Thursday, July 30, 2015

Syriza and the Pseudo-Left

What is the pseudo-left?

by WSWS Editorial Board


30 July 2015

The events in Greece over the past several months constitute a major strategic experience of the Greek working class and youth that is having a significant impact on political consciousness around the world.

The so-called “Coalition of the Radical Left” (Syriza)—despite its use of radical-sounding phraseology and its nominal opposition to austerity—has capitulated entirely to the European banks and institutions. The Syriza government is now implementing policies that will dramatically increase social inequality and turn Greece into a virtual colony of German and European imperialism.

Tsipras "rushed to Germany
to assure the banks."

These developments are a striking confirmation of the analysis made by the World Socialist Web Site over several years, going back well before Syriza was elected in January of this year.

In a resolution adopted at the Socialist Equality Party (US) Congress in July of 2012, for example, it was noted that “as soon as Syriza was faced with the possibility of coming to power, its leader Alexis Tsipras rushed to Germany to assure the banks that his party had no intention of withdrawing from the euro zone. It has sought nothing more radical than the renegotiation of the European banks’ austerity program.”

Throughout the spring of this year, the WSWS organized a series of meetings in which the nature of Syriza was analyzed and warnings were made of its plans to fully accept the austerity demands of the European banks.

In the aftermath of Syriza’s final capitulation, many readers have asked how it is that the WSWS was able to predict so precisely the course of events. This experience is a vindication of the Marxist method, which analyzes political tendencies not on the basis of what they call themselves, but on the basis of their history and program and the social interests they represent.

Over the past several years, the WSWS has developed the conception of an international political tendency that we have described as “pseudo-left,” of which Syriza is only one example.

We would like to call our readers’ attention to the analysis made by WSWS International Editorial Board Chairman David North in the Foreword of his newly-released book, The Frankfurt School, Postmodernism and the Politics of the Pseudo-Left: A Marxist Critique. North includes a concise and more detailed “working definition” of the “pseudo-left” that will help provide an orientation in the struggle against the influence of these reactionary movements. He writes:

* The pseudo-left denotes political parties, organizations and theoretical/ideological tendencies which utilize populist slogans and democratic phrases to promote the socioeconomic interests of privileged and affluent strata of the middle class. Examples of such parties and tendencies include Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, Die Linke in Germany, and numerous offshoots of ex-Trotskyist (i.e., Pabloite) and state capitalist organizations such as the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) in France, the NSSP in Sri Lanka and the International Socialist Organization in the United States. This list could include the remnants and descendants of the “Occupy” movements influenced by anarchist and post-anarchist tendencies. Given the wide variety of petty-bourgeois pseudo-left organizations throughout the world, this is by no means a comprehensive list.

* The pseudo-left is anti-Marxist. It rejects historical materialism, embracing instead various forms of subjective idealism and philosophical irrationalism associated with existentialism, the Frankfurt School and contemporary postmodernism.

* The pseudo-left is anti-socialist, opposes class struggle, and denies the central role of the working class and the necessity of revolution in the progressive transformation of society. It counterposes supra-class populism to the independent political organization and mass mobilization of the working class against the capitalist system. The economic program of the pseudo-left is, in its essentials, pro-capitalist and nationalistic.

* The pseudo-left promotes “identity politics,” fixating on issues related to nationality, ethnicity, race, gender and sexuality in order to acquire greater influence in corporations, the colleges and universities, the higher-paying professions, the trade unions and in government and state institutions, to effect a more favorable distribution of wealth among the richest 10 percent of the population. The pseudo-left seeks greater access to, rather than the destruction of, social privilege.

* In the imperialist centers of North America, Western Europe and Australasia, the pseudo-left is generally pro-imperialist, and utilizes the slogans of “human rights” to legitimize, and even directly support, neo-colonialist military operations.

North concludes the Foreword to his new book by noting, “The analysis and exposure of the class basis, retrograde theoretical conceptions and reactionary politics of the pseudo-left are especially critical tasks confronting the Trotskyist movement in its struggle to educate the working class, free it from the influence of the petty-bourgeois movements, and establish its political independence as the central progressive and revolutionary force within modern capitalist society.”

The publication of the Frankfurt School, Postmodernism and the Politics of the Pseudo-Left: A Marxist Critique marks a significant step toward this goal, and the volume will serve as a valuable aid in the coming struggles of the working class.

The WSWS Editorial Board

Paradise on Fire: America's Wettest Spot Burns


Paradise Burning: Why We All Need to Learn the Word “Anthropogenic”

by Subhankar Banerjee - TomDispatch


The wettest rainforest in the continental United States had gone up in flames and the smoke was so thick, so blanketing, that you could see it miles away. Deep in Washington’s Olympic National Park, the aptly named Paradise Fire, undaunted by the dampness of it all, was eating the forest alive and destroying an ecological Eden. 
In this season of drought across the West, there have been far bigger blazes but none quite so symbolic or offering quite such grim news. It isn’t the size of the fire (though it is the largest in the park’s history), nor its intensity. It’s something else entirely -- the fact that it shouldn’t have been burning at all. When fire can eat a rainforest in a relatively cool climate, you know the Earth is beginning to burn.

And here’s the thing: the Olympic Peninsula is my home. Its destruction is my personal nightmare and I couldn’t stay away. 
Tomgram: Subhankar Banerjee, Fire at World's End

Normally, Americans love breaking records. (“We’re number one! We’re number one!”) But the latest records to come out of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should make anyone’s heart sink. Here’s how the World Meteorological Society put the news in a recent press release: “The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for January to June 2015, as well as for the month of June, was the hottest such period on record." June itself was a global record-setter for warmth, as had been May and March in this thermometer-busting year, and February might also have squeaked into the number-one spot in recorded history. If so, four of the six months of this year were uniquely, grimly warm. And batten down the hatches since this is now officially an El Niño year in which surface water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean are heating up significantly, possibly to historic levels, and global weather and storm patterns could be affected in major ways.

Where’s that (discredited) "pause" in global warming now that we need it? In the American West, still gripped by a devastating drought, wildfires are raging from California to Western Canada to Alaska. Hundreds of those Canadian wildfires have been burning away and, as desperate people leave the fire areas, a new phrase has entered our language: “wildfire refugees.” Here are two more words that may become more commonplace in the future: “fleeing” (as in “from hotels and campgrounds”) and -- in one of our great national parks, Glacier in Montana, part of which is now ablaze -- “evacuation.”

TomDispatch regular and award-winning photographer Subhankar Banerjee lives on the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington and has recently found himself on the frontlines of the present wildfire season and of climate change. In his latest piece, he takes us into perhaps the single place least likely to be ablaze in America and oh yes, if you haven’t already guessed, it’s on fire. Welcome to -- if you’ll excuse my appropriation of a classic phrase from our past -- the new world Tom
 

Paradise Burning: Why We All Need to Learn the Word “Anthropogenic”

by Subhankar Banerjee


Smoke Gets in My Eyes


What a bummer! Can’t even see Mount Olympus,” a disappointed tourist exclaimed from the Hurricane Ridge visitor center. Still pointing his camera at the hazy mountain-scape, he added that “on a sunny day like this” he would ordinarily have gotten a “clear shot of the range.” Indeed, on a good day, that vantage point guarantees you a postcard-perfect view of the Olympic Mountains and their glaciers, making Hurricane Ridge the most visited location in the park, with the Hoh rainforest coming in a close second. And a lot of people have taken photos there. With its more than three million annual visitors, the park barely trails its two more famous western cousins, Yosemite and Yellowstone, on the tourist circuit.

Days of rain had come the weekend before, soaking the rainforest without staunching the Paradise Fire. The wetness did, however, help create those massive clouds of smoke that wrecked the view miles away on that blazing hot Sunday, July 19th. Though no fire was visible from the visitor center -- it was the old-growth rainforest of the Queets River Valley on the other side of Mount Olympus that was burning -- massive plumes of smoke were rising from the Elwha River and Long Creek valleys. 


Fire Information Bulletin Board and Smoke from Fire, Hurricane Ridge 
Visitor Center, Olympic National Park, July 19, 2015.

By then, I felt as if smoke had become my companion. I had first encountered it on another hot, sunny Sunday two weeks earlier.

On July 5th, I had gone to Hurricane Ridge with Finis Dunaway, historian of environmental visual culture and author of Seeing Green: The Use and Abuse of American Environmental Images. As this countryside is second nature to me, I felt the shock and sadness the moment we piled out of the car. In a season when the meadows and hills should have been lush green and carpeted by wildflowers, they were rusty brown and bone-dry.

Normally, even when such meadows are still covered in snow, glacier lilies still poke through. Avalanche lilies burst into riotous bloom as soon as the snow melts, followed by lupines, paintbrushes, tiger lilies, and the Sitka columbines, just to begin a list. Those meadows with their chorus of colors are a wonder to photograph, but the flowers also provide much needed nutrition to birds and animals, including the endemic Olympic marmots that prefer, as the National Park Service puts it, “fresh, tender, flowering plants such as lupine and glacier lilies.”

Snow normally lingers on these subalpine meadows until the end of June or early July, but last winter and spring were “anything but typical,” as the summer issue of the park’s quarterly newspaper, the Bugler, pointed out. January and February temperatures at the Hurricane Ridge station were “over six degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average.”

By late February, “less than three percent of normal” snowpack remained on the Olympic Mountains and the meadows, normally still covered by more than six feet of snow, “were bare.” As the Bugler also noted, recent data and scientific projections suggest that “this warming trend with less snowpack is something the Pacific Northwest should get used to... What does this mean for summer wildflowers, cold-water loving salmon, and myriad animals that depend on a flush of summer vegetation watered by melting snow?” The answer, unfortunately, isn’t complicated: it spells disaster for the ecology of the park.

Move on to the rainforest and the news is no less grim. This January, it got 14.07 inches of precipitation, which is 26% less than normal; February was 17% less; March was almost normal; and April was off by 23%. Worse yet, what precipitation there was generally fell as rain, not snow, and the culprit was those way-higher-than-average winter temperatures. Then the drought that already had much of the West Coast in its grip arrived in the rainforest. In May, precipitation fell to 75% less than normal and in June it was a staggering 96% less than normal, historic lows for those months. The forest floor dried up, as did the moss and lichens that hang in profusion from the trees, creating kindling galore and priming the forest for potential ignition by lightning.

That day, I was intent on showing Finis the spot along the Hurricane Hill trail where, in 1997, I had taken a picture of a black-tailed deer. That photo proved a turning point in my life, winning the Slide of the Year award from the Boeing photography club and leading me eventually to give up the security of a corporate career and start a conservation project in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

As it happened, it wouldn’t be a day for nostalgia or for seeing much of anything. On reaching Hurricane Hill, we found that the Olympic Mountains were obscured by smoke from the Paradise Fire. Meanwhile, looking north toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the Salish Sea, all that we could see was an amber-lit deep haze. More smoke, in other words, coming from more than 70 wildfires burning in British Columbia, Canada. As I write this, there are 14 active wildfires in Washington and five in Oregon, while British Columbia recently registered 185 of them.

So if you happen to live in the drought-stricken Southwest and are dreaming of relocating to the cool, moist Pacific Northwest, think again. On the Olympic Peninsula, it’s haze to the horizon and the worst drought since 1895.

A Rainforest In A National Park


For visitors to the Olympic Peninsula, it seems obvious that a temperate rainforest -- itself a kind of natural wonder -- should be in a national park. As it happens, getting it included proved to be one of the most drawn-out battles in American conservation history, which makes seeing it destroyed all the more bitter.

Two centuries ago, expanses of coastal temperate rainforests stretched from northern California to southern Alaska. Today, only about 4% of the California redwoods remain, while in Oregon and Washington, the forests are less than 10% of what they once were. Still, even in a degraded state, this eco-region, including British Columbia and Alaska, contains more than a quarter of the world's remaining coastal temperate rainforest.

In the era of climate change, this matters, because the Pacific coastal rainforest is so productive that it has a much higher biomass than comparable areas of any tropical rainforest. In translation: the Pacific rainforests store an impressive amount of carbon in their wood and soil and so contribute to keeping the climate cool. However, when that wood goes up in flames, as it has recently, it releases the stored carbon into the atmosphere at a rapid rate. The massive plumes of smoke we saw at Hurricane Ridge offer visual testimony to a larger ecological disaster to come. 


Smoke from Paradise Fire obscures the iconic view of 
the Olympic Mountains, July 19, 2015.

The old-growth rainforest that stretches across the western valleys of the Olympic National Park is its crown jewel. As UNESCO wrote in recognizing the park as a World Heritage Site, it includes “the best example of intact and protected temperate rainforest in the Pacific Northwest.” In those river valleys, annual rainfall is measured not in inches but in feet, and it’s the wettest place in the continental United States. There you will find living giants: a Sitka spruce more than 1,000 years old; Douglas fir more than 300 feet tall; mountain hemlock at 150 feet; yellow cedars that are nearly 12 feet in diameter; and a western red cedar whose circumference is more than 60 feet.

The rainforest is home to innumerable species, most of which remain hidden from sight. Still, while walking its trails, you can sometimes hear the bugle or get a glimpse of Roosevelt elk amid moss-draped, fog-shrouded bigleaf maples. (The largest herd of wild elk in North America finds refuge here.) And when you do, you’ll know that you’ve entered a Tolkienesque landscape. Those elk, by the way, were named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt who, in 1909, protected 615,000 acres of the peninsula, as Mount Olympus National Monument.

Why not include a rainforest in a national park? That was the question being asked at the turn of the twentieth century and Henry Graves, chief of the U.S. Forest Service, answered it in definitive fashion this way: “It would be great mistake to include in parks great bodies of commercial timber.”

Despite the power of the timber industry and the Forest Service, however, five committed citizens with few resources somehow managed to protect the peninsula’s last remaining rainforest. “They did it by involving the public,” environmentalist and former park ranger Carsten Lien writes in his Olympic Battleground: Creating and Defending Olympic National Park. He adds, “Preserving the environment through direct citizen activism, as we know it today, had its beginnings in the Olympic National Park battle.”

In 1938, the national monument was converted to Olympic National Park and a significant amount of rainforest was included. As Lien would discover in the late 1950s, however, the Park Service, despite its rhetoric of stewardship, continued to let timber interests log there. Today, such practices are long past, though commercial logging continues to play a significant part in the economy of the peninsula in national, state, and private forests.

A Fire That Just Won’t Stop


Once the fire began, I just couldn’t keep away. On a rainy July 10th, for instance, listening to James Taylor’s Fire and Rain, I drove toward the Queets River Valley to learn more about the Paradise Fire so that I could “talk about things to come.”

At the Kalaloch campground, I asked the first park employee I ran into whether the rain, then coming down harder, might extinguish the fire? “It will slow down the fire’s spread,” she told me, “but won’t put it out. There’s too much fuel in that valley.”

The next morning, with the rain still falling steadily and the fire still burning, I stood at the trailhead to the valley thinking about what another park employee had told me. “The sad thing,” she said, “is that the fire is burning in the most primitive of the three river valleys.” In other words, I was standing mere miles away from the destruction of one of the most primeval parts of the forest. As Queets was also one of the more difficult locations to visit, less attention was being given to the fire than if, say, it were in the always popular Hoh valley.

In a sense, the Paradise Fire has been burning out of sight of the general public. Information about it has been coming from press releases and updates prepared by the National Park Service. Though it is doing a good job of sharing information, environmental disasters and their lessons often sink in most deeply when they are observed and absorbed into collective memory via the stories, fears, and hopes of ordinary citizens.

I had breakfast at the Kalaloch Lodge restaurant, not far from the Queets, while the rain was still falling. “When will the sun come out?” an elderly woman at the next table asked the waitress as if lodging a complaint with management. “The whole weekend we’ve been here it’s rained continuously.”

“I’m so happy that finally we got three days of rain,” the waitress responded politely. “This year we got 12 inches. Usually we get about 12 feet. It’s been bad for trees and all the life in our area.” In fact, the peninsula has received over 51 inches of rain, mostly last winter, but her point couldn’t have been more on target. “It has been so dry that the salmon can’t move in the river,” she added. Her voice lit up a bit as she continued, “With this rain, the rivers will rise and the salmon will be able to go upriver to spawn. The salmon will return.”

I asked where she was from. “Quinault Nation,” she said, citing one of the local native tribes dependent both nutritionally and culturally on those salmon.

“The Queets, the largest river flowing off the west side of the Olympics, is running at less than a third its normal volume,” the Seattle Times reported. “[B]ad news for the wild salmon runs, steelhead, bull trout, and cutthroat trout.” In addition to the disappearing snowpack and severe drought, the iconic glaciers of the Olympic Mountains are melting rapidly, which will likely someday spell doom for the park’s rivers and its vibrant ecology. According to Bill Baccus, a scientist at the park, over the last 30 years, those glaciers have shrunk by about 35%, a direct consequence of the impact of climate change.

After breakfast, I took off for the Hoh Valley. At its visitor center, a ranger described the battle underway with the Paradise Fire. Summing up how dire the situation was, he said, “Our goal is confinement, not containment.” Normally, success in fighting a wildfire is measured by what percentage of it has been contained, but not with the Paradise. “Safety of the firefighters and safety of the human communities are our two priorities right now,” the ranger explained. As a result, the National Park Service is letting the fire burn further into wilderness areas unfought, while trying to stop its spread toward human communities and into commercially valuable timberlands outside the park.

For firefighters, combating such a blaze in an old-growth rainforest with steep hills is, at best, an impossibly dangerous business. Large trees are “falling down regularly,” firefighter Dave Felsen told the Seattle Times. “You can hear cracking and you try to move, but it’s so thick in there that there is no escape route if something is coming at you.”

Besides, many of the traditional means of fighting wildfires don’t work against the Paradise. Dumping water from a helicopter, to take one example, is almost meaningless. As an NPR reporter noted, the rainforest canopy "is so dense that very little of the water will make it down to the fire burning in the underbrush below.” Worse yet, as the Washington Post reported, the large trees and thick growth “make it impossible to effectively cut a fire line” through the foliage to contain the spread of the flames.

With the moist lichens and mosses that usually give the rainforest its magical appearance shriveled and dried out, they now help spread the fire from tree to tree. When they burst into flames and fall to the ground, yet more of the dry underbrush catches, too. In other words, that forest, which normally would have suppressed a fire, has now been transformed into a tinderbox. 


Moss-covered bigleaf maples in the Hoh rainforest, June 2014.

“Few people in our profession have ever seen this kind of fire in this kind of ecosystem,” Bill Hahnenberg, the Paradise Fire incident commander, told his crew. “The information you gather could be really valuable.” He didn’t have to add the obvious: its value lies in offering hints as to how to fight such fires in a future that, as the region becomes drier and hotter, will be ever more amenable to them.

So far, the fire is smoldering, but as the summer heats up, the Seattle Times reports, “there is still the potential for a crown fire that can spread in dramatic fashion as treetops are engulfed in flames.” According to several park employees I spoke with, the Paradise Fire is likely to burn until the autumn rains return to the western valleys. As of July 23rd, it had eaten 1,781 acres, which sounds modest compared to other fires burning in the West, but you have to remind yourself that it’s not modest at all, not in a temperate rainforest. It also poses a challenge to the very American idea of land conservation.

Throughout the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, American environmentalists passionately fought to protect large swaths of public lands and waters. The national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, and wildernesses they helped to create laid the basis for a new American identity. Nationalism aside, such publicly protected lands and waters also offered refuge for an incredible diversity of species, some of which would have otherwise found it difficult to survive at the edges of an expanding industrialized, consumerist society. Today, that diversity of life within these public lands and waters is increasingly endangered by climate change.

What, then, should environmental conservation look like in a twenty-first century in which the Paradise Fire could become something like the norm?

Tankers and Rigs


“This is not an anthropogenic fire,” the ranger I spoke with at the Hoh visitor center insisted. In the most literal sense, that’s true. In late May, lightning struck a tree in the Queets Valley and started the fire, which then smoldered and slowly spread across the north bank of the river. It was finally detected in mid-June and firefighters were called in. That such a lightning strike disqualifies the Paradise Fire from being “anthropogenic” -- human-caused -- would once have been a given, but in a world being heated by the burning of fossil fuels, such definitions have to be reconsidered.

The very rarity of such fires speaks to the anthropogenic nature of the origins of this one. After all, a temperate rainforest as a vast collection of biomass and so a carbon sink is only possible thanks to the rarity of fire in such a habitat. According to the World Wildlife Fund, “With a unique combination of moderate temperatures and very high rainfall, the climate makes fires extremely rare” in such forests.

The natural fire cycle in these forests is about 500 to 800 years. In other words, once every half-millennium or more this forest may experience a moderate-sized fire. But that’s now changing. Mark Huff, who has been studying wildfires in the park since the late 1970s, told Seattle’s public radio station KUOW that in the past half-century there have already been “three modest-sized fires” here, including the Paradise, though the other two were less destructive. According to a National Park Service map (“Olympic National Park: Fire History 1896-2006”) in the western rainforest, during that century-plus, two lightning-caused fires burned more than 100 acres and another more than 500 acres.

If, however, fires in the rainforest become the new normal, comments Olympic National Park wildlife biologist Patti Happe, “then we may not have these forests.”

A team of international climate change and rainforest experts published a study earlier this year warning that, “without drastic and immediate cuts to greenhouse gas emissions and new forest protections, the world's most expansive stretch of temperate rainforests from Alaska to the coast redwoods will experience irreparable losses.” In fact, says the study’s lead author, Dominick DellaSala, “In the Pacific Northwest... the climate may no longer support rainforest communities.” 


The Chevron oil tanker Pegasus Voyager moored in 
Port Angeles Harbor (with Geese), July 2015.

Speaking of the anthropogenic, on our way back, Finis and I stopped in Port Angeles, the largest city on the peninsula. There we noted a Chevron oil tanker, the massive 904-foot Pegasus Voyager, moored in its harbor on the Salish Sea. It had arrived empty for “topside repair.” Today, only a modest number of oil tankers and barges come here for repair, refueling, and other services, but that could change dramatically if Canada’s tar sands extraction project really takes off and vast quantities of that particularly carbon-dirty energy product are exported to Asia.

That industry is already fighting to build two new pipelines from Alberta, the source of most of the country’s tar sands, to the coast of British Columbia. “Once this invasion of tar sands oil reaches the coast,” a Natural Resources Defense Council press release states, “up to 2,000 additional barges and tankers would be needed to carry the crude to Washington and California ports and international markets across the Pacific.” All of those barges and tankers would be moving through the Salish Sea and along Washington’s coast.

And let’s not forget that, in May, Shell Oil moored in Seattle’s harbor the Polar Pioneer, one of the two rigs the company plans to use this summer for exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea of Arctic Alaska (a project only recently green-lighted by the Obama administration). In fact, Shell expects to use that harbor as the staging area for its Arctic drilling fleet. The arrival of Polar Pioneer inspired a “kayaktivist” campaign, which received national and international media coverage. It focused on drawing attention to the dangers of drilling in the melting Arctic Ocean, including the significant contribution such new energy extraction projects could make to climate change.

In other words, two of the most potentially climate-destroying fossil-fuel-extraction projects on Earth more or less bookend the burning Olympic Peninsula.

The harbors of Washington, a state that prides itself on its environmental stewardship, have already become a support base for one, and the other will likely join the crowd in the years to come. Washington’s residents will gradually become more accustomed to oil rigs and tankers and trains, while its rainforests burn in yet more paradisical fires.

In the meantime, the Olympic Peninsula is still wreathed in smoke, the West is still drought central, and anthropogenic is a word all of us had better learn soon.

Subhankar Banerjee is an internationally exhibited photographer and writer. His most recent book is Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point. A TomDispatch regular, he won a 2012 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Award. He has been deeply involved with the native tribes of the Arctic in trying to prevent the destruction of Arctic lands and seas.

[Note: The four photos in this post were all taken by Subhankar Banerjee.]


Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Subhankar Banerjee

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Reckless Reporters Pile On The Brady Express

The Tom Brady Railroad

by Robert Parry - Consortium News

July 29, 2015  

What I have learned in 35 years as an investigative reporter at the national level is that high-profile investigations are almost always driven less by fact, reason or truth than by power. The Hollywood scenario of some entity-on-high intervening in the name of justice for a happy ending rarely happens in real life.

Patriot quarterback Tom Brady

More typically the relative balance of power between the two sides dictates the outcome with clever lawyers or compliant bureaucrats twisting every word or action in whatever direction serves the interests of the more powerful master. Innocence can be turned into guilt and vice versa, usually with the mainstream news media falling into line and average people soon absorbing the conventional wisdom with smirks at the loser.

I have witnessed this pattern in matters of war or peace, the integrity of elections, and the treatment of individual citizens. Once power is applied to an investigation anyone who stands in the way can expect to get run over. Decent people are demonized and ostracized. Foreign leaders can become the target of “regime change.” Essentially anything goes, and Goliath usually wins.

That is why I am always highly suspicious when this process gets rolling, whether the goal is to pin some nefarious act on a despised foreign leader (Saddam Hussein is hiding WMD); to fix the outcome of an election (Al Gore is a sore loser); or to disparage an honest journalist (Gary Webb deserved what he got for accusing the CIA of dabbling with Nicaraguan Contra drug traffickers).

Often in such cases the conventional wisdom, which reflects the consensus view of the powerful, is dead wrong. Hussein didn’t have those caches of WMD; Gore was the rightful winner of the presidential election in 2000; and Webb was correct when he shed new light on the CIA’s Contra-cocaine connection. Yet all of them lost to the power of systemic distortion.

Similarly, there are troubling aspects to the NFL’s “Deflategate” witch hunt targeting New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. And there’s a cautionary warning here for all of us. It turns out that even celebrity doesn’t protect you from a process in which a more powerful entity, in this case the NFL and opposing teams envious of Brady’s success, can concoct a case almost literally out of thin air to destroy a person’s reputation and make it harder for the Patriots to prevail on the field in the future.

In this curious investigation, one of the most scandalous aspects has been the role of rival teams in pressuring NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to sustain his harsh penalties against Brady (a four-game suspension without pay) and against the Patriots (a $1 million fine and loss of first- and fourth-round draft picks).

Beyond the peculiar process of Goodell serving as judge, jury and appeals court, there has been the intrusion by the NFL’s Management Council in trying to influence the outcome, a factor cited by ESPN and acknowledged in Goodell’s own 20-page report. It would seem that at minimum Brady deserved a disciplinary process without the owners of rival teams weighing in.

Though this interference by team owners who have lost to the Patriots would seem to be an obvious conflict of interest and a threat to the integrity of the game, this behavior has passed virtually unnoticed, mentioned only briefly by some ESPN commentators. Yet, this tilting of the playing field might be the biggest scandal in the entire overblown affair, especially since the Management Council holds the strings to Goodell’s $35 million salary.

The Goodell Report


Like the previous Wells’ investigative report – written under Goodell’s direction – Goodell’s findings on Brady’s appeal brush aside the core fact that the science behind the assumption that the Patriots’ footballs were intentionally deflated was dubious at best. Even according to the opinion of the NFL-hired experts, all or virtually all the drop in air pressure could be explained by the cold weather alone during the AFC Championship game on Jan. 18, 2015.

And the NFL’s experts did not account for other relevant factors, such as the rainy weather and the different pre-game treatments of the Patriots footballs when compared with those of the Indianapolis Colts. A variety of outside scientists reviewed the Wells’ report and concluded that its assessment of the air-pressure readings was unreliable at best because of inadequate protocols in both pre-game measurements and the hasty checks made during halftime. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NFL’s Deflategate Findings ‘Unreliable.’”]

(Ironically, if you relied on the air-pressure gauge that was judged more precise, the Colts played both the first half and second half of the AFC Championship game with underinflated footballs, while the Patriots did for only the first half. Yet, the Patriots were the ones punished.)

There remain other anomalies in Goodell’s report. For instance, Goodell writes that “there are several points that are not in dispute and important to this decision,” including that Brady “told the equipment staff that he wanted the footballs inflated at the lowest permissible level” and “instructed the equipment staff to present a copy of the rule to the game officials.”

Goodell continues: “On the day of the AFC Championship Game, Mr. [Jim] McNally [the team employee who carried the footballs to the referees] told referee Walt Anderson that Mr. Brady wanted the balls inflated to a pressure of 12.5 psi. He [McNally] told the investigators that ‘Tom … always has me pass a message to the Official’s [sic] that he likes the balls at the minimum permissible PSI of 12.5.’”

In other words, it’s not in dispute that Brady went to considerable trouble to have the pressure per square inch set at the low end of the legal parameters and that it was McNally’s job to ensure that the referees complied with Brady’s preference to deflate the footballs to that level. This undisputed evidence in Goodell’s own report would suggest that Brady was acting within the rules. And why would someone go to all that trouble if the plan was to have the balls deflated surreptitiously afterwards?

Goodell also states as an unchallenged fact that the AFC Championship game was the only time when McNally took the footballs on his own to the field, writing: “Other referees … said … he [McNally] had not engaged in similar conduct in the games that they had worked at Gillette Stadium.” So, what kind of a scheme was this to secretly deflate footballs when it allegedly could only have been done once?

McNally also explained to investigators that the reason for the confusion about when he should carry the balls to the field resulted from the fact that the earlier NFC Championship game had gone into overtime delaying the start of the AFC game.

The NFC game ended abruptly causing confusion in the crowded referees’ suite of rooms about the need to get the balls down to the field, McNally explained. He said he used the bathroom on the way because there was a crowd in the referees’ room. He also couldn’t leave the field for the entire first half.

Though McNally had submitted to several interviews with NFL investigators – and consistently denied any wrongdoing – Goodell makes a big point in his report over the fact that the NFL’s Players Association didn’t bring McNally and locker room assistant John Jastremski down to New York City for Brady’s appeal hearing. Goodell noted that “The Management Council [consisting of rival owners] has argued that an adverse inference should be drawn from the NFLPA’s decision not to seek testimony from Mr. Jastremski and Mr. McNally.”

To this day, there remains no explicit evidence that the balls were deflated after they left the referees’ room. Indeed, the often-cited text messages between McNally and Jastremski referred not to the AFC Championship game but to a problem from a game against the New York Jets in October when the referees illegally over-inflated the footballs, prompting a complaint from Brady that Jastremski conveyed to McNally, whose job it was to make sure the referees deflated the balls to the level that Brady preferred.

All the banter in the texts between the two locker room guys, including McNally’s disparaging remarks about Brady, can be understood in the context of McNally reacting defensively to criticism that he had not gotten the referees to deflate the balls in the Jets game to the low end of the permissible levels or even below the high end of the permissible levels at 13.5 psi. Jastremski tested the balls after the game and found them over the legal limit with one at nearly 16 psi.

Goodell’s report makes no reference to the NFL’s sloppy protocols for ensuring that footballs are inflated properly, nor to the chaotic testing of the footballs during the halftime of the AFC Championship game when there was even disagreement over the sequencing of the measurements, a key issue given how fast balls naturally re-inflate when brought into a warm setting.

Much like the original Wells’ report, Goodell’s report slanted every conceivable fact in the direction of the prosecutors’ case against Brady.

The Destroyed Phone


The center of Goodell’s rejection of Brady’s appeal was the relatively new information that Brady had an assistant destroy an old cell phone that Brady replaced shortly before his interview with the Wells’ investigators. Though Brady’s side had already informed the NFL that he would not give them access to his phone and the NFL already had Brady’s text messages to Jastremski whose phone had been turned over, Goodell deployed this new fact as proof that Brady was intentionally hiding incriminating information.

Brady responded to Goodell’s ruling on Wednesday saying “I did nothing wrong, and no one in the Patriots organization did either. … The fact is that neither I, nor any equipment person, did anything of which we have been accused.

He dismissed my hours of testimony and it is disappointing that he found it unreliable.

“I also disagree with yesterday’s narrative surrounding my cellphone. I replaced my broken Samsung phone with a new iPhone 6 AFTER my attorneys made it clear to the NFL that my actual phone device would not be subjected to investigation under ANY circumstances. As a member of a union, I was under no obligation to set a new precedent going forward, nor was I made aware at any time during Mr. [Ted] Wells investigation, that failing to subject my cell phone to investigation would result in ANY discipline.

“Most importantly, I have never written, texted, emailed to anybody at anytime, anything related to football air pressure before this issue was raised at the AFC Championship game in January. To suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong.

“To try and reconcile the record and fully cooperate with the investigation after I was disciplined in May, we turned over detailed pages of cell phone records and all of the emails that Mr. Wells requested. We even contacted the phone company to see if there was any possible way we could retrieve any/all of the actual text messages from my old phone.

“In short, we exhausted every possibility to give the NFL everything we could and offered to go thru the identity for every text and phone call during the relevant time. Regardless, the NFL knows that Mr. Wells already had ALL relevant communications with Patriots personnel that either Mr. Wells saw or that I was questioned about in my appeal hearing. There is no ‘smoking gun’ and this controversy is manufactured to distract from the fact they have zero evidence of wrongdoing. …

“I respect the Commissioners authority, but he also has to respect the CBA [the collective bargaining agreement with the players] and my rights as a private citizen. I will not allow my unfair discipline to become a precedent for other NFL players without a fight.”

I have no way of knowing whether Brady is telling the truth or not. But my experience with powerful institutions is that they can massage information any way they want to make the innocent look guilty and the guilty innocent. [For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Tom Brady and Theoretical Crime.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Big Orange Plays Green Card: Mulcair Woos Enviros, While Remaining Silent on Kinder Morgan "Assault" on BC

A Vote for the Mulcair NDP is a Vote for Kinder Morgan

by Ingmar Lee

Friends, as happens in every election, the NDP DEMAND for the Green vote is becoming increasingly shrill. But In spite of repeated, continual requests, - of my NDP MP, Nathan Cullen, and from other high-ranking members of the federal NDP, for a position statement, a policy, anything at all, regarding BC's current, most serious environmental calamity, - namely the Kinder Morgan ASSAULT on the province- and there is...utterly nothing, blank, nada.

Now that the tide has clearly turned on the Enbridge scheme, the federal NDP has discovered that fight and climbed on the bandwagon with its disingenuous "Save (only) Our (north) Coast" campaign, nevertheless the party remains perched firmly on the fence regarding Kinder Morgan. Mulcair even visited Vancouver during the height of the Burnaby Mountain uprising, where more than 100 people were arrested, - and said nothing.

If the NDP want the environmental vote in BC, they need to GET SOME SPINE, and state a position condemning the Kinder Morgan scheme. We, as a movement, need to DEMAND that they do so now.

Personally, being involved in the KM death-fight, I would prefer to fight the repulsive, hideous HarperKon regime, than a grovelling Big Oil-lackey COWARD like "Tom" Mulcair.

I'm not here stumping for the Green Party. In spite of my disgust for our pitiful, farcical, corrupt excuse for democracy, I would be prepared to vote NDP if they came out with the proper position on this scheme.

But we should not let our hatred of Stephen Harper allow us to elect just another Big Oil lackey like Mulcair.

Please, can we, as an environmental movement exert some pressure on the Mulcair NDP to condemn this atrocity that approaches our province?

Cheers, Ingmar

Study in Propaganda: Vulliamy and Hartmann on Srebrenica

Vulliamy and Hartmann on Srebrenica: A Study in Propaganda

by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson - MRZine

In their recent article on "How Britain and the US Decided to Abandon Srebrenica to Its Fate" (Observer, July 5, 20151), Ed Vulliamy, a veteran reporter for the Guardian and Observer newspapers, and Florence Hartmann, a reporter and former spokesperson for the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), do a remarkable job of standing history on its head. They do this by the selective use of evidence, including major suppressions of relevant facts; by taking as established truths matters about which there is serious dispute; by a racist underpinning that is clearly hostile to ethnic Serbs; by literal fabrication; and by kitchen-sinking their readers, with quotes from many officials and other sources that fail to prove anything, but that help them to build up the desired atmosphere of an appeased evil.

Vulliamy and Hartmann's (hereafter V-H) main themes are that the Srebrenica killings of July 1995 were a result of murderous Serb expansionism combined with U.S., British, French, Dutch, and UN appeasement. As regards this appeasement policy, V-H state: "[A] survey of the mass of evidence reveals that the fall of Srebrenica formed part of a policy by the three 'great powers' -- Britain, France and the U.S. -- and by the UN leadership, in pursuit of peace at any price; peace at the terrible expense of Srebrenica, which gathered critical mass from 1994 onwards, and reached its bloody denouement in July 1995." They go on to add: "Bosnia's carnage had confounded the world's most experienced diplomats: ineffective talks and plans had played out and failed for three bloody years." And along the same line: "diplomats also courted the Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic . . . as they ineffectively sought his cooperation."2

The authors never mention that there were ongoing civil wars in the former Yugoslavia from 1991 till the Dayton Agreement of November 1995,3 primarily within Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Croatia, and Srebrenica was one of several Bosnian Muslim enclaves within Bosnian Serb-controlled territory -- hardly a sustainable situation in a state of civil war. But this allows V-H to pretend that preserving Srebrenica's autonomy was urgently important, when in fact it was widely recognized to be unsustainable and exchanging it for Bosnian Serb-held territory in mainly Muslim areas of Bosnia had been actively discussed by all parties, including among Srebrenica and Sarajevo Muslims. But V-H go to great pains to make those discussions involving the great Western powers sound like a straightforward selling out of Srebrenica's Muslim population. In fact, it was nothing of the kind.

V-H refer repeatedly to the victimization of the Muslims in eastern Bosnia, with Srebrenica's population "swelled by displaced deportees, cowering, bombarded relentlessly and largely cut off from supplies of food and medicine."4 Only Bosnian Muslims are mentioned as victims. And nowhere do V-H even mention, let alone discuss, the fact that Bosnian Muslim troops operating from their base in Srebrenica regularly carried out deadly raids on nearby Serbian towns. Instead, they repeatedly mention that Srebrenica had been designated a "safe area" by Security Council resolution,5 decrying the failure of the "international community" to supply sufficient troops to protect it, but never once mentioning that by two separate agreements between the Bosnian Serbs and the Sarajevo Muslims, Srebrenica was also supposed to be demilitarized, but never was.6

Naser Oric, the commander of Bosnian Muslim troops in Srebrenica, openly bragged to two Western journalists of his exploits in killing Serbs in the vicinity of the enclave, reportedly grinning as he showed one of them his videos of beheaded corpses.7 V-H never mention Naser Oric, though they do mention his brother, Mevludin, whom they describe as "[o]ne of the very few men to survive the killing fields," and who has long served as a witness for the prosecution at the ICTY; it is a striking fact that in his numerous contributions on Bosnia to the Guardian and Observer since August 1992, Vulliamy has never once mentioned, let alone discussed, Naser Oric's role.8 But this is understandable and has been explained by Vulliamy himself -- he is not a journalist but a propagandist, declaring in 1993 that "with Omarska and Trnopolje objective coverage of the war became a rather silly notion," that he had instead to "declare a partiality," and that he was now "on the side of the Bosnian Muslim people against an historical and military program to obliterate them for daring to suggest that three closely related Balkan 'peoples' could try to live together in the same country as they had done for centuries."9

Omarska and Trnopolje were Serb-run prison camps, and Vulliamy has written about and mentioned them many times for the Guardian and Observer beginning on August 7, 1992.10 Celebici, on the other hand, was a Bosnian Muslim-run prison camp, and a brutal one at that,11 but Vulliamy has never written about or even mentioned it for the Guardian and Observer, as doing so might have disturbed his commitment to the Bosnian Muslims, who also happened to be the side supported by the British government. V-H also never mention that Yugoslavia was a state in which the Balkan peoples had lived together in relative harmony since the end of the Second World War, prior to the breakup supported by the NATO powers, the Bosnian Muslims, and V-H.

One scholarly study documents 3,262 Bosnian Serb victims, of whom 2,383 were civilians, all killed in the Srebrenica and Bratunac municipalities in the years 1992 to July 1995.12 Alluding to Naser Oric's handiwork, Colonel Thom Karremans, a Dutch military officer and the eventual leader of Dutchbat III in the Srebrenica enclave in 1995, stated during a press conference in Zagreb on July 27, 1995: "We know that in the area surrounding the Srebrenica enclave alone, 192 villages were razed to the ground and all the inhabitants killed. That's what I mean when I say 'no good guys, no bad guys'."13

UN Sarajevo commander Lieut. General Philippe Morillon testified before the ICTY that "Naser Oric was a warlord who reigned by terror in this area and over the [Srebrenica] population itself." Morillon was also asked directly by Judge Patrick Robinson of the ICTY: "Are you then saying, general, that what happened in 1995 was a direct reaction to what Naser Oric did to the Serbs two years before?" Morillon replied: "Yes. Yes, Your Honour. I am convinced of that."14 Although they do quote both Karremans and Morillon, V-H somehow missed these statements by them, which do not support their hugely biased analysis.

Quoting Morillon and discussing Naser Oric and his role would also have disturbed the V-H program of demonizing Serbs and making Bosnian Muslims all innocent victims. V-H mention Serb "savagery" and bloodthirsty "pursuit of a racially pure 'statelet'," and feature their threats of violence at Srebrenica; elsewhere, Vulliamy has spoken of "Serb barbarism" and that Serbia was a "pale but unmistakable reflection of the Third Reich."15 On the other hand, the Bosnian Muslims are never cast in a bad light.

Morillon told the ICTY that Naser Oric "could not allow himself to take prisoners. According to my recollection, he didn't even look for an excuse."16 But for V-H the Bosnian Muslim leaders were solid democrats. V-H write that in the spring of 1992, "after multi-ethnic Bosnia voted for independence," Serb savagery began. They fail to mention that the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution empowered the constituent "nations" to decide on such matters, which they were not allowed to do. But V-H also fail to note that the president of this newly independent state, Alija Izetbegovic, was a dedicated politically reactionary Muslim who greatly admired Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, and openly asserted in his Islamic Declaration the "incompatibility of Islam with non-Islamic systems" and rejected both peace and coexistence "between the Islamic religion and non-Islamic social and political institutions."17

The V-H claim that the "betrayal" of the Srebrenica "safe area" population by the U.S., Britain, and France was in pursuit of "peace at any price" is laughable. A much better case can be made that these dominant Western powers tried to avoid peace at any price. From 1992 up to the Dayton Agreement of November 1995, a series of peace plans, starting with the Cutileiro (Lisbon) Plan in early 1992 and including the Vance-Owen, Stoltenberg, and Contact Group Plans, were tried but failed. According to mediator David Owen in an interview in early February 1993, a settlement was doable, "But we have a problem. We can't get the Muslims on board. And that's largely the fault of the Americans, because the Muslims won't budge while they think Washington may come into it on their side any day now. . . . It's the best settlement you can get, and it is a bitter irony to see the Clinton people block it."18

But while the United States successfully blocked these peace plans, it did fight hard for the right to bomb the Bosnian Serbs, which it obtained through Security Council resolutions in March and June 1993,19 thereby allowing it to bomb the Bosnian Serbs in May and August-September 1995. This escalating violence may have been a factor in producing the Dayton Agreement, but that agreement was at this juncture sought by the United States, which in the process imposed a protectorate on Bosnia and Herzegovina under a High Representative, and as John Laughland observes, to this day, the powers of the High Representative are the "only thing that holds together an entirely bogus state."20

It should be noted that each of the failed peace plans was supported by Milosevic, contrary to V-H's claim that the Great Powers sought Milosevic's help "ineffectively." If the United States had wanted peace from 1992 onward, there would have been peace.

After having stoked the civil wars and violent dismantling of Yugoslavia of 1991-1995, the United States -- with the help of the ICTY -- stoked a crisis in Kosovo which it used to force a war against Serbia, a war which enabled the U.S.-led NATO bloc to occupy Kosovo and later separate it from Serbia, and left Serbia a crushed and subservient state.21 The construction and use of the ICTY to demonize Serbs was part of the war-making plan, as the ICTY called for refusing to negotiate a settlement with, and pursuing as criminals, Serb targets.22 This hardly fits the V-H portrait of Western peaceniks and appeasers. Rather it fits a war model, with the serial non-peaceful developments in Yugoslavia from 1991 onward rooted in U.S., British, French, and German geopolitical aims.

Not surprisingly, the Srebrenica massacre also fits well a framework that features U.S. war sponsorship and direct action leading to the bombing and virtual surrender and deformation of Serbia, and U.S. and NATO hegemony over the entire map of the dismantled Yugoslavia. The result of the massacre was to deal a huge propaganda blow to Bosnian Serbs and Serb interests more generally, thereby justifying a further demonization of all Serb leaders -- and the eventual 1999 military assault on Serbia. So the massacre was useful, and its death -- and especially its execution -- toll was almost surely inflated to heighten its utility.

V-H make the fall of Srebrenica a matter of U.S.-U.K.-French-and-UN (Dutchbat III) failure to protect the Bosnian Muslim "safe area" population against a Bosnian Serb plan that all of them had allegedly known about for "six weeks before [the] massacre." V-H quote what they explicitly refer to as the ICTY's "ruling that the killings were premeditated well in advance." And they add that in the "conviction of the Bosnian Serb general Radislav Krstic for aiding and abetting genocide at Srebrenica, the court ruled: 'Without detailed planning, it would have been impossible to kill so many people in such a systematic manner in such a short time, between 13 July and 17 July'."23

V-H attributed the final sentence ("Without detailed planning, . . .") to either the judgment or the judgment on appeal in the case of Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic, decided on August 2, 2001, and April 19, 2004, respectively.24 However, a careful search of each of these judgments in the Krstic case fails to find this quote, or any meaningful part of it, anywhere within these documents. Clearly, V-H's attribution of this quote to the Krstic case is at best a serious error on their part, and at worst a dishonest fabrication. The Observer should correct the error, and investigate this matter further.

As regards V-H's claim that in the Krstic case, the ICTY ruled that the Srebrenica "killings were premeditated well in advance," in at least two separate paragraphs in the August 2, 2001 judgment, the trial chamber ruled that, "following the take over of Srebrenica in July 1995, Bosnian Serb forces devised and implemented a plan to execute as many as possible of the military aged Bosnian Muslim men present in the enclave."25 Following the take-over of Srebrenica manifestly does not mean "premeditated well in advance" and with "detailed planning," much less "six weeks before," contrary to VH's false claim. Thus, whereas V-H quote an apocryphal statement that conforms to their biases, they failed to quote actual statements that run contrary to these same biases. The Observer should correct this error as well, and investigate this matter further.

V-H also quote ferocious-sounding statements attributed to Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, supposedly showing the nature of their own and Bosnian Serb savagery yet to come. They quote Mladic as saying to a Serb assembly regarding Srebrenica's Bosnian Muslim population, "My concern is to have them vanish completely," with Karadzic pledging "blood up to the knees" if and when Srebrenica fell.26 But such statements are of little value in a fair accounting of processes at work here. Neither Mladic nor Karadzic was giving instructions to their subordinates, and the context is unclear. V-H didn't quote here (and Vulliamy never does in his writings for the Guardian and Observer, either) wartime Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's instruction to his military leaders just before Operation Storm, that the "purpose of this discussion today [is] to inflict such a blow on the [Krajina] Serbs that they should virtually disappear."27

Unlike the quotes attributed to Mladic and Karadzic, however, this was a direct instruction by Tudjman to his subordinates, not general, inchoate expressions. And in fact, within days of his statement, most of the Serbs were ethnically cleansed from the Krajina region of Croatia and Bosnia during "Operation Storm." But this instruction was given by a regional leader hostile to the Serbs and supported by the United States, Britain, and France, and to quote it would cast a Western favorite and Serb opponent in an unfavorable light, and reveal the Serbs also as victims, not simply genocidal criminals. So V-H managed to miss it on July 5, just as Vulliamy himself has missed it throughout his entire career.

In keeping with their political and ideological biases, V-H take it as a given that the Serbs executed some 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica -- they even claim the "murder [of] more than 8,000. . . ." They cite a general in the Dutch defense ministry who claims (in their paraphrase) that the "UN then provided 30,000 litres of petrol which proved necessary for the genocide," so that this petrol was used "to fuel transport of men and boys to the killing fields, and bulldozers to plough the 8,000 corpses into mass graves."28

But, by the time of the Krstic decision in August 2001, only 2,028 corpses had been unearthed at these "Srebrenica-related" mass graves,29 and these bodies included an unknown but large number of combat fatalities, as is evident by the nature of their wounds.30 So after a six-year search, where were all of the 8,000 Bosnian "men and boys" ploughed into these mass graves? Why has there still been no imagery intelligence released by the United States into the public realm of alleged Bosnian Serb executions, burials, exhumations from "primary" graves, and reburials in "secondary" graves?31 Why didn't the same Bosnian Serb forces of the Drina Corps and related paramilitaries kill the Muslim prisoners that they captured at the Zepa "safe area" in late July? And why did the Bosnian Serb forces medically treat a fair number of wounded Bosnian Muslims, and send them on to Tuzla?

It is true that in the days prior to the July 11, 2015, 20th anniversary commemoration of the "Srebrenica massacre" at the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Center and Cemetery, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) released its most current data on the number of persons identified through DNA analysis from the "Srebrenica-related" graves. As of June 18, 2015, the ICMP reported that a total of 6,930 persons had been identified, of which it claimed it had identified 6,827 using DNA matching techniques, while the remaining 103 had been identified using conventional methods.32 But DNA profiling is powerless to determine either the manner of death (death in combat versus death in a criminally meaningful sense, such as by execution) of the persons whom it helps to identify, the date on which someone died, or the place where someone died. Moreover, the ICMP's work remains inscrutable. In refusing to make the records of the ICMP's lab work available to the Karadzic defense for independent testing and verification, the ICTY's prosecutor argued that "The ICMP is not obliged to provide 300 [or any number] of sample case files to the Accused under any procedure or subject to any preconditions. . . ."33 Were this Tribunal a U.S. court of law, the ICMP's reported results would have been in violation of American Bar Association Standards for the use of DNA evidence, and ruled inadmissible.34 But when introduced in the context of the 20th anniversary of the "Srebrenica massacre," they were accepted as gospel truth, revealed from on high and redoubtable.

V-H have no answer to serious questions such as these -- in fact, they never even raise them. The institutionalized truth about the 8,000 Srebrenica "men and boys" has become unchallengeable -- based not on evidence, but global political muscle.

A Cowardly Betrayal of a "Safe Area" Population or a Sacrificial Justification for "Humanitarian Intervention"?


Ed Vulliamy and Florence Hartmann make their accusations against the Great Western Powers for the "betrayal" of Srebrenica's "safe area" population, but they never address the question of why the Sarajevo Muslims themselves betrayed the enclave. Why didn't the 28th Division's 5,000-6,000 men, for so long led by their commander Naser Oric in this "demilitarized" zone, stay and fight to defend these people? The Bosnian Serb Army had failed to dislodge them for the previous three years, and if it had attacked in force while they were still present, there is every reason to believe that on this occasion NATO airpower would have been mobilized on their behalf. The critical literature repeatedly points out that a contingent of Srebrenica leaders had met with the Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic in Sarajevo in September 1993, and that Izetbegovic informed them that he had been told by the U.S. President Bill Clinton that a "NATO intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina was possible, but could only occur if the Serbs were to break into Srebrenica, killing at least 5,000 of its people."35 Whether or not this story is true, it turned out that the 8,000 number did the trick nicely and played an important role in the escalated U.S.-NATO interventions that followed.

In sum, V-H have everything upside down. It was the war parties in the U.S. and Sarajevo that profited from and brought about the Srebrenica massacre. As Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister and E.U. envoy to the former Yugoslavia, once remarked, "there would be no peace in Washington until there was war in the Balkans."36 The Bosnian Serbs killed many Bosnian Muslim soldiers and executed an unknown number, but they had fallen into a trap that eventually cost them and their Belgrade allies dearly. V-H criticize the Great Western Powers for their alleged sellout of Srebrenica, but beneath their feeble intellectual façade they are once again trashing the Serb enemy and putting in a good light not only the Bosnian Muslims, but even the bumbling U.S., British, and French who supposedly failed Srebrenica but did right matters eventually and did successfully dismantle Yugoslavia, and put ethnic Serbs into pariah status and their political leadership in prison.

Endnotes

1 Ed Vulliamy and Florence Hartmann, "How Britain and the US Decided to Abandon Srebrenica to Its Fate," Observer, July 5, 2015, <tinyurl.com/pe348te>. Also see Ed Vulliamy, "Revealed: The Role of the West in the Runup to Srebrenica's Fall," Observer, July 4, 2014, <tinyurl.com/q7a7lfb>; and Tom Blanton and Emily Willard, "Srebrenica Conference Documents Detail Path to Genocide from 1993 to 1995," The National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 519, July 1, 2015, <tinyurl.com/njd7pmk>.

2 Vulliamy and Hartmann, "How Britain and the US Decided to Abandon Srebrenica to Its Fate," <tinyurl.com/pe348te>.

3 For the text of the Dayton Agreement, see Madeleine J. Albright, Letter dated 95/11/29 from the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (S/1995/999), November 30, 1995, <tinyurl.com/pyxpnad>.

4 Vulliamy and Hartmann, "How Britain and the US Decided to Abandon Srebrenica to Its Fate," <tinyurl.com/pe348te>.

5 UN Security Council Resolution 819 (S/RES/819), April 16, 1993, <tinyurl.com/neytwcf>.

6 For copies of the April 18 and May 8, 1993 demilitarization agreements, see Stephen Karganovic and Ljubisa Simic, Rethinking Srebrenica (New York: Unwritten History, Inc., 2013), Annex 3, pp. 288-289; and Annex 4, pp. 290-293.

7 See Bill Schiller, "Muslims' Hero Vows He'll Fight to the Last Man," Toronto Star, January 31, 1994; and John Pomfret, "Weapons, Cash and Chaos Lend Clout to Srebrenica's Tough Guy," Washington Post, February 16, 1994.

8 We base this finding on a Nexis database search carried out on July 19 of both The Guardian and The Observer of the form: Byline(Ed w/2 Vulliamy) and Naser w/2 Oric. According to Nexis, the results of the search were: "No Documents Found."

9 Ed Vulliamy, "This War Has Changed My Life," British Journalism Review, Vo. 4, No. 2, June, 1993, pp. 5-11; here p. 7; and p. 10. As a testament to his newfound commitments, Vulliamy added that his coverage of the wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina had changed him: "at least it has had an effect sufficient to change some of my most fundamental views. I was a serious pacifist who believed that all war was wrong; now I believe that war is necessary to end things that are even worse than war. And what is happening to the Bosnians is worse than war. . ." (p. 10).

10 See Ed Vulliamy, "Shame of Camp Omarska," Guardian, August 7, 1992, <tinyurl.com/oek7noh>.

11 See Carl Savich, "Celebici," Serbianna, November 11, 2003, <tinyurl.com/pkwgtsb>.

12 See Milivoje Ivanisevic, Srebrenica July 1995: In Search of Truth, Institute for Research on Suffering of the Serbs, 2007, p. 4, <tinyurl.com/opzdpyk>.

13 Quoted in J.C.H. Blom et al., Srebrenica: A "Safe" Area -- Reconstruction, Background, Consequences and Analyses of the Fall of a Safe Area, Trans. Taalcentrum - VU (Amsterdam: Netherlands Institute for War Documentation, 2002), p. 2259, <tinyurl.com/m6gy7ag>.

14 Quoted in George Bogdanich, "Prelude to the Capture of Srebrenica," in Edward S. Herman, Ed., The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics (Evergreen Park, IL: Alphabet Soup, 2011), pp. 46-47, <tinyurl.com/kyrfw2b>.

15 Vulliamy, "This War Has Changed My Life," p. 10.

16 Bogdanich, "Prelude to the Capture of Srebrenica," in Herman, Ed., The Srebrenica Massacre, p. 46, <tinyurl.com/kyrfw2b>.

17 Alija Izetbegovic, Islamic Declaration: A Programme for the Islamization of Muslims and of Muslim Peoples, no translator listed (Sarajevo, 1990), p. 30, <tinyurl.com/odsl4lz>.

18 R.W. Apple, Jr., "Mediator Is Upset at U.S. Reluctance Over Bosnia Talks," New York Times, February 3, 1993, <tinyurl.com/nzcyv93>.

19 See UN Security Council Resolution 816 (S/RES/816), March 31, 1993, para. 4, <tinyurl.com/qhh8mkj>; and UN Security Council Resolution 836 (S/RES/836), June 4, 1993, para. 9, <tinyurl.com/qh7hnv8>.

20 John Laughland, Travesty: The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Corruption of International Justice (Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2007), p. 45.

21 See, e.g., Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, "The Dismantling of Yugoslavia," Monthly Review, Vol. 59, No. 5, October 2007, <tinyurl.com/o29mrdx>

22 This theme is pursued convincingly in Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away with Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage, and Crimes Against Humanity (Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2004), "The ICTY at War," pp. 132-146.

23 Vulliamy and Hartmann, "How Britain and the US Decided to Abandon Srebrenica to Its Fate," <tinyurl.com/pe348te>.

24 See Judge Almiro Rodrigues et al., Judgment, Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic, Case No. IT-98-33-T, International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, August 2, 2001, <tinyurl.com/lohd5hy>. And see Judge Theodor Meron et al., Judgment on Appeal, Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic, Case No. IT-98-33-A, International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, April 19, 2004, <tinyurl.com/lm7mpv2>.

25 Ibid., para. 87, emphasis added. Also see para. 427, which states: "Following the take-over of Srebrenica, in July 1995, Bosnian Serb forces devised and implemented a plan to execute as many as possible of the military aged Bosnian Muslim men present in the enclave. . . ."

26 Vulliamy and Hartmann, "How Britain and the US Decided to Abandon Srebrenica to Its Fate," <tinyurl.com/pe348te>.

27 Franjo Tudjman's remark derives from the so-called Brioni Transcript of July 31, 1995; our source for it here is the Trial Transcript, The Prosecutor Against Slobodan Milosevic, Case No. IT-02-54-T, June 26, 2003, p. 23200, lines 8-10, after the transcript had been shared with the Milosevic defense as part of the trial's discovery process (apparently). On this particular date, Slobodan Milosevic was cross-examining the former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith, and in this part of the cross-examination, Milosevic was trying to learn what Galbraith knew about the purpose of the Croatian leadership's July 31 meeting on the Brioni islands (see <tinyurl.com/p6r9f5a>).

28 Vulliamy and Hartmann, "How Britain and the US Decided to Abandon Srebrenica to Its Fate," <tinyurl.com/pe348te>.

29 Rodrigues et al., para. 80, <tinyurl.com/lohd5hy>.

30 See Ljubisa Simic, "An Analysis of the Srebrenica Forensic Reports Prepared by ICTY Prosecution Experts," in Stephen Karganovic and Ljubisa Simic, Rethinking Srebrenica (New York: Unwritten History, Inc., 2013), pp. 130-167.

31 See Cees Wiebes, "What Photos Were Taken and on Which Dates?" and "Conclusions," in Blom et al., Srebrenica: A "Safe" Area, Appendix II, "Intelligence and the War in Bosnia 1992-1995: The Role of the Intelligence and Security Services," pp. 2608-3008; here pp. 2906-2918, <tinyurl.com/m6gy7ag>.

32 N.A., "Srebrenica Figures as of 18 June 2015," International Commission on Missing Persons, <tinyurl.com/or9whos>.

33 See Andy Wilcoxson, "Shroud of Secrecy Leaves Room for Doubt on Srebrenica DNA Evidence," Srebrenica Historical Project, August 15, 2011, <tinyurl.com/nw62jby>.

34 See Paul C. Giannelli, "Forensic Science in the ABA Innocence Report," Southwestern Law Review, Vol. 37, 2008, pp. 993-1007, <tinyurl.com/p5p4g4z>.

35 See, e.g., David Harland et al., The Fall of Srebrenica (A/54/549), Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to General Assembly resolution 53/35, November 15, 1999, para. 115, <tinyurl.com/kkmr6b4>.

36 In Tim Ripley, Operation Deliberate Force: The UN and NATO Campaign in Bosnia 1995 (Lancaster: Centre for Defense and International Security, 1999), p. 147. Edward S. Herman is professor emeritus of finance at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and has written extensively on economics, political economy, and the media. Among his books are Corporate Control, Corporate Power (Cambridge University Press, 1981), The Real Terror Network (South End Press, 1982), and, with Noam Chomsky, the two volume The Political Economy of Human Rights (Haymarket Books, 2nd. Ed., 2014), and Manufacturing Consent (Pantheon, 2nd. Ed., 2002). David Peterson is an independent journalist and researcher based in Chicago. Together, they are the co-authors of The Politics of Genocide (Monthly Review Press, 2nd. Ed., 2011), and Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later (The Real News Books, 2014).

Greenpeace US and Kayaktivists Block Shell Icebreaker in Portland Harbor

Greenpeace US and Kayaktivists Block Shell Icebreaker in Portland Harbor

by Backbone Campaign

50 #kayaktivists deployed on Willamette! Climbers rappelled off St John's Bridge #Fennica blocked! #PDXvsShell


  

Dark Horizons: Where the War on "IS" Leads Us

Darker Horizons Ahead: Rethinking the War on 'IS'

by Ramzy Baroud  - Palestine Chronicle

As much of the Middle East sinks deeper into division between competing political camps, the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (‘IS’) continues its unhindered march towards a twisted version of a Muslim caliphate. Many thousands have lost their lives, some in the most torturous ways, so that ‘IS’ may realize its nightmarish dream.

Of course, violence meted out by ‘IS’ is hardly an anomaly, considering that the group was spawned in a predominantly violent environment. It is difficult to imagine, for example, that, if the Syrian regime and its opposition had sought a political solution from the early days of the uprising, ‘IS’ would have found a stable foothold for itself in Syria.

It was during the emergence of violence by the Syrian regime that ‘IS’, a dark force that neither believes in democracy, civil rights nor co-existence, appeared. The same scenario was repeated in Iraq and a host of other countries. In an article in the Independent newspaper, Patrick Cockburn highlighted seven countries where the influence of ‘IS’ is great or growing: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and north-east Nigeria.

The group’s “successes have been possible because it is opposed by feeble, corrupt or non-existent governments and armies,” he wrote.

However, very little emphasis has been placed on the root cause of the problem and its resulting violence. Western governments and media are not the only party guilty of discussing the brutality of ‘IS’ outside proper political or socio-economic contexts; Arab governments and media are particularly invested in misconstruing the narrative. Arab countries’ official media often misinterpret each crisis in the region in so convenient a way in order to justify their own foreign policy or military adventures.

Yemen, which has undergone several stages of political crises – government corruption and violence, a popular uprising followed by a political stalemate, a civil war and finally a regional war – is a case in point. ‘IS’ bombs targeting mostly houses of worship, are now another staple in Yemen’s bloody conflict.

‘IS’ thrives on conflicts and calamities that are rooted in poor, fragmented Arab societies, where youth are disenchanted with their governments and where they have little or no hope for the future due to corruption and the protracted violence. Such embitterment is a perfect recruiting ground for ‘IS’, which enjoys multiple revenue streams and a self-sufficient economy.

Of course, more violence is seldom the solution, as the ‘Arab Spring’ amply demonstrated. In fact, the ferocity and ruthlessness of the many conflicts currently under way in the region have achieved little, aside from setting the stage for extreme polarization in political, ideological and sectarian discourses.

While sectarianism in the region dates back many years, its current expressions are mostly political, with unambiguous agendas and goals. Initially, sectarianism distracted from the genuine push for reforms and meaningful political changes as sought by various Arab collectives. At a later stage, it served as a space for regional rivalries between Shia-majority Iran, and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia.

Regardless of its ideological or religious claims, it is evident that the violent vision of ‘IS’, if allowed to endure, would constantly translate into greater death tolls from all sides – Sunni, Shia, Christians, and other minority groups.

With Turkey entering the fray now by bombing ‘IS’ targets in Syria, the landscape of the war is stretching beyond its usual confines and methods, into whole new territories.

After resisting pressure to join the US-led coalition against ‘IS’, Turkey has now also agreed to allow the coalition access to its Incirlik Airbase. Meanwhile, Turkish F-16 continued to pound ‘IS’ targets, while Turkish security reportedly rounded up hundreds of suspected militants, not only of ‘IS’ supporters, but also Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and other radical groups.

The local dimension in Turkey’s newly started war on ‘IS’ should be of particular interest. While ‘IS’ is a common denominator among various Middle East countries, each country seems to have a local component that serves as a native host for ‘IS’, as was the case in Libya following the NATO-led war, and of course, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and elsewhere.

The Egyptian case is also telling. The chaos that preceded the ‘IS’ entry into Sinai was mostly related to internal Egyptian affairs. The Sinai Peninsula is poor and neglected by the Egyptian Government. For decades, it has been a testament to corruption and unfair distribution of wealth. The Bedouin tribes in Sinai, which were once at the forefront of the fight to liberate the Peninsula from Israel, grew rebellious over time. The desert became rife with drug and human trafficking. The celebrations in Sinai, following the Egyptian revolt in Jan 2011, were short-lived and were quickly replaced by an armed revolt, when hope turned into anger.

Until recently, the Sinai violence was largely a local affair. Mauritanian journalist, Sidiahmed Tfeil, argues that Egypt’s militant factions, such as ‘Ansar Beit al-Maqdis’, resisted calls to join al-Qaeda ranks. But their need for alliances and support finally pushed them into the arms of ‘IS’, which now considers the war in Sinai – led by the ‘Sinai Province’ – another extension of its regional fight.

Tfeil lists countries where ‘IS’ is moving in full force, flushing out al-Qaeda influence and competing with local actors there. They include Yemen and Libya, but also Algeria, Mali, Somalia and others.

Aside from Algeria, the same malaise of internal conflict, external meddling and intervention seems to unite the rest, which have either become – or teeter at the edge of being – failed states.

In other words, the success of ‘IS’ has worked in tandem with the failures of regional governments to offer roadmaps out of security chaos, economic crises and chronic corruption. With access to massive funds, ‘IS’ is able to latch on to local militant groups which were formed as a result of real grievances, buying leverage and loyalty, as they have done in Libya, Syria and Sinai.

Another weapon in the ‘IS’ arsenal that also proved effective is the fact that the Middle East is split between the Saudi and Iranian camps, and that there is not one single united fight aimed at eliminating or, at least, slowing down the progress of ‘IS’ armies. While ‘IS’ military camps are reportedly targeted in Syria, other regional conflicts, especially in Yemen, are facilitating the expansion of ‘IS’.

The war on ‘IS’ and other extremist groups cannot possibly be won if the region remains divided, where corrupt, violent regimes remain the only alternative to radicalization and extremism.

It is the lack of political prospects, and the smothering of any attempt at freedom and fair economic opportunity, that lead to extremist violence in the first place. As long as this reality remains intact, ‘IS’ will tragically find new recruits, latch on to local militant groups, and continue to expand into new borders – and even darker horizons.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: www.ramzybaroud.net.