powers to the intelligence and military apparatus.

The latest laws, rubberstamped this week, allow the government to designate individuals and “classes” of Australians who can be attacked, and potentially killed, during military operations on the basis of information supplied by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the overseas spy agency.

Fully backed by the Labor Party opposition, the Liberal-National government’s legislation also dramatically widens the capacity of the government and the security services to impose control orders, a form of detention without trial.

On the pretext of combatting the alleged dangers posed by a relatively small number of Australians—reportedly about 200—supposedly fighting for, or supporting, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government is again introducing provisions that can, and will, be used against anyone perceived as a political threat to the ruling establishment.

Citing an Australian Federal Police submission that the involvement of Australians with ISIS “totally changed” the “security environment,” the government insists that it must have powers that go far beyond the barrage of “anti-terrorism” laws already introduced over the past decade.

All the false claims made by Washington and its allies to launch the fraudulent “war on terrorism,” exploiting the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, are being revived and magnified. Then, the US government and its partners declared that “everything has changed,” in order to both invade Afghanistan and Iraq, and erect police-state frameworks domestically.

Today, under the cover of fighting ISIS, a renewed war is underway to secure hegemony over the Middle East, and fundamental legal and democratic rights are being further dismantled at home.

The latest bill allows a single government minister, or in “emergency” situations an intelligence chief, to authorise ASIS to give the Australian Defence Force (ADF) intelligence on “one or more members of a class of Australian persons” and to assist the ADF in activities likely to “have a direct effect” on them. This is a euphemism for being targeted for military attack or assassination.

In effect, government ministers will be able to place Australians on “kill lists,” like those drawn up by US President Barack Obama for drone attacks. Without any criminal charges even being laid, let alone proven in court, designated people or “classes” of people can be executed. Due to overwhelming public opposition to it, the death penalty was abolished decades ago in Australia, but now it is being authorised by military means.

Nothing in the provision confines its operation to Iraq, ISIS or even terrorism. “Classes” of people can be specified on the basis that they “are, or are likely to be, involved in an activity or activities that are, or are likely to be, a threat to security.”

“Security” is defined by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) Act. That definition is sweeping. It includes “politically motivated violence,” which is also defined in far-reaching terms, such as “acts or threats of violence or unlawful harm that are intended or likely to achieve a political objective, whether in Australia or elsewhere.”

Those who can authorise lethal ASIS collaboration with the military include the prime minister, defence minister, foreign minister and attorney-general. In an undefined “emergency” this can be done orally, i.e., over the phone.

Such authorisations will also allow the ADF to supply information from ASIS, and two other intelligence agencies, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO), to Australia’s military partners, most obviously the United States.

As documented in detail by US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, the ASD, Australia’s electronic eavesdropping service, is already an integral part of the NSA’s global mass surveillance network. Moreover, the US-controlled “Joint Defence Facility” at Pine Gap in central Australia plays a key role in the illegal US drone assassination program in Central Asia and the Middle East, helping to locate the targets marked for extrajudicial execution by President Obama and his officials.

In the Senate, Attorney-General George Brandis dismissed as “preposterous” suggestions, made in written submissions by legal and civil liberties bodies, that the new bill permits the targeted killing of Australians. But he did not rule out the possibility. Brandis’s stance flies in the face of a media briefing on November 5 by the ADF’s chief of joint operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston, who stated unequivocally that the military would attack anyone, including Australian citizens, in order to achieve “military objectives.”

The latest bill’s other main feature will expand the use of control orders, which were first introduced in 2005, following a terrorist “alert” issued by the Howard government. Control orders can range from full house arrest to wearing a tracking device, ceasing employment and being banned from using the Internet or a phone.

Control orders can be imposed without any criminal charge, simply on the “balance of probabilities” that the order would help prevent a terrorist act. Those grounds will now be extended to preventing “support” for a terrorist act or support for “hostile activity in a foreign country.” People accused of advocating opposition to Australian military interventions, for example, could be placed under house arrest.

This bill is the third tranche of the Abbott government’s “security” legislation. The first, the “ASIO powers bill,” permits the spy agencies to covertly take control of computer networks and imposes jail terms of up to 10 years on anyone who exposes their undercover operations

The second tranche, dubbed the “foreign fighters bill,” includes lengthy jail terms for supporting “subversive activity” in any country, or for even indirectly and recklessly “promoting” terrorism. A fourth tranche, the yet-to-be-passed “metadata retention bill,” provides for surveillance of the entire population, via the storage of all telecommunications and on-line information.

As with the Abbott government’s first two tranches, Labor gave complete support to the latest bill, after a few cosmetic modifications recommended by a bipartisan parliamentary committee. Again, too, the Greens criticised aspects of the legislation, while emphasising their underlying support for the spy and military apparatus and the fraudulent “war on terrorism.” Far from opposing the new powers, Greens Senator Penny Wright called for “greater parliamentary and public debate” about “having a government being able to kill its own citizens in foreign countries.”

From its inception in 2001, the “war on terrorism” has been a sham. It is a cover for wars and invasions by the US and its allies, seeking domination over the Middle East, and for the imposition of draconian powers domestically to deal with popular opposition to the program of militarism and austerity being driven by the corporate elite.

German constitutional court increases the power of the church

By Justus Leicht

29 November 2014

The German Federal Constitutional Court (FCC—Bundesverfassungsgericht, or BVerfG) has declared lawful the dismissal of a leading physician at a Catholic hospital on the grounds that the church has the “right of self-determination.” The doctor had remarried after divorce and three labor courts had already ruled the dismissal illegal.

The decision is highly significant because it consolidates the dictatorship of Christian religious denominations over a substantial portion of the social infrastructure in Germany. It asserts that in institutions controlled by the Catholic Church, the democratic rights of employees have at most a subordinate significance. It gives the church the right to impose its moral code upon those employed by the institutions under its control. The decision is a blatant violation of the democratic principle of the separation of church and state.

The Catholic hospital in Düsseldorf had employed the plaintiff since January 1, 2000 as head physician in the department of internal medicine. He was at that point still married to his first wife.

At the end of 2005 the couple separated and between 2006 and 2008, the plaintiff lived with his new partner. The managing director of the hospital had been aware of the divorce and new relationship since at least 2006. The divorce was finalized in 2008. Subsequently, several discussions took place between the plaintiff and the hospital about the repercussions of his second marriage for the continuation of his employment contract. In March 2009, the hospital dismissed him.

The physician then brought unlawful dismissal charges against the hospital. The labor court ruled in his favor on July 30, 2009 and told the hospital it was obliged to continue employing him. Previous efforts by the hospital to appeal the decision were unsuccessful, but the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe has now overturned the 2009 ruling of the Federal Labor Court (BAG), subjecting its judgment to severe criticism in the process.

The highest German labor court has traditionally judged such cases on the basis of the relationship of an individual employee to the church. A priest, whose central responsibility is propagating the teachings of the church, is judged according to different standards than other employees. The court has also differentiated between employees of the church itself and those who merely work in one of the institutions it sponsors.

In addition the Catholic Church has employed divorced chief physicians in other instances, but in this case the FCC judges rejected these considerations. Instead, the church alone is to decide what considerations are relevant. This can also apply to purely social institutions. The Federal Constitutional Court entirely dismissed the idea that there might be other institutions that could carry out the same tasks.

The court makes it clear in multiple places that it is fully conscious of the social backdrop of its decision.

Thus it says at the very beginning: “Since the 1950s, the number of church employees has grown by leaps and bounds. On the one hand, this development is caused by the socially conditioned expansion of activities carried out by the church—above all in the area of social welfare work—which demands the increasing professionalization of employees. On the other hand, it is caused by the continually decreasing number of members of holy orders and similar social institutions, which used to run numerous social and education institutions. Because of this development, the churches have unavoidably also hired many non-Christian employees or people who belong to other denominations, in order to meet the growing demand for qualified workers.”

Actually, the church is—after the state—the second largest employer in the social sector. According to estimates, 1.3 million people are employed by Catholic-run social and welfare organization. In some regions of Germany, the churches actually have a monopoly in the social sector. The hospitals, nurseries and homes for the elderly are not funded by the churches, but largely (and sometimes completely) by taxes. Nevertheless, according to the Federal Constitutional Court, a caretaker is supposed to be just as subordinate to Christian dogma as the pastor or priest in the pulpit.

The decision does not mention that the institutions of the church are indeed permitted to determine themselves, but receive financing not only from their members, but also from those who have nothing to do with church or religion. Although it takes into consideration the fact that the authority of the Christian churches has declined, they are still allowed to dictate the term of employment.

The judges are of the opinion that the churches also have the right to interfere deeply in the private lives of “their” employees and dismiss them if they do not subordinate themselves to religious dogmas: “Service in the Christian community is the mission and task of the church and ideally includes people in all their relations of family, free time, work and society. This understanding is the foundation of the mission of the church that it shape both service and personal lifestyle, which find its expression in the obligation of loyalty.”

On reading such passages, one asks oneself whether a secular court is deciding questions of a secular constitution or the Holy Inquisition is judging the transgressions of poor sinners, who are to be burnt at the stake after hearing a sermon on their transgressions—all in the name of belief, love and hope.

“People in all their relations,” includes behavior outside of work, even in the most personal matters of private life and also represent permissible grounds for dismissal by religious institutions.

The court decision scarcely imposes any limits on churches. They are only required to present a plausible case that “according to common convictions, dogmas, traditions and teachings, the loyalty obligations associated with the church institution are an object, part or goal of its rules of faith.” Then the state “has to” take this case “as the basis its evaluations and decisions, so long as these do not contradict fundamental constitutional guarantees.” The freedom to choose an occupation (which is protected by the constitution as well), the negative religious freedom (that is, the protection against religion), or the protection against arbitrary dismissal are—as this recent decision shows—violated in any case.

In Germany, the privileges of religious despotism granted to the church with regard to their employees have been anchored in statutes for some time.

The minimal protections granted by the Code of Industrial Relations since 1952 are expressly “not to be applied to religious communities and their charitable and educational institutions regardless of their legal form.” Even the Universal Equal Treatment Act, that was introduced with the demand that discrimination and arbitrary firings be prevented, excludes religious communities and their associated institutions from its protections and allows them the freedom “to demand from their employees loyal and honest behavior corresponding with their own principles.”

The alliance of church and state is hundreds of years old in Germany. At the end of the peasants’ revolt in the sixteenth century, the power struggle between the state and the church was decided in favor of the latter. There was never a successful democratic revolution in Germany. The churches have done their part since then to subordinate the working and poor population in the country to their wealthy exploiters and—in the case of war—have given their blessing to the military. In return, the state granted them wealth and a wide range of privileges.

The constitutional court decision represents the continuity of a tradition that extends back to the dark ages.

French automaker Peugeot-Citroën plans new mass layoffs

By Stéphane Hugues

29 November 2014

Automaker Peugeot-Citroën (PSA) has announced new attacks on jobs and working conditions. In the last three years, thousands of workers have been sacked and the Aulnay-sous-Bois factory closed.

Last week, 3,450 new job losses were announced. Moreover, according to the daily Le Monde, “From today up till 2016, 11,200 employees will have to leave the auto company, 8,000 of which will be let go on the basis of a job security plan.”

PSA immediately denied the stories in the press. However, over the last three years, it has always denied the first rumors of new attacks on jobs and conditions, before confirming them officially in meetings of the corporation’s works council.

This has been a well-worn tactic of PSA for years: the company lets unofficial rumors of the cuts spread whilst denying them, so that the trade unions have the time to demobilize opposition among the workers. The General Confederation of Labor (CGT), the Stalinist union which dominated the Aulnay-sous-Bois factory, did this in 2013 before accepting the closure of the factory.

According to Les Echos, in the last ten years, PSA has cut 45,000 jobs out of a total of 127,000 staff by redundancies, factory closings and selling off subsidiaries—all with the support of the unions. Le Monde described candidly the unions’ current reaction: “The trade unions at PSA, with the exception of a few CGT shop stewards, don’t find it in themselves to get upset, even when jobs will continue their downward slide in the coming years.” In reality, as at Aulnay, the trade unions, led by the CGT, will do everything in their power to impose these new attacks for PSA.

Christian Lafaye, an official in FO (Force Ouvrière—Workers’ Force union) and Frank Don, a leading member of the CFTC (Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens—French Confederation of Christian Workers) told AFP that PSA was acting in the context of a Competitiveness Agreement, the “Disposition for the Adequacy of Jobs and Competencies (DAJC) 2014,” signed in October 2013. This agreement, in exchange for keeping open the French factories of PSA, called for “structural adjustments (…) made gently and without constraint.” The document for 2015 follows on from the DAJC 2014 which was signed by all the trade unions.

The news leaks came from the 244-page DAJC 2015 document, detailing the impact of the measures of the new 2015 Competitiveness Agreement. This document had been handed out to the unions in advance of the official presentation of the document by PSA at an extraordinary meeting of the Works Council last Monday.

PSA is targeting workers over 50, who represent 34 percent of the workforce and usually have the highest wages, and workers whose jobs are scheduled to be discontinued (29 percent of the workforce).

The document presented by PSA management to the Works Council contains a whole series of measures for 2015: 1,500 “Wind-downs for Seniors”; 1,400 “Internal Mobilities”, 950 “Secured External Mobilities”; the arrival of 2,000 youth with “Alternating Contracts” and the hiring of 550 workers for “Job Skills under Tension.”

For a worker with only a few years before retirement, a “Wind-down for Seniors” means accepting to work half-time for 70 percent of normal wages until retirement. “Internal Mobility” signifies being moved to a different job within PSA. “Secured External Mobility” means being moved out to a subcontractor, with the right to return to PSA within two years.

This last measure, which mainly targets the Poissy, Mulhouse and Rennes factories, seems impossible to attain without compulsion: in 2014, the measure was accepted by only 50 employees out of an initial target of 250. The new target is 950.

“Alternating Contracts” for youth signify a work contract for a fixed period varying from six months to two or three years. Youths are hired as apprentices, under special contracts for young workers from other European Union countries, or special subsidized research contracts for students having obtained their Master or PhD. Less than a third of these youths will receive a permanent job once their first contract ends. Of the 550 new hires for “Jobs under Tension” (i.e., where there is a shortage of workers with these skills), only two-thirds will come from these youths.

Thus the young workers hired are working from the start under low-paying conditions, knowing that two-thirds of their workmates will not receive a permanent job.

The PSA management plans to lower labor costs from 15.1 percent of turnover in 2013, to 12.5 percent in 2016, for savings of 1,100 euros ($1,373) in labor for each car off the production line.

What this means is slashing payroll and the workforce, once the temp contracts run out and as workers retire. Productivity will surge as workers are exploited ever more intensively.

In sum, 950 workers are fired, and 1,500 high-paid older workers’ wages are cut by 30 percent. Already the workforce is reduced by an extra 750 because these workers now only work half-time. They are replaced temporarily with 2,000 low-paid youth. Of these youths, only one third will stay on with permanent contract. 1,400 workers are transferred to make them more profitable and 550 are hired for jobs where there is a shortage of workers.

These are, moreover, only the measures officially announced by PSA today. At Aulnay, PSA announced the first redundancies in 2013 and, a few months later, the closure of the entire factory. New attacks of this type will be made every year based upon the Competitiveness Agreement signed with the unions.

At the same time, the complexity and the rhythm of work are being increased by “compacting,” a new organizational method adopted by PSA to increase the competitiveness of its factories. The business journal L’Usine Nouvelle (New Factory) explains it thus: “All PSA’s French factories, apart from the Sochaux factory, will only have a single production line in 2016, on which five or six different vehicles can be built. This means complete flexibility: the greater production of one model will compensate the reduced production of another.”

PSA has already begun putting this into practice—closures of production lines have been announced over the last two years in order to concentrate production in a single line per factory. L’Usine Nouvelle concludes: “PSA and Renault hope to saturate their sites by 2016. Inovev (a company which does analyses of competitiveness for the automobile industry) estimates that, in 2014, Renault factories will be at 56 percent capacity and PSA factories at 69 percent … With competitive production costs, the French sites want to win contracts from other factories in the same corporation, or from other contractors.”

UK workers see six years of falling wages

By Robert Stevens

29 November 2014

Wages in the UK have crashed to levels not seen in decades as a result of the onslaught against living standards following the 2008 global financial meltdown.

The latest report, the annual survey of hours and earnings released this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), found that overall wages having fallen for six years in succession and are now at levels last seen 14 years ago. Median full-time gross weekly earnings fell 8.8 percent between 2008 and 2014, after adjusting for inflation. The ONS found real wages were 1.6 percent lower this year than in 2013.

Low paid work in the UK has become the new normal. According to an annual report, “Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 2014” by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, based on research by the New Policy Institute, as many of the poor now live in working households than in non-working households. This is primarily due to the explosion in the number of low paying jobs. A sharp attack on welfare benefits has seen two thirds of those unemployed a year ago have had to take low-paid jobs.

The report notes that “average weekly earnings have risen more slowly than prices every month since 2010”. In the years from 2008 to 2013 wages have fallen, for men and women, working full and part-time. This was the case for lower and higher paid workers. For the lowest paid 25 percent after adjusting for inflation average full-time hourly pay for men fell 70 pence per hour from £13.90 to £12.90. For women it fell 50 pence per hour from £10.80 to £10.30.

Over the last decade only one fifth of low-paid workers managed to move into another job on better pay.

The living wage is calculated at £7.85 per hour nationally (£9.15 in London). Many workers are paid just the national minimum wage which pays between £2.73 per hour and £6.50 per hour depending on age. The JRF report notes, “Around 25 percent of women are paid below the living wage, unchanged since the mid-2000s. For men, the figure is around 15 percent, a figure that has been slowly rising over the same period.”

A critical means by which employers have slashed their wage bill is by using workers on insecure and often low-paid zero-hours contracts. At least 1.4 million people are in zero-hours employment. Other estimates claim the real number could be as many as five million. Many employees have one or more part-time jobs or are in low-paid self-employment. Self-employed workers now earn on average 13 percent less than they did five years ago, according to the JRF.

These surveys followed research published in February this year that tracked wage rates from 1988. A report by three academics, Paul Gregg, Stephen Machin and Mariña Fernández-Salgado, highlights the “deep recession and protracted period of economic stagnation” since 2008 and concludes, “the UK has experienced a significant fall in real wages. The scale of the real wage falls are historically unprecedented, certainly in the last fifty years where broadly comparable records exist. Both mean and median real weekly wages have fallen by nearly 8 percent since early 2008, when assessed over the range of measures available”. This equated to “an annual earnings loss of about £1850 in today’s prices”, the research noted.

The study found that from 1988 the real weekly wages of the typical (median) worker rose consistently to around 2002, with the exception of a short period of stagnation through the recession of the early 1990s. The authors note, “This was followed by a period of far slower wage growth between 2002 and 2008, and very sharp declines after this. By 2002 wages of the typical worker (at the median) reached over 30 percent above levels seen in the late 1980s. After a period of near stagnation from then up to 2008, real wages then fell sharply, falling on this measure by 8 percent in just four years…”

Analysing individual changes in weekly wages each year from 2009 to 2012 the study reveals:

• Around 20 percent of the workforce had nominal wage freezes (i.e. their weekly earnings are exactly the same one year on, before factoring in inflation).

• Around 20 percent of workers had nominal wage decreases in excess of 1 percent (i.e. they earn less one year on than they started with before taking inflation into account)

• Focusing on weekly basic pay, excluding overtime and bonuses, the fraction seeing nominal wage decreases is around 17 percent in each year.

Wage freezes, “are by far the most common story explaining real wage falls” the report notes. However outright cuts in wages have also been a significant factor in the overall massive fall in workers’ pay.

Based on a measure of pay that strips out changes in hours, overtime and bonus payments, they state, “If we consider workers who are employed in the same job in all three years (about 80 percent of the sample employed in any one of the three years) we find that 30 percent have had a nominal wage cut in at least one of the three years.”

The studay adds, “A smaller group experience nominal wage cuts more than once. Further, some 20 percent had a nominal wage cut of at least 5 percent in one of the three years.” It continues, “Nearly one third of workers employed in same job for three years saw a nominal wage cut in basic hourly pay. Thus it appears that nominal downward wage rigidities are breaking down in this period of unprecedented cuts in real wages.”

Young workers have borne the brunt of the post-2008 assault on wages. The research found that those aged 25 to 29 have experienced real wage falls of 12 percent and those aged 18 to 24 of over 15 percent. It notes, “the fall for those under 25 is so large it has taken real wages back to below levels last seen in 1988, twenty-five years ago, when their parents were typically entering the labour market.

It adds, “For the first time since at least as far back as WWII, a generation is starting out poorer than their parents were at the same age.” For the slightly older group, those aged 25 to 29, real wage decreases have taken wages back to the level last seen fifteen years ago in 1998. This is less extreme than for the 18-25s, but nonetheless is still a striking feature of real wage evolutions in the UK labour market. In further research by Gregg and Fernández-Salgado published in October they explain, “Real wages have fallen by 10 percent and are now nearly 20 percent below the level that would exist today had trend wage growth continued. This equates to a loss of earnings of just under £5,000 per year for the typical worker.”

Last year research by the Trades Union Congress established that, adjusted for inflation, estimated UK wages fell from a total of £690 billion in 2007 to £638 billion in 2012. In other words a staggering £52 billion (more than £10 billion annually) was robbed from workers’ wages by the capitalist class.

These bodies of work tear to pieces the sham claims that a recovery is underway for all or that working people and the super-rich were “all in it together” in tackling the post-2008 crisis. They expose how the ruling elite in Britain, like their counterparts internationally, are utilising the crisis to impose one of the largest ever recorded transfers of wealth from the vast majority of the population–the working class–to the very richest in society.

Housing rights campaigners speak out on UK government’s social cleansing

By our reporters

29 November 2014

When the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government imposed a cap on housing benefit payments available for private rented accommodation in 2011, it was widely predicted that this would lead to a policy of social cleansing of the poor, particularly in London. Those predictions were borne out with Labour Party councils leading the way.

Housing benefits claimants were sent to areas hundreds of miles away. Since then councils have been handing over social housing estates to private property developers who have replaced them with houses for sale and a small proportion of so-called “affordable” accommodation at much higher rents. The deliberate policy of destroying social housing has been accompanied by evictions of tenants.

Isabel and Sarah

These measures have led to occupations and the formation of campaigns to highlight the broader issues of social cleansing across the capital. WSWS reporters spoke to Isabel Counihan-Sanchez and her daughter Sarah about their experiences with eviction and their involvement in the Housing 4 All campaign.

Isabel: “Personally my experiences with a Labour-led council have been atrocious. It’s been so bad. Even with the local councillors at the time who said they were helping me. One councillor told me that he was reprimanded for helping us.”

Isabel explained that when they went to the council to protest, “they called the civic centre and said we were trying to break into their office. They sent down the head honcho and security guards. I’ve actually met the security guards before and as soon as they saw me they were smiling because they know what I’m like. I’m a passive person. I’m not aggressive.”

Sarah: “That’s not the first time we’ve had problems. When we went into a council meeting at the town hall, one of the councillors actually went under the desk and called the police on the phone, saying ‘they’re going to attack us.’”

Isabel: “When I went to housing advice I was told to go and live in Ireland [where the Counihan-Sanchez family has a small plot of land] and live in a caravan. They asked me literally to go out to the rural countryside and live there, especially with a child with disabilities. I said that’s great. I couldn’t believe what she was saying to me.”

Sarah: “She said my dad could live in London for the week, in a B&B [bed & breakfast] or hotel and then go back to Ireland at the weekend. We were barred from the Town Hall. They had police vans waiting for us.”

Isabel expressed her admiration for Jasmin, one of the young mothers from the “Focus E15 Social Housing, not Social Cleansing” campaign, who occupied an empty block of former social housing flats in east London after they had been served eviction notices.

“I said, ‘you really inspire me’. I said to her, ‘you’re 19 and what you’re doing at your age is so hard with a young child’. And all the criticisms about single mothers. That is just brilliant because those flats were empty for, what, six to eight years? That shows you what you can do.

“We were at the West Hendon demonstration [in north London] on Saturday. They want to tear down 700 homes to replace them with 2,000. They’re going to be selling some of them off and some with ‘affordable rents’. They talk about regeneration but it’s not what the people want. They want to make money off the residents.”

Isabel explained that she told a Brent Council senior manager, “You are moving people out [of West Hendon] for regeneration. They’re not secure tenancies and the rents are higher. They’re also having to pay a water bill which they never had because it was included in their rent. I said ‘don’t tell me you are helping people. Their rent is going up by about £30 a week. That’s a lot to a bus driver or a nurse.’”

Isabel said their problems had affected her health and that of her 16-year-old son who is sitting his exams, “I had to go to his head-of-year and say that he is not so much worried about his GCSEs [examinations]. He’s worried about being made homeless again. He used to be active in hurling and really be out there but now he’s withdrawn and anxious. No one looks at the aftermath of homelessness.”

Sarah said her younger brother had been affected, explaining how he “was chewing through his tops when he was going to bed at night. He was chewing through the duvet because he was scared. Our landlord in Ealing would turn up and he would be very rude and that would make us feel more on edge because he would just walk in and say, ‘I think I want you to go now.’

“My sister and I slept in the living room… I would be laying there sometimes crying, thinking ‘how could we have been completely neglected by the people that are paid to care?’ I felt that we were being completely forgotten about. My attendance at school dropped dramatically because I thought ‘what is the point. No one really cares.’”

Isabel explained how her daughter was not cowed: “Sarah said, ‘I want to be out and telling people how it is from a child’s point of view.’ She was 15 when it started. She wanted to let people know what it was like. She said ‘if I can save one person’. We have stopped people from being homeless and stopped evictions. Even if someone is waiting for the bailiffs, we all make sure that someone is with them.”

Sarah explained how she had been told that based on the average person’s wages for a couple, rent should not be more than £150 a week. “You can’t get that anywhere in London. You might get maybe half a bedroom or maybe half a bathroom for that.

“It’s actually costing councils more money because of the housing benefit they are having to pay to help people stay in their accommodation. They’re actually losing more money than they are making at selling to investors.”

Isabel: “When you’re in a crisis you need to be housing the people that are in need. It doesn’t matter if they are an asylum seeker or a single person. As a family we have each other but these people are literally told to ‘clear off’. It’s criminal. A home is not a privilege. It’s a basic right and now it’s been made into a commodity. They’re making a lot of profit out of it. Everyone should have a home.”

Sarah: “I do media studies as well as politics in school where we learn about the power of the media. The main thing is people rely on sources of media such as television to get their information and think they are getting the full story. I think that people are blind to the bias. With the march in central London organised by Anonymous two nights ago there was only a tiny box in the Metro[free newspaper] saying Russell Brand [comedian/actor] was there. There were thousands of people there.

“When I’m in my politics class I speak out. I said to the teacher the other day that social cleansing is being carried out in this area. People ask me to tell them about things, they want to know.

“Next May will be the first time I am able to vote because I am 18 in April. I don’t know what to do. I would like to vote because it’s the first time. But then you think: what are you voting for?”

Protests, building occupations follow California tuition hike

By Evan Blake

29 November 2014

A series of rallies and building occupations at University of California (UC) campuses has taken place over the past week in response to a Board of Regents’ November 20 vote to raise students’ tuition and fees 5 percent annually for the next five years. The increases will begin to take effect next fall, and will raise yearly tuition to $15,560 for California residents and to nearly $45,000 for out-of-state students by 2020, not including the cost of living.

During the Regents’ meeting at UC San Francisco, a group of over 100 students drawn from all the UC campuses protested outside, with their voices audible within the meeting room upstairs. On Wednesday, prior to a preliminary vote by a subcommittee of the Regents, students barricaded the entrance and broke a glass door, prompting police to arrest Jeff Noven, a UC Berkeley student, on charges of “felony vandalism and inciting a riot,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Noven, 21, was released last Wednesday after posting bail of $40,000.

UC Davis students protest tuition hikes

A series of rallies were held throughout the UC system prior to the Regents’ vote, with the largest taking place at UC Davis, where more than 500 attended.

After it became clear on Wednesday that the Regents would vote in favor of the tuition increases, the pseudo-left group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) called on students present at the Regents’ meeting to organize demonstrations and building occupations on each UC campus the following week.

On Wednesday, November 19, over 200 UC Berkeley students, led by members of BAMN and the liberal Cal Progressive Coalition, under the banner “The Open UC,” began an occupation of Wheeler Hall, the main building occupied between 2009 and 2011 during the last student protests against tuition hikes. The number of occupiers shrank over the weekend, and has disbanded for Thanksgiving break, to return again Monday, December 1. A rally and march was held in conjunction with other campuses on Monday November 24, which, at its peak, involved roughly 1,000 protesters marching through the city of Berkeley.

UC Davis students occupying Mrak Hall

On Monday November 24, rallies were held on each UC campus, with building occupations following at UC Davis, UC Irvine and UC San Diego joining those underway at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. At the UC Davis rally, the crowd of roughly 300 first occupied the local Bank of America, as one of the regents, Monica Lozano, also serves on the bank’s board of directors. Students then marched to Olsen Hall, a main building on campus, where they interrupted classes and studying students with repeated chanting of “Whose university? Our university!”

BAMN, the Cal Progressive Coalition, and the rest of the leadership of the protest movement are seeking to channel student anger over tuition increases behind the Democratic Party, which, no less than the Republican Party, bears responsibility for the UC system’s policy of forcing students to pay for the state’s social crisis.

At the Board of Regents’ meeting where the tuition hike was imposed, protesters booed and attempted to block most of the regents from entering the building on Wednesday and Thursday, but cheered Governor Jerry Brown and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, both of whom have postured as champions of education and as opposed to raising tuition.

Brown backed passage of Proposition 30, claiming that this would shield education from further cuts. In reality, far from protecting public schools, the measure protects the fortunes of California’s numerous billionaires, while providing a smokescreen for shifting funds from public education into privately run charter schools. As the WSWS wrote in the aftermath of the proposition’s passage, “Proposition 30 levied a new sales tax, a regressive measure which disproportionately falls on the shoulders of working people. The money extracted was then lumped into California’s ‘general fund’ accompanied by the cynical promise that it would be deployed to stop cuts in education.”

In his “opposition” to the current round of tuition hikes, Brown advocates an equally regressive option for students and their families. He promotes the implementation of a three-year degree program, the expansion of online classes, and the admission of a greater proportion of out-of-state students, whose higher tuition rates equal that required at many private four-year universities. These proposals, if accepted in future negotiations, would only further degrade the UC system.

The leaders of the Berkeley occupation released two statements showing their orientation to the Democrats earlier this week. In the first, released on Sunday, they state, “We are asking for the state to reinvest in schools and are ultimately standing for an accessible system of public education here in the U.S. and worldwide.” In another, released Monday after the rally, they state “Public education is under attack. We can save it. Please join us in calling President Janet Napolitano and Governor Jerry Brown in support of public education and against tuition hikes.”

The subservience of the protest groups to the Democratic Party is also reflected in a quid pro quo with the authorities in relationship to the occupations. So far there has been a conspicuous absence of police at the various rallies and occupations, with the only arrest that of Jeff Noven at the Regents’ meeting. The police restraint is in contrast to the 2009 protests, in which the administration allowed students to occupy Wheeler Hall until the week of final exams, when the 66 remaining occupiers were arrested and cited.

Should the occupations take an independent form, or openly challenge the Democratic Party, the present police restraint will rapidly evaporate.

The state government has already laid the groundwork for the violent suppression of protests with the appointment as UC president of Janet Napolitano, former head of Homeland Security. As the WSWS wrote in 2013 at the time of her selection, “In the figure of Napolitano, the ruling elite in California has found a representative who they are sure can be relied upon to meet with force a growing upsurge of students and working people in one of the nation’s most important public university systems.”

The appointment of the official responsible for organizing the nationwide police raids on the Occupy encampments to president of the nation’s largest public university system indicates that the ruling class wants an expert who is closely tied to the police establishment.

The conspiracy against California’s students and working class is underscored by the fact that Napolitano, also a Democrat, waited to announce the tuition increase proposal until two days after the November 4 elections

UN report documents torture, police violence in US

29 November 2014

The United Nations Committee Against Torture issued a lengthy report today assessing the performance of the 156 countries whose governments have ratified the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which took effect two decades ago.

The report subjected a major country to a wide-ranging critique, indicting it for a long list of human rights violations including:

  • Refusal to prosecute officials who engage in or sanction torture of prisoners
  • Detaining prisoners indefinitely without trial or other judicial proceeding, or any hope of release
  • Kidnapping individuals overseas and torturing them in secret prisons
  • Approving a manual for interrogation of prisoners that includes methods classified as torture under the Geneva Conventions
  • Imprisoning immigrants under degrading conditions and refusing to acknowledge their claims as refugees fleeing persecution
  • Imposing the death penalty on hundreds of prisoners, many of them from oppressed racial and ethnic minorities, many of them demonstrably innocent or unfairly tried
  • Widespread use of solitary confinement, considered a form of torture, at all levels of the prison system
  • Severe abuse of juveniles, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups both in police custody and in prisons
  • Maintaining a regime of police violence, particularly against young men from racial and ethnic minorities, and refusing to restrain or punish police who kill, wound or torture

It will not come as any surprise to readers of the WSWS that the country named is not China, or Russia, or Iran, or some other target of the American ruling class, but the US itself. The government that claims the right to bully, blockade, and attack any country in the world in the name of “human rights” and “democracy” is guilty of the most heinous crimes.

The language of the report is both cautious and bureaucratic, and there are strained efforts to congratulate the Obama administration on alleged improvements, compared to the Bush administration, on such practices as extraordinary rendition and waterboarding. But the overall impact of this indictment is damning.

There are some significant revelations. The committee notes that the US government had filed reservations to the Convention on Torture at the time of ratification, indicating that some practices condemned by the treaty would continue, and that the Obama administration has refused to alter this “restrictive interpretation” of the anti-torture treaty or introduce a prohibition of torture into federal law.

The Obama administration has revoked Bush administration legal opinions declaring that waterboarding and other forms of torture were permissible, but it has not done the same to Bush-era claims that the US is obliged to observe international norms only at facilities within US borders, not at detention facilities on the soil of other countries. In other words, the legal basis for torture at secret CIA and military prisons still remains fully in effect.

The report also notes that the US government is in violation of its commitment under the Convention on Torture to “Ensure that alleged perpetrators and accomplices are duly prosecuted, including persons in positions of command and those who provided legal cover to torture, and, if found guilty, handed down penalties commensurate with the grave nature of their acts.” Obama directly repudiated this legal obligation, in his directive to “look forward, not backward” on allegations of torture.

While this remains a closed book to the American political establishment, the report underscores the seamless connection between military violence overseas and militarized police violence at home—though its criticisms are couched largely in racial terms. It condemns “racial profiling by police and immigration offices and growing militarisation of policing activities.” A spokesman said the committee members “voiced deep concern at the frequent and recurring police shootings in fatal pursuit of unarmed black individuals.”

The document is the product of a three-week session in Geneva that included testimony from the parents of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old African-American who was shot to death by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson on August 9. The report was made public four days after a St. Louis County grand jury whitewashed the killing and dismissed all charges against the killer cop.

The timing of the report is also significant, coming at the culmination of the protracted effort by the White House and CIA to suppress a major US Senate report on torture at CIA secret prisons between 2002 and 2006. The 6,000-page report was completed two years ago, but release of even a censored version of its 500-page executive summary has been blocked by CIA demands that so much of the document be redacted that it is almost incomprehensible.

Two days before the report was made public, seven UN human rights experts issued an open letter to Obama that, while couched in friendly, even obsequious language, called for “the fullest possible release” of the CIA torture report and warned that Obama’s decision on the document would have “far-reaching consequences for victims of human rights violations everywhere and for the credibility of the United States.”

The White House, however, has worked closely with the CIA in suppressing the document. Or more exactly, the CIA made its demands, and the White House has followed suit obediently. After initially agreeing with Senate investigators to use pseudonyms to mask the names of CIA operatives, including the torturers, the agency is now demanding that even the pseudonyms should be blacked out of the document. Foreign Policy magazine reported last week that the White House was “fiercely resisting the release of an executive summary of a 6,300-page Senate report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.” One Senate aide told the magazine, “Ideally, we should be closing ground and finalizing the last stages right now so that we can release the report post-Thanksgiving. But, despite the fact that the committee has drastically reduced the number of pseudonyms in the report, the White House is still resisting and dragging this out.”

An additional factor is the impending takeover of the Senate by the Republican Party in January. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, who would become chairman of the Intelligence Committee once the Republicans take control, is on record as opposing any public release of any information on CIA activities, regardless of their criminal nature. If the wrangling over release of the report is prolonged another month, the new Republican majority may well vote to withdraw the report entirely, saving the Democrats from having to do the job themselves.

The Senate report is hardly a real indictment of the CIA. Lawyers for the Guantanamo Bay prisoners who were waterboarded dozens of times say that Senate investigators never took testimony from them. In other words, the only account of the torture comes those who participated in the torture, or sanctioned it, not from those who were its victims. It also reportedly does not level any accusations against the top executive, military and intelligence officials who drew up and sanctioned the criminal policy.

That even such a document, with thousands of lines blacked out and vital information withheld, cannot be made public, speaks volumes about the decay and collapse of American democracy. The US ruling elite is incapable of coming clean about the period when, as Obama admitted, “We tortured some folks.” That is because the entire state apparatus is preparing for the use of similar methods against a much-feared upheaval among workers and young people at home.

Patrick Martin

Egypt: Police Kill 3 Protesters, Injure Dozens

Global Research, November 28, 2014

egyptmapAt least three Egyptian protesters have been killed and scores of others injured after security forces clashed with anti-government demonstrators in the capital city of Cairo.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Cairo on Friday calling for ouster of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

The rally turned violent after security forces opened fire on the protesters in the district of Matrya in eastern Cairo, witnesses say.

Ahead of the protests, Egyptian police arrested more than 100 alleged Muslim Brotherhood members on suspicion of planning violent rallies after Friday Prayers.

Meanwhile, government officials say two senior Egyptian army officers were killed and two others wounded during an attack by unidentified assailants in Cairo on Friday.

Egyptian security forces have already been deployed to key spots around the country.

Earlier, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim warned that security forces will use all means to counter what he called incitements.

Ibrahim added that soldiers have been authorized to use lethal force to counter any assault against public property.

The Egyptian government has so far jailed more than 15,000 supporters of the former president, Mohamed Morsi, ever since the army toppled him in July 2013.

Morsi still awaits several trials which, if found guilty, may carry the death penalty.

Human rights groups say about 1,400 people have been killed, 22,000 arrested, and some 200 people handed death sentences in the turmoil since Morsi’s ouster, which was led by the current president and former head of the armed forces, el-Sisi.

Watch video here

Ukraine and the UN Resolution against “The Glorification of Nazism”: The US Vote at the UN is “Holocaust Denial” – Here’s Why

Global Research, November 28, 2014

un_general_assembley-400x226The UN vote against the glorification of nazism and nazi figures was a watershed insight into understanding what is going on inside western governments today. Eric Zuesse’s article labeling the no vote by the US, Canada, and Ukraine at the UN as supporting the glorification of Nazism and Holocaust denial was understatement at the very least. By this “no” vote these three countries support the rights of nationalist chauvinists to promote nazis like Adolf Hitler or Stepan Bandera as heroes and the murder of their victims as a heroic act. 

Two of the three countries that voted to support the right to glorify nazism are home to the largest openly nazi emigre groups in the world. In his lifetime these groups were led by Stepan Bandera directly. In the United States alone the combined grouping by their own reckoning exceeds 20 million members with large political clout to match.

How does this equate to Holocaust denial?

Looking back at WW2 there are two different holocaust narratives told today. The first is one people are familiar with which is the history of Nazi extermination of Jews and every other nationality or group they saw as less than them.

The second holocaust account from the period which the three negative voting countries support denies this. Monsters cannot be victims. Victims cannot be monsters. Reprisals that are done in self defense or to even scores with your enemies are commonplace in history. The second record purports that Jews/ Soviets killed 7-10 million Ukrainians.

It purports that Nazis (Ukrainian nationalists) were the victims and the Jewish populations were either murderous or suicidal depending on the year. It supposes that the Jewish, Polish, and Ukrainian victims dug the mass graves, shot themselves, and each person took a shovel of dirt with them in self loathing as they jumped in.

The second narrative is the basis to propose that Jewish Nazi SS Battalions killed the Jews, Ukrainians, and not the Ukrainian nationalists that did this.

The second holocaust which the US, Canada, and Ukraine support with this vote in the name of free speech proposes Nazi forces were the heroes of WW2 as well as its victims.


The history of the Holomodor or Starvation holocaust until now has been left almost entirely in the hands of the Ukrainian nationalists. It is the historical centerpiece for their ideological hatred of Russia today. It is the historical basis of a nationalist Ukraine today. If accepted at face value it also whitewashes Ukrainian Nationalists out of history as prolific mass murderers and genocidal SS soldiers. As victims the Ukrainian Nationalists can soften how the world sees them without changing their positions, acknowledging their crimes, or changing their methods. Ukrainian nationalism only has a base of legitimacy if this tragedy happened according to their version of it.

The acceptance of this as a holocaust is also one of the main justifications for the OUN/UPA becoming soldiers for Hitler’s 3rd Reich. They were the “anti-communists” that steered American history. If their version of history is accepted then there will be no problem when they claim to have fought against Hitler after 1941. They can say they tried to save the Jews from the Nazis. In a nutshell they can make some of WW2′s greatest murderers into heroes instead of leaving them in the waste can of history where they belong. They can continue what they are doing today.


According to the Ukrainian nationalist perspective 7-10 million Ukrainians died as a result of forced starvation under Stalinism. During the famine years 1932-33 Stalin was forcing people onto collective farms across the Soviet Union. Stalin took advantage of the famine by confiscating what was left of the harvest, reserves, and forced the people to starve to death.

Historically West Ukraine (Galicia) where the Ukrainian nationalists were located and Ukraine’s ideology today was derived existed only outside the areas affected by the famine. According to Ukrainian nationalist scholar Alexander Moytal “ Just as the earlier debates in the West over the famine had been politicized, pitting “anti-Communists” against their critics, so too did the debate over the Holodomor-as-genocide thesis in Ukraine become profoundly political. First, it challenged the nature of Soviet reality. Second, it became the centerpiece of Yushchenko’s nation-building project after the Orange Revolution. And third, it undermined Russia’s hegemony over Ukraine.

… Since the debate also reflected popularly held attitudes–according to a 2009 InterMedia survey, eighty-three percent of Ukrainians in the west, fifty-eight in the center, twenty-eight in the south, and fifteen in the east accept the genocide thesis –the Holodomor quickly became the main focus of efforts by both national democrats and their opponents to mobilize voters in the recent elections.”

The “anti-communists” and national democrats that Professor Moytl mentions are the ideological children of the Bandera years. What is very interesting about this especially in light of what is occurring in Ukraine today is that the areas that were most affected by the “Holomodor Holocaust” don’t remember it the way the storyline was developed in the US, Canada, and most notably by the Galician Bandera that were not a part of it and did not suffer through it.

Central and Southeast Ukraine which includes Donbass and Odessa are the areas that years ago suffered through that famine. The famine also claimed over 1 million lives in Siberia. The suffering extended to Belarus and Kuban. There were starvation deaths in Moscow.

The Soviets (Stalin) were still keeping grain production export quotas the same during this famine regardless of what the harvest actually yielded. The SSR Ukrainian government in Kiev was slow to report the famine and resulting bad harvests after predicting record harvests in their forecasts.

During this period collectivization and mechanized farming were forced on all the countries that made up the Soviet Union. Forced mechanization made the problems a lot more widespread. SSR Ukraine, comprised of Central Ukraine and Southeast (Donbass to Odessa) really suffered the most in the Soviet Union. The US and China faced similar issues during this period of technological change (mechanized agriculture) which created similar conditions in both countries also. This resulted in the Dust Bowl years happening in the US and China’s famine years resulted.

Compounding this was Stalin’s operations to repress anti- Soviets, anti-collectivists(farmers), and the “Kulaks.” Kulaks were local land barons that had horses to plow the fields. If you needed a horse to plow yours, you plowed his field and gave a percentage of your harvest to him. The Kulaks slaughtered their horses in an attempt to stop collectivization because it took their power away. They revolted against collectivization every way they could.

“ In combination with the brutal repression of much of the intellectual elite inthe Ukrainian SSR in the years around 1930, the collectivization and famine left deep scars on central and eastern Ukraine. Until the late 1980s, the famine was denied by the Soviet authorities. Even in the diaspora, which was dominated by Western Ukrainians, there was little knowledge of the famine until the 1970s”.- Pers Anders Rudling- Memories of “Holodomor” and National Socialism in Ukrainian political culture

How this adds up to Holocaust-Denial

In the mid 1970′s the role of the Ukrainian nationalists in the Holocaust was opened up publicly first with Lucy Dawidowcz’s book “The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945 that presented the Ukrainians as far more brutal than the Germans ever were. In 1978 the miniseries “Holocaust” raised awareness of what happened during this time frame and brought the Ukrainian nationalist issues to the forefront. According to Rudling this infuriated the Ukrainian diaspora. Both Canada and the US opened investigations on WW2 War Criminality as a result of the rise in awareness during this time. The Simon Wiesenthal Center started giving Ukrainian nationalists and other Eastern European nationalists increased attention. The great fear was the only thing westerners would know about them was the part they played as prolific collaborators in mankinds greatest mass murder.

“ Thus, in 1982– 83, in time for the 50th anniversary of the famine diaspora academics, publicists, and Nationalist activists launched a major effort to produce a new national mythology, centered on the 1932– 33 famine. Diaspora academics referred to the famine as a deliberate genocide, in which the western states were complicit. References to the Holocaust were often explicit : “The victims of the famine in Ukraine were consigned to their slow and agonizing deaths as surely as the Jews of Europe were delivered to the planners of the Final solution…”-Rudling(ibid)

Before 1991 this was in hope of securing the state of Ukraine once it was independent from the Soviet Union. The diaspora demanded the US government let them set up a “Ukrainian” nationalist government. Second,Waffen SS officers and fighters played such a large role in Eastern European emigre life(especially Ukrainian) in the United States and Canada, the same activist scholars started trying to rehabilitate their image as well as repackaging their ideologies to make them look heroic and democratic.

In 1986, the publishing house of the UPA veterans published a book, which explicitly stated that “Zionist Jews” launched the famine as the “real Holocaust” in which Jewish Bolsheviks killed Christians, and in which an allegedly Jewish-controlled press covered up the genocide.- For a discussion of Chumatskyj, Yurij : Why is One Holocaust Worth More than Others?

Within the “scholarly” works came demands for a Nuremberg 2 trial listing all the Soviet leaders including Stalin (as the Georgian Jew) by their Askenazi names. According to the Ukrainian nationalists Soviet Russia was formed and led by Zionist Jewry. The Jews and Soviet Jewish leaders were responsible for all the atrocity.

Andrii Bandera, son of the mass murderer published an article stating – “There were 15,000,000 Ukrainian genocide victims next to the 6,000,000 Jewish victims.”- ”Major instanced of genocide in the 20th century”, Ukrainian Echo: A Monthly English- Language Supplement to “Homin Ukrainy”, 7 (1983) 3, p. 2.-(ibid) Rudling

Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper used the figure of “up to 10 million people” to back the assertions of Bandera and the OUN emigre population in Edmonton. Canada hosts the World Ukrainian Emigre government (UWC). It must be comforting to Harper to have the direct support of the Bandera family.

They inflated the numbers deliberately to make them as high and much higher than the Jewish Holocaust. This was in the hope of getting recognition. This was also in hope of burying the OUN genocides.

Today the growing consensus among scholars is that between 2.5 and 3.5 million died of famine in SSR Ukraine during 1932-33. The total number of deaths in Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Siberia, Caucasus, and throughout Russia are estimated at 5.5-6.5 million people.

“ A 2004 study lists the total Ukrainian war deaths (WW2) at 6,850,000 people, or 16.3 % of the population. Of these, a full 5,200,000 were civilians , whereas military victims “only” constituted 1,650,000. Of these civilian deaths,at least 1,4 million, but perhaps as many as 2,1 million Jews were murdered in Ukraine .” – Rudling(ibid)

Why This is Holocaust Denial

By pushing up the numbers of victims higher than the known holocaust Ukrainian nationalists hoped to hide behind those numbers to avoid the figures shown directly above. How can a victim be a murderer? How can a victim of genocide be its perpetrator? Instead the Ukrainian nationalists propose that the violent and angry, self loathing, murderous, and contemptible Jews are behind this and their own woes.

The trouble is real history is not on their side. During the famine the “Ukrainians” were part of another country and culture. They were Polish. They were Galician. Ukraine/Ukrainians/Ukrainian language was a development of the Austro-Hungarian empire less than 50 years before. In the Catholic Encyclopedia “Ukrainians” are defined correctly as a political party and not a people. They were from Galicia.

It was not until Soviet homogenization that Ukraine became one land and one people. The very thing they say they hated the Soviets for is what they are trying to accomplish- Ukrainization.

After 1990 the story of the Holomodor was exported back to Ukraine by the emigre population. Victor Yushenko (nationalist) used it as his centerpiece to build the new Ukraine. Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, head of the SBU, friend and former lieutenant of Dimitri Yarosh (Pravy Sektor) was key to developing this new truth in nationalist Ukraine.

The crimes of the Stalin regime – the 1932-1933 famine-genocide is Ukraine, the major terror of the 1930s – should be fully condemned by the international community. It is the duty of all countries, political and public forces that accept the values of democracy,’ Yuschenko said.

Accepting the New Denial

After the 1917 Revolution Lenin gave Novorussia/Southeast/Donbass to Ukraine because Donbass was the home of the Don Cossacks. The Cossacks were anti-communist monarchists or “White Russians.” The Don Cossacks were the personal guards to the Tzars for centuries. They were not welcome in the new Soviet Union and definitely not Russia. Southeast including Donbass and Central Ukraine lived through the famine of 1932-33. Those families are the people that make up the population here.

For Galicians to hijack this history and call it their own makes as much sense as David Duke gaining the ability to sue for slavery reparations. Why is that surprising?

Almost every lawmaker left in Kiev had David Duke as a university professor. That is exactly how much sense all of this makes.

It is now illegal to question the Holomodor in Ukraine. The historical record needs to be set straight permanently about this tragedy. Support the nationalist version and deny the real Holocaust at your own peril. The scholarship needs to be set straight. Democracy is built on history. Nationalism is built on myth.

Today the perpetrators of genocide from that time period are causing famine conditions in Donbass. Most of the fields were burned or mined. Most of the harvests were lost and stolen. The Nazis are back and just as murderous. If Poroshenko and Nazi Kiev were remotely serious about a famine genocide that they want the world to recognize; how could they try to set up the same kinds of conditions right now?

The real reasons why the US, Canada, and Ukraine voted against the condemnation of Nazism are not that complex. A very large emigre population that votes with pocketbooks exists in North America. To condemn nazi thought means their monuments, books, and speech could be rooted out of the democratic conversation.

It could mean nazi era Ukrainian nationalist presidents in exile could be exhumed and forced to be repatriated to Ukraine. For the reasons above we can only choose one holocaust or the other. Nationalism and Democracy cannot coexist. Which will it be?

Leading Israeli Minister Lieberman Unveils Racist Peace Plan: Pay Palestinians to Leave Israel

Global Research, November 28, 2014

Avigdor-Lieberman_2359587b-400x249The latest shocker, reported in Haaretz. Maybe the New York Times will cover this before long, and lament its beloved Israeli democracy for even permitting such discussion. By a leading government minister who seeks to be Prime Minister.

Barak Ravid reports:

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday published an updated platform for his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, which includes a “peace plan” that calls on the government to encourage the transfer of Israeli Arabs to a Palestinian state by offering them “economic incentives.”

The platform, which may be another sign that Knesset elections are forthcoming, was published on the Yisrael Beiteinu website and reiterates declarations the foreign minister has made over the past year. The diplomatic portion of the platform, or its “peace plan,” does not include clear positions on issues such as Israel’s borders, the status of Jerusalem or settlement construction and the future of existing Israeli settlements.

The only subject that the plan addresses in detail is that of Israel’s Arab citizens. Lieberman repeated his proposal for land and population swaps between Israel and a future Palestinian state, but took it a step further by encouraging Israel to pay Arabs from Jaffa or Acre to move.

Rebecca Vilkomerson said in October that there are fascist trends in Israeli society; Max Blumenthal reported this in his book a year ago; the late Fouzi Al-Asmar reported these Israeli tendencies to the west nearly 40 years ago. Is anybody listening?

A leftwing site, Antifa News, responds:

Liberman proposes out loud what many still don’t dare say – the goal is to clear the country of non-Jews, and Arabs first of all.

We propose something else: clear the country of the fascists instead.

Liberman, Netanyahu, Bennett, you all have foreign passports. Get the hell out, go to Moldova, USA, the Mariana Trench, or anywhere, and just get the hell out of our lives!

Thanks to Ofer.

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

On Black Friday, Americans Confront the Walmart 1%: Pay Employees a Living Wage

Global Research, November 28, 2014

fight_for_us_ourwalmart-400x209Pickets, strikes, and protests are slated to sweep across the United States on Black Friday. (Photo: TwitPic/@WorkingAmerica)

“Last year Walmart made $16 billion in profits. The company’s controlling family, the Waltons, is the richest family in America with nearly $150 billion in wealth. That is more than the total wealth of 43% of American families combined.”

Walmart won’t pay its employees enough to afford Thanksgiving dinner, so they’re holding food drives for their employees. Seriously. It’s been reported that an Oklahoma City Walmart set up bins for underpaid associates to donate canned goods to other underpaid associates.

Walmart workers have a better idea: Pay us enough to put food on the table.

If you agree, please join Walmart workers in their fight for $15 and full-time work.  Click on Black Friday Protests to find a rally near you.  There will be protests at over 1,600 Walmart stories.  Just plug in your zip code and you’ll find one or more protests in your area.

On Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, tens of millions of Americans will travel to Walmart stores to look for holiday discounts on computers, toys, and cell phones as well as to buy groceries and basic household items. But at more than 1,600 of Walmart’s 4,000 stores, shoppers will be greeted by Walmart employees handing out leaflets and holding picket signs—“Walmart: Stop Bullying, Stop Firing, Start Paying” and “We’re Drawing a Line at the Poverty Line: $25,000/year”—protesting the company’s abusive labor practices, including poverty-level wages, stingy benefits, and irregular work schedules that make it impossible for their families to make ends meet.

The Black Friday rallies and demonstrations represent a dramatic escalation of the growing protest movement among employees of America’s largest private employer. But they also represent the vanguard of a sharp challenge to the nation’s widening economic divide and the declining standard of living  among the majority of Americans.

National leaders and community groups from every corner of the country will join Walmart workers at the Black Friday protests. Members of Congress,  women’s groups, and environmental and consumer organizations have all pledged support, saying that the Walmart workers’ fight is a fight for all Americans.  This week, 226 organizations — including the National Organization for Women, the NAACP, the Sierra Club, MoveOn.Org, the U.S. Student Association, Dream Defenders, and the AFL-CIO  –  sent a letter  to Walmart chairman and owner Rob Walton calling for Walmart to raise pay to $15 an hour and provide consistent, full-time work for its workers; provide working women with good jobs that pay decent wages; and create a workplace that fosters inclusivity, appreciation and understanding.

Last week, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Congressman George Miller (D-CA) spoke at a Congressional briefing to discuss a business model that some are calling the “Walmart Economy,” defined as “where a few profit significantly on the backs of the working poor and a diminishing middle class.” Joined by Walmart workers, Warren said: “It is good to hear workers’ voices in the halls of Congress. No one in this country should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that’s what raising the minimum wage is all about.”

It is sometimes difficult to recognize historical events as they unfold, but it is likely that future generations will look at these Walmart protests as a major turning point that helped move the nation in a new direction, similar to the sit-down strikes among Flint auto workers in 1937, the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins by civil rights activists in 1960, and the first Earth Day in 1970 that jump-started the environmental movement.

The swelling anger over inequality began with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in September 2011 and spread quickly from New York City to cities across the country. The Occupiers were soon evicted from the parks and other places they temporarily inhabited, but movement’s message has continued to resonate with the American public. Activists as well as many politicians and pundits have embraced its “1% vs. 99%” theme, which has quickly become part of the Americans’ everyday conversations.

Public opinion polls reveal that a significant majority of Americans believe that there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and corporations, that our political and economic system unfairly favors the wealthy, and that wealthy people don’t pay their fair share of taxes. Surveys also document that Americans think that people who work full-time should not be trapped in poverty. A Pew survey conducted earlier this year found that 73% of Americans — including 90% of Democrats, 71% of independents, and 53% of Republicans — favors raising the federal minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. Many think it should be higher.

But public opinion alone doesn’t translate into changes in politics and public policy. For that to occur, people have to take collective action. The past year has witnessed a growing protest movement for social and economic justice. Workers at fast-food chains like McDonalds, Taco Bell, Burger King, and Wendy’s have mounted several protest actions, including one-day strikes at more than a thousand restaurants in cities around the country, demanding a base wage of $15 an hour. Earlier this year, Seattle adopted a citywide $15 an hour minimum wage — part of a growing wave  of municipal minimum wage laws.

From the police and prosecutors in Ferguson to Walmart and its owners, abuse of power by the few is keeping many Americans living in fear. Every day average Americans must worry about police violence, the possibility of being unjustly fired, and being unable to find the next meal for their children.

Our communities cannot thrive when they are held back from earning a decent living by the biggest corporation in our country.

No institution epitomizes the realities of hyper-capitalism as much as Walmart, and so it isn’t surprising that the giant retailer has increasingly become the target of protests, not only by its employees but also by a broad coalition of consumers, community groups, unions, and others.

‘The Black Friday rallies and demonstrations represent a dramatic escalation of the growing protest movement among employees of America’s largest private employer. But they also represent the vanguard of a sharp challenge to the nation’s widening economic divide and the declining standard of living  among the majority of Americans.’ (Image:

Walmart — with 1.3 million employees in the U.S. and more than two million around the globe — has probably confronted more opposition on more different issues than any corporation in history.

  • To environmentalists, Walmart is a dirty word. Despite its ballyhooed sustainability work, Walmart’s greenhouse gas emissions are growing, not shrinking.  Walmart’s heavily-promoted sustainability initiatives have done more to improve the company’s image than to help the environment, according to a new report by the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance.  Last year, the company pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act and had to pay an $82 million fine for improperly handling hazardous waste, pesticides, and other materials in violation of federal laws. Walmart also finances politicians who fight action to address the climate crisis, including funding the campaigns of some of the most powerful climate change deniers in Congress.
  • Women employees filed suit against the company for its long-standing practice of paying women less than men more for the same jobs.
  • Labor, faith-based groups, and organizations representing small businesses in dozens of cities have waged successful battles to stop Walmart from opening new stores, warning that the presence of a Walmart outlet drives out locally-owned merchants and depresses wages for employees in unionized grocery stores and other retailers.
  • Immigrant rights activists have condemned Walmart for knowingly doing business with contractors who exploit undocumented immigrants to work as Walmart’s janitors. On several occasions, federal agents have raided Walmart stores across the nation and searched offices at the company’s Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters to investigate its abuses.
  • Public safety advocates have criticized Walmart for being the nation’s  largest seller of guns and ammunition. Media exposés of Walmart’s membership in the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council forced the company (but not the Walton Family Foundation) to withdraw its affiliation. ALEC is now infamous for pushing a conservative legislative agenda, including the notorious “Stand Your Ground” (as called “shoot first”) laws, which came out of an ALEC working committee co-chaired by a Walmart executive in 2005, and which contributed to the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
  • Public education advocates have criticized the Walton family for donating tens of millions of dollars to conservative organizations and political candidates who seek to privatize public schools and promote high-stakes testing and huge subsidies to private education companies.
  • Members of Congress have criticized Walmart for paying its employees so little that many are eligible for food stamps and Medicaid, forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab for the company’s poverty pay policies. A report  by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce examined data received from the State of Wisconsin and found that a single Walmart store could cost taxpayers between $900,000 and $1.7 million a year in government subsidies.
  • The New York Times uncovered Walmart’s massive bribery of Mexican officials, reporting that the company paid more than $24 million in bribes to gain approvals to expand its operations. Top Walmart executives knew about the bribery scheme, but quickly ended an internal investigation and even promoted one of the company officials involved in the scandal.
  • Last year, workers at Thai shrimp farms supplying Walmart went on strike, protesting low wages, inadequate toilet access, and substandard housing. Human Rights Watch reported that working conditions were akin to debt bondage.
  • Walmart has also recently earned well-deserved negative publicity for its complicity in thwarting safety improvements at Bangladesh sweatshops that make clothes sold in Walmart stores. One of them was the eight-story Rana Plaza factory building near Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, where last year at least 1,134 workers were killed after the building collapsed — the deadliest garment industry disaster in history. To make matters worse, Walmart has refused to sign  a Bangladesh fire and building safety accord drawn up by human rights groups and signed by many other global retailers.

But beyond these specific offenses, Walmart has become a symbol—and a major cause—of the nation’s widening gap between the super-rich and the rest.

Last year Walmart made $16 billion in profits. The company’s controlling family, the Waltons, is the richest family in America with nearly $150 billion in wealth. That is more than the total wealth of 43% of American families combined. And yet, most Walmart workers make less than just $25,000 a year.

The Waltons can afford to pay all of their employees $15 an hour and provide full-time work—enough to live with dignity and raise a family. But they won’t—not unless people speak up.

In what became a major embarrassment for the company, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported that a Wal-Mart store in Canton, Ohio, had organized a food drive, asking its own employees to donate to their hungry coworkers so they could afford a Thanksgiving meal. The store manager no doubt meant to help his employees, but for most Americans the food drive symbolized Walmart’s greed rather than its good intentions. The incident quickly became front-page news, an instant sensation on radio talk shows and on the blogosphere, the subject of editorial cartoons, and the butt of jokes by Stephen Colbert and others.

Economists note that if Walmart paid its employees at least $25,000 a year, a million and a half workers would be lifted out of poverty. That would mean more money staying in communities to support local businesses, helping to create at least 100,000 new jobs.  Demos, a nonprofit research group, released a report finding that Walmart could easily pay every employee $14.89 without raising prices by simply not buying its own stock to further enrich the Walton family.

Not surprisingly, a growing coalition of Americans have rallied behind Walmart workers not only to help them win better conditions at work but also to challenge Walmart’s and the Walton family’s political influence.

Over the past year, protests against the company have escalated, led by Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), a nationwide network of Wal-Mart workers.

This crescendo of conscience has put Walmart on the defensive. Its television ads aren’t pushing consumer goods but instead seek to persuade viewers that Walmart is an ideal employer. In recent years, the company has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in philanthropy, hoping that its charitable giving to food banks, homeless shelters and various nonprofit groups will cleanse its image as a corporate predator.

But Walmart’s propaganda campaign doesn’t seem to be working. Calls for change at Walmart continue to grow louder. Many unlikely suspects have jumped aboard the anti-Walmart train.   Even Fortune magazine—hardly a radical rag—recently observed that “Wal-Mart can afford to give its workers a 50% raise,” without hurting its stock value. Writing in the Wall Street JournalAl Lewis chided Walmart for paying its employees “always low wages,” in turn “creating a growing class of working poor.”

Walmart pays attention to these protests. We’ve already seen recent successes, like when Walmart changed its policy on pregnant women after workers submitted a resolution to the company or when the retailer created a system that gives workers better access to hours by allowing them to sign up for open shifts online.

Walmart workers have escalated their online organizing and community outreach ahead of Black Friday, allowing customers and community members to join the fight for $25,000 and an end to illegal retaliation against employees who raise their voices against company practices.

This year, the day after Thanksgiving will be remembered not as the biggest shopping day of the year, but as the day Americans took action to demand that Walmart, the country’s largest employer, pay workers livable wages and play a part in improving our economy.

Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department, at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012). His other books include: Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century (University Press of Kansas, 3rd edition, 2014), and The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City (University of California Press, revised 2006). He writes regularly for the Los Angeles Times, Common Dreams, The Nation, and Huffington Post.

Robert P. McColloch Personifies Misconduct by Prosecutors

Lawless Law Enforcer

When discredited Missouri prosecutor Robert P. McColloch recently defended his calculated manipulation of a grand jury to free the policeman who fatally shot Michael Brown last summer, McColloch declared that eyewitness accounts must “always match physical evidence.”

McColloch, however, did not use that ‘always match’ standard in the case of Antonio Beaver, a St. Louis man wrongfully convicted in 1997 of a violent carjacking.

That carjacking victim had told police her attacker was an assailant younger, shorter and weighing less than Beaver. McColloch’s office secured a first-degree robbery conviction and 18-year sentence for Beaver despite salient facts pointing to Beaver’s innocence. Fingerprints from the carjacked vehicle did not match Beaver. Further, Beaver had a full mustache unlike the assailant who that victim described as having no facial hair. The victim also said her assailant had a cut on his arm from their struggle while Beaver had no such arm injury when arrested one week after that carjacking.

McColloch’s office initially fought against Beaver’s request to test the DNA evidence that freed Beaver from prison in 2007 according to an account by the Innocence Project, the respected organization that obtained Beaver’s release. That Innocence Project account of Beaver’s 2007 release stated he was then the sixth man in St. Louis County to be exonerated by DNA for a conviction based largely on eyewitness misidentification. Five of those six exonerations occurred between 2002 and 2007 that Innocence Project account noted.

Those wrongful convictions cited by the Innocence Project (plus other wrongful convictions in St. Louis County) occurred during the 28-year tenure of Robert P. McColloch heading that county prosecutors office. In those wrongful convictions, prosecutors working for McColloch either sanctioned misconduct by authorities or fought against appeals where inmates challenged flawed evidence used in their respective convictions. Beaver spent ten years in prison. McColloch became head prosecutor for St. Louis in 1991, six years before the wrongful conviction of Beaver.

Wrongful convictions coupled with other near daily abuses from police and prosecutors are what triggered the reactions nationwide to McColloch clearing Ferguson city policeman Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown.

The grand jury that cleared Officer Wilson was under the total control of McColloch’s prosecutors. Experts have criticized McColloch for his violations of standard grand jury procedures in the Michael Brown case like overwhelming the grand jury with data without providing proper direction plus treating Wilson as a victim and not a possible killer.

In 2001 McColloch drew criticism when a grand jury controlled by his prosecutors cleared two officers who killed a pair of unarmed men in a parking lot. A news reporter, after reviewing grand jury transcripts supplied by McColloch, revealed that McColloch lied when he publicly declared that all police eyewitnesses confirmed the shooting account of those two officers. Only 3 of 13 officers had backed that account contrary to McColloch’s claim. McColloch, in the Brown murder case, bashed neighborhood eyewitnesses against Wilson were not believable.

U.S. President Barack Obama, in comments related to McColloch clearing Wilson, said race-based inequities crippled fairness in America’s justice system. Antonio Beavers is black and his accuser is white. Officer Wilson is white and Michael Brown was black. The two victims in the fatal police shooting that McColloch cleared in 2001 were black. A report on human rights violations in America released earlier this year by the United Nations found fault in continued “racial disparities at different stages in the criminal justice system…”

In the Antonio Beaver case, for example, the conveyor belt from arrest to conviction passed through what the Innocence Project described as a “substantially flawed police lineup.” The victim had told police her assailant wore a baseball cap and had a gap in his front teeth. During that skewed police lineup Beaver was one of only two men wearing a baseball cap. The victim could not initially identify Beaver and asked police to have those in the lineup show their teeth. Beaver was the only man in that skewed lineup with a dental imperfection – a broken tooth (not a gap as the victim had described.) Police had brushed off the fact that it was improbable if not impossible for Beaver to have grown a full mustache during the one week between when that carjacking victim said her assailant had no facial hair and the arrest of Beaver.

Those wrongful convictions in St. Louis County, that includes the cities of St. Louis and Ferguson where Michael Brown died in that controversial police shooting, document a prosecutorial practice by McColloch of pressing for convictions in cases where eyewitness accounts do not match physical evidence. Prosecutors across America routinely push prosecutions in cases where physical evidence glaringly contradicts eyewitness accounts. Seven of the 21 DNA exonerations in Missouri between 1989 and February 2014 occurred in St. Louis County according to statistics from the National Registry of Exoneration. McColloch became St. Louis County head prosecutor in 1991.

The man who placed Antonio Beaver on his road to release from prison was a jailhouse lawyer who himself was also falsely convicted in St. Louis County. That jailhouse lawyer who helped Beaver with his early appeals was Johnny Briscoe, a man who served 23-years in prison for a rape before his release on DNA evidence. McColloch’s office had fought against Briscoe’s appeals to test DNA evidence in a conviction that rested solely on identification by the rape victim. Like the Beaver case, Briscoe endured a flawed police lineup with Briscoe being the only person in the lineup wearing a prison jumpsuit. Centurion Ministries aided Briscoe’s efforts to confirm his innocence.

McColloch’s office did not join Briscoe in his lawsuit attacking his wrongful conviction that included a charge against a detective who failed to fully investigate the real rapist. That rapist had appeared at the victim’s residence after Briscoe was in custody. The detective specifically sued by Briscoe was at the victim’s residence when the rapist returned but released the rapist as a mere intruder because that detective considered Briscoe the culprit, who was then in custody. Federal courts dismissed Briscoe’s quest for justice contending the calculated foul-ups by police did not violate Briscoe’s constitutionally protected fair trial rights. (Judges – federal and state – frequently fail to fault misconduct by police.)

That United Nations human rights review report, released in March, specifically faulted excessive use of force by law enforcement officials – the issue at the heart of nationwide protests over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

The U.N. review team, that report stated, “is concerned about the still high number of fatal shootings by certain police forces…and reports of excessive use of force…which as a disparate impact on African Americans…”

The American legacy

By Dave Harrison


When Osama bin Laden was killed in cold blood in Pakistan and many demanded to see his death-photos for verification, President Obama refused and said, “That’s not who we are,” which begs the question: Who are the Americans?

Are Americans the ones who annexed the Philippines, denied them their own republic and then engaged in a war (1899-1902) with those who opposed them at the cost of 1.4 million Filipino lives? Are they the ones who burned villages, murdered their entire populations, and rounded up all boys over ten and young men and had them executed? Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who supported, supplied with arms and intelligence-gathering and bolstered many, brutal South and Central American dictatorships like Batista and Pinochet whose death-squads callously murdered tens of thousands of people in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s simply because they believed in social justice by way of a social-minded government?

Are Americans the ones who experimented with atomic weapons on Hiroshima which killed over 80,000 people – including innocent men, women, and children – who were not actively involved in the war and then repeated its massacre on Nagasaki? Hiroshima had no military value and American bomber pilots were warned not to drop conventional bombs on it lest they ruin their precious experiment. Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who succeeded the French in Vietnam, picked up an already lost war and made it their own all based on a faulty thesis known as the “Domino Effect” which later proved to be nonsense?  And while they pursued this baseless theory, put an entire country to the torch at the cost of another 2,000,000 Vietnamese lives and 58,000 of their own, the American military-industrial complex thrived. Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who burned villages, shot the villagers’ animals, destroyed their crops and in one instance evacuated an entire village of 504 defenseless old men, women, children and even babes in arms in Mi Lai in 1969 and then shot them down like dogs in a ditch with their M-16 rifless? Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who provided the experimental drug LSD to a Montreal asylum to test out on Canadian patients including one MP’s wife in the 1960s without their knowledge or consent? Are they the ones who sprayed a Canadian city (Winnipeg) to make long-term chemical tests on Canadian civilians rather than risk their own? Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who entered Korea on a “police action” and then engaged in the “Forgotten War” at the cost of 2,000,000 civilian Korean lives? How can Koreans forget? Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who followed George Bush and his senseless side-kick, Dick Cheney, to invade Iraq based on outright lies and half-baked intelligence, which almost everyone else knew was completely untrue? Are they the ones who headed the “Coalition of the Willing” to wilfully destroy a complete country and its infrastructure, kill 50,000 of its soldiers defending their own country, kill another 100,000 civilians, displace over a half million Iraqi citizens and then occupy it and rebuild it under the direction of Halliburton Company which was once headed by Dick Cheney himself? Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who set off their first, atomic test in the Nevada desert on July 16th, 1945 with American and Canadian soldiers present within 1000 yards of the blast without any radiation protection whatsoever, marched them to Ground Zero through the atomic dust afterward, and then casually swept them off with corn brooms to show that it was harmless? When they later died off like flies from cancer, victims were told, “Prove it.” Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who deviously tested Agent Orange in New Brunswick, Canada along transmission lines before they used it inVietnam at the cost of many Canadian lives and the tortured lives of thousands of Vietnamese? Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who incarcerated hundreds of individuals at Guantanamo Bay and left them without any legal rights, tortured them in various ways – like water boarding and sleep deprivation – and then threw away the keys? Is this who they are?

Are Americans the ones who send in drones to kill one individual whom they suspect of being a terrorist – without arrest and a fair trial but only their suspicions – and without any consideration for the rights of hundreds of innocent victims? And, when they anonymously kill dozens of innocent victims – women and children included – they simply issue an apology for the mistake and do it again later. Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who place on their coins, “In God we trust“? We are left to ponder: Which God is that? (It’s certainly not the one I know.) Is that who they are, or is that how history will remember America?

In decades to come, America will be judged harshly.

Dave Harrison

Washington denounces Syrian air strikes on ISIS

By Peter Symonds

28 November 2014

The US has seized on Syrian air force strikes on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) stronghold of Raqqa to denounce Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and push for his government’s removal. For the past three years, the Obama administration has backed anti-Assad militias in Syria. The main aim of its new Middle Eastern war remains regime-change in Damascus.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Wednesday said the US was “horrified” by reports that Syrian air strikes the previous day killed scores of civilians. She condemned the Syrian regime’s “continued slaughter of Syria civilians” and “callous disregard for human life,” declaring that “Assad long ago lost all legitimacy to govern.”

According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 95 people were killed in the air strikes on Tuesday, including 52 civilians. A Raqqa activist with the Syrian opposition network—the Local Co-ordination Committees—told the BBC that further deaths were likely because only one hospital was operating normally in the city and “a lot of people [are] dying from their wounds.” Both organisations are aligned with the pro-Western opposition in Syria that is hostile to both Assad and ISIS.

Psaki’s comments are utterly cynical from every standpoint. The Pentagon routinely dismisses evidence of civilian casualties from air strikes by US and allied war planes in Syria and Iraq, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan, even in the face of eyewitness statements. It wages its bogus “war on terror” with complete indifference for civilian life.

Earlier, the same Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released figures on Saturday indicating that at least 52 civilians, including 8 children and 5 women, were killed in air attacks by the US-led coalition in Syria. Given the organisation’s political sympathies, this figure is likely to be an under-estimate. Not surprisingly, the US State Department expressed no horror over these casualties.

It is also unclear whether the deaths in Raqqa were solely due to the Syrian air force. American warplanes bombed the city as recently as Monday. A Wall Street Journal report stated: “It wasn’t clear whether the US and its allies had carried out airstrikes in Raqqa on Tuesday. The scale of the casualties and how many were civilians or Islamic State militants was also unclear.” It noted that it was often “hard to distinguish Raqqa locals from the extremists.”

The Raqqa activist told the BBC: “All the markets in the city are closed after the air strikes. There is nobody walking in the streets … They are just afraid because they say in the morning there are regime air strikes and in the evening there are [US-led] coalition air strikes and it’s very, very hard to live under IS [ISIS].”

According to US Central Command figures, its war planes carried out 41 air strikes inside Syria and Iraq from last Friday up until Wednesday, including on Raqqa and the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane. The Voice of America web site reported yesterday that the US recently brought a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolt fighter jets from Afghanistan to Kuwait to carry out low-level bombing raids in Iraq and Syria, as well as six more Reaper drones armed with missiles.

Inside Iraq, US-backed government forces are battling to retain control of the city of Ramadi in the western Anbar province, much of which is already under ISIS control. ISIS militias launched an offensive earlier this week to capture the provincial capital. According to government officials on Wednesday, ISIS fighters advanced to within several hundred metres of governor’s office, before being pushed back. Kurdish peshmerga forces in the northern province of Kirkuk are also involved in heavy fighting to hold off a major ISIS offensive.

Last weekend, US Vice-President Joe Biden visited Turkey to try to patch up frayed relations and enlist greater Turkish support for the war in Iraq and Syria. The Turkish government has pressed the US for a more explicit call for regime-change in Damascus, as well as support for the imposition of a no-fly zone and buffer zone inside Syria. It has also been reluctant to support Kurdish militia holding out in Kobane, due to their affiliation with the outlawed separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey.

After meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Biden told the media they had agreed not only to roll back ISIS in Syria, but also to “strengthen the Syrian opposition and ensure a transition away from the Assad regime.” The Turkish foreign ministry announced it would collaborate with US forces in training 2,000 “moderate Syrian opposition fighters” at a base in the central Turkish city of Kirsehir. Turkey has also indicated it would be prepared to equip and train national guard units in Iraq to fight against ISIS.

Biden clashed with Erdogan last month when he accused Turkey of encouraging the rise of ISIS in Syria. While Turkey has certainly backed the Syrian opposition militias that have been dominated by right-wing Islamist organisations such as ISIS and the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, it is not alone. The US and its other Middle Eastern allies have been closely involved in training, financing and arming anti-Assad forces. The CIA has maintained a base inside Turkey to assist and arm opposition forces in Syria.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that the CIA was also involved in covertly training anti-Assad fighters at a camp in the Gulf state of Qatar. The desert camp lies inside a military zone guarded by Qatari special forces. The program has been running for a year and reportedly involves small groups of 12 to 20 fighters affiliated with the pro-Western Free Syrian Army (FSA). According to Reuters: “In recent weeks, the Qataris, disappointed by the lack of progress in the fight against Assad, have started to consider training members of the Islamic Front—another Islamist militia.”

While the US claims to distinguish between ISIS and “moderate” anti-Assad fighters, these forces have commonly worked closely together. Arms supplied to the pro-Western FSA have ended up in the hands of Islamist militias. Now amid a groundswell of civilian opposition inside Syria to US air strikes, sections of the FSA are going over to ISIS, according to a Guardian article on Monday. Such defections will only encourage the US to openly declare war on Assad, sooner rather than later, in a bid to stem the tide.

The reactionary politics of German Greens on display at party congress

By Dietmar Henning

28 November 2014

The German Green Party has proved on many occasions that it is expert in embellishing the reactionary content of its program with empty talk of freedom, humanity and peace. Such hypocrisy was once more on show at the party’s annual congress held last weekend in Hamburg.

The party’s slogans recall George Orwell’s “newspeak.” The tightening up of immigration law is described by the Greens as a “humane asylum policy”; the German government’s embrace of militarism as a “European peace policy”; and its neoliberal economic course as “freedom for all.”

The main motion from the party executive was titled “Designing Green Freedom—emancipatory and participatory, with responsibility and solidarity.” The motion states that “freedom” is a “basic value” of the Greens, and is defined entirely in the sense of economic liberalism. In the name of “freedom” and “self-determination,” the motion argues for austerity and welfare cuts—i.e., for a “serious budgetary policy” and the “liberation of future generations from mountains of debt.”

A request to delete reference to resolving the problem of “mountains of debt” was rejected, and the main motion was carried by an overwhelming majority.

With regard to German foreign and military policy, the Greens long ago jumped on the bandwagon of war. In 1998, after it entered into a coalition with the Social Democrats to form a government at the federal level, Green Party Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was in the forefront of the campaign for the first international combat mission by the German army since the Second World War—as part of the NATO bombardment of Serbia.

At the time, the Green Party course evoked resistance inside the party, and on one occasion Fischer was hit by a paint bomb lobbed by one of his pacifist opponents. This time around there was no opposition to the party’s reaffirmation of its allegiance to the government’s militaristic course.

At the Hamburg congress, Cem Özdemir, one of the two party leaders, defended his support for the government’s policy in the Middle East, in particular Berlin’s supply of weapons to the Kurdish Peshmerga. “You have to put the Kurds in a position to defend themselves,” Özdemir declared.

However, he also criticized the government for not going further. Özdemir favors an even stronger commitment of the Bundeswehr (the German Armed Forces). Following a trip to Iraq, he wrote a report, along with party colleague Tom Koenigs, former UN Special Representative in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and Theresa Kalmer, chair of the Green Party youth organization, that calls for further steps to support the Peshmerga.

“After the weapons deliveries, the Peshmerga fighters need to be trained in the use of them and in military tactics on a large scale,” the report states. This urgently requires “more Bundeswehr personnel.”

Germany must also support the implementation of “international protection zones in order to protect threatened minorities,” the report states. Similar protection zones served in Libya as a pretext for a massive military intervention.

In its main motion on a “European peace policy,” the majority of Green Party delegates voted against sending weapons to the Iraqi Kurds, but the motion also explicitly respected “the freedom of conscience of those members who have reached a different conclusion,” i.e. those who voted in favor of supplying weapons. In other words, Green parliamentary deputies are free to support German military deployments, even if it is contrary to the official party line.

Basically, the congress supported German military missions, albeit with a few misgivings. “The use of military violence in war, irrespective of its objectives, is a great evil,” the main motion states, but then continues: “But in some situations it may be necessary to prevent even greater evil.” This includes when it is necessary for “immediately containing violence.”

Using the same reasoning, the party’s parliamentary fraction chair Katrin Göring-Eckardt called for the use of German ground forces in Iraq and Syria to “protect civilians.” The congress decided to consider such use when needed.

A similar discussion took place regarding immigration policy. On this issue, delegates backed the Green premier of the state of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, who in September secured a majority in Germany’s second house, the Bundesrat, permitting the repatriation of refugees from the Balkans. Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were declared to be secure havens, and refugees from these countries can now immediately be deported. Particularly affected are Roma who are defenseless against racist attacks in these countries.

When the youth wing of the Greens protested during Kretschmann’s speech at the congress, the two party chairs, Simone Peter and Cem Özdemir, stood demonstratively alongside him. Following his vote in the Bundesrat, Peter had described Kretschmann’s decision as “wrong.”

After the young Greens were kicked out, Kretschmann defended his decision to the applause of delegates. In typical Green fashion Kretschmann stressed how difficult it had been for him to make this “compromise.” Everyone knew how “scrupulously” he had wrestled with his conscience. His statement—“only those who make compromises can expect the same from others”—was then greeted with enthusiasm by delegates.

The motion on asylum policy, drawn up jointly by the party executive and Kretschmann, was passed at the congress by a large majority. Hypocritically, the motion stated that the Greens regarded the decision of “the Bundestag and Bundesrat to expand the list of safe countries to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia was false and controversial with respect to European law.” At the same time, the decision was “part of a package… that included real improvements for refugees in our country.”

This cynicism was surpassed by a further resolution calling on the federal government to allow an annual small contingent of 5,000 Roma to be admitted from the Balkans. “The individual right to seek asylum is not affected by the quota,” it states. “We demand therefore the individual examination of asylum applications, especially regarding severe cases of discrimination.”

But it is precisely this—the principle of individual examination—that Kretschmann opposed with his consent for the government’s policy.

The Green congress in Hamburg consolidated the right-wing shift of the party that has taken place in recent years. The congress prioritized motions dealing with the “struggle against factory farming,” “healthy food for all,” “ecological transformation” and “a reassessment of our concept of freedom,” but nothing was said about social issues.

It was left to parliamentary chairman Anton Hofreiter to outline to the affluent and smug layers of the upper middle class, which constitute the main clientele of the Greens, the party’s new “Agricultural Policy”—a ban on factory farms—which was to ensure “good food.”

The congress made it clear that the Greens regard their role as “kingmaker” for the increasingly discredited Social Democrats and Christian Democrats. They agree with these parties on all major issues, and when they do raise criticisms, it is from the right.

The Greens already have representatives in seven state administrations. In six states, they govern in a coalition with the SPD, and in the state of Hesse with the CDU. In the state of Thuringia, they are expected to shortly join a new coalition government with the SPD and the Left Party, headed by a premier from the Left Party.

The motion “Green Dawn” lists the founders of the party almost 35 years ago: “ecologists, disillusioned socialists, civil rights activists, feminists, pacifists, lesbians and gays, animal rights activists, activists from citizens’ initiatives, Young Democrats, and many more.”

The Hamburg congress marked the end of the period in which this kind of petty-bourgeois identity politics could pose as progressive or even leftist. The Greens are a right-wing, bourgeois party, rooted in affluent sections of the middle class, openly following in the footsteps of Germany’s ailing neoliberal Free Democratic Party.

India: Open rift in Stalinist CPM

By Deepal Jayasekera and Keith Jones

28 November 2014

A long-running rift within the top leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM, the country’s principal Stalinist parliamentary party, has now broken into the open. The rift revolves around whether to pursue an alliance with the Congress Party, historically the premier party of the Indian bourgeoisie, or to continue working for a Third Front, that is an alliance with a host of caste-ist and regional parties, all of them erstwhile allies of the Congress or the Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP).

The rift pits the current CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat against Politburo member Sitaram Yechury and much of the party leadership in West Bengal, for decades the CPM’s principal base of electoral support. Yechury has long been considered the “number two” man in the CPM and is said to be preparing to vie for the party’s top post at the CPM congress next April.

The differences within the CPM leadership have been enormously exacerbated by a series of electoral debacles that began in 2009 with the halving of the party’s representation in the national parliament. In 2011, the CPM-led state governments in Kerala and West Bengal were ousted, bringing in the latter case an end to 34 years of uninterrupted CPM rule.

In last May’s general election, the CPM suffered a further body-blow. Ten years after the CPM-led Left Front had emerged as the third largest bloc in parliament with some sixty seats, its parliamentary representation was reduced to a mere dozen.

The collapse in the Stalinists’ electoral support is a direct product of their role in implementing the Indian bourgeoisie’s neo-liberal economic “reform” programwhich aims to make India a cheap-labour hub for world capital. Since 1991 the CPM has propped up a series of right-wing national governments, most of them led by the Congress, that have funneled tax concessions to big business and the rich, while slashing social spending, and implementing privatization and deregulation.

In 2004, the CPM was instrumental in putting together the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government. The Stalinists continued to prop up the minority UPA government for the next four years, even as they conceded that it was pursuing pro-big business and pro-US policies little different from those of the BJP-led government that had preceded it.

Moreover, in West Bengal and Kerala, CPM-led governments have ruthlessly carried out similar “pro-investor” policies. This has included banning strikes by workers in the IT and IT-enabled industries and bloodily suppressing peasant opposition to the expropriation of their lands for big business projects.

It was the Stalinists’ systematic suppression of the class struggle, exemplified by their close identification with the Congress Party, that enabled the ultra-right-wing, communalist BJP to exploit the popular anger over mass unemployment, double-digit inflation and corruption and sweep the polls last May.

In the half-year since its rout in the 2014 elections, the CPM has had very little to say in way of an explanation—a silence that is indicative of the extent of its crisis.

After several rounds of meetings, the Politburo adopted a statement drafted by Karat that reportedly argues that the party has been pursuing an erroneous “tactical line” for the past 25years. But, in what is a very rare occurrence within the CPM, Yechury challenged Karat’s statement when it was presented to the Central Committee (CC) for approval in late October. In the counter-statement that Yechury presented to the CC, he blamed the party’s decline on “organizational failures” during Karat’s nine years as CPM General Secretary.

Yechury’s criticisms were reportedly backed by a majority of the CC. In any event, such was the extent of the opposition the Politburo was compelled to withdraw the policy statement drafted by Karat and announce that it will prepare a new draft for a CC meeting in January.

While neither Karat nor Yechury has publicly elaborated on their differences, it is clear that the dispute revolves around which right-wing course the CPM should follow.

Both are wholly identified with the CPM’s support for, and when in state government implementation of, the Indian bourgeoisie’s economic “reform” program. Neither has uttered so much as a word of criticism of the West Bengal CPM’s open solicitation of big business support and pursuit of what it itself calls “pro-investor” policies.

Yechury and much of the party’s West Bengal leadership want an open alliance with the Congress Party, which as a result of last May’s election has been reduced to little-more than a rump. Such an orientation would in all likelihood include willingness to participate in Congress-led governments. (Between 2004 and 2008, the CPM and its Left Front were the Congress Party’s most important parliamentary allies and regularly participated in the formulation of government policy, but the CPM declined the Congress’s offer of cabinet seats, preferring to support the government “from the outside.”)

Karat and his faction want the CPM to continue to keep some distance from the Congress and instead pursue electoral alliances with such right-wing one-time BJP and Congress allies as the Tamil Nadu-based AIDMK and DMK, the Uttar Pradesh-based Samajwadi Party, the Janata Dal (United), and the Oriya-based BJD.

Karat’s opposition to formally allying with the Congress is entirely tactical. After all, it was under his leadership that the CPM helped bring the Congress-led UPA to power in 2004 and sustained it in office for four full years, that is until the Congress chose to break with the Stalinists so as to push forward with the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal and the cementing of a strategic partnership between New Delhi and Washington.

Speaking just days after the CC meeting at which the differences within the party leadership had come to a head, Karat reiterated that in “the fight against the BJP government … and particularly against the danger posed by the Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) forces led by the RSS,” the CPM “will cooperate with all secular forces.”

The CPM has long touted the Congress as a secular bulwark and indeed for the past quarter century has repeatedly justified its support for Congress-led governments on the ground that this is the only way to keep the BJP at bay and defend thereby Indian “secularism.”

Following a Nov. 5 meeting of the CPM’s West Bengal State Committee, Karat was even more explicit about the possibility of the Stalinists blocking with the Congress in the name of defeating the BJP. Said Karat: “The matter is open to debate and I have no problem with that. Let members of the Central Committee engage in a free and fair discussion on whom to align with or not. They can come up with any suggestion on the party’s political-tactical line.’’

On Nov. 17 both Karat and Yechury attended a Congress Party event marking the 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, the founder of the Nehru-Gandhi Congress political dynasty and independent India’s first prime minister. This was the first time top CPM leaders had participated in a Congress function since they withdrew support for the Congress-led UPA in July 2008.

In an attempt to downplay the significance of his participation in the event, Karat said he had attended because the CPM recognizes Nehru’s “enormous contribution … to the making of a secular Indian state and his role in establishing a parliamentary democratic system. Nothing more should be read into our participation.”

Karat’s remarks underscore the Stalinists’ allegiance to the Indian bourgeois state which was founded through the deal that the Congress of Nehru and M.K. Gandhi struck with British imperialism in 1947 to suppress the mass anti-imperialist movement that had convulsed South Asia in the first half of the Twentieth Century and partition the Indian subcontinent along communal lines into a Muslim Pakistan and a predominantly Hindu India.

The rift within the CPM leadership has an important regional dynamic, with Yechury, who originates from Andhra Pradesh, drawing much of his support from West Bengal and Karat, who hails from Kerala, having the support of the Kerala state unit.

It is an open secret that much of West Bengal party leadership opposed the decision to withdraw support for the Congress Party-led UPA in July 2008, because they feared it would facilitate an electoral alliance between the Congress and the West Bengal-based Trinamool Congress (TMC).

With support for the CPM in West Bengal dropping precipitously since its twin electoral routs in 2011 and 2014, the party leadership is anxious to ally with the Congress, fearing that otherwise it will be marginalized in the official politics of the state by the rise of the TMC, which now form the state government, and the BJP.

In Kerala, by contrast, the CPM continues to view the Congress Party, which currently forms the state government, as its principal competitor.

The Indian bourgeoisie turned to the would-be Hindu strongman Narenda Modi and his BJP in the 2014 elections calculating that they could be used to dramatically intensify the assault on the working class. The Stalinists have responded to this intensification of the class struggle by shifting still further right.

The shipwreck of the CPM is the outcome of the nationalist-Stalinist politics it has pursued since it was formed fifty years in a split from its now close ally, the even more decrepit Communist Party of India (CPI). Like the CPI, the CPM has always opposed the struggle for the political independence of the working class and socialism. In an earlier period the Stalinists did so claiming that workers and toilers must first assist the “progressive” and “anti-imperialist” wing of the Indian bourgeoisie in completing the democratic revolution. Now they frankly declare that to build Indian capitalism foreign investment must be welcomed, holding up China as a model.

A new mass party of the Indian working class must be built on the basis of Permanent Revolution, the program that animated the 1917 Russian Revolution and the subsequent struggle waged by Leon Trotsky and the Fourth International against the Stalinist degeneration of the USSR. Only through a working-class led socialist revolution can the basic needs of India’s workers and toilers, including the outstanding tasks of the democratic revolution, such as the liquidation of landlordism and caste-ism, be realized.

Australia: Major parties prepare further austerity after Victorian state election

By Patrick Kelly

28 November 2014

Tomorrow’s state election in Victoria will be quickly followed by a stepped-up offensive against the living conditions and basic rights of the working class, regardless of whether the Labor Party or the Liberal-National coalition holds office. All of the election promises will quickly be ditched as the impact of the worsening global slump is felt across the Australian economy.

The official campaign has been a sham from start to finish. The opposition Labor Party has appealed to widespread hostility toward the government’s budget cuts, especially to the Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and public school system, while the Liberals’ campaign has centred on reminding people of the previous Labor government’s record in office from 1999 to 2010.

Both Labor and Liberal are desperately trying to appeal to the bitter anger and disgust felt by ordinary people toward the major parties—though both represent the interests of big business and are committed to implementing further cuts to education, health, and other basic social services.

This agenda has been deliberately covered up in the election campaign. Behind the scenes, however, both Premier Denis Napthine and Labor leader Daniel Andrews have sought to win the backing of key sections of the corporate elite by advancing themselves as the most reliable proponents of austerity and other pro-business measures.

At the beginning of the campaign last month, Labor announced that if elected it would “maintain a AAA credit rating and healthy surpluses every year in office.” Victoria is the only Australian state that has avoided a downgrade in recent years amid a sharp downturn in international commodity prices and the end of the Australian mining boom.

Asked on November 19 if that meant that health and education spending could be cut in order to maintain the AAA rating, Andrews made clear it would. He also boasted of his closed-doors discussions with the Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s credit rating agencies in New York. “The AAA credit rating is critically important,” he declared, “and that’s why I took the time to visit with the agencies last year and went and sat with them and talked to them about the bipartisan commitment to a AAA stable rating. I know how important it is and we will do everything to guarantee it.”

This pledge to do “everything” demanded by international finance capital was made at the same time as newly released economic data confirmed a worsening crisis. The government’s projections of surpluses over the next four years are based on forecasts of 2.75 percent annual economic growth, with unemployment declining to 5.5 percent. Growth is currently just 1.7 percent and unemployment 6.8 percent. The situation is set to deteriorate. Within the next two years, the car industry is scheduled to be entirely shut down, triggering more mass layoffs in working-class communities that are already wracked by depression-level unemployment.

The Victorian state election has again highlighted the unprecedented crisis wracking the entire parliamentary set up in Australia.

At the last election four years ago, the then Labor government was backed by every significant business lobby group and media outlet, but lost office amid working class opposition to its pro-business record. Then, in 2012, Premier Ted Baillieu was forced to resign after corporate executives complained that he moved too slowly in implementing their demands.

Baillieu’s successor, Napthine, now faces the prospect of leading the first one-term government in Victoria since 1955. Opposition to Napthine’s policies has intersected with wider anger over the austerity measures implemented by the federal Liberal-National government. The Victorian Liberal Party told Prime Minister Tony Abbott and other senior government ministers to stay out of the state during the campaign, in an attempt to distance it from the federal government’s cuts.

The enormous disgust felt by ordinary people toward the major parties has triggered unprecedented political volatility. Each election cycle is dominated by the cynical attempts of whichever party is in opposition to posture as an opponent of its rival’s pro-business policies. Then, once the election is out of the way, exactly the same agenda is pursued by the new government.

During this election campaign, more conscious elements within the political establishment have raised the alarm that this kind of electoral politics is unsustainable. Herald Sun commentator Shaun Carney earlier this month noted that the various advertisements run by Labor and Liberal candidates barely mention the names of their political parties.

“Obviously, focus groups are telling the parties that they’re not popular, that voters who decide elections are antagonised by the very name of the organisations,” Carney wrote. “So you can understand why, as a short-term strategy to get through the next contest, the parties and candidates want to bury their identification. But it’s a strategy that’s producing diminishing returns… For voters and for the parties, it’s clear that this can’t keep going on. The political system is seizing up.”

Fairfax Media’s Sunday Age, in its last editorial before the election, endorsed the Labor Party, “with little enthusiasm and much reservation.” It warned that “Victorians have become deeply disengaged,” adding that the primary task of the next government was to “show some humility and work hard to restore faith in the political process.”

The Greens are attempting to keep opposition to the major parties within safe parliamentary channels. They aim to win one or two lower house seats for the first time, positioning themselves as guarantors of “parliamentary stability” for the ruling elite, potentially as holders of the balance of power or as fully fledged coalition partners of either the Labor or Liberal parties.

The Greens’ campaign, like those of the two major parties, has ignored the escalating economic and social crisis. It has instead been preoccupied with opposing the government’s proposed East-West toll road, appealing to the local concerns, particularly in its base among a narrow upper-middle class layer in Melbourne’s inner suburbs. The pseudo-lefts contesting the election, the Socialist Party and Socialist Alliance, rest on the same constituency, with their parochial campaigns promoting themselves as more militant opponents of the road than the Greens.

The state election has underscored the fact that the working class remains effectively disenfranchised, with none of the parties and candidates representing the independent class interests of working people.

One year since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine

28 November 2014

Tomorrow, Saturday, marks the first anniversary of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, where then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union. One year later Ukraine is embroiled in a civil war that has claimed more than 4,000 lives. NATO is on the verge of an armed conflict with Russia that threatens humanity with nuclear annihilation.

How did this come about? Western propaganda answers this question with five letters: PUTIN.

The Russian president thinks in “spheres of influence,” breaks international law, endangers “the framework of peace in Europe” and seeks to annex not only Ukraine, but also Georgia, Moldova and the Baltic states, according to the accusations of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A flood of propaganda spread by the media 24 hours a day tries to convince the public that only the villain in the Kremlin is preventing Ukraine from developing into a prosperous oasis of democracy, and Europe into a paradise of peace.

The WSWS has absolutely no sympathy for the Russian president. He is a right-wing nationalist who represents the interests of Russian oligarchs and is diametrically opposed to the socialist and internationalist goals for which we stand. But to make Russia responsible for the escalation of the crisis in the last twelve months stands reality on its head.

Among the few western voices to contradict the official propaganda is the professor of political science at the University of Chicago, John J. Mearsheimer. In the September/October issue of the journal Foreign Affairs, he states that Putin is not the aggressor. “The United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis. The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West.”

Mearsheimer continues: “Putin’s pushback should have come as no surprise…. His response to events (in Ukraine) has been defensive, not offensive.” He points out that the United States would “not tolerate distant great powers deploying military forces anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, much less on its borders. Imagine the outrage in Washington if China built an impressive military alliance and tried to include Canada and Mexico in it.”

Mearsheimer, a proponent of the school of international relations theory known as neorealism, examines the conflicts among states, but does not deal with the economic and social issues that also play a role in the Ukraine crisis. However, his assertion that the US has encircled Russia to maintain its position as a world power, while Germany is striving to become one, is correct.

The penetration of Eastern Europe by NATO and the EU has a further dimension. It aims to transform Ukraine and eventually Russia itself into a kind of semi-colony—a reservoir of cheap labor and raw materials for Western companies, a market for their products and a source of profits for hedge funds and Western banks. To this end they require a regime that is subordinate to NATO and the EU and brutally suppresses the working class.

This was the aim of the Association Agreement that Yanukovych refused to sign a year ago and which, after his overthrow, was accepted by the new regime.

The Agreement protects the assets of Ukrainian oligarchs and opens up Ukraine to western corporations and banks while luring the political elite and a small layer of the middle class with bribes from the EU. To the broad mass of the population it has nothing to offer but unlimited quantities of “Greek medicine”—austerity programs prescribed by the IMF and the EU, massive cuts in spending on social welfare, education, health and administration, and the closure and privatization of factories.

Initially Yanukovych supported the Association Agreement, but eventually decided against it because he feared for his political future. He feared a social explosion if he implemented the cuts demanded by the EU in what was already a desperately poor country. For its part, Russia offered Ukraine cheap loans, while the EU insisted on immediate drastic savings.

In order to bind Ukraine to the EU and NATO despite this, it was necessary to organize a coup and to mobilize fascist forces. From the start, the protests on the Maidan were under the influence of western backed forces. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland later admitted that the US had invested over $5 billion in such forces since 1991.

At first, just a few thousand took to the streets, and there was no evidence of a widespread sentiment in favor of the EU. Public opinion polls show that during the last ten years only 30 to 40 percent of the Ukrainian population favored EU integration, with about the same number favoring integration with Russia.

The spokesmen of the protests were familiar figures: Arseny Yatsenyuk, a representative of the US sponsored Orange Revolution of 2004; Vitaly Klitschko, who lived in Germany, a professional boxer with close ties to the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation; and Oleh Tjahnibok, leader of the fascist Svoboda party. In what was a complete break with diplomatic norms, government members and parliamentary deputies from NATO countries mixed publicly with demonstrators who blocked government buildings and demanded the overthrow of the elected president.

When Yanukovych refused to yield to the demonstrators’ demands, armed right-wing groups began to dominate events on the Maidan. Svoboda transported its followers into Kiev from its strongholds in the west of the country. Virtually out of nowhere, the Right Sector, an alliance of neo-Nazis and paramilitary militias emerged. The conflicts became more brutal, snipers killed dozens of people. It has not been settled until this day if they were part of the security forces of the regime or political provocateurs from the ranks of the opposition.

On February 21 Yanukovych agreed to an interim government and early elections. Threatened by right-wing militias, he took flight the very same night. On February 22 his opponents seized power in Kiev. It was left to the Western media and a host of pseudo-left organizations to portray this coup organized by western powers and supported by fascist gangs as a “democratic revolution.”

The seizure of power by ultra-nationalists in Kiev unleashed fear and panic, especially in the east of the country, with its large Russian-speaking population. With support from the Kremlin, Crimea declared its independence and was incorporated into the Russian Federation. Pro-Russian separatists took power in Donetsk and Lugansk and have been at war with the Ukrainian central government ever since.

In the meantime the US and Germany have systematically used the crisis, which they brought about, to increase military and economic pressure on Russia. NATO has moved troops into Eastern Europe, increased surveillance flights along the Russian border, organised land and sea manoeuvres in the vicinity of Russia and is systematically rearming. The US and the EU have imposed economic sanctions against Russia and cut off the country’s access to international finance.

When one seeks the real causes of this dangerous escalation and the related threat of war, it is necessary to look at the White House and the Chancellery in Berlin, rather than the Kremlin. As was the case in the first half of the last century, the imperialist powers are responding to the crisis of world capitalism and growing social tensions with war and dictatorship.

The events in Ferguson show that American society is on the brink of a social explosion. The same is true for Europe, where unceasing waves of austerity are forcing broad layers into poverty and unemployment. The ruling elites respond with militarism at home and abroad, the conquest of new spheres of influence, markets and raw materials, accompanied by the development of state surveillance and apparatus of state suppression.

There is only one way to combat this development: the building of an international socialist movement of the working class, which combines the struggle against war with the struggle against its root cause, the capitalist system.

Peter Schwarz

Five Earthquakes in Four Days: Is Spate of Texas Earthquakes Connected to Nearby Fracking Operations?

Global Research, November 27, 2014
Common Dreams 26 November 2014

Fracking-400x264The city of Irving, Texas has experienced five earthquakes in four days, leading some critics to blame increased seismic activity on nearby fracking operations.

The first earthquake, Saturday night, was a magnitude 3.3 quake that was felt by hundreds of North Texans. A 2.5-magnitude quake hit on Sunday, followed by two more on Monday, magnitudes 2.2 and 2.3. And a fifth 2.7-magnitude earthquake was reported Tuesday evening just east of the University of Dallas campus.

Residents and city leaders point to area oil and gas disposal wells, where fracking wastewater is injected deep underground, as likely culprits. There is a wastewater disposal well near the epicenter of Saturday’s quake.

“We are guinea pigs in the middle of this fracking experiment. Texas homes are built to withstand wind, not earthquakes,” Sharon Wilson, an organizer for the advocacy group Earthworks, told Reuters. “Who will pay for the damage to private property?”

Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, agreed: “People are scared,” he told Newsradio 1200 WOAI. “They are not used to waking up to find their homes shaking. The connection between fracking and earthquakes is obvious.”

A map of this week’s earthquakes. (Credit: NBC Dallas-Fort Worth)

A study published last month backs up such claims. Looking at data from National Science Foundation seismographs located near fracking sites, scientists in Ohio were able to make direct connections between at least 400 small “micro-earthquakes” and nearby fracking operations in that state.

Earlier this year, U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey stated that wastewater injection was “a likely contributing factor to the increase in earthquakes” in Oklahoma. “This phenomenon is known as injection-induced seismicity, which has been documented for nearly half a century, with new cases identified recently in Arkansas, Ohio, Texas and Colorado.”

WOAI reports that “[t]he Texas Oil and Gas Association says it is open to an investigation into the connection between hydraulic fracking and earthquakes which have become more common in Texas since the widespread practice of shale fracking began in 2009.”

“The oil and natural gas industry agrees that recent seismic activity warrants robust investigation to determine the precise location, impact, and cause or causes of seismic events,” Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, told the station.

Irving is located just 35 miles from Denton, Texas, where residents recently voted to ban fracking within city limits. In the days after the vote, the Texas Oil and Gas Association filed an injunction to prevent the ban from being instated; the Texas General Land Office filed a separate lawsuit to block the new rule; and a local regulator said she would not enforce the ban.

The Politics of Thanksgiving Day

Global Research, November 27, 2014
Consortium News 26 November 2014

thanksgivingbyjennieabrownscombeAs family excitement builds over Thanksgiving, you would never know November was Native American History Month. President Barack Obama publicly announced the month, but many more Americans will be paying much greater attention to his annual declaration of thanksgiving with the ceremonial pardoning of a turkey.

Thanksgiving has a treasured place in the hearts of Americans, established as a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to rouse Northern patriotism for a war that was not going well. Since then, Thanksgiving has often served other political ends.

In 2003, in the age of U.S. Middle East invasions, President George W. Bush flew to Baghdad, Iraq, to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with U.S. troops. He sought to rally the public behind an invasion based on lies by having a host of photographers snap pictures of him carrying a glazed turkey to eager soldiers. Three hours later, Bush flew home, and TV brought his act of solidarity and generosity to millions of U.S. living rooms. But the turkey the President carried to Baghdad was never eaten. It was cardboard, a stage prop.

Thus, as an example of hypocrisy and insincerity, Thanksgiving 2003 had a lot in common with the first Thanksgiving Day celebrated in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621. A year earlier, 149 English Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower landed at Plymouth and survived their first New England winter when Wampanoug people brought the newcomers corn, meat and other gifts, and taught the Pilgrims survival skills.

In 1621, Governor William Bradford of Plymouth proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving – not for his Wampanoug saviors but in honor of his brave Pilgrims. Through resourcefulness and devotion to God, his Christians had defeated hunger.

Bradford claimed that Native Americans were invited to the dinner. A seat at the table? Really? Since Pilgrims classified their nonwhite saviors as “infidels” and inferiors — if invited at all, they were asked to provide and serve, not share the food.

To this day, we are asked to see Thanksgiving essentially through the eyes of Governor Bradford (albeit with a nod to the help provided by the Native Americans). Bradford’s fable about stalwart Pilgrims overcoming daunting challenges through God’s blessings was an early example of “Euro think” which cast the European conquest of the Americas as mostly heroic and even noble.

Having survived those first difficult winters, Pilgrim armies soon pushed westward. In 1637, Governor Bradford sent his troops to raid a Pequot village, viewing the clash as mortal combat between devout Christians and godless heathens. Pilgrim soldiers systematically destroyed a village of sleeping men, women and children.

Bradford was overjoyed: “It was a fearful sight to see them frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same and horrible was the stink and stench thereof. But the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice and they [the Pilgrim militia] gave praise thereof to God.”

Years later, Pilgrim Reverend Increase Mather asked his congregation to celebrate the “victory” and thank God “that on this day we have sent six hundred heathen souls to hell.”

School books and scholarly texts still honor Bradford, ignoring his callous brutality. The 1993 edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia [p. 351] states of Bradford, “He maintained friendly relations with the Native Americans.” The scholarly Dictionary of American History [p. 77] said, “He was a firm, determined man and an excellent leader; kept relations with the Indians on friendly terms; tolerant toward newcomers and new religions….”

The Mayflower, renamed the Meijbloom (Dutch for Mayflower), continued to carve its place in history. It became a slave ship carrying enslaved Africans to the Americas.

The Earliest Freedom-Fighters

Thanksgiving Day in the United States celebrates not justice and equality but aggression and enslavement. It affirms the genocidal beliefs in racial and religious superiority that justified the destruction of millions of Native American people and their cultures, extermination campaigns that began soon after the Pilgrim landing in 1620 and continued through the U.S. Army’s punitive campaigns in the West during the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries.

Still, Americans proudly count themselves among the earliest to fight for freedom of the individual and independence from tyranny. In that sense, on Thanksgiving Day, Americans might think to honor the first freedom-fighters of the Americas – those who resisted the foreign invasion of these lands – but those freedom-fighters were not European and their resistance started long before 1776.

Even before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, thousands of enslaved Africans and Native Americans had united to fight the European invaders and slavers. In the early Sixteenth Century during the age of Columbus and the Spanish invasion, these brave freedom-fighters were led by Taino leaders on the island of Hispaniola. One, a woman poet named Anacoana was captured at age 29. Another, a man named Hatuey, led his 400 followers from Hispaniola to Cuba in 1511 to warn the people about the dangers from the foreigners.

The following year, Hatuey was captured, too, and, the next year in behavior fitting with the civilization represented by the European invaders, Anacoana and Hatuey were burned at the stake.

Resistance to the invaders and their reliance on slavery continued to erupt in other parts of the Americas. In 1605, 15 years before the Mayflower reached Plymouth, thousands of runaway Africans, known as “maroons,” united with Indians in northeast Brazil to form the Republic of Palmares, defended by a three-walled fortress. From there, Genga Zumba and his 10,000 people repeatedly threw back Dutch and Portuguese armies. The Republic of Palmares survived until 1694, almost a hundred years, before finally being suppressed.

These early nonwhite freedom-fighters kept no written records, but some of their ideas about freedom, justice and equality found their way into the sacred parchment that Americans celebrate each July Fourth, declaring that all people are created equal and endowed with fundamental rights.

So, the fairest way to celebrate freedom-fighters in what the Europeans called the New World would be to start with the stories of Anacoana and Hatuey resisting the depredations of Columbus and his men and then move to the “maroon” resistance at Palmares.

Looking at the injustice that the victors often meted out to indigenous people and imported slaves, there is little reason to feel grateful for the later arrival of — and encroachments by — the ungrateful Pilgrims.

William Loren Katz is the author of Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage [Atheneum] and 40 other books. His website is: This essay is adapted from the 2012 edition of Black Indians.

What the Fake Syria Sniper Boy Video Tell Us About Media Experts

November 27, 2014 (Maram Susli – NEO) Many mainstream media websites helped a fake video go viral this month. The video showing a young Syrian boy running through sniper fire to save a little girl, was exposed as a fake when the Norwegian producer Lars Klevberg made the fact public. One of the stated aims of the Norwegian film makers was to “see how the media would respond to a fake video.” This article examines how that experiment went.


The western press very quickly accepted the video as real and used it to support the US administration’s narrative on Syria. Many top US news sources began to spread the story. Even though the producer said he explicitly added big hints that the video was fake, like the children surviving multiple gun shots.

Propagating false stories on Syria, is nothing new for the western press. In the lead up to the conflict many stories were exposed as frauds, such as the Anti-government activist “Gay Girl in Damascus” which turned out to be a middle-aged American man in Scotland. Syrian Danny Abdul Dayem which was frequently interviewed by CNN was using fake gun fire and flames in his interviews.

The fake sniper video wasn’t enough to support US government narratives by itself, as the now deletedoriginal upload didn’t suggest the identity of the snipers. So the west’s media suggested that it was Syrian military snipers that were targeting the children without any evidence. Journalists failed to mention how they reached the conclusion that an actor in Malta was shot by the Syrian military. It may be that the western press is quick to trust pro-rebel sources, as the video was uploaded by the pro-rebel Sham Times along with their own twist.

The Guardian’s headline for the video was “Syrian boy ‘saves girl from army sniper’” and the Telegraph delicately suggested the Syrian military was responsible for the fake bullets. The International Business (IB) times stated, “the snipers, who reportedly are said to be the government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” IB Times never explicitly mentioned who reported this information. They then took it a step further and concluded the article with “the incident certainly is not the first time that Pro-Assad gunmen have targeted children”. Well it is at least not the first time the mainstream media has presented false reports as fact. In 2012, CNN claimed a bullet that killed a four year old girl in Aleppo was shot by government snipers even whilst admitting the bullet came from rebel held buildings.

Other journalists took to Twitter to make unfounded claims about army snipers targeting the boy. Vinnie O’Dowd who has done work for Channel 4 and Al Jazeera tweeted “Syrian Regime Targets kids. Liz Sly of the Washington Post tweeted incredulously that “Soldiers kept shooting” at children.

These tweets were inline with an official State Department Twitter account @ThinkAgain_DOS whichblamed Assad for the fictitious bullets in the film. This casts doubt on how deeply the US administration scrutinizes information it bases it’s policy on. In 2013 they relied heavily on video footage provided by rebels to support its planned attack on Syria in the wake the Ghouta chemical attack.

Scrutinising the Scrutinisers (Experts)

But it isn’t just the mainstream media that was easily duped by the convenient propaganda film. The video experts that were asked to scrutinise the video, failed to recognise that the video was a fraud. The Telegraph stated that upon enquiry ‘experts told them they had no reason to doubt that the video is real”. International Business Times went a step further spinning the statement to “experts told The Telegraph that they have no doubts on the authenticity of the footage.”

This is very strange since both children in the film walk away after being directly and repeatedly hit by bullets. The creators of the film said he purposely scripted this as a big hint that the video is fake. The lack of scrutiny the media experts employed suggests incompetence or the same level of bias as the media that employs them .

Heather Saul of the Independent wrote that one of the ‘Middle East experts” she showed the video to were Human Rights Watch. Indeed, Human Rights Watch European Media Director Andrew Stroehlein, showed no doubt on the authenticity of the film when he tweeted it out to his followers. The New York based human rights organisation is not new at tweeting false information, last month they used an imageof the Odessa fire, where US-backed militia’s burned thirty two people to death, as an example of ‘Putin’s repressive policies’. In 2008 Venezuela expelled two HRW staff members accused of “anti-state activities” after producing a report against the Chavez government. Guardian journalist Hugh O’Shaughnessyaccused HRW of using false and misleading information in the report, as well as pro-Washington bias. In 2009 HRW received financial donations from the Saudi government which may, in part, explain the anti-Syrian slant.

HRW employed so called video expert Eliot Higgins and his colleague Daniel Kaszeta to investigate the August 21 chemical attack in Ghouta, and quickly reached the conclusion the Syrian government was behind the attack. Daniel Kaszeta was referred to as a fraud by prominent physicist and MIT Professor Theodore Postol. HRW’s CEO Kenneth Roth recently used a report by Eliot Higgins to make unfounded claims about Ukrainian rebels shooting down Malaysian flight MH17. Heather Saul did not respond to questions on whether Eliot Higgins was one of the expert she asked for advice. However the mainstream media’s most often quoted video expert, did not recognise that the video was a fraud, tweeting cautiously that he wasn’t sure if it was authentic but gave the video a reaction non the less.

However many viewers who aren’t referred to as video or Middle East experts, immediately recognised the video was a fraud and flooded social media sites Twitter and Youtube with doubts on its authenticity. If Heather Saul had used these individuals as experts rather than HRW, she would have reached the correct conclusion about the video. But perhaps it is this unbias eye that the mainstream media avoids. The vast majority of Higgin’s conclusions support US government narratives and agendas, and that’s the kind of bias the mainstream media prefers.

Blaming the Producer
Instead of humbly accepting blame for spreading disinformation, many western journalists and their experts reacted by blaming the producer of the film. The collective rage of the entire mainstream media forced the film’s producer to delete any trace of this 30,000 dollar experiment. Some journalists took toTwitter to express their rage at being exposed as easily duped by convenient propaganda.

The experts that were fooled by the video also strongly protested. HRW posted a complaint that the fake video “eroded the public trust in war reporting’, in other words blind trust in HRW analysis and war propaganda. Eliot Higgins posted an open letter to the producer of the film on his website Bellingcat, condemning the film.

Image: Norweigen film crew in Malta for filming video of boy dodging sniper bullets.

GlobalPost referred to the film as ‘irresponsible and dangerous’ but not because it could be used to promote wars and make false accusations. What the real danger to the mainstream media and their experts seems to be, is that as a result of the films exposure as a fraud, future video claims may now have to be properly scrutinized and the public may not be so unquestioning in future. However it is the journalists’ lack of scrutiny that is truly what is irresponsible and dangerous. Had the director not admitted the film was fake, these journalists more than likely would have kept promoting the story as an example of Syrian Army war crimes.

Maram Susli also known as “Syrian Girl,” is an activist-journalist and social commentator covering Syria and the wider topic of geopolitics. especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.

Interview with President Vladimir Putin: The Crisis in East Ukraine, The Sanctions Regime, Russian-German Relations

Global Research, November 27, 2014
ARD 17 November 2014

Putin-interview-ARDVladimir Putin answered questions from Hubert Seipel of the German TV channel ARD. The interview was recorded on November 13 in Vladivostok. President Vladimir Putin presents his views on the Ukraine crisis and defends Russia’s actions.

HUBERT SEIPEL (retranslated from Russian): Good afternoon,Mr President.

You are the only Russian President who has ever given a speech at the Bundestag. This happened in 2001. Your speech was a success. You spoke about relations between Russia and Germany, building Europe in cooperation with Russia, but you also gave a warning. You said that the Cold War ideas had to be eradicated. You also noted that we share the same values, yet we do not trust each other. Why were you being a little pessimistic back then?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: First of all, I gave no warnings or admonitions and I was not being pessimistic. I was just trying to analyse the preceding period in the development of the situation in the world and in Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union. I also took the liberty of predicting the situation based on different development scenarios.

Naturally, it reflected the situation as we see it, through the prism, as diplomats would put it, from Russia’s point of view, but still, I think it was a rather objective analysis.

I reiterate: there was no pessimism whatsoever. None. On the contrary, I was trying to make my speech sound optimistic. I assumed that having acknowledged all the problems of the past, we must move towards a much more comfortable and mutually advantageous relationship-building process in the future.

HUBERT SEIPEL: Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, which would not have been possible without the Soviet Union’s consent. That was back then. In the meantime, NATO is conducting exercises in the Black Sea, near the Russian borders, while Russian bombers conduct exercises in Europe’s international airspace. The Defence Minister said, if I’m not mistaken, that they fly as far as the Gulf of Mexico. All of this points to a new Cold War.

And, of course, partners exchange harsh statements. Some time ago, President Obama named Russia as a threat on a par with Ebola and the extremists, the Islamic extremists. You once called America a nouveau riche, who thinks of himself as a winner of the Cold war, and now America is trying to shape the world according to its own ideas about life. All of this is very reminiscent of a Cold War.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: See, you mentioned 2001 and I said that my perspective was rather optimistic.

We have witnessed two waves of NATO expansion since 2001. If I remember correctly, seven countries – Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and three Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – joined NATO in 2004. Two more countries joined in 2009. Those were significant geopolitical game changers.

Furthermore, the number of military bases is growing. Does Russia have military bases around the world? NATO and the United States have military bases scattered all over the globe, including in areas close to our borders, and their number is growing.

Moreover, just recently it was decided to deploy Special Operations Forces, again in close proximity to our borders.

You have mentioned various exercises, flights, ship movements, and so on. Is all of this going on? Yes, it is indeed.

However, first of all, you said – or perhaps it was an inaccurate translation – that they have been conducted in the international European airspace. Well, it is either international (neutral) or European airspace. So, please note that our exercises have been conducted exclusively in international waters and international airspace.

In 1992, we suspended the flights of our strategic aircraft and they remained at their air bases for many years. During this time, our US partners continued the flights of their nuclear aircraft to the same areas as before, including areas close to our borders. Therefore, several years ago, seeing no positive developments, no one is ready to meet us halfway, we resumed the flights of our strategic aviation to remote areas. That’s all.

HUBERT SEIPEL: So, you believe that your security interests have not been accommodated.

Let me return to the current crisis and to its trigger. The current crisis was triggered by the agreement between the European Union and Ukraine. The title of this agreement is relatively harmless. It is called the Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine. The key point of this agreement is to open the Ukrainian market to the EU and vice versa. Why is it a threat for Russia? Why did you oppose this agreement?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: In reality the economy follows almost the same path as security. We preach the opposite of what we practice. We say that a single space should be built and build new dividing lines instead.

Let us look at what the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement stipulates. I have said this many times, but it appears I have to repeat it once again: it eliminates the import duties for the European goods entering Ukrainian territory, brings them down to zero. Yet as Ukraine is a member of a free trade zone within CIS, zero customs tariffs have been introduced between Russia and Ukraine. What does that mean? It means that all European goods will flow through Ukrainian territory directly to the customs territory of the Russian Federation.

There are many other things that may not be clear for people who are not informed regarding these matters, but they do exist. For example, there are technical regulations that are different in Russia and in the EU, we have different standards. Those are standards of technical control, phytosanitary standards and the principle of determining the origin of goods. By way of an example I would cite the component assembly of cars in Ukrainian territory. According to the Association Agreement, the goods manufactured in the territory of Ukraine are intended for our market within the framework of the Russian-Ukrainian free trade zone. Your companies that invested billions of euros in factories in Russia (Volkswagen, BMW, Peugeot, Citroen, the US Ford, and others) entered our market on completely different terms, on condition of deep localisation of production. How could we accept that? So we said from the outset, “We agree, but let us proceed step by step and take into consideration the real problems that can emerge between Russia and Ukraine.” What were we told in response? “It is none of your business, so get your nose out of these affairs.”

HUBERT SEIPEL: I would like to turn to the past. When the EU‑Ukraine Association Agreement was discussed, the negotiations took quite a while. This caused rallies on Maidan in Kiev. I refer to the protests during which people demanded a better life within the European Union. But they were also protesting against the Ukrainian system. In the end all that resulted in a wave of violence.

After the then president failed to sign the Agreement, it provoked an outbreak of violence, and people were killed on Maidan. Then the German Minister of Foreign Affairs arrived and tried to find a compromise between the protesters and the government, and managed to do that. An agreement was made providing for a government of national unity. It remained in force for about 24 hours and then it disappeared.

You followed closely the developments of September 21 and you remember how you talked with Mr Obama and Ms Merkel.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Yes. Indeed, on February 21, not only the German Minister of Foreign Affairs but also his counterparts from Poland and France arrived in Kiev to act as guarantors of the agreement achieved between the then President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition. The agreement stipulated that the only path the process would take was the peaceful one. As guarantors, they signed that agreement between the official authorities and the opposition. And the former assumed that it would be observed. It is true that I spoke by telephone with the President of the United States that same day, and this was the context for our conversation. However, the following day, despite all the guarantees provided by our partners from the West, a coup happened and both the Presidential Administration and the Government headquarters were occupied.

I would like to say the following in this regard: either the Foreign Ministers of Germany, Poland and France should not have signed the agreement between the authorities and the opposition as its guarantors, or, since they did sign it after all, they should have insisted on its implementation instead of dissociating themselves from this agreement. What is more, they prefer now not to mention it at all, as though the agreement never existed. In my view, this is absolutely wrong and counterproductive.

HUBERT SEIPEL: You acted promptly. You, so to say, annexed Crimea and justified it at the time based on the fact that 60 percent of Crimea’s population were Russians, that Crimea has a long history of being part of Russia and, lastly, that its fleet is stationed there. The West saw that as a violation of international law.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: What is your question exactly?

HUBERT SEIPEL: Did you underestimate the reaction of the West and the possible sanctions, which were later imposed on Russia?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: We believe that this sort of reaction was totally disproportionate to what had happened.

Whenever I hear complaints about Russia violating international law I am simply amazed. What is international law? It is first of all the United Nations Charter, international practice and its interpretation by relevant international institutions.

Moreover, we have a clear recent precedent – Kosovo.

HUBERT SEIPEL: You mean the International Court of Justice ruling on Kosovo? The one in which it stated that Kosovo had the right to self‑determination and that the Kosovars could hold a vote to determine the future of their state?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: (In German.) Exactly. (Continues in Russian.) But not only that. Its main point was that when making a decision concerning their self-determination, the people living in a certain territory need not ask the opinion of the central authorities of the state where they presently live. They do not need the approval by the central authorities, by the government, to take the necessary measures for self-determination. That is the central point.

And what was done in Crimea was not in any way different from what had been done in Kosovo.

I am deeply convinced that Russia did not commit any violations of international law. Yes, I make no secret of it, it is a fact and we never concealed that our Armed Forces, let us be clear, blocked Ukrainian armed forces stationed in Crimea, not to force anybody to vote, which is impossible, but to avoid bloodshed, to give the people an opportunity to express their own opinion about how they want to shape their future and the future of their children.

Kosovo, which you mentioned, declared its independence by parliamentary decision alone. In Crimea, people did not just make a parliamentary decision, they held a referendum, and its results were simply stunning.

What is democracy? Both you and me know the answer well. What is demos? Demos is people, and democracy is people’s right. In this particular case, it is the right to self-determination.

HUBERT SEIPEL: It shows immediately that you are a lawyer.

But you know the arguments of the West as well. The West says that the elections were held under the control of Russian military. This is the reasoning of the West.

Let me touch upon the next issue. Today, Ukraine is more or less divided. Four thousand people have died, hundreds of thousands have become refugees and fled, among other places, to Russia. In the east of the country, Russian-speaking separatists are demanding broad autonomy, some want to join Russia. In accordance with the Minsk agreement, ceasefire was declared, but people are dying every day. The country is bankrupt. Basically everybody lost in the conflict. Ukraine seems to have lost the most, but Europe and Russia did as well. How do you see Ukraine’s future?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Ukraine is a complex country, and not only due to its ethnic composition, but also from the point of view of its formation as it stands today.

Is there a future and what will it be like? I think there certainly is. It is a large country, a large nation with the population of 43–44 million people. It is a large European country with a European culture..

You know, there is only one thing that is missing. I believe, what is missing is the understanding that in order to be successful, stable and prosperous, the people who live on this territory, regardless of the language they speak (Hungarian, Russian, Ukrainian or Polish), must feel that this territory is their homeland. To achieve that they must feel that they can realise their potential here as well as in any other territories and possibly even better to some extent. That is why I do not understand the unwillingness of some political forces in Ukraine to even hear about the possibility of federalisation.

We’ve been hearing lately that the question at issue should be not federalisation but decentralisation. It is all really a play on words. It is important to understand what these notions mean: decentralisation, federalisation, regionalisation. You can coin a dozen other terms. The people living in these territories must realise that they have rights to something, that they can decide something for themselves in their lives.

HUBERT SEIPEL: The central question in the West as follows: will Ukraine remain an independent state? It is the central question now on the agenda. The second question is whether Russia can do more? Maybe Russia has more opportunities to expedite this process in Ukraine, in particular with regard to the Minsk agreements?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, when someone tells us that we have some special opportunities to solve this or that crisis it always troubles and alarms me. We have heard many times that Russia has a key to the solution of the Syrian problem, that we have some special opportunities to solve some other problem or the Ukrainian crisis. I always begin to suspect that there is an intention to pass on the responsibility to us and to make us pay for something. We do not want that. Ukraine is an independent, free and sovereign state. Frankly speaking, we are very concerned about any possible ethnic cleansings and Ukraine ending up as a neo-Nazi state. What are we supposed to think if people are bearing swastikas on their sleeves? Or what about the SS emblems that we see on the helmets of some military units now fighting in eastern Ukraine? If it is a civilised state, where are the authorities looking? At least they could get rid of this uniform, they could make the nationalists remove these emblems. That is why we have fears that it may all end up this way. If it happens it would be a catastrophe for Ukraine and Ukrainian people.

The Minsk agreements arose only because Russia became actively involved in this effort; we worked with the Donbass militias, that is the fighters from southeast Ukraine, and we convinced them that they should settle for certain agreements. If we had not done that, it would simply not have happened. There are some problems with the implementation of these agreements, it is true.

What are those problems? Indeed, self-defence fighters, for example, were supposed to leave some of the towns they had surrounded, are yet they haven’t left. Do you know why not? I will tell you plainly, this is no secret: because the people fighting against the Ukrainian army say, “These are our villages, we come from there. Our families and our loved ones live there. If we leave, nationalist battalions will come and kill everyone. We will not leave, you can kill us yourselves.” You know, it is a difficult problem. Of course, we try to convince them, we talk, but when they say things like that, you know, there is not much that can be said in response.

And the Ukrainian army also has not left some of the towns it was supposed to leave. The militias – they are the people who are fighting for their rights, for their interests. But if the central Ukrainian authorities choose not just to determine the demarcation line, which is very important today in order to stop the shelling and killing, but if they want to preserve the territorial integrity of their country, each particular village or town are not significant; what is important is to immediately stop the bloodshed and shelling and to create conditions for starting a political dialogue. That is what is important. If it this is not done, there will be no political dialogue.

I apologise for such a long monologue, but you make me go back to the essence of the problem.

What is the essence? The coup took place in Kiev. A considerable part of the country supported it, and they were happy partly because they believed that after the signing of, say, the Association Agreement there will be open borders, job opportunities, the right to work in the European Union, including in Germany. They thought that it will be like that. In fact, they have nothing of the sort. The other part of the country, the southeast, did not support it and said, “We do not recognise you.” And instead of starting a dialogue, instead of explaining to people that the central authorities in Kiev are not going to do anything bad, and on the contrary, they will propose various forms of coexistence and development of a common state, they are ready to grant them their rights, instead of that they begin making arrests at night. Once the night arrests began, people in the southeast took up arms. Once they took up arms, instead of stopping (the authorities should have the wisdom to do that) and starting this dialogue they sent the army, the air force, tanks and multiple rocket launchers. Is this a way to solve problems? And ultimately everything came to a deadlock. Is it possible to get out of it? I am sure that it is possible.

HUBERT SEIPEL: The question or, more properly, the claim made by Kiev today is that Russia supplies weapons to the separatists and sends its servicemen there.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Where did they get the armoured vehicles and the artillery systems? Nowadays people who wage a fight and consider it righteous will always get weapons. This is the first point.

But I would like to stress that this is not the issue. The issue itself is entirely different. The issue is that we can’t have a one-sided view of the problem.

Today there is fighting in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian central authorities have sent the armed forces there and they even use ballistic missiles. Does anybody speak about it? Not a single word. And what does it mean? What does it tell us? This points to the fact, that you want the Ukrainian central authorities to annihilate everyone there, all of their political foes and opponents. Is that what you want? We certainly don’t. And we won’t let it happen.

HUBERT SEIPEL: After the Crimea joined Russia, the West expelled Russia from the Group of Eight, this exclusive club of industrial states. At the same time the USA and Great Britain imposed sanctions against Russia. Now you are heading to a G20 summit of the most important industrial states on the planet. The focus there will be on economic growth and employment. They say, there is no more growth and unemployment is set to increase; the sanctions are starting to have an effect; both the ruble and the oil price have set anti‑records. The forecast of attaining 2 percent growth in Russia is unfeasible. Other countries are in the same situation. This crisis has a counter‑productive character, including for the upcoming summit, wouldn’t you say?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: You mean the Ukrainian crisis?


VLADIMIR PUTIN: Of course, who could benefit from it? You wanted to know how the situation is evolving and what our expectations are. Of course we expect the situation to change for the better. Of course we expect the Ukrainian crisis to end. Of course we want to have normal relations with our partners, including in the United States and Europe. Of course, the situation with the so-called sanctions is damaging for the global economy (it is damaging for us and it is damaging for global economy as well) and it is damaging for the Russian‑EU relations most of all.

However, there are some advantages as well: the restrictions imposed on some Russian companies on purchasing certain  goods from Western countries, from Europe and the United States, have induced us to produce these goods ourselves. The comfortable life, when all we had to do was produce more oil and gas, and to buy everything else, is a thing of the past.

With regard to growth, we should note that this year growth was modest but it was present nevertheless at about 0.5–0.6 percent. Next year we are planning to achieve 1.2 percent growth, the year after that 2.3 percent and 3 percent in three years. Generally, these are not the figures we would like to have but nevertheless it is growth and we are confident that we will achieve these figures.

HUBERT SEIPEL: Another theme to be discussed in Brisbane will be financial stability. The situation in Russia may also be complicated because Russian banks can no longer obtain refinancing on world markets. Moreover, there are plans to close for Russia the international payments system. VLADIMIR PUTIN: Russian banks have currently extended a $25 billion loan to the Ukrainian economy. If our European and American partners want to help Ukraine, how can they undermine the financial base limiting our financial institutions’ access to world capital markets? Do they want to bankrupt our banks? In that case they will bankrupt Ukraine. Have they thought about what they are doing at all or not? Or has politics blinded them? As we know eyes constitute a peripheral part of brain. Was something switched off in their brains?

The bank that I mentioned is Gazprombank, which only this year, this calendar year, has extended a loan of $1.4 plus $1.8 billion to the Ukrainian energy sector. How much is that in total? $3.2 billion. This is the sum it has allocated. In one case, it issued a loan to Ukrainian Naftogaz, which is a public company; in the other case, it allocated $1.4 billion to a private company in order to support Ukraine’s chemical industry. In both cases, today this bank has the right to demand early repayment because the Ukrainian partners have violated their loan agreement.

HUBERT SEIPEL: The question is if they are paying or not?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: (In German.) They are paying at the moment. (Continues in Russian.) They are servicing the loan. Naftogaz is servicing one of the loans. However, there are some conditions that are being violated. Therefore, the bank has the formal right to demand early repayment.

But if we do it, the whole Ukrainian financial system will collapse. And if we don’t do it, our bank may collapse. What should we do?

Moreover, when we extended a $3 billion loan a year ago, there was a condition that if Ukraine’s total debt exceeded 60 percent of GDP, we, the Russian Ministry of Finance, would be entitled to demand an early repayment. Again, if we do it, the whole financial system will collapse. We have already decided that we will not do it. We do not want to aggravate the situation. We want Ukraine to get on its feet at last.

HUBERT SEIPEL: Do you intend to propose ways to resolve the crisis in Ukraine?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Madam Chancellor is very much aware of all the nuances of this conflict. As for the energy problem, she has done a great deal for its solution.

As for the security issues, I would say that in this area our viewpoints and approaches do not always coincide. What is clear is that Russia and the Federal Republic of Germany want the situation in this region to be settled. We are interested in this and we will work for the observation of the Minsk agreements. There is just one thing that I always pay attention to. We are told again and again: pro-Russian separatists must do this and this, you must influence them in this way, you must act in that way. I have always asked them: “What have you done to influence your clients in Kiev? What have you done? Or do you only support Russophobic sentiments?” This is very dangerous, by the way. A catastrophe will happen if somebody surreptitiously supports Russophobia in Ukraine. It will be a real catastrophe! Or shall we seek a joint solution? If so, let’s bring the positions of the parties closer together. I am going to say something that some people in this country may not like. Let’s try to achieve a single political space in those territories. We are ready to move in this direction, but only together.

HUBERT SEIPEL: It is very difficult to correct the mistakes made by others. Sometimes it is only possible to correct one’s own mistakes.

I would like to ask you: have you made mistakes?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: People always make mistakes. Every person makes mistakes in business, in private life. Does it really matter? The question is that we should give a rapid, timely and effective response to the consequences of such mistakes. We should analyse them and realise that they are mistakes. We should understand, correct them and move on towards the solution of problems rather than an impasse.

It seemed to me that this is the way we acted in our relations with Europe as a whole and the Federal Republic of Germany in particular over the past decade. Look at the friendship that has been established between Russia and Germany in the past 10–15 years. I don’t know if we had ever enjoyed such relations before. I don’t think so. I see it as a very good base, a good foundation for the development of relations not only between our two states, but also between Russia and Europe as a whole, for the harmonisation of relations in the world. It will be a pity if we let it go to waste.

HUBERT SEIPEL: Mr President, thank you for the interview.

CIA Behind Kiev Euromaidan Coup: Ukrainian General

Ukrainian General-Colonel Yan Kazemirovich from Kiev reveals CIA agents and Masons in Ukraine

Global Research, November 27, 2014

Ukrainian General-Colonel Yan Kazemirovich from Kiev reveals CIA agents and Masons in Ukraine

 Russian with English subtitles. Recorded in March 2014

Michael Brown was Killed Because He Didn’t Prostrate Himself to Police Authority

This Killing, in Combat, Would Have Been a War Crime

By Dave Lindorf

November 27, 2014 “ICH” – “This Can’t Be Happening!” – What’s wrong with Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson’s killing of the unarmed 18-year-old black teenager, Michael Brown, and with a Grand Jury decision not to indict him for that outrageous slaying, is what is wrong with American law enforcement and American “justice” in general.

Both actions were permeated not only with racism, which clearly played a huge rule in both the verdict rendered by a Grand Jury composed of nine whites and only three blacks, and in this tragic police killing by a white cop of a black child, but also by a mentality on the part of police — and apparently by at least a majority of the citizen jurors on a panel evaluating Wilson’s actions — that cops are authorities who must be obeyed without question, on pain of death.

Let’s recall the most crucial evidence in this killing: According to the New York Times it was two shots into the top of the head by Officer Wilson that killed Brown — shots that multiple witnesses confirm were fired after the unarmed Brown was on his knees, already seriously wounded by four other apparently non-lethal shots to arm, neck and upper right chest, with his hands raised and pleading “Don’t shoot.” The Times also reports that those shots, apparently fired when Brown’s head was leaning forward, or from a position above him, appeared to have been fired “not from close range,” a determination based upon an absence of gun powder residue around the area of the entry wounds.

It should not matter in the slightest whether or not Brown had first struck Officer Wilson inside his squad car during a scuffle, as claimed by the cop, or even that the officer, as he testified in an unusual appearance before jurors, “felt terrified” at that time. Nor does it matter, beyond being evidence of an inherent racism, that Wilson says he thought that Brown, approaching him at his car initially, “looked like a demon.” If the non-lethal shots that first hit Brown in arm, neck and upper chest had been fired at that early point, perhaps Wilson would have been justified in firing them in self defense, but it’s what happened after Brown tried to leave the scene that matter.

This is because Brown, multiple witnesses testified, was down on his knees posing no threat whatsoever to the armed officer when Wilson killed him with at least two shots to the head.

That was not a defensive action by Officer Wilson. It was an execution plain and simple — a punishment for Brown’s having allegedly struck the officer earlier, for his attempt to leave the scene of conflict, and perhaps also for Brown’s initial refusal to obey the officer’s order to get out of the middle of the road, which was reportedly the original reason the officer initiated a confrontation with Brown.

That the jury exonerated Wilson speaks volumes about the sorry, racist state of American society and about the sorry state of the US justice system, where citizens charged with looking into whether a murder has been committed will give a pass to a cop who clearly crossed the line and behaved in a manner that, even in war-time, would punishable as a war crime, which is what the Geneva Conventions term the slaying of a combatant whose hands are raised in the universally understood sign of surrender.

Sadly, the Geneva Conventions do not apply to domestic policing. I say sadly, because it is clear that in nearly all jurisdictions in the US, police today are for all intents and purposes a law unto themselves, without even a US Military Uniform Code of Conduct to govern their actions. Rare indeed is the police officer convicted of unlawfully killing a suspect or a person in custody, though such killings are soaring in number, even as the deaths of police officers on the job (excluding those who die in auto accidents involving usually pointless and sometimes illegal high-speed chases), have plummeted to levels not seen since the 19th Century.

I remember covering a coroner’s inquest in Los Angeles back in 1978 involving the 1977 killing of a small, naked and unarmed man by a hulking LAPD sergeant. The victim, Ron Burkholder, a biochemist who had apparently accidentally burned himself badly one night while trying to make PCP in his basement for personal use. In pain, he had torn off his burning clothes and had then run out onto the street. His erratic behavior led Sgt. Kurt Barz, who was passing in a patrol car, to stop and investigate. Barz testified that he felt threatened when Burkholder (clearly seeking help) ran towards him, and he unloaded his pistol into the approaching “threat,” killing Burkholder instantly with six shots.

The LAPD, in an internal affairs investigation, quickly found the killing “justifiable,” and though the inquest later reached the conclusion of wrongful death, there was no prosecution of Barz, though clearly the scrawny Burkholder posed no conceivable threat to him, and being naked, clearly had no weapon.

So it goes.

The only change, in would seem, between 1977, when Officer Barz slaughtered the unarmed, injured and help-seeking Burkholder, and 2014, when Officer Wilson executed the wounded and surrendering Brown, is how much more commonly police murders of citizens occur these days. And yet number of successful prosecutions of cops for such slayings still hovers disturbingly close to zero. Even in the rare instance where cops are indicted for killing someone, when the case goes to trial, the same pro-cop bias among prosecutors, judges and even jurors, tends to work against a conviction, which requires, of course, a unanimous decision to convict.

According to one survey, in the period between May 1, 2012 and August 24, 2013, police killed at least 1450 people in the US. Since the FBI claims there were 400 “justified” police killings during 2012 (and we know how loosely the term “justified” is, given judgements like the Ferguson Grand Jury’s!), we can assume that many or most of those 1450 people killed were killed unjustifiably, i.e.: murdered by police. Many of the victims of police shootings are children or old people, like the elderly man in Georgia killed by cop last year during a traffic stop when he reached into the back of his pickup truck to retrieve his cane, or the two young boys killed recently for holding toy guns, one in Ohio and one in California. Incredibly, there is no official count of the number of Americans killed each year by police. As the Washington Post reports, we know the accurately the number of people killed by sharks each year (53 in 2013), and even the number of hogs living on American farms (64 million in 2010), and we know the number of police killed in the line of duty (48 in 2012). But the FBI and Dept. of Justice, which require all kinds of statistics from police agencies, don’t ask about police-involved-killings. The only possible reason for their not asking for that information is that police don’t like to have their violent acts open to examination, so even asking would be a political third rail.

According to one report cited by the Cato Institute, US cops and other law-enforcement officers killed over 5000 people between 9/11/2001 and November 6, 2013, making police a bigger threat to Americans than terrorists, including the ones accused of attacking the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11.

The ubiquity of cell phone cameras and video cams, which are finally documenting police killings, and the growing importance of social media, which allow for the unfiltered reporting of killings like that of Michael Brown, without any pro-cop bias inserted by biased or gutless editors and publishers, is shining a badly needed spotlight on this growing horror, but it will take a lot more anger among the public if this slaughter is to be finally halted.

As libertarian Senator Rand Paul (R-TN), quoting a Heritage Foundation report, just wrote in a recent essay in Time magazine:

…The Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment.

Federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery.

Today, (even Bossier) Parish, Louisiana, has a .50 caliber gun mounted on an armored vehicle. The Pentagon gives away millions of pieces of military equipment to police departments across the country—tanks included.”

When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.

Sen. Paul adds:

Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.

Sen. Paul is right in linking the killing of young Michael Brown to this militarization of policing in the US, and to the corrupted justice system, in which police, even those bald-facedly lying under oath, tend to get the benefit of the doubt from a citizenry deliberately terrorized daily by government officials who claim that terrorists are about to destroy us and who consequently are quick to call every cop, including killers, a “hero.”

It speaks volumes that Officer Wilson can say he has a “clear conscience” about his slaying of a young man who was begging him not to shoot. Whether or not he really suffers no moral qualms or second thoughts alone at night about what he did, the fact that he feels he can say that in public means that he thinks he can get away with it and even win public support.

At this point, one wonders how long will it be before Judas Iscariot gets praised as a hero by Americans for turning his mentor Jesus over to the Roman cops seeking him on a warrant for sedition?

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!

Copyright © 2014 This Can’t Be Happening!.

The ‘Nation-state’ Bill: Jews Should Know Exactly Where It Leads

One need not be a historian to see the resemblance between the controversial bill and nationality laws of in 1930s Europe.

By Daniel Blatman

November 27, 2014 “ICH” – “Haaretz” –  Quite a few states in the 20th century passed, or tried to pass, nationality laws, through efforts that share certain similarities. All took place in countries with at least one national minority (sometimes more than one) that sought full equality in the state or in a territory that had become part of the state and in which it had lived for generations.

Nationality laws were passed in societies that felt threatened by these minorities’ aspirations of integration and demands for equality, resulting in regimes that turned xenophobia into major tropes.

Nationality laws were passed in states that were grounded in one ethnic identity, defined in contrast to the identity of the other, leading to persecution of and codified discrimination against minorities. Jews were the first victims of these regimes, in which phobias and suspicion replaced the principles of social and political pluralism.

In 1937, the Polish economist Olgierd Górka wrote that the Polish state was an economic asset whose legal owners could do as they pleased with it. Decisions on national issues were thus similar to the choices made by a factory owner. The state belonged to the major group that shaped its essence and spirit, and which exercised its ownership of it — the ethnic Poles. Polish Catholicism gave the Poles the right to own the national asset known as the Polish state.

Knesset member Yariv Levin’s explanations of his nationality bill suggests that he is following Górka’s path. According to Levin, the state’s Jewish expressions reflect the fact that Israel is not only the Jews’ nation-state, but also a state whose very lifeblood is Judaism — a situation that is unique in all the world. A unique situation in the Western, democratic world, but it has a historical precedent in the Poles’ attempt to create a state that pushed its minorities out of the national partnership.

Romania, too — a state with many minorities, including a large Jewish one — was gripped by a fervor to be defined as the Romania nation-state.

In an essay, the national historian Constantin Giurescu wrote that the ideal of the resurgent Romanian nation was to ensure the optimal development of the most eminent population group, the Romanians. The Romanian nation-state must advance the dominant ethnic group, he wrote, while the minorities were a “problem” that should be seen as “guest groups” or groups under the protection of the true citizens. He did not specify the rights that would be granted to such groups.

Romania’s policy toward minorities became clearer after Ion Antonescu came to power. During World War II it went from attempting an “ethnic cleansing” of the Bulgarians to the expulsion and annihilation of the Jews and the Roma, also known as Gypsies. But few believed the debate over nationality laws in the interwar period would end in an effort to solve the nationality question by purging the nation of its minorities.

The proposed nationality bill does not refer explicitly to the rights of minorities living in Israel and does not explicitly guarantee their equal rights. The version proposed by Levin (Likud) and MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), and presumably that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well, say that Israel will be Jewish and democratic and it guarantees, in a general manner, the equal personal rights of every citizen, in accordance with the laws of the state.

But alongside this lip service, the bill specifies that national minorities are to have no say regarding the character of the state of which they are supposedly citizens with equal rights.

Minorities have no right to any national expression in their own country. All obligatory state symbols are Jewish ones. Only Jews have the right to immigrate freely and receive citizenship. The state will cultivate only the Jewish heritage and traditions; Jewish law is to serve as inspiration for laws, and so on.

One need not be a historian to see the resemblance between the Israeli nationality bill and nationality laws of 80 years ago. Like them, it delineates the boundaries between the most important, dominant group of citizens and the rest, who are turned into guests of a sort in their own country — tolerated ones, for the present.

At the extreme nationalist fringe of the bill’s promoters, efforts are already under way to define its final goal. The followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane and members of Lehava will not settle for formulas specifying Israel’s Jewish character and the Jews’ sole claim to national privilege in the state. Their model for the nationality law is the Nuremberg Laws. Their main goal is to preserve Jewish racial purity and to wage war on marriages or romantic relationships between Jews and members of minority groups.

Lehava’s website states: “Intermarriage is forbidden according to the will of God, who gave severe warnings in his Torah against mixing the seed of the living God with other nations and against losing the special uniqueness of the Jewish people.”

No, they say, this is not racism. The goal is only to protect our nation. In 1936, two Nazi jurists, Bernhard Lösener and Friedrich Knost, published a book about the Jewish question in Germany that spoke about the Nuremberg Laws. The purpose of these laws, they wrote, was not to cause racial hatred. On the contrary, it was to ease and regulate the relationship between Jews and Germans over the long term.

What can we learn from all the efforts to pass nationality laws? Mainly that we know what they lead to. We also know that many of the individuals who laid the ideological foundations for such legislation or who supported then never envisioned that they had set in motion a process whose end they could not have imagined.

The author is a professor of Holocaust-era history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

© Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Why We Need A new Soviet Union

By Finian Cunningham

November 27, 2014 “ICH” – Here’s a thought to perk up your morning coffee. Let’s bring back the Soviet Union.

Seriously, why not?

We are not talking about going back in time to the way things were. No-one would want to resurrect the worst excesses of Stalinism: bureaucratic despotism, gulags and the Big Brother state.

Also, a centrally planned economy would this time around have to be genuinely socialist and scientific, with production geared by accurate information on markets and human needs not by bureaucratic book-cooking. With modern communication technology such an optimised economic operation of industries would be eminently feasible.

Central planning? Is that not anathema, you might say? No. After all in the capitalist West, economic production is mostly centrally planned by behemoth corporations under the false guise of “free markets”; but the big difference is that system is driven by private profit for a wealthy minority – instead of for the greater public
need, development and benefit.

Given the crisis over Ukraine and allegations of Russian aggression and President Putin as the new Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin etc., the suggestion of a new Soviet Union may be incendiary. The howls of ridicule from the US and its vassals in Europe and the Western corporate media will be deafening. But let them roar in their craven

American imperialists and their servile European flunkies and news media have indeed been accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of revanchism to bring back the Soviet Union. They point to the crisis in Ukraine as evidence for their accusation.

The American-led charge against Putin is of course empty propagandistic demonising. The Russian leader may have previously expressed regret that the Soviet Union collapsed more than two decades ago. But that does mean that he is harbouring plans to reconstitute the old Soviet state in which he formerly served as a KGB officer. It makes a good horror story for American demagogues, but it’s baseless.

However, in a very real substantive way, Putin’s regret over Soviet demise can be argued as perfectly reasonable. For, ever since, the US has indulged in arrogant triumphalism and has tried to expand its global hegemony through unbridled militarism. This has unleashed a world of ceaseless wars and the gutting of international law, as Putin remarked in a speech last month in Sochi.

Think about it. Ever since the Soviet Union came apart in 1991, and the Cold War formally ended, we have seen Washington and its coterie of allies embark on one war after another into what is now a state of permanent war.

It is no coincidence that no sooner had the Soviet Union floundered than the US launched its first of several wars on Iraq, invaded Somalia, and then under the flag of NATO began bombing former Soviet states, primarily Yugoslavia, leading to the latter’s dismemberment. The aggressive expansion of the US-led NATO military club over the past 20 years and the hostile encirclement of Russia is the context for the present crisis in Ukraine.

From that point of view, the dissolution of the Soviet Union is highly regrettable because of the lawless American behaviour, wars and deterioration in global security that have ensued.

Relentless American war spending, in particular the arms race initiated by the Reagan administration in the 1980s, was a major factor in why the Soviet Union eventually collapsed. Washington got away with it then and continues to get away with military hedonism now because its rulers just keep putting the gargantuan bill on the public
tab of unlimited national debt (currently $17 trillion and rising), which is largely why America and the world finds itself in the economic crisis it is in. America may have won the Cold War in a narrow sense, but the rest of the world is paying for it.

Clearly, a unipolar world dominated by a self-proclaimed exceptional superpower is highly unstable and dangerous. A countervailing force is needed. A new Soviet Union is the obvious candidate to rebalance the world that has succumbed to depraved American tutelage.

President Putin and other like-minded leaders should make the case through global media – in spite of the anticipated howls of derision from the Western pea-brains.

In any case, a revitalised Soviet Union of sorts is already underway. Russia and China are developing strategic energy, trade and transport partnerships that will transform the global economy. The Russia-China alliance is a state-planned economic model that provides for a more rational organisation and distribution of resources, rather than for the insatiable avarice of Wall Street and its European minions who are driven by elite, private profit.

Russia and China’s seminal use of bilateral currencies for energy trade and other commerce as opposed to the decrepit US dollar will break, fatally, the monopoly of American financial imperialism and will allow for more democratic control of resources.

Russia is also forging ahead with other strategic Eurasian economic partnerships, including with neighbouring energy giant Kazakhstan and the energy-rich nations of the Caspian Basin – Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

In May this year, Moscow formed the Eurasian Economic Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. The EEU will comprise about 15 per cent of the world’s landmass and is set to overtake the dollar-peddling OPEC as the primary energy supplier. The dominance of the EEU will grow even further with other Central Asian nations preparing to join it, including Armenia and Tajikistan.

A new Soviet Union of nations is thus already taking shape that will stretch from eastern Europe all the way to China and the Pacific. But unlike in the past, this union will not be dominated by Moscow; rather it is being based on mutual partnerships that include genuine commitments to shared defence, already outlined by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Russia and China’s nuclear power status is an important cornerstone to the defence system and to the adherence to international law.

If the economic principles of democratic governance, public good and social development, workers’ rights, equitable management and distribution – in a word “socialism” – can be maintained then the new Soviet Union will truly be a global force to reckon with. It will expose sharply the bankruptcy of Washington’s capitalist empire straddling North America and the European Union, which only serves to enrich a warmongering oligarchy while oppressing the mass of people with unremitting austerity and stagnation.

President Putin should make the case urgently. The American war machine knows full well the potential nemesis to its failing hegemony from a rising Russia, China, Eurasia and the other emerging BRICS nations, in addition to others from South America and Africa.

American professor of political science, Colin Cavell, notes that the US imperial war agenda against Russia and China will be stepped up under the new Republican-controlled Congress.

“Attacking Russia’s internal stability will be the prime target for the US,” says Cavell. “Putin will need to pull the Russian people together, that is to ‘unite and prevail’ against the US strategy of ‘divide and conquer’.”

In this regard, Putin needs to bolster the strength not only of his own nation but also that of regional neighbours by formalising the re-emergence of the Soviet Union. As noted this new union is distinct from the past in that it is based on democratic and mutual governance.

“Such a new Soviet Union would be a deadly blow to arrogant American capitalism which feels completely unrestrained to do what it wills in the world,” adds Cavell.

The time is indeed ripe. Not only to safeguard world peace, but to abolish the destructive and unsustainable American empire, with its scourges of poverty and war.

The time is ripe to democratise the global economy so that all our basic human needs are delivered with justice and peace. Where society is dedicated to labour and the rights of ordinary citizens, not to capital. The funny and ironic thing is that many American and European citizens will gladly want to have this union extend to their countries too.

The world needs to go on the ideological offensive, to turn the tables on the plutocratic masters of war. We should stop letting them set the agenda all the time and limiting our actions and thoughts to merely defensive reaction. A new Soviet Union should be put forward to the world as a bold manifesto. Why not? We’ve got nothing to lose except our chains.

US justice system miscarries nicely


Protests continue to rock US cities after the grand jury acquitted a white police officer, who killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson. Two faces of American democracy strike imagination indeed. Black unemployed people despise white people, and Obama speaks of the absence of segregation.

Eighteen-year-old Brown was killed on August 9 after he robbed a store and then refused to obey the order from a law enforcement officer to surrender. When the black man raised his hands, the officer fired six bullets at him at close range. If it was the case of a white police officer killing a white teenager, or a black officer killing a black teen, there would be no protests at all. However, the police of Ferguson (two-thirds) are mostly white employees, while the population Ferguson (two-thirds) is black.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency on Monday and deployed units of the National Guard in Ferguson. In New York, in California, people block highways and bridges. Many protests evolve into violence and vandalism: people set vehicles on fire and loot stores.

“We are a nation built on the rule of law…We need to accept this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” Obama said in his address to the nation on Monday night. The president refuted the idea that segregation and discrimination was systematic in the United States and assured the Americans that those were solvable problems. But progress, Obama warned, won’t come by “throwing bottles or smashing car windows. It certainly won’t be done by hurting anybody.”

It just so happens, that in Kiev, there were protests of oppressed people, but in Ferguson, there are vandals and looters. When Molotov cocktails are thrown into Berkut fighters, such actions were interpreted as defense against arbitrary power. When African Americans attack their own National Guard, then this is viewed as a violation of the rule of law. If Yanukovych was ordered not to even dare to suppress “peaceful” protests, then the US National Guard was instantly ordered to disperse the raging crowd. But in Ferguson people also fight for ideals: they fight against corruption at courts (nearly all of the jurors were white, because blacks would find the white officer guilty), they fight against anti-humane policy of discrimination of second-class citizens, against racist white criminal oligarchs who run the US. Have you ever seen a black billionaire?

Russia may well appeal to US officials not to use force against the peaceful population of the United States. One should urgently convene the meeting of the UN Security Council on the situation in Ferguson, negotiate concessions and withdraw police and security forces beyond the zone of unrest in Ferguson.

In the US, there is still a generation of people, who were subjected to racial harassment 50 years ago. They used to study in separate schools, ride special public transport, use special hospitals, cafes and even park benches. Is it possible to believe that the black population of the United States has forgotten all this humiliation and discrimination? Has it sunk into oblivion? No, of course, not; protest sentiments are still alive, and they feed and grow on unwise economic and social policies of the current US administration. This policy leads to massive unemployment among blacks. As a result, black people tend to move towards the criminal sector of economy.

In 70 police stations from Connecticut to California, the amount of black detainees is ten times as large as the amount of white detainees, The USA Today wrote. In Ferguson’s neighboring town, Clayton, about eight percent of the population are blacks, but when it comes to those who stay at detention centers of the town, there are already 57 percent of them. These imbalances can be seen even in “progressive” university towns, says the newspaper. In Berkeley, California, in Madison, Wisconsin, the number of black detainees is nine times larger when compared to representatives of other racial groups, according to FBI data. These deep disparities come as a consequence of economic and social policies that President Obama runs, the newspaper concludes.

In the US, they already call the decision of the grand jury not to criminally charge the white police officer “a slap in the face to Americans across the country” and “miscarriage of justice.”

“The Ferguson Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown is a miscarriage of  justice. It is a slap in the face to Americans nationwide who continue to hope and believe that justice will prevail,” Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge said.

“America is a police state, – Alexander Domrin, Doctor of Law (USA), Professor of Economics told Pravda.Ru. – When they teach us democracy or human rights from Washington, it raises rejection and resentment. The Americans do not need democracy anywhere, either in Russia or elsewhere. What they need is a banana republic, a client state, a drunken president like Yeltsin, they need a whore country. As soon as you become stronger – this is a nightmare for the US government. Whoever stays in power in Russia – a czar, Democrats, Republicans, Putin, Yeltsin – if you are strong, you are the enemy.”

Lyuba Lulko


Chinese and Indian leaders hold competing visits to Fiji

By Tom Peters

27 November 2014

Chinese President Xi Jinping made his first official visit to the Pacific island nation of Fiji last weekend, arriving just two days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the first trip by an Indian leader since 1981. Both leaders also held talks in Suva with leaders from other Pacific countries, including Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Micronesia, the Cook Islands and Niue.

Modi unveiled a $75 million line of credit for Fiji’s sugar industry (the country’s largest export industry) and said India would “expand our defence and security cooperation [with Fiji], including assistance in defence training and capacity building.” Modi announced that he would convene an inaugural forum of Pacific countries in India next year.

Xi signed five memoranda of understanding with the Fijian government, including one that pledged to strengthen military ties. He announced $11.4 million in aid, on top of a $13.06 million grant in August.

The visits took place amid escalating tensions between India and China, fuelled by the Obama administration’s strategic “pivot” to Asia—aimed at isolating and militarily encircling China and securing US dominance over the Asia-Pacific region.

Modi and Xi headed to Fiji after attending the G20 summit in Australia, where President Barack Obama boasted about the military ties Washington has strengthened with Asia-Pacific countries, including India, Japan, the Philippines and Australia. Obama made thinly veiled threats of aggression against China should it fail “to adhere to the same rules as other nations”—rules set by Washington—in resolving territorial disputes with its neighbours.

As part of this imperialist strategy, the US ruling elite and its allies are taking steps to counter Beijing’s growing influence in the Pacific, which Washington has long regarded as an “American lake.” Obama declared that the US was “a Pacific power” and that “no-one should ever question our resolve or our commitment to our allies” in the region.

After Fiji’s military leader-turned prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama seized power in a coup in 2006, his regime adopted a “look north” policy aimed at strengthening economic ties with China. Over the past eight years, Beijing has provided $330 million in aid to the country, according to Bloomberg. China was Fiji’s fifth largest trading partner last year, compared with eighth largest before the 2006 coup.

Washington became increasingly alarmed by the “look north” policy, which was provoked by sanctions imposed by Australia and New Zealand, the regional imperialist powers and main US allies in the Pacific. In 2010, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Fijian Foreign Affairs Minister Inoke Kubuabola, signalling an end to Australian-led efforts to force the military regime into submission by isolating it.

China’s investment and influence throughout the region—Beijing has also provided substantial loans and aid to other Pacific countries, including Tonga and Samoa—continues to fuel concern in US ruling circles. Commenting on Xi’s trip, which included visits to Australia and New Zealand, the New York Times said he left a “trail of money” and gave speeches reassuring Pacific countries that China was “worthy of consideration not only as an economic partner, but a strategic one, too.”

In a speech welcoming Xi, Bainimarama thanked Beijing for its largesse and implicitly criticised Australia and New Zealand. “China has been a true friend to Fiji,” he declared. “China never tried to interfere in our internal affairs or tell us what was best for us as a nation. Instead China was there in our time of need, when others in the region had turned their backs on us.”

Washington, Canberra and Wellington are scrambling to restore ties with Suva, in a concerted effort to undercut China’s influence. Following the September 17 election, won by Bainimarama’s FijiFirst Party, all three governments hailed Fiji’s supposed return to “democracy.” In fact, the poll was carried out under conditions of press censorship, severe restrictions on opposition political parties, and military intimidation. The coup-makers remain firmly in control of the country, with seven ex-military cabinet members (see: “Australia, US back sham election staged by Fiji military regime”).

Even before the election, Australia and the US began courting Bainimarama’s dictatorship and easing sanctions. Since the poll, Fiji has been re-admitted to the British-led Commonwealth, while the World Bank and Asian Development Bank plan to increase their engagement in the country.

Modi’s visit was part of this coordinated strategy to re-engage Fiji and whitewash the Bainimarama regime. Speaking to the Fijian parliament, Modi heaped praise on the country’s election, declaring that “what unites us today is our democracy, the diversity of our societies, our creed that all human beings are equal, and our commitment to the liberty, dignity and rights of every individual.” These words are all the more ludicrous coming from Modi, a right-wing Hindu supremacist who played a central role in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom against Muslims, which killed as many as 2,000 people.

Balaji Chandramohan, an analyst for the Australian think tank Future Directions International and a member of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, explained the purpose of Modi’s visit in an interview with Radio New Zealand International on November 11. He declared that New Delhi “feels threatened by China’s expanding presence in this Indo-Pacific region” and intends to use Fiji, which has a large ethnic Indian population, as a “springboard” to extend its “naval presence” into the Pacific.

India is rapidly enlarging its navy to counter China in the Indian Ocean and, as part of its “Look East” policy, has sent warships to the South China Sea. Any Indian naval expansion into the South West Pacific, using the ethnic Indian population in Fiji as the pretext, would further raise tensions with Beijing.

China has no military assets in the Pacific outside the Chinese mainland, while the US has bases in Guam, the Marshall Islands and Hawaii, as well as in Japan and South Korea. It also has basing arrangements with Australia and the Philippines. American, Australian and New Zealand naval and coast guard vessels patrol the ocean constantly.

However, Washington and its allies are determined to pre-empt any possibility of China establishing a base in Fiji or any other Pacific country. An editorial in the Australian on Monday warned Bainimarama not to “regard the new Chinese thrust into the South Pacific as an opportunity to hit out at Australia over sanctions.” The newspaper said ties with Australia were “crucial to the South Pacific’s economic and strategic interests.”

In an op-ed for the newspaper, Anthony Bergin and Lisa Sharland from the government-funded Australian Strategic Policy Institute lamented: “The affection that had built up over the years between Australian officers and Fiji’s military has been lost.” They called for Canberra to help finance a “regional peacekeeping training centre” in Fiji as a “fresh initiative” to “advance security co-operation” and “address threats to regional and global security.” The article added that this was particularly important following Xi’s pledge to increase military ties.

UK report on murder of soldier drives calls for deeper state repression

By Robert Stevens

27 November 2014

Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has issued a report“on the intelligence relating to the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby”.

Rigby, a serving British soldier, was horrifically killed in May, 2013 outside London’s Woolwich army barracks. Two men, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, first ran him down in a car and then set about him with knives and a cleaver. Both were tried and imprisoned.

The report’s publication was used to legitimise the introduction of new draconian antiterror legislation by Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May. The move was so blatant that one of the ISC’s members, Liberal Democrat Ming Campbell, said, “It is a remarkable coincidence, some might say, that the home secretary should have chosen to make public her further proposals on the eve of the publication of the ISC report.”

The Daily Telegraph noted that Prime Minister David Cameron had access to various drafts of the report, as well as the unredacted draft of the final version.

The heavily-redacted report is one of the most self-serving documents ever published by Britain’s ruling elite. With only the sparsest criticism of various operational procedures, the ISC concluded that nothing could have been done by the intelligence services to prevent the killing of Rigby. This is despite acknowledging that Adebolajo and Adebowale had been actively and “intrusively” monitored by intelligence operatives for years; a surveillance operation which continued almost until the day they killed Rigby.

Adebolajo was tracked in five separate intelligence investigations, beginning in 2008 and Adebowale in two. MI5 first knew of telephone contact between the two men in April 2012, more than a year before Rigby’s murder. From August to October 2012, “the pair were in contact or attempted contact approximately 30 times,” it states. From December, 2012 to April, 2013, they were in contact or attempted contact approximately 200 times. In the weeks leading to the attack, they were in contact a further 39 times.

An April 4 review into MI5’s ongoing investigation into Adebowale noted, “Adebowale continues to be in contact with Adebolajo, however, we have seen no significant contact with Other SoIs [Subject of Interest] and no contact with SoIs of particular concern.”

The day before the attack there were seven attempted calls between the two men and 16 text messages and “in addition, they exchanged one phone call on the morning of the attack.”

With much of their activity being monitored by MI5, it strains belief that nothing was known about the intentions of Adebolajo and Adebowale.

Another fundamental question is posed about the circumstances that led to Rigby’s killing. Shortly after the murder it was made public by a close friend of Adebolajo, Abu Nusaybah, that Britain’s domestic intelligence agency made repeated approaches to Adebolajo, attempting to recruit him to infiltrate jihadist groups in the UK.

Nusaybah said these attempts came after the Kenyan authorities had deported Adebolajo back to Britain. He had been detained in November, 2010 as part of a group attempting to cross the border into Somalia to join the Al Qaeda-aligned al-Shabaab. According to Nusaybah and Adebolajo himself, he was physically and sexually tortured in Kenya.

The report states, “In relation to the allegations that MI5 had been trying to recruit Adebolajo as an agent, MI5 has argued that it would be damaging to national security to comment on such allegations.”

This statement means that MI5 could have either tried to recruit him or that Adebolajo possibly committed the murder while working as an MI5 agent.

The 191-page document report, as is now the norm, never acknowledges that Britain’s predatory foreign policy since 2001 has anything to do with the terrible death of Rigby.

The report reveals that in December 2012, just five months before Rigby was slain, Adebowale discussed his plans to murder a British soldier in a “substantial online exchange” on a US social media site. “Adebowale expressed his desire to murder a soldier—in the most graphic and emotive manner—because of UK military action in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the report states, before asserting that the exchange “cannot be published on national security grounds.”

Much of the last quarter of the report is given over to an extensive criticism of the data-protection policies of the largest, mainly US-based Internet companies. The report concludes with the statement, “[S]everal of the companies attributed the lack of monitoring to the need to protect their users’ privacy. However, where there is a possibility that a terrorist atrocity is being planned, that argument should not be allowed to prevail.”

On the same theme, ISC chairman, Conservative Malcolm Rifkind, said, “What is clear is that the one party which could have made a difference was the company on whose system the exchange took place. However, this company does not regard themselves as under any obligation to ensure that they identify such threats, or to report them to the authorities. We find this unacceptable: however unintentionally, they are providing a safe haven for terrorists.”

Facebook was later identified as the platform on which Adebowale posted his comment. This puts into context the earlier call by Robert Hannigan, the new head of the UK’s main spying network Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), for the main Internet companies to work more closely with the intelligence agencies, or be compelled to by legislation. In language very similar to that used by the ISC, Hannigan named Facebook as one of the services that “have become the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals…”

The media acted as the echo chamber for the ISC, intelligence agencies and the government, typified by Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun front page headline Wednesday, “Facebook accused: Blood on their hands.”

Tuesday’s debate in parliament was the occasion for an all-party embrace of the report and its conclusions. Former Labour Party government home and foreign secretary, Jack Straw, who played a central role in Britain’s illegal invasion of Iraq, stated, “Is there not a cultural problem among the leadership of some of these companies, which have a distorted ‘libertarian’ ideology and believe that somehow that allows them to be wholly detached from responsibility to Governments and to the peoples whom we democratically represent in this country and abroad?”

Senior Conservative MP Liam Fox asked whether the intelligence services are “big enough to do the job we are asking them to do in this increasingly dangerous era?” He complained that the Britain spent as much annually on the intelligence services as “what we spend on the national health services every six days.”

In response, the prime minister said that £2 billion a year is spent on Britain’s spying operations, “but the truth is that there is no upper limit on what we could spend if we wanted to do more and more activity.”

Australian meat workers to face new attacks after JBS buys Primo Group

By Richard Phillips

27 November 2014

Brazilian transnational JBS Foods, the world’s largest meat packer and animal protein exporter, has taken over the Sydney-based Primo Group, the biggest ham, bacon and small goods producer in Australia and New Zealand. Primo employs more than 3,000 workers at five processing plants, seven distribution centres and 30 retail shops.

The $1.45 billion acquisition is subject to regulatory approval. JBS will reportedly use Primo, which has export markets in Asia, to expand its operations into China’s lucrative pork market. The deal was announced a few days after China and Australia signed a free-trade deal that will phase out tariffs on processed meat and other agricultural imports.

Last Friday’s Sydney Morning Herald reported that Primo Group chief executive Paul Hitchcock said “there would be no big job cuts or restructuring. It would be business as usual for Primo’s brands, suppliers and 3,000 employees.” These reassurances are worthless.

JBS told the financial markets it plans to reap $30 million by “cutting out duplicated costs” and boost its revenues by $1.6 billion a year by 2015. The $1.45 billion purchase price for Primo, however, is 10 times the group’s forecasted annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and debt repayments. This means that the takeover will be paid for by cost-cutting and rationalisations at Primo and JBS Australia’s existing facilities.

Meat workers will suffer the consequences, while Affinity Equity Partners, which bought a 70 percent share in Primo in 2011, and Primo’s wealthy co-founder Paul Lederer, who is part owner of the Western Wanderers football club in Sydney, will walk away with millions.

Originally known as JBS Friboi, the high-leveraged Brazilian corporation has rapidly expanded its global operations in the past nine years. Currently valued at $41 billion, the corporation employs over 190,000 workers in 150 plants in 24 countries. Even before the Primo takeover, it became Australia’s largest meatpacker, with over 7,000 workers at facilities in five states.

JBS made its first major international acquisition in 2007, taking over the US meat company Swift Foods, followed by the Smithfield Beef Group and various American animal protein processors. The heavily-leveraged takeovers, which raised concerns in some international credit agencies, were followed by ruthless restructuring, productivity demands and other cost-cutting. Hundreds of management positions were eliminated following its Swift Foods takeover in the US.

JBS drove up productivity at the Greeley plant in Colorado, installing overhead screens that flash numbers indicating whether workers are meeting productivity targets. Green numbers identify workers reaching their goals; red numbers announce they are “underperforming.” The 3,200 workers at the plant now slaughter and debone 5,400 head of cattle per day, with production costs driven down from $212 to $164 per beast.

JBS’s intervention into Australia has followed the same pattern. In 2007, JBS purchased Australian Meat Holdings abattoirs and the Tasman Group meatworks. Since then it has axed hundreds of jobs, including over 500 at its Dinmore and Townsville plants in Queensland and 90 at Longford in Tasmania. It closed Tasmania’s King Island plant, destroying 100 jobs, and eliminated 80 jobs, or half the workforce, at its Cobram plant in Victoria. These cuts and other productivity demands have been rubber-stamped by the meat trade unions.

In December 2010, JBS locked out over 100 cold storage workers for almost six weeks at its Brooklyn facility in West Melbourne after they rejected a cut in real wages. The company also demanded that shifts be increased from 8 hours to between 9.5 and 12.6 hours, including on weekends, thus cutting workers’ overtime and weekend penalty rates.

The dispute was betrayed by the unions, which imposed a new agreementthat eliminated the eight-hour day and reduced weekend penalty rates. The National Union of Workers (NUW) directed the locked-out workers not to interfere with the company’s scab labour force and delivery trucks crossing their picket line. The Australian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU) instructed its members not to take any action in support of their locked-out colleagues.

In May 2012, Andre Nogueira, JBS Australia’s then CEO and a former Bank of Brazil corporate chief, complained to beef industry officials that production costs in Australia had increased by 30 percent since 2007.

“Australian producers may not reach US productivity volumes but we cannot afford to be only half as efficient, as we currently are,” Nogueira said. “What should really concern the Australian industry is that the margin in comparison with US processing is growing, not reducing.” He called for increased “labour flexibility”—a euphemism for slashing wages and conditions.

That year, JBS Australia was split into two divisions—a “northern venture,” centring on Queensland and New South Wales (NSW), and a “southern element,” covering Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. JBS then eliminated 60 jobs at its Tabbita feedlot and up to 80 at its Yanco abattoir, both in NSW.

In September 2012, JBS shut the King Island meatworks, claiming that the cost of doing business on the island was too high, despite receiving a $12 million low-interest loan from the Tasmanian government three years earlier to modernise the abattoirs. King Island farmers were told to ship their cattle to the company’s Longford, Tasmania plant. JBS refused to sell or lease out the King Island facility and threatened to shut Longford if another abattoir opened on King Island.

Primo workers already face oppressive conditions. At its Chullora plant in western Sydney, most are employed as permanent part-time or casual workers. During the past three years, overtime rates were abolished and workloads increased as crew sizes were reduced. Permanent workers are paid about $16.50 an hour. Casuals are on around $21 an hour, but have no holiday or sick leave.

Earlier this year, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “7.30” program focussed on the Primo plant at Scone, northwest of Sydney. It revealed that young Asian workers, hired on temporary working holiday visas were systematically underpaid—less than half the minimum wage—forced to work excessive hours and threatened with dismissal if they complained (see: “Young workers super-exploited in Australian meat industry“).

Primo workers will inevitably face attacks on their jobs and conditions following the JBS takeover. The only way to resist this assault is by firstly recognising that the unions will isolate and block every attempt by workers to fight the transnational corporation. This poses the necessity for Primo workers to establish independent rank-and-file committees in every plant and to turn out to their colleagues in JBS, nationally and internationally, as part of a unified struggle to defend all jobs, wages and conditions.

Such a struggle will necessarily involve a political fight against the unions, which act on behalf of governments and employers. It must be grounded on a socialist perspective based on the needs of the working class, not the profit demands of corporate and financial elite. We urge Primo workers and other JBS employees to contact the Socialist Equality Party to discuss this perspective.

The author also recommends:

Australian meat workers fight 20 percent pay cut
[3 June 2013]

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