Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Filling China's Tank: Unintended Dynamics of an Oil Supply Glut

Why China Is Really Dictating the Oil Supply Glut

by Rakesh Upadhyay - Oilprice.com



May 4, 2016

Ship tracking data from Bloomberg shows that 83 supertankers carrying around 166 million barrels of oil are headed to China, which has stockpiled an impressive 787,000 barrels a day in the first quarter of 2016—the highest stockpiling rate since 2014.

While the world was speculating about oil prices plunging to $20 and $10 per barrel, China was busy stockpiling its reserves.

The chart below shows an increase in imports as crude prices collapsed. Since the beginning of this year, China has imported a record quantity of oil.


(Click to enlarge)

Back in January 2015, Reuters had reported that China planned to increase its strategic petroleum reserves (SPR) from 30 days to 90 days. In January 2016, it was revealed that China was building underground storage to complement its above-ground storage tanks.

The Chinese urgency points to two things. China believes that crude oil prices will not remain at the current levels for long, and that a disruption is possible due to geopolitical reasons, which can propel oil prices higher.

As a net importer of crude, it is protecting itself against a black swan event and using the current low prices to fill its tanks. The filled up tanks will ensure a steady supply of crude for at least three months in case of a disruption.

Does the record buying spree by the Chinese indicate a bottom in crude oil prices?

That is difficult to conclude, but it does put a floor beneath the current lows, because in all likelihood, China will resume its record buying and top up its SPR if prices tank.

The total Chinese imports in March via the very large crude carriers was 7.7 million barrels a day. Other than the supertankers, China also imports oil through pipelines and small tankers.

The Chinese demand doesn’t show a huge uptick corresponding to the rise in imports. JP Morgan estimates that in March, the total demand for oil in China was 10.3 million b/d, down 2.5 percent over the previous year and down 2.3 percent month on month, whereas the chart shows that imports are higher compared to the same period last year.

Crude oil prices have been on an upswing this month. The import data coming out of China for April will give a clue as to whether the Chinese demand remains intact at higher crude prices or the imports drop when prices rise.

If the demand drops following a rise in prices, we can assume that China doesn’t believe that the price rally will be sustained. At lower levels, Chinese buying might become a factor in deciding the bottom, as their increased imports will reduce the glut.

Similar to Saudi Arabia, which is a swing producer, China is acting like a swing consumer. However, as China doesn’t report its storage data, it is difficult to estimate how long this trend will continue.

Though other factors were involved in encouraging the bulls to buy at lower levels, the increased demand from China also helped in lapping up the excess production. If their imports drop, the world will return to the supply glut and oil prices will retrace back to the lower $30 s/b.

Unveiling Mandela of Ramallah: Dead Presidents and Dead Presidencies

The Spirit of Nelson Mandela in Palestine: Is His Real Legacy Being Upheld?

by Ramzy Baroud 


May 4, 2016

I had mixed feelings when I learned that Palestine has erected a statue of Nelson Mandela, the iconic South African anti-Apartheid leader. On the one hand, I was quite pleased that the unmistakable connection between the struggles of Palestinians and South Africans is cemented more than ever before.


Image: Afrizap.com

On the other hand, I dreaded that rich, corrupt Palestinians in Ramallah are utilizing the image of Mandela to acquire badly-needed political capital.

The six-meter bronze statue now stands in its own Nelson Mandela Square in Al-Tireh neighborhood in Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority headquarters are based. The PA is known for its endemic political and financial corruption. In some ways, its survival is both essential for the richest Palestinian class and also for the Israeli military Occupation.

Thus, it was quite disheartening to witness the travesty of political theater where the likes of PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, who rules with a long-expired mandate, unveiling the statue in a ceremony attended by his ministers and foreign diplomats.

The statue was a gift from the City of Johannesburg, and its costs of R6 million was paid for by the people of that city, whose solidarity with Palestine is rooted in a long history, that of blood and tears, and the haunting cries of pain and freedom. At that, the gift is most appreciated.

But the Mandela that now stands erect in Ramallah has been incorporated into the zeitgeist of this city, particularly the rich and beaming neighborhood of massive white-stone villas and luxury cars.

It would have meant much more if it had stood in the center of Gaza, a city that is withstanding an ongoing genocide; in the heart of Jenin, a town known for its bravery and hardship; in Al-Khalil, in Nablus or in Khan Younis. Seeing rich Palestinian officials and businessmen rubbing shoulders with unmistakable giddiness while fighting for space before the many cameras, made the occasion vastly less special.

Oddly enough, the main location of the Nelson Mandela Square and statue in Sandton City in Johannesburg is equally unsettling. I visited the place more than once, and despite my immense admiration for Mandela, it failed to move me.

The commercial atmosphere there felt as if it was an attempt at redefining who Mandela was: from a populist leader and a former prisoner with proud ties to the Communist Party to an emasculated icon, a warm, fuzzy figure with no radical roots.

Worse, he is being promoted as if a merchandise within a precarious neoliberal marketplace, where revolutionary values are shunned and everything is on sale. This is how the Sandton City website describes the square:

“Home to some of South Africa’s finest restaurants, exclusive couture and designer labels and a European styled piazza, Nelson Mandela Square offers chic sophistication, culture and glamour, all under the African sun.”

Yet, the Mandela that is promoted by some in South Africa and their counterparts in Palestine is fundamentally different from the Mandela many of us knew about. The man passed away on December 5, 2013, but he clearly left behind two legacies, one celebrated in Palestinian refugee camps and South Africa’s slums, while another is sold to the culturally ‘sophisticated’ tourists and Ramallah’s corrupt class.

The name ‘Nelson Mandela’ was a staple in my family, living in a dilapidated refugee camp in Gaza under military Occupation and the constant threat of violence. We rushed to the television to watch whenever his name was mentioned in the news. The finest young men in camp were chased down, beaten, arrested and shot while trying to write his name on the decaying walls of our humble dwellings.

That was the Mandela I knew, and most Palestinians remember with adoration and respect. The one standing in Ramallah, unveiled by those Palestinians who speak proudly of conducting ‘security coordination’ with Israel – as in jointly cracking down on Palestinian Resistance – is a whole different Mandela.

He is a different Mandela because Abbas and his Authority do not, in the least, embody the spirit of Mandela the freedom fighter, the defiant prisoner, the unifying leader, the champion of a boycott movement.

In fact, the Palestinian leadership as represented in the unelected government of Abbas in Ramallah, is yet to endorse the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), itself modeled after the South Africa boycott movement.

Instead, Abbas’ PA has wasted over 20 years of nonsensical and futile negotiations, collaborated with Israel, divided the ranks of Palestinians and is actively involved in suppressing Palestinian Resistance in the West Bank.

With his popularity falling to an all-time low among Palestinians, Abbas is desperate to concoct hollow victories, and insist on presenting himself as a national liberation leader, despite all evidence to the contrary.

But the bond between South Africa and Palestine is much greater than a photo-op in Ramallah, involving well-dressed men repeating insincere clichés about peace and freedom. I dare say it is bigger than Mandela himself, regardless of which legacy we insist on remembering him by. It is a link that has been baptized in the blood of the poor and the innocent and the tenacious struggle of millions of black and brown Africans and Palestinian Arabs.

I was fortunate enough to experience this for myself.

In my last South African speaking tour a few years ago, I was approached by two South African men. They seemed particularly grateful for reasons that initially eluded me. “We want to thank you so much for your support of our struggle against apartheid,” one said with so much sincerity and palpable emotions.

It made sense. Palestinians saw the struggle of their black brethren as their own struggle. But the two men were not referring to sentimentalities. While the Israeli government, military and intelligence supported the apartheid government in many ways, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had actually trained and equipped ANC fighters. Cuba and others did too, but to think that the then Palestinian leadership had the kind of political consciousness to extend a hand of solidarity to a nation fighting for its freedom, while the Palestinian people were themselves still enduring that same fight, filled me with pride.

Those men told me that they still hold onto their PLO-supplied military uniforms, even after all these years. We embraced and parted ways but, with time, I came to realize that the present struggle against apartheid in Palestine is not merely similar to that of South Africa. Both struggles are extensions of the same movement, the same fight for freedom and, in fact, against the same enemy.

When Nelson Mandela said, “We know all too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians,” he was not trying to be cordial or diplomatic. He meant every word.

Someday, we hope that a statue of Mandela, one that represents the spirit of Resistance in Palestine, will stand tall amid the people who championed his cause and loved him most.

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 books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

Trumping Leer's Hellscape: An American Election in Africa

Donald Trump in South Sudan: What Trumps the Horrors of a Hellscape? The Donald!

by Nick Turse - TomDisptach


May 3, 2016

LEER, South Sudan - I’m sitting in the dark, sweating. The blinding white sun has long since set, but it’s still in the high 90s, which is a relief since it was above 110 earlier. Slumped in a blue plastic chair, I’m thinking back on the day, trying to process everything I saw, the people I spoke with: the woman whose home was burned down, the woman whose teenage daughter was shot and killed, the woman with 10 mouths to feed and no money, the glassy-eyed soldier with the AK-47.

Then there were the scorched ruins: the wrecked houses, the traditional wattle-and-daub tukuls without roofs, the spectral footprints of homes set aflame by armed raiders who swept through in successive waves, the remnants of a town that has ceased to exist.

And, of course, there were the human remains: a field of scattered skulls and femurs and ribs and pelvises and spinal columns.

And I’m sitting here -- spent, sweaty, stinking -- trying to make sense of it all about 10 feet from a sandbagged bunker I’m supposed to jump into if the shooting starts again. “It’s one of the worse places in the world,” someone had assured me before I left South Sudan’s capital, Juba, for this hellscape of burnt-out buildings and unburied bones that goes by the name of Leer.

Tomgram: Nick Turse, It Can't Happen Here, Can It?
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: The newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s riveting reportorial trip into a war-crimes zone, Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan, is now officially out. I can’t tell you how proud I am that we’re publishing such a personal and unsettling work. It’s powerful and -- believe me -- unforgettable. Noam Chomsky writes of it: “A vivid, gripping account of inhuman cruelty, laced with rays of hope and courage and dignity amidst the horrors.” Adam Hochschild calls it “searing reporting.” I simply call it moving and horrifying. As always, with Nick’s books, for a contribution of $100 or more ($125 if you live outside the U.S.), you can get a signed, personalized copy and in the process help ensure that more Dispatch Books appear in the world. Check our donation page for the details. Above all, I urge every TomDispatch reader to buy a copy, if not for yourself, then for someone else (maybe that college student you know who might someday be the next great investigative reporter). Help make the latest Dispatch Book a genuine success.

With that in mind, I’ve asked Haymarket Books, the fantastic publisher of our imprint, to offer TD readers a discount on it. Here’s all you have to do: click on this link, which will take you to the Haymarket website. Then click "add to cart," select the number of books you want, and click on "checkout." After you've filled out your shipping and billing information, you will be asked to enter a “coupon code.” To purchase one book, enter TURSE25 and you’ll get 25% off the cover price; for five or more books, enter TURSE40 and you’ll get 40% off. Tom]
Every now and then, I teach a class to young would-be journalists and one of the first things I talk about is why I consider writing an act of generosity. As they are usually just beginning to stretch their writerly wings, their task, as I see it, is to enter the world we’re already in (it’s generally the only place they can afford to go) and somehow decode it for us, make us see it in a new way. And who can deny that doing so is indeed an act of generosity? But for the foreign correspondent, especially in war zones, the generosity lies in the very act of entering a world filled with dangers, a world that the rest of us might not be capable of entering, or for that matter brave enough to enter, and somehow bringing us along with them.

I thought about this recently when I had in my hands the first copy of Nick Turse’s new Dispatch Book, Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan, and flipped it open to its memorable initial paragraph, one I already new well, and began to read it all over again:

“Their voices, sharp and angry, shook me from my slumber. I didn’t know the language but I instantly knew the translation. So I groped for the opening in the mosquito net, shuffled from my downy white bed to the window, threw back the stained tan curtain, and squinted into the light of a new day breaking in South Sudan. Below, in front of my guest house, one man was getting his ass kicked by another. A flurry of blows connected with his face and suddenly he was on the ground. Three or four men were watching.”

Nick, TomDispatch’s managing editor and a superb historian as well as reporter, spent years in a war-crimes zone of the past to produce his award-winning book, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. It was a harrowing historical journey for which he traveled to small villages on the back roads of Vietnam to talk to those who had experienced horrific crimes decades earlier. In 2015, however, on his second trip to South Sudan, a country the U.S. helped bring into existence, he found himself in an almost unimaginable place where the same kinds of war crimes were being committed right then and there in a commonplace way, where violence was the coin of the realm, and horrors of various sorts were almost guaranteed to be around the next corner. In his new book, he brings us with him into such a world in a way that is deeply memorable. Ann Jones, author of They Were Soldiers, calls him “the wandering scribe of war crimes.” And she adds, “Reading Turse will turn your view of war upside down... There’s no glory here in Turse’s pages, but the clear voices of people caught up in this fruitless cruelty, speaking for themselves.”

Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead is, I think, the definition of an act of generosity. Nick has just returned from his latest trip to South Sudan and today’s post gives you a sense of the ongoing brutalities and incongruities of life there (and here as well). Tom

Donald Trump in South Sudan: 

What Trumps the Horrors of a Hellscape? The Donald!

by Nick Turse

A lantern on a nearby table casts a dim glow on an approaching aid worker, an African with a deep knowledge of this place. He’s come to fetch his dinner. I’m hoping to corral him and pick his brain about the men who torched this town, burned people alive, beat and murdered civilians, abducted, raped, and enslaved women and children, looted and pillaged and stole.

Before I can say a word, he beats me to the punch with his own set of rapid-fire questions: “This man called Trump -- what’s going on with him? Who’s voting for him? Are you voting for him?” He then proceeds to tell me everything he’s heard about the Republican frontrunner -- how Trump is tarnishing America’s global image, how he can’t believe the things Trump says about women and immigrants.

Here, where catastrophic food insecurity may tip into starvation at any time, where armed men still arrive in the night to steal and rape. (“They could come any night. You might even hear them tonight. You’ll hear the women screaming,” another aid worker told me earlier in the day.) Here, where horrors abound, this man wants -- seemingly needs -- to know if Donald Trump could actually be elected president of the United States. “I’m really afraid,” he says of the prospect without a hint of irony.

Of Midwifery and Militias


After decades of effort, the United States “helped midwife the birth” of the Republic of South Sudan, according to then-Senator, now Secretary of State John Kerry. In reality, for the South Sudanese to win their independence it took two brutal conflicts with Sudan, the first of which raged from 1955 to 1972, and the second from 1983 to 2005, leaving millions dead and displaced. Still, it is true that for more than 20 years, a bipartisan coalition in Washington and beyond championed the southern rebels, and that, as the new nation broke away from Sudan, the U.S. poured in billions of dollars in aid, including hundreds of millions of dollars of military and security assistance.

The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan gained its independence in 2011 and just two and a half years later plunged into civil war. Since then, an estimated 50,000 to 300,000 people have been killed in a conflict pitting President Salva Kiir, a member of the country’s largest tribe, the Dinka, against Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer and the vice president he sacked in July 2013. That December, a fight between Dinka and Nuer troops set off the current crisis, which then turned into a slaughter of Nuers by Kiir’s forces in Juba. Reprisals followed as Machar’s men took their revenge on Dinkas and other non-Nuers in towns like Bor and Bentiu. The conflict soon spread, splintering into local wars within the larger war and birthing other violence that even a peace deal signed last August and Machar’s recent return to the government has been unable to halt.

The signature feature of this civil war has been its preferred target: civilians. It has been marked by massacres, mass rape, sexual slavery, assaults of every sort, extrajudicial killings, forced displacement of local populations, disappearances, abductions, torture, mutilations, the wholesale destruction of villages, pillaging, looting, and a host of other crimes.

Again and again, armed men have fallen upon towns and villages filled with noncombatants. That’s exactly what happened to Leer in 2015. Militias allied with the government, in coordination with Kiir’s troops -- the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, or SPLA -- attacked the town and nearby villages again and again. Rebel forces fled in the face of the government onslaught. Fearing execution, many men fled as well. Women stayed behind, caring for children, the sick, and the elderly. There was an assumption that they would be spared. They weren’t. Old men were killed in their homes that were then set ablaze. Women were gang raped. Others were taken away as sex slaves. Whole villages were razed. Survivors were chased into the nearby swamps, tracked down, and executed. Children drowned in the chaos.

Those who lived through it spent months in those waterlogged swamps, eating water lily bulbs. When they returned home, they were confronted yet again by pitiless armed men who, at gunpoint, took what meager belongings they had left, sometimes the very clothes off children’s backs.

This is a story that ought to be told and told and retold. And yet here in Leer, like everywhere I went in South Sudan, I couldn’t get away from Donald Trump. So many -- South Sudanese, Americans, Canadians, Europeans -- seemed to want to talk about him. Even in this ruined shell of a town, Trump was big news.

The “Endorsement” Heard Round the World


Back in Juba, I settle down in the shade of my hotel’s bar on a Saturday morning to read the Daily Vision. In that newspaper, there’s a story about the dire economic straits the country finds itself in and the violence it’s breeding, as well as one about violations of the 2015 peace pact. And then there’s this gem of a headline: “Nobody Likes Donald Trump. Not Even White Men.”

A fair number of South Sudanese men I ran into, however, did like him. “He mixes it up,” one told me, lauding Trump’s business acumen. “At least he speaks his mind. He’s not afraid to say things that people do not want to hear,” said another. I heard such comments in Juba and beyond. It leaves you with the impression that if his campaign hits rough shoals in the U.S., Trump might still have a political future in South Sudan. After all, this is a country currently led by a brash, cowboy-hat-wearing former guerrilla who mixes it up and is certainly not afraid to speak his mind even when it comes to threatening members of the press with death.

Compared to Kiir, who stands accused by the United Nations of war crimes, Trump looks tame indeed. The Republican candidate has only threatened to weaken First Amendment protections in order to make it easier to sue, not kill, reporters. Still, the two leaders do seem like-minded on a number of issues. Kiir’s government, for example, is implicated in all manner of atrocities, including torture, which Trump has shown an eagerness to employ as a punishment in Washington’s war on terror. Trump has also expressed a willingness to target not only those deemed terrorists, but also their families. Kiir’s forces have done just that, attacking noncombatants suspected of sympathizing with the rebels, as they did during the sack of Leer.

So it didn’t come as a surprise when, in March, the Sudan Tribune -- a popular Paris-based website covering South Sudan and Sudan -- reported that Salva Kiir had endorsed Trump. It even provided readers with the official statement issued by Kiir’s office after his phone call with the U.S. presidential candidate: “Donald Trump is a true, hard-working, no-nonsense American who, when he becomes president, will support South Sudan in its democratic path and stability. South Sudan, the world newest nations [sic], is also looking forward to Donald Trump’s support and investment in almost all the sectors.” Trump, said the Tribune, “expressed his thanks for the endorsement and said he will send his top aides to the country to discuss further the investment opportunities.”

It turned out, however, that the Tribune had been taken in by a local satirical news site, Saakam -- the Onion of South Sudan -- whose tagline is “Breaking news like it never happened.” That the Tribune was fooled by the story is not as strange as it might first seem. As journalist Jason Patinkin observed in Quartz, “Kiir’s reputation is such that many Africa watchers and journalists found the story plausible.”

I, for one, hadn’t even bothered to read the Tribune article. The title told me all I needed to know. It sounded like classic Kiir. I almost wondered what had taken him so long to reach out. But South Sudan’s foreign ministry assured Patinkin, “There is no truth to [the story] whatsoever.”

For now, at least.

Will He Win?


There’s a fever-dream, schizophrenic quality to the war in South Sudan. The conflict began in an orgy of violence, then ebbed, only to flare again and again. As the war has ground on, new groups have emerged, and alliances have formed while others broke down. Commanders switch sides, militias change allegiances. In 2014, for example, Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang, the rebel army’s spokesman, called out the SPLA for “committing crimes against humanity.” Kiir, he said, had lost control of his forces and had become little more than a puppet of his Ugandan backers. Last year, Lul split from Machar to form the “South Sudan Resistance Movement/Army” -- an organization that attracted few followers. This year, he found a new job, as the spokesman for the military he once cast as criminal. “I promise to defend SPLA in Media Warfare until the last drop of blood,” he wrote in a Facebook post after being tapped by Kiir. Of course, Machar himself has just recently returned to Juba to serve as first vice-president to Kiir.

In a country like this, enmeshed in a war like this, it’s hardly surprising that ceasefires have meant little and violence has ground on even after a peace deal was signed last August. Leer was just one of the spots where atrocities continued despite the pact that “ended” the conflict.

More recently, the war -- or rather the various sub-conflicts it’s spawned, along with other armed violence -- has spread to previously peaceful areas of the country. Cattle-raiding, a long-standing cultural practice, now supercharged by modern weaponry and military-style tactics, has proven increasingly lethal to communities nationwide, and has recently even bled across the border into Ethiopia. A South Sudanese raid into that country’s Gambela region last month killed 208 Ethiopians, and the attackers abducted 108 women and children while stealing more than 2,000 head of cattle.

While in Leer, I do end up talking at length with the Trump-intrigued aid worker about local cattle-raiding, as well as the killings, the rapes, and the widespread looting. I was always, however, aware that, like many other foreign aid workers and locals I meet, what he really wanted was an American take on the man presently dominating U.S. politics, an explanation of the larger-than-life and stranger-than-life figure who, even in South Sudan, has the ability to suck the air out of any room.

“This Trump. He’s a crazy man!” he tells me as we sit together beneath an obsidian sky now thick with stars. He reminds me that he’s not authorized by his employer to speak on the record. I nod. Then he adds incredulously, “He says some things and you wonder: Are you going to be president? Really?!”

A couple of other people are around us now, eating dinner after a long, sweltering day. They, too, join in the conversation, looking to me for answers. I find myself at a loss. Here, in this place of acute hunger ever-teetering on the brink of famine, here, a short walk from homes that are little more than hovels, where children go naked, women wear dresses that are essentially rags, and a mother’s dream is to lay her hands on a sheet of plastic to provide protection from the coming rains, I do my best to explain seething white male anger in America over “economic disenfranchisement,” “losing out,” and being “left behind,” over Donald Trump’s channeling of “America's economic rage.” I’m disgusted even articulating these sentiments after spending the day speaking to people whose suffering is as unfathomable in America as America’s wealth is unimaginable here.

Some of Leer’s women fled with their children into the nearby swamps when armed men swept in. Imagine running blind, in the black of night, into such a swamp. Imagine tripping, falling, losing your grip on a small child’s hand as shots ring out. Imagine that child stumbling into water too deep for her to stand. Imagine slapping frantically at that water, disoriented, spinning in the darkness, desperate to find a child who can’t swim, who’s slipped beneath the surface, who is suddenly gone.

And now imagine me trying to talk about the worries of Trump supporters “that their kids won't have a chance to get ahead.”

I really don’t want to say any more. I don’t want to try to make sense of it or try to explain why so many Americans are so enraged at their lot and so enthralled with Donald Trump.

The aid worker lets me off the hook with another assessment of the Republican candidate. “Things he says, they are very awkward. When he says those things, you think: He’s crazy. How can he be a presidential candidate?”

How to respond? I’m at a loss.


“If he wins the election, America will not have the influence it’s had,” he says.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, I counter. Maybe not having such influence would be good for the world.

It’s the truth. It also completely misses the point. Even here, even as I’m revolted by talking about America’s “problems” amid the horrors of Leer, I’m still looking at things from a distinctly American vantage point. I’m talking about theoretically diminished U.S. power and what that might mean for the planet, but come 2017 he’s going to be out in the thick of it, in this or some other desperate place, and he’s obviously worried about what the foreign policy of Donald Trump’s America is going to mean for him, for Africa, for the world.

I go silent. He goes silent. Another aid worker has been listening in, piping up intermittently between mouthfuls of rice and goat meat. “So is he going to win?” he asks me.

I look over at him and half-shrug. Everyone, I say, thought Trump was going to flame out long ago. And I stop there. I’m too spent to talk Trump anymore. I don’t have any answers.

My companion looks back at me and breaks his silence. “It can’t happen, can it?”

Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch and a fellow at the Nation Institute. An award-winning investigative journalist, he has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Nation, and is a contributing writer for the Intercept. His latest book is Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. His website is NickTurse.com. Reporting for this story was made possible through the generous support of Lannan Foundation.

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 2016 Nick Turse

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Why We Arm Belligerents: Trudeau Rationalizes Saudi Weapons Deal

Saudi arms deal rationale troubling

by Toronto Star Letters to the Editor

May 2, 2016

According to the Prime Minister, the Saudi arms deal must go forward, notwithstanding profound universal concern about the Saudi government’s cavalier attitude toward human rights.

According to Justin Trudeau, “We will continue to respect contracts signed because people around the world need to know that when Canada signs a deal it is respected.” 

That statement is odd and troubling on many different levels.

Does Mr. Trudeau believe himself to be Canada’s CEO or its head of government? Are we employees of Mr. Trudeau or are we citizen of this country? Is Mr. Trudeau our boss or our servant? Does Canada, as a political entity, sign commercial deals, or is it rather commercial enterprises within Canada that sign deals, and it is the government’s job to regulate those deals? Most importantly, perhaps: Is Canada a large commercial enterprise or a nation that calls itself a democracy?

A likely explanation of Mr. Trudeau’s statement is that he has a habit of improvising rationales that are at odds with rationality, such as his perplexing statements to the effect that Canada will use fossil fuel production to combat fossil-fuel-induced climate change.

Stephane Dion has turned into a quick study in the art of sophistical rhetoric and improvised rationales. On the subject of the Saudi arms sales, he says he had “reviewed the issue with ‘the utmost rigour’ and will continue to do so over the life of the 14-year deal.” 

It seems I have been under a false impression that his government had been elected for a four-year term.

Earlier, he had cleverly stated that the sale was justified because the Saudi government has promised not to use the armoured vehicles to suppress domestic dissent. Even if we were to believe the Saudi claim, what about the serious concern about the Saudi ruling family’s hobby of invading neighbouring countries and massacring their civilian populations? Do we need that blood on our hands?

Al Eslami, North York

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Roger Annis, Anthony Fenton May 4, 2016

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com


May 4, 2016

May is a time for commemorations that begins with: the May Day(s), the ancient pagan ritual for Spring, and marking of Labour solidarity in Europe and America; and of course, tomorrow's Cinco de Mayo remembrance of one of Mexico's successful revolutions. But for the residents of Odessa, Ukraine's third city and most important seaport, May the 2nd is no celebration. It's a date that will live forever in infamy.

Two years ago, during the Western-inspired Maidan uprising, scores of citizen resistors to the Kiev coup were killed, burned alive by the fascist mob as they took shelter in the House of Trade Unions building in Kulikovo Square. Hundreds more were injured.

Listen. Hear.

The regime is yet to bring the investigation into the atrocity forward; in fact, after two years, the only ones in prison for what happened on May second are survivors of the attacks.

That failure is emblematic of the hopelessly corrupt and unjust rule of Washington's puppet, Petro Poroshenko; two years into Kiev's war-torn rule of Ukraine the country teeters tenuously on the brink of total disaster.

Roger Annis is a longtime socialist, trade union activist, and prolific essayist in the cause of social justice and peace both in Canada and abroad. He's a contributing editor at the website New Cold War, where he's written extensively on Ukraine, and his articles can also be found at his website, A Socialist in Canada, and at Rabble.ca, and Counterpunch.org.

Roger Annis in the first segment.

And; not to be left behind, Canada too has been busy enabling corrupt and violent regimes murder and maim innocents. As the body count of the House of Saud's relentless onslaught in neigbouring Yemen continues to increase, Ottawa is beavering away to sign as many "defense" contracts as it can muster; possibly before the dammed outrage in the region, and indeed the World, breaks, washing finally away the Saudi's forever.

Anthony Fenton is an independent researcher, former journalist, author, and PhD candidate studying the political economy of Canada-Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC relations. Anthony co-authored, with Yves Engler, 'Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority,' and his many articles have been featured by the Asia Times Online, The Dominion, Foreign Policy in Focus, Inter Press Service News, Mother Jones, and Upside Down World.

Anthony Fenton and Ottawa arming its friends in the Saudi war zone in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will NOT join us as is usual today; prior commitments demanding her more immediate attention. So, first up, Roger Annis and Kiev's victory two years later.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.uvic.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: http://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/
G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Remembering the Odessa Massacre as Fascists Fulminate for More Violence

Ukraine’s Rightists Return to Odessa

by Nicolai N. Petro  - Consortium News


April 28, 2016

May 2 will mark the second anniversary of one of the most horrific, politically inspired tragedies in modern European history — the fire in the Odessa trade union building that killed 48 people and wounded another 200.

Screen shot of the fatal fire in Odessa, Ukraine, on May 2, 2014. (From RT video)

Numerous pleas by the United Nations and the European Union for a thorough investigation into the causes of this tragedy have gone unanswered. Multiple government commissions, both local and national, have been unable to move the case forward, partly because some of the evidence has been marked secret.


Last November, the International Consulting Group, set up by the Council of Europe, issued a scathing report about this lack of progress, and the government’s apparent disinterest in bringing those responsible to trial.

Now, as we approach the second anniversary of these tragic deaths, and the commemoration of Soviet victory in the Second World War on May 9, some of the same groups involved in the first tragedy are quite openly preparing for a second round.

To this end, the leading nationalist spokesman, Dmitro Yarosh, the former leader of the Right Sector, was invited to Odessa this month. There he explained his credo to his followers:

“I am just not a democrat. My worldview is that of a Ukrainian nationalist. I believe that popular national government is very good, but only when democracy does not threaten the very existence of the state. We sometimes play at democracy with the likes of Kivalov [a member of parliament from Odessa — NP], with [Odessa’s mayor] Trukhanov . . . but in war time this is never good” he said, adding “the enemy needs to be dealt with as he is always deal with in wartime–neutralized.”

Recently, both the military wing of his Yarosh’s new organization, and the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, have been mobilized and, according a statement they released to the press, are ready to move on Odessa at a moment’s notice.

Meanwhile, local Euromaidan activist Arsen Grigoryan has given authorities just one week to prevent any commemorative gatherings from taking place on May 2, especially ones that might include government officials, or “fake parliamentarians from Europe.” If the authorities refuse to heed these warnings, he said, the consequences will be on the head of Odessa’s mayor, Gennady Trukhanov.

The radical nationalist’s sudden concern seems to have been inspired by the groundswell of participation at this year’s commemoration of the liberation of Odessa from Nazi occupation on April 10.

Traditionally this is a rather low-key event, that involves a ceremonial wreath laying at the monument to the Unknown Sailor in Shevchenko Park. This year, however, several thousand people joined the wreath laying ceremony, some of whom even added Russian colors to the wreaths.

This outrage caught the attention of vigilant nationalists, who then moved to disrupt the ceremony. In an unexpected twist, however, local police intervened to defend the participants against the now customary assault by radicals.

The nationalists blamed state prosecutor, Georgy Stoyanov, for this debacle, and proceeded to block entry to the state procuracy building until he was removed from office. After succeeding in this effort, they promptly moved their protest to Odessa’s City Hall, where they are now seeking the resignation of the popularly elected mayor of Odessa, Gennady Trukhanov.




President Barack Obama and President Petro Poroshenko of  Ukraine 
talk after statements to the press following their bilateral meeting at 
the Warsaw Marriott Hotel in Warsaw, Poland, June 4, 2014. 
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


Rather uncharacteristically, the region’s appointed governor, Mikheil Saakashvili (former president of Georgia), has yet to voice his opinion about this confrontation. On the one hand, he stands to gain political clout if he can shift the blame for these disturbances to mayor Trukhanov, whom he bitterly resents for ostensibly thwarting his reform efforts.

On the other hand, however, he surely knows that the radical nationalists view him as just another by-product of the corrupt and treacherous Poroshenko regime; moreover, one whose only loyalty is to his own political ambitions. Perhaps most unforgivably, for radical nationalists, he is also a foreigner.

All sides are now mobilizing in what is shaping up to be a decisive test of wills between government authority and the radical nationalists. The city is being flooded by radical activists, and Governor Saaskashvili says that a thousand additional National Guard troops are going to be deployed to Odessa where, as he puts it, there are clear signs of “the collapse of Ukraine as a state.”

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, however, says it has received no such orders and is merely advising Odessans to prepare for “hot May holidays.” The stage is nearly set for the next bloody confrontation between the “patriots” and the “fascists.”

This time, however, the West need not stand by helplessly and watch. There is still a chance of averting another tragedy, if the Western media draws timely attention to the current preparations for it. A significant Western media presence on the ground during the critical week from May 2 to 9, could conceivably lead the radical nationalists to reconsider their violent strategy.

Turning a blind eye to the gathering storm, by contrast, will only embolden the most radical elements in society, and further erode respect for law and order in Ukraine. As the U.S. State Department’s Deputy Spokesperson, Mark Toner, has aptly noted, when asked about this issue, “all of us bear responsibility to do everything in our power to reduce the capacity of militants and extremists to carry out these kinds of violent activities.”

Nicolai Petro is an academic specializing in Russian and Ukrainian affairs, currently professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. He spent 2013-2014 as a US Fulbright Scholar in Ukraine.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Viewing the US Presidential Circus from the Middle East

US Presidential Elections: A View from the Middle East

by Sharmine Narwani - RT


April 30, 2016

Although the era of US global hegemony is coming to a close, the Middle East – more than most regions – is still reeling from the nasty last jabs of that Empire in decline.

It is little wonder, then, that the US presidential election season is scrutinized carefully in all corners of the Mideast.

Over here, the debate over the likely victor is less about economic, political and social projects than it is about which candidate is least likely to launch wars against us.

Anecdotally, there seems to be a consensus that Hillary Clinton would be the worst for the region, though of course – like in the United States – that perception changes dramatically when the conversation is with regional elites and ‘liberals.’

And just like their American counterparts, Middle Easterners get bogged down in arguments about Donald Trump’s ‘racism,’ Bernie Sanders’ ‘viability’ and Clinton’s ‘hawkishness.’ Media, after all, has never been more uniform in its pronouncements – we all, universally, receive the same talking points.

But US Presidential Election 2016 means a lot more than US polls in decades past. From the Levant to the Persian Gulf to North Africa, borders have never been so frayed, terrorism so pervasive, security and resources so threatened.

The Middle East is a wretched mess. And at the heart of each and every one of these quagmires stands the United States, imposing itself, its military ‘expertise’ and its humanitarian ‘do-gooding’ into our suffering. Ironically, perhaps, there are few problems in the Mideast that have not been caused or exacerbated by the destructive hand of US foreign policy.

The last playground


The Middle East is the last global playground where the US can act with impunity. Part of the reason for this is that most of the two dozen states that make up the region are still headed by US-backed dictators and monarchs – American proxies that prioritize Washington’s interests over those of its citizenry. The US plays hard in this region because it wishes to maintain this remarkably favorable status quo, which it has lost virtually everywhere else.

Even as the Cold War was drawing to a close - vanquishing the old Soviet bloc proxy leaders in the Mideast and replacing them with US-friendly ones - the 1979 Iranian Revolution flipped the region once more, ushering in a new framework for independence from the ‘Anglo imperialist.’

In the aftermath of Iraq’s war with Iran, which had placed Iranian aspirations on hold for eight long, destructive years, Tehran began to forge regional relationships that formed the underpinnings of a new Axis of Resistance to US and Western hegemonic ambitions.

The US expanded its military role in the Middle East mainly to eradicate this ‘Shia’ thorn in its side – but it has not only failed to do so with each consecutive US administration, it has willfully unleashed the well-contained demons of sectarianism to achieve this goal.

Hello, Sunni Wahhabi fundamentalism. Hello, Al Qaeda. Hello, ISIS.

Why even get into this recent history? It’s important for one main reason. Even as the US now turns its guns on the Frankenstein monster it created from its invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now its intervention in Syria… Washington also has its guns aimed at Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and other entities that are fighting this very terrorism.

When Trump debuted his foreign policy vision earlier this week, he pointed out that current US policy was “reckless, rudderless and aimless” – “one that has blazed the path of destruction in its wake.”

It’s all we’ve heard in recent years – certainly since the start of the Arab ‘uprisings’ – with pundits and commentators alike scratching their heads in confusion over US goals in the region.
American policy is not confused – it is very deliberate. Get your head around this: Washington seeks to thwart the Iranian-led axis by unleashing sectarian, Wahhabi-influenced extremists into parts of the region viewed as Iran’s strategic depth, AND it seeks to counter the proliferation of these extremists by reaching out to Iran, tactically – hence the sudden P5+1 nuclear deal in the midst of all this conflict.

This is what I call America’s “strategic dissonance” – playing both sides to engineer protracted conflict in an effort to gradually drive the two sides into extinction.

Only problem is the unpredictability of it all – and the ensuing chaos, destruction and terrorism that has now poured over these borders into Europe and beyond.

Mr. America versus Ms. Beltway


It is clear that this strategic dissonance has once more led to an American “unintended consequence.” It is equally clear that it will take nothing less than a sledgehammer to alter the destructive bent of US foreign policy.

What’s interesting about this election year is that voters have put their backs behind unlikely candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, mostly, it seems, to buck the establishment.

The two long-shot candidates have delivered scathing reviews of Beltway politicos and the ‘interest groups’ that prop them up – foreign and domestic, both.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton – the ‘deserving’ establishment candidate who was a shoo-in until a few short months ago – has had to fight for every vote in her contests with Democratic Party newcomer Sanders.

And the easiest blows against Clinton have been in the foreign policy arena, where the Beltway hawk has a long record of backing the wrong plan – in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria.

In the Mideast, Clinton’s militaristic leanings scuttle any goodwill one would otherwise have for a Democratic Party candidate. Egyptians lobbed tomatoes, shoes and water bottles at her motorcade when the then-secretary of state made an appearance after the ousting of longtime US ally President Hosni Mubarak.

It was under her stewardship at the Department of State when “foreign hands” began to make their marks on the Arab uprisings – none to the benefit of the Arab masses.

Her support for the ill-conceived US invasion of Iraq, which led to the establishment of Al Qaeda in that country, is a constant refrain here in the Mideast – much as it is in the United States. And her refusal to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of US military intervention in Libya remain proof that she never learned from Iraq.

Like him or not, Clinton’s maniacal laughter over Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s violent death as she sanguinely declared “We came, we saw, he died,” has been forever imprinted on our collective memories.

We have since learned that US President Barack Obama’s decision to militarily intervene in Libya came down to her vote. Libyan blood cannot be washed off those hands.

And now Clinton wants to escalate in Syria by carving out a “safe zone” – which is how her Libyan adventure started.

If Clinton suffers from a likeability problem in the US, she is downright reviled in the Mideast – except among the usual suspects which include dictators, monarchs and other super-wealthy elites who have either contributed to the Clinton Foundation or are desperate to maintain their cushy positions within a US-dominated region.

Then there’s Trump


The highly controversial billionaire businessman Donald Trump has been roundly bashed in this region for his prejudicial comments against Muslims, but there’s a quiet parade of thinkers in the Mideast – from Arab nationalists to progressives to intellectuals – who have been casting coy second glances his way.

“Trump can turn the system upside down,” says a leading Lebanon-based Arab nationalist. “He’s his own man, he will not be dragged into the trappings of the deep state,” says an influential writer.
“Who else is willing to put the brakes on NATO, disengage from lousy alliances, hook up with Putin and others to fight terrorism the right way, prioritize diplomacy over military options? Not Clinton, no way,” a college student rants.

There is that.

Unlike Clinton, there’s not much we know about Trump. He has no foreign policy record, except of course his non-stop reminder that he opposed the US invasion of Iraq and warned that it would be a “disaster.”

But if you’re going to take a chance on a candidate – if you’re going to try to read between the lines of campaign promises – I suggest taking the unconventional, risky declarations more seriously than predictable, voter-friendly platitudes like “I support the state of Israel unconditionally.”

And Trump has some doozies.

On key US ally Saudi Arabia, arguably ground zero for the militant extremism rampant in the region – and a country that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says was prepared to “fight the Iranians to the last American” – Trump warns that he might halt purchases of Saudi oil unless Riyadh commits ground troops to the ISIS fight. His comments mirror those of Gates – as disclosed in a 2010 Wikileaks cable – who said of the Saudis that it “is time for them to get in the game.”

“If Saudi Arabia was without the cloak of American protection, I don’t think it would be around,” suggests Trump, quite correctly.

On Russia, Syria and US support of rebels:

“Putin does not want ISIS. The rebel groups… we have no idea who these people are. We’re training people, we don’t know who they are… we’re giving them billions of dollars to fight Assad… If you look at Libya, look what we did there, it’s a mess. If you look at Saddam Hussein, with Iraq, look at what we did there, it’s a mess…”

In what seemed like a swipe at US support of questionable militants in Syria and elsewhere, Trump says:

“We need to be clear sighted about the groups that will never be anything other than enemies. And believe me, we have groups that no matter what you do, they will be the enemy. We have to be smart enough to recognize who those groups are, who those people are, and not help them.”

Asked if the Mideast would be more secure if Saddam and Gaddafi were still around and Assad were stronger, Trump boldly declares: “It’s not even a contest…Of course it would be.”

And this:

“I like that Putin is bombing the hell out of ISIS. Putin has to get rid of ISIS because Putin doesn’t want ISIS coming into Russia.”

In short…

Trump is an unknown quantity, but he is delivering some home truths to restive voters in an unconventional election year.

Clinton is the quintessential establishment candidate, the sure-thing that voters wish they could like, who is running for president at the wrong time for a beltway insider.

Trump has defied all the odds thus far, and there is no reason he can’t continue to do that all the way to the White House. Whether or not he can keep surprising once he is there is anyone’s guess. Will he become co-opted by the system? Will he strike down entrenched Washington dogmas with his trademark arrogance? Nobody knows.

If Trump runs against Clinton, his campaign mantra has to be “Clinton: tons of experience, no judgment.” It’s pretty much the only way he can compete with a seasoned politician who is sure to throw his inexperience back in his face at every opportunity.

For the Mideast, this is not the time to pick the ‘devil we know.’ We know how that story ends every single time: destabilization, chaos, terrorism.

Trump is definitely the lesser evil, whichever way one looks at it. He simply cannot be worse than her.

But there is one solitary upside to a Clinton presidency. If Hillary Clinton is the next president of the United States… we will see the world shift decisively into a new multi-polar order. The battle over Syria became a red line for the Russians, Chinese and Iranians, and they placed protective arms around key states, in turn forging closer relations with each other – some of these, military dimensions – and with a number of other ‘middle powers’ that threatened to up-end US hegemonic ambitions once and for all.

Imagine then, the reactions of Russia, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and other states irked by US-backed destabilizing campaigns, if a hawk like Clinton is ensconced in the White House.We’ll slip into a new world order faster than you can say 'Goldman Sachs.'

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony's College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online, Salon.com, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani

Another Peace Prize Fiasco? No White Hats (or Helmets) in Syria

VIDEO: Syria ‘White Helmets’ Exposed and Petition to Prevent their Nomination for Nobel Peace Prize

by Vanessa Beeley - 21st Century Wire


April 30, 2016

As the Syrian battle front rages in Aleppo, the ‘White Helmets’ are emerging even more strongly as part of the long arm of US and UK propaganda in Syria. The Manhattan campaign managers at Purpose Inc have sprung into action. Red is the new black on Facebook and “Aleppo is burning” is the new slogan. White Helmets are in every video and photograph being circulated by western and gulf media.

We will be writing a series of articles to cover rapidly developing events. White Helmet leader, Raed Saleh, recently deported from the US, is top of our list but as usual our research has uncovered more than we bargained for. Watch this space.

The following video was made by Steve Ezzedine for Hands Off Syria and using the research in these 21st Century Articles:

Syria’s White Helmets: War by Way of Deception Part I

Part II: Syria’s White Helmets – Way by Way of Deception ~ “Moderate” Executioners

Humanitarian Propaganda War against Syria ~ Led by Avaaz and the White Helmets

George Soros: Anti-Syria Campaign Impresario





Today, however, let us consider the White Helmets and their potential nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.


Syrian White Helmet and Al Qaeda fighter.



Yes, you heard that correctly. The UK and US funded 5th columnists embedded in terrorist held areas across Syria have reached the dizzying heights of Nobel Peace Prize nomination while acting as crisis support team for Al Qaeda operatives, Jabhat Al Nusra.





UK Column Interview with Vanessa Beeley


Nobel Peace Prize for Al Qaeda?


If you vehemently disagree with this nomination please go to the Syria Solidarity Movment petition and sign accordingly. The petition has deliberately been posted on the same Change.org site and in lock step with the petition raised to promote the Syria White Helmets nomination.

PETITION: DO NOT GIVE 2016 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE TO SYRIAN WHITE HELMETS

 


***

Author Vanessa Beeley is a contributor to 21WIRE, and since 2011, she has spent most of her time in the Middle East reporting on events there – as a independent researcher, writer, photographer and peace activist. She is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Syria Solidarity Movement, and a volunteer with the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. See more of her work at her blog The Wall Will Fall.

READ MORE WHITE HELMETS NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire White Helmet Files

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Fight to Divvy Up Libya's Oil Spoils

Splitting the Libyan Spoils

by Inside Intelligence with Southern Pulse - Oilprice.com


29th April 2016

Politics, Geopolitics & Conflict


Let’s get Libya out of the way first. It should not be necessary to mention this, and in general we find it inadvisable to comment on foreign policy issues brought up by the campaigning of Donald Trump; however, because the U.S. intelligence community has seen fit to respond, we will note only that the Islamic State (ISIS) is not known to be selling Libyan oil. It has not made it that far.

There is also the question of what ISIS would actually do with a major oilfield. It can manage small ones, but does not have the capacity to run a big one.

Right now, their tactic is to threaten the big fields in order to use that as leverage to throw a wrench in unity government negotiations.

Moving on to what’s really going on in Libya, control of the country’s oil reserves is indeed in question. ISIS is not the biggest threat in this respect. The eastern “government” in Tobruk is using its own branch of the Libyan National Oil Company (of Benghazi) to attempt to export oil unilaterally. It has in fact sent out its first cargo, bound for Malta; however, Malta is not allowing the cargo to dock and the UN has blacklisted the tanker carrying it.

It’s since been ordered back to Libya, but it’s not going to offload its precious cargo without direct orders from the UN.

The other Libyan government (the second of three) based in and controlling the capital, Tripoli, had vowed to block this export move. So far, it’s winning this phase of the battle. Whoever controls Libya’s oil, controls the government because its revenues are almost entirely dependent on oil.

Right now, Libya has three governments and two National Oil Companies and two Central Banks—one each in Tripoli and Tobruk. That leaves the third government—the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA)—in a tight spot because it needs the support of both in reality, for any stability to emerge.

On 30 March, the GNA’s UN-backed Prime Minister-designate, Serraj, showed up in Tripoli feeling a bit overconfident after the US and a handful of European countries recognized it as the legitimate government of Libya. They did this without any endorsement from the eastern government based in Tobruk, and without any support from the military factions of Libya. So basically, the GNA and the UN tried to move into Tripoli without any real backing, but they have made some headway (what price they paid for that, we’re not sure).

On 25 April, the GNA took over the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli (and seven other ministries). In the meantime, the government in Tobruk has still not endorsed a GNA cabinet. So Tobruk’s move to export oil was immediately thwarted.

The GNA, then, has largely won over the Central Bank and the NOC in Tripoli, and somehow managed to get past the Islamist-leaning government in Tripoli along the way, but the previously favored government in the east (the internationally recognized one) is playing hard to get and its own NOC is trying to export oil alone.

Where the media-reading public probably gets confused is in the alliances here, which are anything but black and white and everything about divvying up the spoils. Readers tend to assume that the eastern NOC is the “good guy” in this scenario because, after all, it was the eastern Tobruk-based government that was “internationally recognized”, while Tripoli was being controlled by an Islamist-leaning government, which everyone in the West immediately associates with the “enemy” in a knee-jerk reaction. However, it with the NOCs and the Central Banks that it gets trickier.

The Tripoli-based NOC and Central Bank have remained recognized as the legitimate branches of these institutions despite Libya Dawn’s control over the capital city, which did not extend fully into the NOC or Central Bank. Tobruk overstepped by trying to make an independent go at oil exports through a parallel NOC.

Shaking Off the End of Time

End of Time?

by Mazin Qumsiyeh - Palestine Museum of Natural History


Basil Al-Araj is in a Palestinian jail. He is a young Palestinian pharmacist who had worked at a pharmacy in Shufat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem. I knew him because he is from Al-Walaja, a village that was struggling as “Israel” builds a wall around the remaining houses of the village (already 90% of the residents are refugees elsewhere).

Village wells and lands were stolen by the Israeli colonizers starting in 1948 and continuing till today.

Basil had a love of Palestine and a hatred of injustice. Like most young people they searched for ways to act on their convictions. He participated in nonviolent demonstrations at his village but was not satisfied with their outcome. He read my book on “Popular Resistance in Palestine” in Arabic and gave me his feedback. He said he learned much about history of the Palestinian struggle. He said the book’s Arabic could use some editing. He worked briefly as a researcher for the Palestinian museum after he lost his job in Shufat.

He tried other methods of action. He and a few others tried to block the main road near the colony of Maale Adumim. He and I and four others were the six Palestinian Freedom riders arrested in 2011 while demonstrating Israeli apartheid policies [1].
 
These demonstrative actions were born of good intentions to help bring us closer to freedom. I always lamented even as I participated in such actions how the Palestinian leadership betrayed its people leaving young and old a sense “orphaned of leadership”. I worried not that the Palestinian cause will die (I am by nature optimistic) but that the selfishness, ego, and incompetence of self-declared leaders can only delay the inevitable freedom and dispirit a population otherwise willing and able to liberate itself.
 
Now Basil and two friends of his have been arrested by the Palestinian Authority and the news is buzzing that they had planned/plotted for an armed attack against the Israeli occupation. If this is true (and I have my doubts), it would add to our conviction that the policies of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (acting as sub-contractor for the occupation) are failing and the choices faced by a whole new disenfranchised young
generation will be difficult.

Israeli colonial invaders bombed, injured and killed many Palestinians including attacks on the mayors of Nablus and Hebron during the 1987-1992 uprising. After the Oslo process the Israeli security service did detain a very large Jewish terrorist group that had caused much deaths and injuries. They even caught them red-handed as they tried to plant bombs on Palestinian buses. However, an amnesty bill was passed in the Knesset, signed by the Israeli prime minister and the Jewish terrorists released just before the assassination of Yizhak Rabin.

The assassin did change history as now it is impossible for any Israeli leader to show any courage or dignity to go against the racist colonial settler mentality [2].

Basil and his colleagues are doomed to suffer since we are told that the Palestinian authority is bound by its pledges of service to Israeli security even though Israel is not bound by any agreements it signed.[3]

Israel benefited tremendously from Oslo process and completely ignores its obligations (meager as they are under the agreement). Its profits from the occupation rose sharply (400-500%) after Oslo. Now Israel makes at least $12 billions a year from the occupation and that is not counting the land and water it steals. Meanwhile Israeli terrorists with blood on their hands roam freely in the colonial apartheid system.

That system gets support from selfish western leaders who Israeli intelligence learned how to “domesticate” with carrot and stick approach. Money and media coverage can be used both to help elect a candidate and help demolish a candidate especially when combined with “skeletons hiding in their closets”.

But I always come back to what WE can do. It sometimes feels frustrating to be running against corrupt systems that are ruthless and inhumane [4]. But we are heartened by growth of solidarity (and BDS) around the world [5].

I am finishing a visit to Siena, Italy where I gave several talks. The reception and interest in helping is great. In fact only one Jewish Zionist was encountered and she merely reiterated long discredited “talking points” that only harmed her own cause (of support for an apartheid racist regime). What I find amazing is that there is indeed “civility” still widespread even as neoliberal/neocolonial world order dominates politics (in Italy, US, Palestine etc).

I am reading this book I received as a gift from a chair at the University of Siena. The book by Enzo Tiezzi is called “The End of Time” and it is remarkable in its diagnosis of what ails planet earth today. It does have an optimistic leaning in that we humans can and will (hopefully) make the right choices to save our planet. Time is not on our side; there is urgency to the matter. We must act NOW on issues like global climate change and global inequality and poverty. Tomorrow it will be harder than today which is already more difficult than yesterday!

That is why some of us are focused not just on political revolution (needed as that is) but on cultural and educational and an environmental revolution (basically a change in human behavior). Our own small contribution in the latter part is now channeled via the Palestine Museum of Natural History and Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability, both at Bethlehem University (see http://palestinenature.org).

Our challenge remains to get more people out of apathy and to get more energy out of already active people towards what I called 15 years ago “a global intifada” (intifada literally means shaking off but most commonly translated as “uprising”). Our challenge is to organize and act better in our own small spheres which coalesce together to effect the needed (existential) change.

[1] see http://mondoweiss.net/2011/11/follow-the-freedom-rides/
[2] See this excellent documentary on how Israeli “security forces” work in a colonial system: The Gatekeeper
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2BqrpLaDVw
[3] At 80, Failed Abbas is Probed, Derided and Scapegoated
http://dissidentvoice.org/2016/04/at-80-failed-abbas-is-probed-derided-and-scapegoated/
[4] see this video of Israeli ministers threatening BDS Activists
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukXAFxI8Ix4
and here is a good analysis of what this means:
http://www.bdssouthafrica.com/uncategorized/message-palestinian-bds-leader-omar-barghouti-israels-recent-threats-civil-assassinations-bds-activists/
[5] if you simply google Palestine Solidarity, you get 4.7 MILLION website hits! For example here is the most listened to Radio show in Luxemberg covering a recent visit to Palestine by some colleagues from that small state (with pictures) Wéi gesäit et mam Fridden am Noen Osten aus?
http://radio.rtl.lu/emissiounen/10-bis-1/1305613.html



 Stay Human and do come visit us in Palestine


Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor and Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
http://qumsiyeh.org
http://palestinenature.org

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sending Something Back for the Server

Something for the Server: Keeping the Burlesque Kicking  

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque


26 April 2016

As long-time readers know, the Empire Burlesque website is a bespoke creation of our remarkable webmaster, Richard Kastelein. He approached me years ago and offered to build a website from scratch and host it on a private server, which would keep it free from government or corporate interference. That’s just what he did, and he has kept it running in high gear for 11 years now. However, as we all know, freedom ain’t never free. The private server costs money to maintain (and defend from attacks), and for all these years this cost has been borne entirely by Rich, who also hosts a number of other important sites on it.

It’s a sacrifice he’s been glad to make — such is the measure of the man — but it is a sacrifice, a financial burden that continually mounts up. So the writers who benefit from all of his hard work and creativity are pitching in to try to ease that burden in a straitened time. In addition to our own contributions, we are inviting readers to show their appreciation for Rich’s work with a small contribution as well. It’s very simple. Just press the button, and any donation will go straight to the server costs.

Both Rich and I are always leery of asking readers for contributions. We know that the kind of people who read Empire Burlesque are not the ruthless profiteers of this world, with plenty of spare cash lying around to spend at a whim. So, as always, we ask you to consider giving only what you can give, without straining your own resources.

I am even more leery of asking for contributions, of course, because I’ve not been blogging very much, for quite some time. And once again, I apologize for the dearth of posts. There are personal reasons for this, but I do hope to start blogging on a more sustained basis again soon. (Although I know I’ve said that before, too!) With current constraints on time and energy for full-scale blogging, I have been trying to keep my hand in with occasional short observations on Twitter (@empireburlesque). But that is not exactly a forum for working out one’s thoughts and ideas with any depth or nuance. So I hope to return to more regular blogging as soon as I can.

And that’s why I’m even more cognizant of the sacrifices Rich has made and is making for this blog. He continues to host and improve the blog even as I’ve provided precious little in the way of content. So I am very happy for this chance to help do whatever I can to ease some of the financial burden of the server costs.

So again, if you can — and if you take a notion — do think of pitching a few coins into the server bucket.

Thanks.

Media Disinformation and Co-opting the “Progressive Left”

Media Disinformation and America's Wars - Liars vs. Truthers: The “Progressive Left” Has Been Co-opted

by Mark Taliano - Global Research


April 28, 2016
 
Well-documented facts pertaining to the 9/11 wars, all supported by sustainable evidence, have barely made inroads into the collective consciousness of Western media consumers.

The War on Syria is no exception. Despite the presence of five years of sustainable evidence that contradicts the Western narratives, people still believe the “official” lies.

The consensus of ignorance is sustained by what Michel Chossudovsky describes as an “American Inquisition”. Beneath the protection of this psychological operation, the engineered enemy is Islam, and the Global War On Terrorism (GWOT) has become a brand to disguise imperial wars of aggression as “humanitarian”.

Thus, huge sums of public monies are diverted from worthwhile, domestic projects such as healthcare schools and roads, to support a criminal Project for a New American Century (PNAC) that is globalizing death, poverty, and destruction as the U.S led empire tries to impose a unilateral model of control over the world.

The U.S is said to be “exceptional”, and therefore the rightful ruler. Manifest Destiny writ large.

Dissent is suppressed within the framework of corporate media monopolies. Predominant narratives are supported by corrupt “NGOs” – totally bereft of objectivity — and intelligence agency “fronts”. Real investigative journalism offering historical context and legitimate evidence are relegated to the fringes, far outside the domain of the broad-based “consensus of misunderstanding.”

The “Progressive Left” has been co-opted. So-called “progressives” (presumably unwittingly) support Canada’s close relationships with Wahabbi Saudi Arabia, Apartheid Israel, and even the foreign mercenaries currently invading Syria (ie ISIS and al Nursra Front/al Qaeda).

The source upon which the pretexts for war are built and perpetrated are taboo topics, despite longstanding evidence that the official narratives explaining the crimes of 9/11 – and the subsequent “Gladio B” operations — are flawed. The truth is seen as “heresy”, and fact-based narratives are derided as “conspiracy theories”.

Thus, a firm foundation of lies that serves as a sanctified justification for global war and terror, remains strong.

But the stakes are high, as Western hegemony presses us closer and closer to a real prospect of widespread nuclear war. Already, the use of nuclear weapons is being “normalized” through the introduction of “mini-nukes” into the equation, and the blurring of lines between conventional and nuclear war.

Michel Chossudovsky explains in “Is the Bush Administration Planning a Nuclear Holocaust?|Will the US launch ‘Mini-nukes’ against Iran in Retaliation for Tehran’s ‘Non-compliance’?” that


The Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations outlines the procedures governing the use of nuclear weapons and the nature of the relationship between nuclear and conventional war operations.”

The DJNO states that the:

‘use of nuclear weapons within a [war] theater requires that nuclear and conventional plans be integrated to the greatest extent possible’  - (DJNO, p 47. For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Jan 2006 )

The implications of this ‘integration’ are far-reaching because once the decision is taken by the Commander in Chief, namely the President of the United States, to launch a joint conventional-nuclear military operation, there is a risk that tactical nuclear weapons could be used without requesting subsequent presidential approval. In this regard, execution procedures under the jurisdiction of the theater commanders pertaining to nuclear weapons are described as ‘flexible and allow for changes in the situation …’ ”

The taboos need to be lifted, and the repeated lies contradicted.

Some of the more pernicious lies covering the escalating war on the democratic republic of Syria include unsubstantiated memes that fit neatly into the propagandists’ toolbox of false representations, and of projecting the West’s crimes onto the victims (Syria and Syrians).

The War on Syria is not a “civil” war; the “uprising” was not “democratic”; Assad does not “starve his own people”; Assad, does not “bomb his own people”; Assad is the democratically-elected president of Syria, and not a “brutal dictator”.

Conclusive evidence demonstrates, and has demonstrated for years, that the war is an invasion by Western proxies, which include ISIS and al Qaeda/al Nursra Front, and that there are no “moderates”.

The initial uprisings were marred by foreign-backed violence perpetrated against innocent people, soldiers, and police. Peaceful grassroots protests were hijacked by these murderous foreign-backed elements (as was the case in Ukraine) – all consistent with “hybrid war” as elaborated by Andrew Korybko.

The illegal sanctions imposed by the West – including Canada – coupled with terrorist practices of theft and hoarding of humanitarian aid – are responsible for the starvation.

Assad is a democratically elected reformer, and hugely popular with Syrians, not a brutal dictator. Claims that he “kills his own people” were further debunked when the so-called “Caesar photos” evidence was proven to be a fraud.

Many Syrians criticize Assad for not carpet bombing terrorist occupied areas (as US occupiers did in Fallujah, for example). Syrians sometimes refer to Assad as “Mr. Soft Heart”.

Unfortunately, though, the well-documented truth is not widely accepted. We need to shatter the “Inquisition” which serves to protect the criminal cabal perpetrating and orchestrating this global catastrophe. Truth and justice must prevail over lies and crimes. Currently, the opposite is the case.

The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Mark Taliano, Global Research, 2016