Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Natalie Drolet, Steve Lawson, Janine Bandcroft May 25, 2016

This Week on GR

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

May 24, 2016

Just over a week ago, a delegation of temporary workers, accompanied by migrant worker leaders from across the country, paid a visit to Parliament Hill. They went to Ottawa to make their concerns known to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

The Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada helped coordinate the testimonies, and insists more needs be done to ensure migrant worker participation in the laws that affect their lives.

Natalie Drolet is Executive Director of the West Coast Domestic Workers' Association, and has served as the WCDWA Staff Lawyer since 2014.

A native Ottawan, since moving to Vancouver Drolet has worked on access to justice for newcomers, founded a working group on labour trafficking, and has advocated for her clients before various administrative tribunals at all levels of court in BC.

Natalie Drolet in the first half.

And; there was sad news last week for BC's environmental community. Long-time ecologist and Clayoquot Sound defender, Steve Lawson passed away on May 8th. Steve was, with partner Susanne Hare, well-known as a 'War in the Woods' warrior, opposing the logging of the old-growth forests and mining within B.C.'s oldest nature reserve, Strathcona Park. More recently, Steve was at the forefront of efforts to stop trophy hunting, putting an end to the bear parts market, and fighting to ensure the survival of wild salmon and marine life. I talked to Steve last July about the renewed fight to protect again the Walbran from logging.

Steve Lawson and a clear-cut call to arms in Clayoquot and the Walbran in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Radio braodcaster, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us news of some of what's good to do on, in, and around our town's streets, and beyond there too, in the coming week. But first, Natalie Drolet and calling for real immigration reforms in Canada.

Temporary People: Canadian Migrant Workers Testify on Parliament Hill

Migrant workers testify on Parliament Hill today, call for permanent immigration status, open work permits, and real reforms

by Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada

May 16, 2016

OttawaFour migrant workers will testify at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) today between 4:30pm and 6:30pm calling for permanent immigration status, open work permits and comprehensive reforms.

Migrant worker leaders from across Canada are joining them to call for permanent immigration status on landing.

 The Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada which is helping to coordinate these testimonies continues to insist that more needs to be done to ensure migrant worker participation in laws that primarily affect their lives.

The hearing can be watched – audio only – as of 3:30pm by clicking here.

Gina Bahiwal, has been a Temporary Foreign Worker in Ontario and BC since 2008 and has worked at a warehouse, Holiday Inn and Mcdonalds. She will testify to HUMA today.

“I think migrant workers should all get permanent status upon arrival because we came here to Canada to work, and our work is skilled work. If you come to Canada and your work is called high-skilled, you get permanent immigration status, why don’t we?
In addition, those workers who are being abused on closed work permits, can’t find another job because their work permit is tied to a job. Many workers, vulnerable workers, who worked in Canada for four years are being told to go home, but they have no life to go back to.”

Gabriel Alahuda is a Seasonal Agricultural Worker in Ontario. He will testify to HUMA today.

“A migrant farmworker, named Sheldon Mc Kenzie, died in 2005 in a work related accident – a fact that is news across Canada today. What safety net is available for the young family he’d left behind after 13 years of service on the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program?
These questions must be answered. Migrant workers spend years working in a developed country like Canada, where we consistently make our contributions, like all working citizens, only to be denied the benefits which only citizens can access and enjoy. We need rights, we need permanent residency and need it now.”

Francisco Mootoo a temporary foreign worker from Mauritius. He arrived in Quebec in 2012. He will testify to HUMA this week.

“We were lucky, but we had to fight for our right to stay, knowing full well that we have done everything required of us as working people contributing to Canada’s economy here in Quebec. These immigration policies have to change for the better, reflecting a program that does not seek to exploit the desperation of hardworking people who merely wish to make this country their home.
In that light, we fully support the demands of the Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada and hope that the HUMA committee seriously listens to our collective voice when reviewing the TFWP.”

Ericson Santos De Leon, Caregiver from Montreal, Quebec who will testify to the committee

“My agency charged me $4,300 placement fee. They said that I had to pay such a high fee because it was harder to place male caregivers. When I got here, I found out that the agency that hired me paid a friend to pretend to be my employer for my papers. For three months, I was stranded. After three months, I was getting desperate so I went to the agency and asked, what was going on?
I’ve been waiting for so long. They made me work under the table for a family for a year. After a year, I told them I would report them to the authorities. I said, “you’ve been abusing me. I have a family to support.” They got scared and finally fixed my papers so I was legally employed. What they did was very wrong. They took advantage of me because they know that I wanted to come to Canada.”

Hessed Torres, Temporary Foreign Worker from Vancouver, British Columbia

“As a live-in caregiver, I experienced working between 12-16 hours a days despite my contract stating that I would work 8 hours a day. I also worked beyond the job duties that were stated in my contract. I felt that I needed to stay with my employer despite my working conditions being unjust because I didn’t have mobility to work for a different employer that would treat me fairly.
When I asserted my rights, I was terminated. I was left jobless and homeless. I’m very fortunate to be part of MIGRANTE BC because they gave me shelter, a home, a community, and helped to empower me to assert my rights and to talk about my experience as a migrant worker.”

Dhon Mojica, Migrant Worker from Alberta

“Temporary foreign workers like myself are people, we are workers were not rags that can be thrown away when you don’t need us anymore. We were invited to come and many made money off us, we deserve the right to stay in Canada.”

Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada

Please see: http://migrantrights.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/MigrantWorkers_Backgrounder.pdf

Supporting Terrorists in Syria Delegitimizes Canada

Canada Loses Legitimacy: Stop Supporting All Terrorists in Syria

by Mark Taliano - AHT

May 24, 2016

The legitimacy of Canada’s government needs to be questioned, as long as it continues to hide its barbaric foreign policy decisions beneath a mantle of egregious lies and deceptions. Informed consent requires truth and transparency, not lies and degeneracy.

Currently, we are imposing illegal sanctions on Syria; we are supporting mercenary terrorists invading Syria; we are supporting a Wahhabi dictatorship, and we are supporting criminally corrupt corporate media messaging.

All of this is being done without the informed consent of Canadians.

An article published in The Lancet|Global Health, “Syria: end sanctions and find a political solution to peace” enumerates the toll exacted by these sanctions on the people of Syria:

“The economic losses of the country at the end of 2014 stood at US$143.8 billion, with more than 80% of the population living in poverty, of whom a third (32.6%) were in abject poverty, unable to obtain even basic food items. More than half of the population (52.8%) is displaced, of whom a third are internally displaced.
Life expectancy has been reduced from 75.9 years in 2010 (one of the highest in the region for countries not part of the Gulf Cooperation Council) to 55.7 years in 2014—a loss of 20 years.
The unemployment rate rose from 15%5 in 2011 to 55.7% in 2014, with more than 3 million losing work within the first 2 years of the conflict.
The cost of basic food items has risen six-fold since 2010, although it varies regionally. With the exception of drugs for cancer and diabetes, Syria was 95% self-sufficient in terms of drug production before the war. This has virtually collapsed as have many hospitals and primary health-care centres.”

Once we add to this the fact that Western-sponsored terrorists deliberately destroyed more than two thirds of Syria’s public hospitals since 2011, it becomes clear that NATO and its allies are targeting innocent civilians, as they did during the sanctions preceding the illegal invasion of Iraq.

We should stop supporting all terrorists in Syria. Sustainable evidence has demonstrated for years that ALL of the terrorists are trying to destroy Syria, and that the West and its allies support them all, including ISIS. Constant efforts to rebrand the terrorists – Is it “IS’, “ISIS”, or “ISIL”? – serve to confuse mass media consumers, a powerful strategy in the propagandist’s toolbox.

Beseiged Syrians call all of the invading terrorists “Daesh”.

Afra’a Dagher explains:

“In Syria fighters call themselves the “Free Syrian Army” or “Islamic state fighters” or Daesh or by any other name that suits them. There is nothing “magical” about this. It is just a kaleidoscope of names intended to cause confusion. In reality it is always the same people calling themselves by these different names.”

Canada’s Defense Minister, Harjit Sajjan should be offering unqualified support for Syria against the terrorists, not unqualified support for terrorists against Syria.

Another seemingly self-evident point is that we should be supporting the growth of pluralism, democracy, and international law globally, whereas in reality we are supporting the opposite. Wahhabi Saudi Arabia is a chief financier for Daesh, and a chief proponent in the expansion of Sharia law in Syria. Not only are we selling armaments to Saudi Arabia, but we also support its efforts to destroy democratic, pluralist, non-secular Syria in favour of an imposed puppet Wahhabi regime.

Finally, we should support, rather than suppress, truthful, evidence-based reporting on Syria. Instead, we are supporting criminal, mainstream media (MSM) lies about Syria.

Ample sustainable evidence demonstrates that the democratically-elected, reformer President Assad, was not, and is not, a brutal dictator; that he does not “kill his own people”; that it is not a “civil war”; and that the “initiating” demonstrations were neither “peaceful” nor “organic”. (Peaceful demonstrations were hijacked, hybrid war style, by armed, foreign-funded al Qaeda militants.)

The foundation for these dangerous lies include intelligence agencies, and well-funded, embedded “NGOs” such as the White Helmets. The author explains in “Why do people in the West still believe the official lies about Syria?”:

“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.’”

All of these agencies spread well-constructed lies to news agencies with a view to corrupting all information coming out of Syria in favour of the terrorists, and to the detriment of Syria, democracy, pluralism, the rule of law, and global security.

If the Canadian government were to honor truth and justice, we might well set an example, and help to avert a cataclysmic nuclear war --- which could occur if the war on Syria escalates.

Our current role as vassal appendage to the U.S - dominated NATO war machine is unworthy of any nation that pretends to be sovereign and democratic.

Pentagon Winning War on American Treasury

The Pentagon’s War on Accountability: Slush Funds, Smoke and Mirrors, and Funny Money Equal Weapons Systems Galore

by William Hartung  - TomDispatch

May 24, 2016
Now you see it, now you don’t. Think of it as the Department of Defense’s version of the street con game, three-card monte, or maybe simply as the Pentagon shuffle. In any case, the Pentagon’s budget is as close to a work of art as you’re likely to find in the U.S. government -- if, that is, by work of art you mean scam.

The United States is on track to spend more than $600 billion on the military this year -- more, that is, than was spent at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s Cold War military buildup, and more than the military budgets of at least the next seven nations in the world combined. And keep in mind that that’s just a partial total.

As an analysis by the Straus Military Reform Project has shown, if we count related activities like homeland security, veterans' affairs, nuclear warhead production at the Department of Energy, military aid to other countries, and interest on the military-related national debt, that figure reaches a cool $1 trillion.

The more that’s spent on “defense,” however, the less the Pentagon wants us to know about how those mountains of money are actually being used. As the only major federal agency that can’t pass an audit, the Department of Defense (DoD) is the poster child for irresponsible budgeting.

It’s not just that its books don’t add up, however. The DoD is taking active measures to disguise how it is spending the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars it receives every year -- from using the separate “war budget” as a slush fund to pay for pet projects that have nothing to do with fighting wars to keeping the cost of its new nuclear bomber a secret. Add in dozens of other secret projects hidden in the department’s budget and the Pentagon’s poorly documented military aid programs, and it’s clear that the DoD believes it has something to hide.

Tomgram: William Hartung, How to Disappear Money, Pentagon-Style
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: I hope those of you who want to ensure that TD’s voice stays strong in this grim world of ours will think about donating to the site. Remember that, for a contribution of $100 or more ($125 if you live outside the United States), you can get a signed, personalized copy of Nick Turse’s powerful, up-close-and-personal new Dispatch Book on a country that has become a war-crimes zone, Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan, or Rebecca Gordon’s American Nuremberg, a riveting account of who should (but never will) be in the dock in future war-crimes trials here, or a range of other books on offer (including mine). Just check out the details at our donation page. Tom]

Colonel Mark Cheadle, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), recently made a startling disclosure to Voice of America (VOA). AFRICOM, he said, is currently mulling over 11 possible locations for its second base on the continent. If, however, there was a frontrunner among them Cheadle wasn’t about to disclose it. All he would say was that Nigeria isn't one of the countries in contention.

Writing for VOA, Carla Babb filled in the rest of the picture in terms of U.S. military activities in Africa. “The United States currently has one military base in the east African nation of Djibouti,” she observed. “U.S. forces are also on the ground in Somalia to assist the regional fight against al-Shabab and in Cameroon to help with the multinational effort against Nigeria-based Boko Haram.”

A day later, Babb’s story disappeared. Instead, there was a new article in which she noted that “Cheadle had initially said the U.S. was looking at 11 locations for a second base, but later told VOA he misunderstood the question.” Babb reiterated that the U.S. had only the lone military base in Djibouti and stated that “[o]ne of the possible new cooperative security locations is in Cameroon, but Cheadle did not identify other locations due to ‘host nation sensitivities.’”

U.S. troops have, indeed, been based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti since 2002. In that time, the base has grown from 88 acres to about 600 acres and has seen more than $600 million in construction and upgrades already awarded or allocated. It’s also true that U.S. troops, as Babb notes, are operating in Somalia -- from at least two bases -- and the U.S. has indeed set up a base in Cameroon. As such, the “second” U.S. base in Africa, wherever it’s eventually located, will actually be more like the fifth U.S. base on the continent. That is, of course, if you don’t count Chabelley Airfield, a hush-hush drone base the U.S. operates elsewhere in Djibouti, or the U.S. staging areas, cooperative security locations, forward operating locations, and other outposts in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, the Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda, among other locales. When I counted late last year, in fact, I came up with 60 such sites in 34 countries. And just recently, Missy Ryan of the Washington Post added to that number when she disclosed that “American Special Operations troops have been stationed at two outposts in eastern and western Libya since late 2015.”

To be fair, the U.S. doesn’t call any of these bases “bases” -- except when officials forget to keep up the fiction. For example, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 included a $50 million request for the construction of an “airfield and base camp at Agadez, Niger.” But give Cheadle credit for pushing a fiction that persists despite ample evidence to the contrary.

It isn’t hard, of course, to understand why U.S. Africa Command has set up a sprawling network of off-the-books bases or why it peddles misinformation about its gigantic “small” footprint in Africa. It’s undoubtedly for the same reason that they stonewall me on even basic information about their operations. The Department of Defense, from tooth to tail, likes to operate in the dark.

Today, TomDispatch regular Bill Hartung reveals another kind of Pentagon effort to obscure and obfuscate involving another kind of highly creative accounting: think slush funds, secret programs, dodgy bookkeeping, and the type of financial malfeasance that could only be carried out by an institution that is, by its very nature, too big to fail (inside the Beltway if not on the battlefield).

Rejecting both accurate accounting and actual accountability -- from the halls of the Pentagon to austere camps in Africa -- the Defense Department has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to keeping Americans in the dark about the activities being carried out with their dollars and in their name. Luckily, Hartung is willing to shine a bright light on the Pentagon’s shady practices. Nick Turse

The Pentagon’s War on Accountability: Slush Funds, Smoke and Mirrors, and Funny Money Equal Weapons Systems Galore

by William D. Hartung  

Don’t for a moment imagine that the Pentagon’s growing list of secret programs and evasive budgetary maneuvers is accidental or simply a matter of sloppy bookkeeping. Much of it is remarkably purposeful. By keeping us in the dark about how it spends our money, the Pentagon has made it virtually impossible for anyone to hold it accountable for just about anything. An entrenched bureaucracy is determined not to provide information that might be used to bring its sprawling budget -- and so the institution itself -- under control. That’s why budgetary deception has become such a standard operating procedure at the Department of Defense.

The audit problem is a case in point. The Pentagon along with all other major federal agencies was first required to make its books auditable in the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990. More than 25 years later, there is no evidence to suggest that the Pentagon will ever be able to pass an audit. In fact, the one limited instance in which success seemed to be within reach -- an audit of a portion of the books of a single service, the Marine Corps -- turned out, upon closer inspection, to be a case study in bureaucratic resistance.

In April 2014, when it appeared that the Corps had come back with a clean audit, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was so elated that he held a special ceremony in the “Hall of Heroes” at the Pentagon. “It might seem a bit unusual to be in the Hall of Heroes to honor a bookkeeping accomplishment,” he acknowledged, “but damn, this is an accomplishment.”

In March 2015, however, that “accomplishment” vanished into thin air. The Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), which had overseen the work of Grant Thornton, the private firm that conducted the audit, denied that it had been successful (allegedly in response to “new information”). In fact, in late 2013, as Reuters reported, auditors at the OIG had argued for months against green-lighting Grant Thornton’s work, believing that it was full of obvious holes. They were, however, overruled by the deputy inspector general for auditing, who had what Reuters described as a “longstanding professional relationship” with the Grant Thornton executive supervising the audit.

The Pentagon and the firm deny that there was any conflict of interest, but the bottom line is clear enough: there was far more interest in promoting the idea that the Marine Corps could pass an audit than in seeing it actually do so, even if inconvenient facts had to be swept under the rug. This sort of behavior is hardly surprising once you consider all the benefits from an undisturbed status quo that accrue to Pentagon bureaucrats and cash-hungry contractors.

Without a reliable paper trail, there is no systematic way to track waste, fraud, and abuse in Pentagon contracting, or even to figure out how many contractors the Pentagon employs, though a conservative estimate puts the number at well over 600,000. The result is easy money with minimal accountability.

How to Arm the Planet

In recent years, keeping tabs on how the Pentagon spends its money has grown even more difficult thanks to the “war budget” -- known in Pentagonese as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account -- which has become a nearly bottomless pit for items that have nothing to do with fighting wars. The use of the OCO as a slush fund began in earnest in the early years of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and has continued ever since. It’s hard to put a precise number on how much money has been slipped into that budget or taken out of it to pay for pet projects of every sort in the last decade-plus, but the total is certainly more than $100 billion and counting.

The Pentagon’s routine use of the war budget as a way to fund whatever it wants has set an example for a Congress that’s seldom seen a military project it wasn’t eager to pay for. Only recently, for instance, the House Armed Services Committee chair, Texas Republican Congressman Mac Thornberry, proposed taking $18 billion from the war budget to cover items like an extra 11 F-35 combat aircraft and 14 F-18 fighter-bombers that the Pentagon hadn’t even asked for.

This was great news for Lockheed Martin, which needs a shot in the arm for its troubled F-35 program, already slated to be the most expensive weapons system in history, and for Boeing, which has been lobbying aggressively to keep its F-18 production line open in the face of declining orders from the Navy. But it’s bad news for the troops because, as the Project on Government Oversight has demonstrated, the money used to pay for the unneeded planes will come at the expense of training and maintenance funds.

This is, by the way, the height of hypocrisy at a time when the House Armed Services Committee is routinely sending out hysterical missives about the country’s supposed lack of military readiness. The money to adequately train military personnel and keep their equipment running is, in fact, there. Members of Congress like Thornberry would just have to stop raiding the operations budget to pay for big ticket weapons systems, while turning a blind eye on wasteful spending in other parts of the Pentagon budget.

Thornberry’s gambit may not carry the day, since both President Obama and Senate Armed Services Committee chair John McCain oppose it. But as long as a separate war budget exists, the temptation to stuff it with unnecessary programs will persist as well.

Of course, that war budget is just part of the problem. The Pentagon has so many budding programs tucked away in so many different lines of its budget that even its officials have a hard time keeping track of what’s actually going on. As for the rest of us, we’re essentially in the dark.

Consider, for instance, the proliferation of military aid programs. The Security Assistance Monitor, a nonprofit that tracks such programs, has identified more than two dozen of them worth about $10 billion annually. Combine them with similar programs tucked away in the State Department’s budget, and the U.S. is contributing to the arming and training of security forces in 180 countries. (To put that mind-boggling total in perspective, there are at most 196 countries on the planet.) Who could possibly keep track of such programs, no less what effect they may be having on the countries and militaries involved, or on the complex politics of, and conflicts in, various regions?

Best suggestion: don’t even think about it (which is exactly what the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex want you to do). And no need for Congress to do so either. After all, as Lora Lumpe and Jeremy Ravinsky of the Open Society Foundations noted earlier this year, the Pentagon is the only government agency providing foreign assistance that does not even have to submit to Congress an annual budget justification for what it does. As a result, they write, “the public does not know how much the DoD is spending in a given country and why.”

Slush Funds Galore

If smokescreens and evasive maneuvers aren’t enough to hide the Pentagon’s actual priorities from the taxpaying public, there’s always secrecy. The Secrecy Project at the Federation of American Scientists recently put the size of the intelligence portion of the national security state’s “black budget“ -- its secret spending on everything from spying to developing high-tech weaponry -- at more than $70 billion. That figure includes a wide variety of activities carried out through the CIA, the NSA, and other members of the intelligence community, but $16.8 billion of it was requested directly by the Department of Defense. And that $70 billion is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to secret spending programs, since billions more in secret financing for the development and acquisition of new weapons systems has been squirreled away elsewhere.

The largest recent project to have its total costs shrouded in secrecy is the B-21, the Air Force’s new nuclear bomber. Air Force officials claim that they need to keep the cost secret lest potential enemies “connect the dots” and learn too much about the plane’s key characteristics. In a letter to Senator McCain, an advocate of making the cost of the plane public, Ronald Walden of the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office claimed that there was “a strong correlation between the cost of an air vehicle and its total weight.” This, he suggested, might make it “decisively easier” for potential opponents to guess its range and payload.

If such assessments sound ludicrous, it’s because they are. As the histories of other major Pentagon acquisition programs have shown, the price of a system tells you just that -- its price -- and nothing more. Otherwise, with its classic cost overruns, the F-35 would have a range beyond compare, possibly to Mars and back. Of course, the real rationale for keeping the full cost estimate for the B-21 secret is to avoid bad publicity. Budget analyst Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests that it’s an attempt to avoid “sticker shock” for a program that he estimates could cost more than $100 billion to develop and purchase.

The bomber, in turn, is just part of a planned $1 trillion splurge over the next three decades on a new generation of bombers, ballistic missile submarines, and ground-based nuclear missiles, part of an updating of the vast U.S. nuclear arsenal. And keep this in mind: that trillion dollars is simply an initial estimate before the usual Pentagon cost overruns even begin to come into play. Financially, the nuclear plan is going to hit taxpayer wallets particularly hard in the mid-2020s when a number of wildly expensive non-nuclear systems like the F-35 combat aircraft will also be hitting peak production.

Under the circumstances, it doesn’t take a genius to know that there’s only one way to avoid the budgetary equivalent of a 30-car pile up: increase the Pentagon’s already ample finances yet again. Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Brian McKeon was referring to the costs of building new nuclear delivery vehicles when he said that the administration was “wondering how the heck we’re going to pay for it, and probably thanking our lucky stars we won’t be here to answer the question.” Of course, the rest of us will be stuck holding the bag when all those programs cloaked in secrecy suddenly come out of hiding and the bills come fully due.

At this point, you may not be shocked to learn that, in response to McKeon’s uncomfortable question, the Pentagon has come up with yet another budgetary gimmick. It’s known as the “National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund,” or as Taxpayers for Common Sense more accurately labels it, “the Navy’s submarine slush fund.” The idea -- a longstanding darling of the submarine lobby (and yes, Virginia, there is a submarine lobby in Washington) -- is to set up a separate slush fund outside the Navy’s normal shipbuilding budget. That’s where the money for the new ballistic missile submarine program, currently slated to cost $139 billion for 12 subs, would go.

Establishing such a new slush fund would, in turn, finesse any direct budgetary competition between the submarine program and the new surface ships the Navy also wants, and so avoid a political battle that might end up substantially reducing the number of vessels the Navy is hoping to buy over the next 30 years. Naturally, the money for the submarine fund will have to come from somewhere, either one of the other military services or that operations and maintenance budget so regularly raided to help pay for expensive weapons programs.

Not to be outmaneuvered, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has now asked Congress to set up a “strategic deterrence fund” to pay for its two newest nuclear delivery vehicles, the planned bomber and a long-range nuclear-armed ballistic missile. In theory, this would take pressure off other major Air Force projects like the F-35, but as with the submarine fund, it only adds up if a future president and a future Congress can be persuaded to jack up the Pentagon budget to make room for these and other weapons systems.

In the end, however the specifics work out, any “fund” for such weaponry will be just another case of smoke and mirrors, a way of kicking the nuclear funding crisis down the road in hopes of fatter budgets to come. Why make choices now when the Pentagon and the military services can bet on blackmailing a future Trump or Clinton administration and a future Congress into ponying up the extra billions of dollars needed to make their latest ill-conceived plans add up?

If your head is spinning after this brief tour of the Pentagon’s budget labyrinth, it should be. That’s just what the Pentagon wants its painfully complicated budget practices to do: leave Congress, any administration, and the public too confused and exhausted to actually hold it accountable for how our tax dollars are being spent. So far, they’re getting away with it.

William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and a senior adviser to the Security Assistance Monitor. He is the author of, among other books, Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2016 William D. Hartung

Monday, May 23, 2016

Kerry Rattles on Syria: Perpetual War Promised

Kerry Threatens War-Without-End on Syria

by Finian Cunningham  - Information Clearing House 

May 23, 2016

Alleged peace-maker John Kerry threatened to wage war-without-end on Syria - if the Middle East country does accept the US demand for regime change.

That's hardly the language of a supposed bona fide diplomat who presents an image to the world as a politician concerned to bring about an end to the five-year Syrian conflict.

The US Secretary of State repeatedly sounds anxious to alleviate the appalling suffering of the Syrian nation, where over the past five years some 400,000 people have been killed and millions displaced as refugees.

Anyone who has not been brainwashed by Western media propaganda knows full well that the suffering of Syria has been caused by Washington and its allies sponsoring a covert war for regime change in that country.

Kerry was speaking during another round of failed negotiations — this time in Vienna — along with other leaders from the 17-nation International Syria Support Group that includes Russia, as well as the United Nations.

The "support group" is a disgustingly erroneous name, given that certain members of this entity — primarily the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — have done everything in their power to sponsor a proxy terrorist war on Syria. If the truth were not so abject, it would be laughable.

In a Voice of America report headlined "US still has leverage in Syria," Kerry is quoted thus: "He said the greatest leverage [on Syria] was the fact that [President] Assad and his backers would never be able to end the war in Syria if they declined to negotiate a political settlement."

Consider the pernicious import of that for a moment. In other words, America's top "diplomat" is laying down a criminal ultimatum to the sovereign state of Syria and its elected government of President Bashar al-Assad. Kerry is saying in no uncertain terms that unless the Syrian authorities do not accept Washington's demand for regime change, then the country is facing never-ending war.

Of course, being a weasel-worded diplomat, Kerry does not use the illegal term "regime change". He instead talks about "political transition". And he has set a date in August for this "transition" to take place. But what Kerry's euphemistic jargon boils down to is this: the Syrian president and his administration must vacate government — or else face more violence and destruction.

This is the political objective that Washington and its allies in NATO, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have wanted all along. They want what is an independent, anti-imperialist Syrian government to give way to some composite regime that would be a puppet for Washington's geopolitical interests in the oil-rich, strategically vital Middle East region.

Any replacement regime would spurn its erstwhile allies of Russia, Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah resistance movement to become an American vassal.

In reality, the supposed pro-democracy change that Washington allegedly wants to install in Syria would be dominated by a repressive, fundamentalist regime that would betray the interests of the Syrian people. We can count on this outcome because the proxies who are waging Washington's covert war are dominated by extremists fully aligned with their despotic sponsors in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Kerry's apparent confidence in predicting that Syria faces a war of attrition if it does capitulate is a tacit admission by Washington that it controls the illegally armed factions in Syria.

The United States may officially proscribe terror groups like al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al Nusra and the so-called Islamic State (also known as Daesh). The US pays lip service to "defeating terrorism".

But anyone with an informed understanding of what is really happening in Syria and other countries subjected to US-led regime change knows that Washington has orchestrated these same terror groups for its criminal political objectives.

This is corroborated by the fact that Washington refuses to coordinate its (ineffectual) bombing campaign with Russia to eliminate the terror groups. It is corroborated by the fact that Washington and its allies point-blank refuse Russia's proposals at the UN Security Council to designate other known terror outfits — Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Shams — as terrorist.

Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Shams are every bit as vile and barbaric as the other al Qaeda-affiliated franchises. They all espouse the same twisted death-cult ideology; fight alongside each others (when they are not feuding, that is, over war spoils); and ultimately they all share the same sponsors and American-supplied weaponry.

It is openly admitted that America's allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey, as well as Qatar, bankroll Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Shams and that this nexus serves as a conduit for American weapons from the Central Intelligence Agency.

Why else would John Kerry begin his week of "diplomacy" in Vienna by first making an urgent visit to Saudi King Salman last weekend. Kerry was reportedly appealing to the 9/11-sponsoring Saudi regime to support his diplomatic push in Vienna. The Western media "reported" Kerry's Saudi visit as if it were a benign mission, as they usually do. Whenever it should be obvious that what he was really doing was trying to get the Saudis to ease off on the terror war in Syria.

Washington is currently trying to wrangle regime change in Syria through a political track. That is a world of difference from gullible Western media projections of Kerry's pretensions of "negotiating peace".

Yet all the while the US and the Saudis are reserving the right to use "Plan B" if the political track should not materialize in regime change.

That is what Kerry really means when he said in Vienna that "Assad and his backers would never be able to end the war in Syria if they declined to negotiate a political settlement."

Washington's "leverage" in Syria is due to the simple, diabolical fact that it and its despotic allies ultimately can turn on and off the violence when it is expedient for their interests. And that violence relies on the deployment of known terrorist organizations, including the ones that Washington's double-think refuses to recognize as "terrorist".

So let's put this into stark perspective. Despite his Orwellian title of diplomat and peace-maker, US Secretary of State John Kerry is the public face of a terrorist enterprise.

What other world power gives itself the right to threaten nations with "regime change or war"? And yet this same nation considers itself a paragon of democracy, human rights and law-abiding probity.

The United States of America is a rogue regime on a criminal scale that exceeds the very worst in history.

As a parting footnote, John Kerry is a decorated American "war hero". He served four months as a navy officer during the US genocidal war on Vietnam during the late 1960s. Kerry received a bunch of medals for his "actions", which according to reliable accounts from veterans on his river-boat patrols, involved shooting fleeing Vietnamese peasants in the back.

This is the same Kerry who is now purporting to bring peace to Syria.

Like everything that Washington says, it is full of lies and deception. The abiding lesson: don't turn your back on Washington and its terrorist-sponsoring, war-mongering "diplomats".

Article originally appeared at Sputnik

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

It Can Happen: Weimar Israel

Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here

by Uri Avnery - CounterPunch

May 23, 2016

Please don’t write about Ya’ir Golan!” a friend begged me, “Anything a leftist like you writes will only harm him!”

So I abstained for some weeks. But I can’t keep quiet any longer.

General Ya’ir Golan, the deputy Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, made a speech on Holocaust Memorial Day. Wearing his uniform, he read a prepared, well-considered text that triggered an uproar which has not yet died down.

Dozens of articles have been published in its wake, some condemning him, some lauding him. Seems that nobody could stay indifferent.

The main sentence was:

“If there is something that frightens me about the memories of the Holocaust, it is the knowledge of the awful processes which happened in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago, and finding traces of them here in our midst, today, in 2016.”

All hell broke loose. What!!! Traces of Nazism in Israel? A resemblance between what the Nazis did to us with what we are doing to the Palestinians?

90 years ago was 1926, one of the last years of the German republic. 80 years ago was 1936, three years after the Nazis came to power. 70 years ago was 1946, on the morrow of Hitler’s suicide and the end of the Nazi Reich.

I feel compelled to write about the general’s speech after all, because I was there.

As a child I was an eye-witness to the last years of the Weimar Republic (so called because its constitution was shaped in Weimar, the town of Goethe and Schiller). As a politically alert boy I witnessed the Nazi Machtergreifung (“taking power”) and the first half-a-year of Nazi rule.

I know what Golan was speaking about. Though we belong to two different generations, we share the same background. Both our families come from small towns in Western Germany. His father and I must have had a lot in common.

There is a strict moral commandment in Israel: nothing can be compared to the Holocaust. The Holocaust is unique. It happened to us, the Jews, because we are unique. (Religious Jews would add: “Because God has chosen us”.)

I have broken this commandment. Just before Golan was born, I published (in Hebrew) a book called “The Swastika”, in which I recounted my childhood memories and tried to draw conclusions from them. It was on the eve of the Eichmann trial, and I was shocked by the lack of knowledge about the Nazi era among young Israelis then.

My book did not deal with the Holocaust, which took place when I was already living in Palestine, but with a question which troubled me throughout the years, and even today: how could it happen that Germany, perhaps the most cultured nation on earth at the time, the homeland of Goethe, Beethoven and Kant, could democratically elect a raving psychopath like Adolf Hitler as its leader?

The last chapter of the book was entitled “It Can Happen Here!” The title was drawn from a book by the American novelist Sinclair Lewis, called ironically “It Can’t Happen Here”, in which he described a Nazi take-over of the United States.

In this chapter I discussed the possibility of a Jewish Nazi-like party coming to power in Israel. My conclusion was that a Nazi party can come to power in any country on earth, if the conditions are right. Yes, in Israel, too.

The book was largely ignored by the Israeli public, which at the time was overwhelmed by the storm of emotions evoked by the terrible disclosures of the Eichmann trial.

Now comes General Golan, an esteemed professional soldier, and says the same thing.

And not as an improvised remark, but on an official occasion, wearing his general’s uniform, reading from a prepared, well thought-out text.

The storm broke out, and has not passed yet.

Israelis have a self-protective habit: when confronted with inconvenient truths, they evade its essence and deal with a secondary, unimportant aspect. Of all the dozens and dozens of reactions in the written press, on TV and on political platforms, almost none confronted the general’s painful contention.

No, the furious debate that broke out concerns the questions: Is a high-ranking army officer allowed to voice an opinion about matters that concern the civilian establishment? And do so in army uniform? On an official occasion?

Should an army officer keep quiet about his political convictions? Or voice them only in closed sessions – “in relevant forums”, as a furious Binyamin Netanyahu phrased it?

General Golan enjoys a very high degree of respect in the army. As Deputy Chief of Staff he was until now almost certainly a candidate for Chief of Staff, when the incumbent leaves the office after the customary four years.

The fulfillment of this dream shared by every General Staff officer is now very remote. In practice, Golan has sacrificed his further advancement in order to utter his warning and giving it the widest possible resonance.

One can only respect such courage. I have never met General Golan, I believe, and I don’t know his political views. But I admire his act.

(Somehow I recall an article published by the British magazine Punch before World War I, when a group of junior army officers issued a statement opposing the government’s policy in Ireland. The magazine said that while disapproving the opinion expressed by the mutinous officers, it took pride in the fact that such youthful officers were ready to sacrifice their careers for their convictions.)

The Nazi march to power started in 1929, when a terrible world-wide economic crisis hit Germany. A tiny, ridiculous far-right party suddenly became a political force to be reckoned with. From there it took them four years to become the largest party in the country and to take over power (though it still needed a coalition).

I was there when it happened, a boy in a family in which politics became the main topic at the dinner table. I saw how the republic broke down, gradually, slowly, step by step. I saw our family friends hoisting the swastika flag. I saw my high-school teacher raising his arm when entering the class and saying “Heil Hitler” for the first time (and then reassuring me in private that nothing had changed.)

I was the only Jew in the entire gymnasium (high school.) When the hundreds of boys – all taller than I – raised their arms to sing the Nazi anthem, and I did not, they threatened to break my bones if it happened again. A few days later we left Germany for good.

General Golan was accused of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. Nothing of the sort. A careful reading of his text shows that he compared developments in Israel to the events that led to the disintegration of the Weimar Republic. And that is a valid comparison.

Things happening in Israel, especially since the last election, bear a frightening similarity to those events. True, the process is quite different. German fascism arose from the humiliation of surrender in World War I, the occupation of the Ruhr by France and Belgium from 1923-25, the terrible economic crisis of 1929, the misery of millions of unemployed. Israel is victorious in its frequent military actions, we live comfortable lives. The dangers threatening us are of a quite different nature. They stem from our victories, not from our defeats.

Indeed, the differences between Israel today and Germany then are far greater than the similarities. But those similarities do exist, and the general was right to point them out.

The discrimination against the Palestinians in practically all spheres of life can be compared to the treatment of the Jews in the first phase of Nazi Germany. (The oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories resembles more the treatment of the Czechs in the “protectorate” after the Munich betrayal.)

The rain of racist bills in the Knesset, those already adopted and those in the works, strongly resembles the laws adopted by the Reichstag in the early days of the Nazi regime. Some rabbis call for a boycott of Arab shops. Like then. The call “Death to the Arabs” (“Judah verrecke”?) is regularly heard at soccer matches. A member of parliament has called for the separation between Jewish and Arab newborns in hospital. A Chief Rabbi has declared that Goyim (non-Jews) were created by God to serve the Jews. Our Ministers of Education and Culture are busy subduing the schools, theater and arts to the extreme rightist line, something known in German as Gleichschaltung. The Supreme Court, the pride of Israel, is being relentlessly attacked by the Minister of Justice. The Gaza Strip is a huge ghetto.

Of course, no one in their right mind would even remotely compare Netanyahu to the Fuehrer, but there are political parties here which do emit a strong fascist smell. The political riffraff peopling the present Netanyahu government could easily have found their place in the first Nazi government.

One of the main slogans of our present government is to replace the “old elite”, considered too liberal, with a new one. One of the main Nazi slogans was to replace “das System”.

By the way when the Nazis came to power, almost all high-ranking officers of the German army were staunch anti-Nazis. They were even considering a putsch against Hitler . Their political leader was summarily executed a year later, when Hitler liquidated his opponents in his own party. We are told that General Golan is now protected by a personal bodyguard, something that has never happened to a general in the annals of Israel.

The general did not mention the occupation and the settlements, which are under army rule. But he did mention the episode which occurred shortly before he gave this speech, and which is still shaking Israel now: in occupied Hebron, under army rule, a soldier saw a seriously wounded Palestinian lying helplessly on the ground, approached him and killed him with a shot to the head. The victim had tried to attack some soldiers with a knife, but did not constitute a threat to anyone any more. This was a clear contravention of army standing orders, and the soldier has been hauled before a court martial.

A cry went up around the country: the soldier is a hero! He should be decorated! Netanyahu called his father to assure him of his support. Avigdor Lieberman entered the crowded courtroom in order to express his solidarity with the soldier. A few days later Netanyahu appointed Lieberman as Minister of Defense, the second most important office in Israel.

Before that, General Golan received robust support both from the Minister of Defense, Moshe Ya’alon, and the Chief of Staff, Gadi Eisenkot. Probably this was the immediate reason for the kicking out of Ya’alon and the appointment of Lieberman in his place. It resembled a putsch.

It seems that Golan is not only a courageous officer, but a prophet, too. The inclusion of Lieberman’s party in the government coalition confirms Golan’s blackest fears. This is another fatal blow to the Israeli democracy.

Am I condemned to witness the same process for the second time in my life?

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

Occupying the American Mind

The Occupation of the American Mind - RAI with Pink Floyd's Roger Waters (1/3)


May 20, 2016

Of all the official narrative that tries to explain the world in the interests those who control U.S. foreign policy, perhaps nothing is as powerful as the influence of how the media covers Israel/Palestine, a country which is cleared by the united nations and independent journalists and commissions that have investigated the situation. Israel clearly has an illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.

It has committed war crimes in its attacks on Gaza and other places. Yet, the prevailing public opinion and certainly the prevailing media and political opinion is Israel’s the victim in all of this.There's a new film that tries to explain why Americans think this way. The film is called "The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States." And now joining me is the executive producer of the film, and the narrator of the film. First of all, in the studio is Sut Jhally. He's professor of communications at the University of Massachusetts, and founder and executive director of the media education foundation.


On Reality Asserts Itself with Paul Jay, legendary musician Roger Waters and Sut Jhally discuss their new film about the Israeli public relations campaign to influence U.S. public opinion

Leftist Wins Squeaker in Austrian Presidential Run-Off Vote

Imagine that! Could there be a lesson here for Sanders and his backers?: 72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

May 23, 2016  

A fringe party that had never been considered a serious contender in post-war Austrian politics, just won a narrow victory over Norbert Hofer, a right-wing candidate of the neo-fascist Freedom Party who had been favored to win.

Two crusty old socialists: Austrian President-elect Alexander 
van der Bellen and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders

72-year-old college professor, Alexander van der Bellen, running for president as the candidate of the leftist Austrian Green Party has won in a squeaker. The run-off, held on Sunday, but not decided until today when some 750,000 mail-in ballots were finally counted, was held after an initial presidential election contest on April 24 in which no candidate won a majority of the vote.

In that first contest, voters humiliated the candidates of Austria's two establishment parties, the center-right Austrian People's Party, and the center left Austrian Socialist Party, who came in fourth and fifth with 11% each behind Hofer (35%) and van der Bellen (21%) as well as an independent candidate who won 18.5% of the vote.

In the two-person run-off, most Socialist Party voters, independents, as well as many People's Party conservatives, voted for van der Bellen, to ensure that the Freedom Party's Hofer not become the first European head of state since the fall of Nazi Germany to hail from the far right.

For an American looking at this (and I was actually in Vienna for much of last week during the final days of the run-off campaign), there was a distinct sense that I was looking at a possible scenario for the upcoming US general election.

After all, we too have a crusty 70-something socialist, always considered a fringe political figure, running for president who is proving to be surprisingly popular.

If we look at the Democratic primary as a kind of general election (given that until the ascendancy of fringe neo-fascist candidate Donald Trump, nobody was giving the Republican Party much of a chance at winning the presidency, no matter who the Democrats ultimately nominated), let's just suppose things go the way all the pundits are predicting, and Hillary Clinton wins the nomination. Everyone knows that she is one of America's most disliked and distrusted political figures, outside of her base within the Democratic Party. Independents don't like her, and Republicans loath her. Not surprisingly, Trump, the presumptive candidate of the Republican Party, since all the rest of quit the primary race at this point, is gaining in popularity as he moves away from some of his more incindiary primary positions, and polls now show him tied or actually ahead of Clinton.

So what if Sanders, should he lose his bid for the nomination even after winning most of the primaries since mid-March, and with polls showing him doing better than Clinton against Trump [1], and in fact beating him in key swing states critical to victory in November, urged on by his millions of supporters, decides not to back the corrupt and distrusted Clinton. What if he instead accepts invitations that have been extended by at least some Green Party activists, including the Green's own likely presidential candidate Jill Stein, to run as the Green's candidate in November?

Would he have a chance to pull a van der Bellen, and win in the general election "run-off" in what would be a three-way race against Trump and Clinton?

Many fearful Democrats say no way. In the view of one activist in the American Federation of Teachers, which was the first national union to endorse Hillary Clinton before the primaries even began (a move made in opposition to much of the union's membership, which was not given a chance to vote on the endorsement), Bernie is seen as "Bernie Nader." This is a reference to the false but widely held belief that left-activist Ralph Nader, running as an independent in 2000, "lost" Florida to George W. Bush. This AFT member, and many other Hillary supporters, say that they "like" Bernie and his ideas, but they don't think he can win, so they're backing Clinton.

But increasingly, it is becoming clear that Clinton cannot win. The more people learn about her and her political history of betrayals of progressive causes, of support for endless wars, and of groveling for money from everything from Wall Street mega-banks to for-profit prison companies, the less they want to vote for her. With Sanders it has been the opposite. From single digits in the polls last fall, when his campaign began, largely blacked out by the national media, he has moved to winning most of the contests since mid-March, and stands a good chance of winning California next month.

Logically, the so-called "superdelegates" in the Democratic Party, who were not elected in primaries but who account for 15% of the total delegate votes at the convention, should look at the situation, recognize that their premature early endorsements of Clinton are about to lead the convention to nominate a losing candidate, and should throw their support to Sanders, who has already battled to within less than 300 delegates of Clinton despite the strenuous efforts of the Democratic National Committee and the corporate media to undermine him.

But loyalty to money and political power die hard, so it is more likely that the superdelegates will take the suicidal option and cast their votes for Clinton, giving her the Democratic nomination.

At that point Sanders is supposed to offer his support and to urge his minions to back her candidacy. But now suppose he doesn't, and instead bolts to the Greens, who already have a ballot line in over 21 key states with over 310 electoral votes (270 are needed to win the presidency), and who are working hard to up that number considerably.

Sanders, running as a Green candidate, would be no Nader, who as an independent was completely blacked out by the media for the entire election, got on no televised debates, and had to spend most of his time and money fighting legal battles, many of them unsuccessful, just to get his name on state ballots. Sanders, in contrast, would be a candidate known nationwide, thanks to his primary campaign in every state. His polling numbers would be so high that the media would have to cover him, and to allow him into the presidential debates. And he'd also have plenty of money. Just imagine how the Sanders supporters, who have already ponied up an unheard of $150 million or more during the primaries, all in small mostly two-digit contributions, would respond to a Sanders run in the general election on a Green ticket! The money would pour in and in even greater amounts, and it would be matched by federal election funds, making him fully competitive with the corporate-donation-funded Democratic and Republican candidates Clinton and Trump.

My guess is that we'd see the same kind of surprise in such a "run-off" election that Austrians just saw in their presidential run-off, with the crusty old socialist defeating both the candidate of Wall Street, Hillary Clinton, and the neo-fascist, anti-immigrant nativist Trump. Sanders' chances would be even better if, as appears possible, Republicans who cannot stomach a Trump candidacy, turn to the Conservative Party and run a candidate too, splitting the Republican vote.

2016 is clearly not 2000, and Sanders is clearly not another Nader. Not even close. The American electorate this year -- including half the Democratic Party, virtually all independents, and many Republicans too -- are fed up with the corrupt political and economic system in the US. How else to explain the stunning success to date of the Sanders campaign? Who, a year ago, would have imagined an old JEWISH guy with run-away white hair, and a self-described socialist into the bargain, giving one of the most well-connected political icons in the party a run for her money (literally!)? Who, a year ago, would have imagined the Republican party being taken over by a television huckster, misogynist and fast-buck artist like Donald Trump?

As in Austria, the anger and frustration of the electorate has produced these two insurgent candidacies, and there has been nothing like it in American history.

The beauty of a Sanders run as a Green candidate for president is that if he were to win (or even if he were to lose to Trump, for that matter), odds are he would at least outpoll Clinton, the Democratic candidate. That would be the end of the Democratic Party, that wretched graveyard of progressive politics for the past 70 years or more.

It would also instantly propel the Greens to major party status, ensuring them a spot going forward on every state ballot, and millions of people who would likely become members and financial backers in future elections.

If Bernie Sanders really wants to see his "political revolution" succeed, this is the way he can do it: by running as the Green candidate for president.

If Austria's van der Bellen can do it, so can Bernie.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/h-a-goodman/hillary-clinton-now-loses_b_10102664.html

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Operation Crusader 2.0: Libya - NATO's Beachhead on Africa

US prepares troop deployment to Libya amid fight for oil fields

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

21 May 2016

Five years after a US-NATO war shattered Libya, Washington is preparing to send troops into the oil-rich North African nation for a “long-term mission,” the Pentagon’s top uniformed commander said Thursday.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters returning aboard his plane from a meeting of NATO commanders in Brussels that the new military deployment, which could involve thousands of US troops, could happen “any day.” It awaited only a formal agreement with the new government that the Western powers and the UN are attempting to set up in Tripoli, he indicated.

General Dunford told reporters that there had been “intense dialogue” and “activities under the surface” aimed at bringing about the Libya intervention. This apparently referred to efforts by the US ambassador to Libya, Peter Bodde, and the State Department’s special envoy for Libya, Jonathan Winer, to wrest a formal request for military intervention from Fayez al-Sarraj, the unelected head of the Western-backed Libyan Presidential Council.

Under UN and US tutelage, Sarraj and his allies established this council in exile in Tunisia, returning to the Libyan capital, Tripoli, at the end of March. It is obvious that this new puppet regime has been created for the sole purpose of providing a veneer of legality to another US-NATO military intervention in the devastated country.

Sarraj’s legitimacy, however, is by no means clear. His is now one of three competing regimes, including the Islamist-dominated General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli and the House of Representatives (HoR) based in the eastern city of Tobruk, which was previously recognized by the West as the legitimate government of Libya. Neither the GNC nor the HoR have recognized the authority of Sarraj’s presidential council.

Nor is it clear what fighting force Sarraj can rely upon and the US and its allies can arm and train. It was revealed earlier this month that US Special Operations troops have been on the ground in Libya since last year attempting to contact and assess various rival militias to see which one could be employed in the service of Washington’s interests in the country.

Ostensibly, the US and its allies are intervening to counter the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) inside the country. ISIS fighters, reported to number at least 5,000, have taken control of a stretch of the Libyan Mediterranean coast. It is no accident that the center of this territory is the city of Sirte, formerly the hometown of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The city was reduced to rubble by US-NATO attacks in the days leading up to the October 2011 torture and murder of Gaddafi at the hands of US-backed Islamist militiamen.

As in Iraq and Syria, Washington is justifying this new intervention in the name of combating a force that it itself spawned. Libya’s ISIS fighters came from the Islamist militias that the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies supported and armed in the bid to oust Gaddafi in 2011. Many of them were then sent into Syria, along with large stockpiles of Libyan weapons that were shipped to that country as part of an operation run out of the secret CIA station in Benghazi. That station and a separate US consulate were overrun by Libyan Islamist militiamen in September 2011, leading to the deaths of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Discussions on the coming Libya intervention took place at a meeting of foreign ministers from the US, Europe and the Middle East on Monday in Vienna. Among the decisions taken was to seek exemption from an arms embargo imposed by the UN after the fall of Gaddafi so that weapons can be funneled in to forces loyal to the puppet Sarraj, though it is, as of yet, unclear who those forces are. US Secretary of State John Kerry allowed that a “delicate balance” had to be found to prevent the arms from falling into the hands of Al Qaeda-linked and ISIS elements that Washington is ostensibly fighting.

The real objective in Libya today, as in 2011, is the assertion of undisputed US-NATO hegemony over the country and its massive oil reserves, the largest on the African continent. Having turned Libya into the model of a so-called “failed state” with its first intervention, Washington appears to want to impose some kind of neocolonial regime with its pending second incursion.

The centrality of oil is manifest in the operations of the two major armed militias that are being considered for the role of Western puppet forces. The first is the so-called Libyan National Army formed under the command of Khalifa Hafter, a former Libyan army officer who became an “asset” of the CIA in the 1980s, set up near the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia and then airlifted by the Americans back into Benghazi during the 2011 war for regime change.

Hafter’s forces have been moving slowly west from Benghazi toward the ISIS center of Sirte, expending most of their energies on seizing control of some 14 oil fields along the way. The fields were taken largely from the Petroleum Facilities’ Guards (PFG), whose commander, Ibrahim Jadhran, had sworn allegiance to the US-backed regime of Sarraj after previously seeking autonomy for the east and attempting to sell oil independently of the government in Tripoli.

Meanwhile, a rival militia based in the city of Misurata in northwestern Libya has been approaching Sirte from the opposite direction with similar intentions. It is widely anticipated that these two forces, apparently the principal candidates for serving as the foundation of a Western puppet force in the country, may end up battling each other rather than ISIS.

While General Dunford predicted a US-NATO intervention was imminent, he was less forthcoming about its composition.

It had been reported initially that Italy, which exercised brutal colonial rule over Libya under the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, would lead the mission, providing upwards of 5,000 troops. Among Rome’s principal concerns—aside from reasserting its old colonial ambitions—is securing the Libyan coast, which is expected to be the major route for refugees seeking to reach Italy, now that the EU has sealed off the so-called Balkan route.

On Monday, however, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said that Italy would not send troops into Libya.

“While under pressure to intervene in Libya, we have chosen a different approach,” Renzi said in a statement.

For its part, Germany has reportedly rejected placing any of its troops in Libya, saying that it would only train Libyan forces in neighboring Tunisia.

The apparent disarray within NATO’s ranks reflects the competing interests of the US and the various European powers as the Libyan intervention escalates what is emerging as a new imperialist scramble for Africa.

As Washington prepares to launch another military intervention into a nation that it previously decimated through a war of aggression, its ongoing campaign in Iraq appears in growing danger. Baghdad was placed under military curfew Friday night after Iraqi security forces used tear gas and live fire to drive back thousands of antigovernment demonstrators who stormed the heavily fortified Green Zone, reaching the office of Iraq’s US-backed prime minister, Haider al-Abadi.

Initial reports indicated at least one civilian, and perhaps several, killed by security forces, and dozens wounded.

Protesters, including supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, had stormed into the blast wall-enclosed Green Zone on April 30 to protest government corruption and failure to provide basic services and security. Anger has only deepened in the intervening weeks as the result of a series of terrorist bombings claimed by ISIS that have killed more than 150 people in Baghdad this month.

In the wake of the bloodshed in the Green Zone, there is a growing threat that an armed confrontation between government forces and armed Shia militias in the Iraqi capital could eclipse the so-called war against ISIS.

Australian Government Whistleblower Witch-Hunt Targets Leading Opposition Figure

Leakers Down Under: The Australian Federal Police Raids

by Binoy Kampmark  - Dissident Voice

May 21st, 2016

It is election time in Australia, and the electioneering took a remarkable turn Thursday night with announcements that the Australian Federal Police had raided the offices of the opposition Australian Labor Party, including that of a senior frontbencher and former communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy.

The moment news of the event started hitting air and radio waves, Australians were waking up to unusual scenes. Police had been effectively deployed to target the main opposition party in the country.

The reasons given centred on claims made, dating back to December, about media leaks on the highly flawed National Broadband Network. The referral had stemmed from the company behind the bungled project, NBN Co.

Stephen Conroy, Labour Party target of
Australian Federal Police scrutiny

NBN Co, in turn, agreed “under duress” to destroy photographs, numbering in the order of 34 or 35, taken by one of its employees during the police raids, under parliamentary privilege grounds cited by the ALP.

The company has been busy attempting to manufacture an image of soundness in its management over an area of expertise it has demonstrated little in. When things are bad, any slight improvement is bound to look good. “NBN,” came a company statement, “has a proven track record and has, over the last two years, met or exceeded its key targets as set by the board.”

What the raids started looking like in the second week of an election campaign was an affront to whistleblowers and, more broadly, the idea of holding a corrupt scheme to account.

Australian internet speed remains hideously slow relative to other countries. A good share of developing countries trump antipodean performances in that regard. In January 2015, the State of the Internet Report from Akamai, a cloud service provider, ranked Australia 44th among countries for its average internet speed.

The report also took note that Australia’s performance in that regard had actually worsened, a decision occasioned by a switch from fibre-to-the-home forms to a mixed fibre/copper network. Using a copper-based access network was always going to be a problem.

In December, The Australian reported on the miserable state of the copper network purchased from Telstra, while Fairfax Media reported about the impoverished nature of broadband infrastructure purchased by the NBN Co from Optus. Both reports had been issued from leaked sources, with one internal report going into some depth about spiralling costs and increasing delays.

This brings us back to the issue of disclosing the state of mismanagement within the NBN program. The timing seems smelly – not only during an election, but in the dead of the night.

Australia finds itself in an electoral campaign; the opposition is doing rather well in the polls, and the government has been all too enthusiastic with denying interference. Reading between the poorly scripted lines, and we find ourselves with a federal police force co-opted into dirty tasks.

The AFP Commissioner, Andrew Colvin, has dismissed ideas of political influence from the start. The timing was purely coincidental, with the search warrant executed purely as a matter of how far the investigation into the leaks had gone.

The ALP, having initially thumbed its finger at the potentially compromised nature of the police operation, has decided to focus on government tactics. This angle ignores the substance about the leaks and, instead, focuses on other factors: government agenda, motivation and so forth. Citing parliamentary privilege has its own tactical value, limiting scrutiny of the documents by placing them under seal until the election is concluded. The upshot here is that neither side of politics is interested in seeing the dirty laundry.

The broader subject here remains how the very act of leaking is treated. Australia is not merely a land with poor internet speed; it is a country where cases of leaking will be investigated with a degree of unhealthy enthusiasm. Between 2005 and 2011, 48 investigations into political leaks were conducted. Of those, a good bulk of them, 32, came from an overly anxious, and vulnerable Rudd government.

What such leaks reveal, even in the broader public interest, is less relevant than the fact of its taking place. On that score, both the opposition Labor party, and conservatives agree, while the current Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, merely sees them as ceremonial efforts that “reveal little”.

“When the opposition and the media work together to publicly reveal infrastructure mismanagement,” argued Julian Assange in a statement released soon after the raids,
“they are doing their jobs and doing it well. When police conduct raids on the opposition during an election to hunt down media sources they are not only not doing their job – they’re stopping all the rest of us from doing ours.”

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: bkampmark@gmail.com.
Read other articles by Binoy.

Meet the CNAS, the Next "New American Century" Chicken Hawks

America Should Rule the World, Says Neocon Infested Think Tank Report

by Stephen Lendman

May 22, 2016

The neocon infested Center for a New American Security (CNAS) promotes endless wars on the phony pretext of protecting US security at a time America’s only enemies are ones it invents.

Its aim is solidifying US global dominance by eliminating all sovereign independent states. Several CNAS members hold or previously held key Obama administration posts.

The organization and like-minded ones threaten world peace. They publish reports on militarism, terrorism, irregular warfare and national security challenges.

Its conferences feature top US military and government officials as speakers, promoting the gospel of America the indispensable nation with a divine right to rule the world.

Extremist policies groups like CNAS endorse risk influencing policymakers to launch WW III. Unchallenged power alone matters, they believe, no matter the human and material cost.

People everywhere have cause for concern. The fate of humanity and planet earth hang in the balance.

A new CNAS report co-produced by the neocon Project for the New American Century co-founder Robert Kagan (Victoria Nuland’s husband, responsible for replacing Ukrainian democrats with Nazi-infested Putschists) is titled “Extending American Power: Strategies to Expand US Engagement in a Competitive World Order.”

Kagan and former Clinton state department official James Rubin co-headed “a group of current and former government officials, strategists and scholars…with the goal of…shap(ing) the national conversation on America’s role in the world during the run-up” to the November presidential election.

They produced a thinly veiled scheme for unchallenged US world dominance - claiming American leadership “is critical to preserving and strengthening the bedrock of today’s international order,” jeopardized they believe by rival world powers Russia and China, along with radical Islamic terrorists groups - ones America created and supports, they left unexplained.

They believe it’s vital to brainwash Americans to believe US world leadership is essential to preserve and extend its new world order dominance globally.

They urge adoption of stealth corporate coup d’etat, anti-consumer, anti-worker, anti-environment, anti-fundamental freedom TPP and TTIP trade bills.

They urge America usurp sovereignty over parts of the world not its own, international law ignored. They call “the transatlantic community…both the foundation and the core of the liberal (sic) world order” - now threatened by nonexistent Russian aggression.

They support greater NATO commitment to militarism, including deploying larger numbers of combat troops near Russia’s borders.

They argue for using Ukraine as a dagger targeting its heartland, claiming it’s a way for it to “achieve political and economic stability,” controlled by Washington.

They urge supporting ISIS and like-minded terrorist groups while pretending to oppose them. Assad must go, they demand, wanting him forcibly ousted, Syria partitioned on the phony pretext of creating “safe space” for its people to “relocate without fear of being killed by (his) forces.”

They endorse using Syrian territory to “arm, train, and organize” terrorist groups masquerading as moderates. They claim nonexistent Iranian aims for regional dominance must be prevented.

Neocon infested groups like CNAS and extremist policymakers they influence are the greatest threat to world peace - especially if war goddess Hillary Clinton succeeds Obama.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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