Tuesday, September 02, 2014

You Can Call Me, Paul: Damascene Conversions and Stuff

Damascene Conversions - Isis, Assad, and the Bombing of Iraq

by Media Lens

This time last year, Western corporate media were focused on a single, grave threat to human life and civilised values. An endless stream of atrocity claims – some real, some fabricated with 'evidence' posted on YouTube - depicted President Assad of Syria as the latest incarnation of Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, bin Laden, Gaddafi: namely, the Official Enemy to be targeted for destruction.

Once again, 'quality' media generated a sense of inevitability – this Enemy was also so monstrous that the US-UK alliance had to 'intervene', to 'act'. It later transpired that the plan was to 'completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had'.

The massacre claims were part of a rolling propaganda barrage intended to clear a path through public opposition to an attack. It was a close copy of the 1991 Gulf War media campaign described by the late historian Howard Zinn:
'The American population was bombarded the way the Iraqi population was bombarded. It was a war against us, a war of lies and disinformation and omission of history. That kind of war, overwhelming and devastating, waged here in the US while the Gulf War was waged over there.' (Zinn, Power, History and Warfare, Open Magazine Pamphlet Series, No. 8, 1991, p.12)
This summer, the Assad atrocity stories splashed across newspaper front pages and TV broadcasts for so long have mysteriously dried up. If the BBC website looked like this last year, it now looks like this, this and this. The Independent published an article with a title that would have been unthinkable even a few months ago:
'Putin may have been right about Syria all along - Many cautioned against the earlier insistence of the Obama administration that Assad must go'
Has the man universally loathed and reviled by corporate commentators undergone an appropriately Damascene conversion? A more prosaic explanation was supplied by the Financial Times:
'US and allies must join Assad to defeat Isis [Islamic State], warns British MP' (Sam Jones, Financial Times, August 21, 2014)
The MP in question, Sir Malcolm Rifkind - chairman of parliament's intelligence and security committee, and a former foreign secretary - declared:
'"[Isis] need to be eliminated and we should not be squeamish about how we do it... Sometimes you have to develop relationships with people who are extremely nasty in order to get rid of people who are even nastier."'
One year ago, Rifkind called for a 'military strike' on Syria of 'a significant kind':
'If we don't make that effort to punish and deter, then these actions will indeed continue.'
Richard Dannatt, former head of the British army, observed last month:
'The old saying "my enemy's enemy is my friend" has begun to have some resonance with our relationship in Iran and I think it is going to have to have some resonance with our relationship with Assad.'
Again, unthinkable in the recent past, when Media Lens was smeared as 'pro-Assad' for challenging obviously suspect, warmongering claims.

Fighters hailed by the media last year as heroic 'rebels' opposing Assad's army are now decidedly 'jihadists'. In 2012, the New York Times reported:
'Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists...'.
Assad, it seems, is yesterday's 'bad guy' - Isis is the new 'threat'. On this, almost every media commentator appears to agree. A Guardian leader of August 11, commented:
'President Obama had no real alternative to the air strikes he ordered last week against Islamic State (Isis) forces... Quite apart from the threat to the future of Iraq as a whole, the US and Britain have a humanitarian duty to the endangered minorities, and a debt of honour to the Kurds.'
It is pretty remarkable that journalists are still able to believe (presumably dismissing Gaza as a blip) that US-UK foreign policy is guided by notions of 'duty' and 'honour'. The UK's leading 'liberal-left' newspaper is apparently not appalled by the prospect that the killers of half a million children through sanctions and in excess of one million people as a result of the 2003 invasion are once again affecting to 'help' Iraq. Why, because the editors can perceive 'ignorance and incompetence' in Western actions but not self-interested criminality. Thus, for the Guardian, 'America is right to intervene.'

The editors offered the vaguest of nods in the direction of one of the great bloodbaths of modern times:
'After all that has passed in recent years, hesitation about any kind of intervention in the Middle East is entirely understandable. But the desperate plight of the Iraqi minorities and the potentially very serious threat to the Kurds surely warrants a fundamental reconsideration.'
Alternatively, 'all that has passed in recent years' might provoke 'a fundamental reconsideration' of the idea that the US-UK alliance is guided by concern for the plight of Iraqi minorities.

As Steve Coll wrote in The New Yorker last month:
'ExxonMobil and Chevron are among the many oil and gas firms large and small drilling in Kurdistan under contracts that compensate the companies for their political risk-taking with unusually favorable terms.'
Coll added sardonically:
'It's not about oil. After you've written that on the blackboard five hundred times, watch Rachel Maddow's documentary "Why We Did It" for a highly sophisticated yet pointed journalistic take on how the world oil economy has figured from the start as a silent partner in the Iraq fiasco.'
The conclusion:
'Obama's defense of Erbil is effectively the defense of an undeclared Kurdish oil state whose sources of geopolitical appeal - as a long-term, non-Russian supplier of oil and gas to Europe, for example - are best not spoken of in polite or naïve company...'

'We Tried To Set The Middle East To Rights'

Like the rest of the corporate press, the Guardian view of the world is heavily influenced by structural factors – internal corporate needs conditioned by external political and corporate pressures. On August 15, another Guardian leader commented:
'[R]arely in modern history can military force have been exerted over such an extended period to such little purpose. We tried to set the Middle East to rights, but succeeded only in deepening its divisions and intensifying the violence we had hoped to curb.'
'We' – US-UK state-corporate-military-media power – 'tried to set the Middle East to rights'. For the people, we are to presume, not Big Oil, the 'silent partner in the Iraq fiasco'. However:
'We have been burnt before, we should not be burnt again.'
The great lesson to take from our devastation of an entire country – 'we' suffered.
A further Guardian leader on August 18 opined:
'The situation in Iraq is very threatening. But Britain is only one of many countries under threat.'
According to the FBI and Homeland Security, even the US is not at risk from Isis even after the recent airstrikes. Associated Press reported:
'The FBI and Homeland Security Department say there are no specific or credible terror threats to the U.S. homeland from the Islamic State militant group.'
Richard Barrett, who ran counterterrorism operations for Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, argues that the latest Western war in Iraq 'does rather play to the [jihadist] narrative that these bad regimes are being supported by outside powers and, therefore, if you get too close to overthrowing them, the outside powers will come and beat you up'. The people who were 'going to fight Assad or [former Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al] Maliki are now seeing a broader enemy' in the form of the US and UK governments. Barrett adds:
'The argument that they could also achieve the same [result] by [conducting] terrorist attacks in Western countries becomes stronger [though] not necessarily inevitable... Their justification will be: "If it hadn't been for air strikes we would be fine, establishing our caliphate [in Iraq].. Why did you mess with us? Now we'll mess with you."'
Barrett suggests that military action should always be a last resort and is not the 'tool that is going to solve the [Isis] problem. Look at Libya, look at Afghanistan, look at Iraq in 2003. It's just reaching for a hammer because it is a hammer and it's to hand'.

The potential for the imagined threat to become real was emphasised by the brutal murder of journalist James Foley captured on an Isis video. A Guardian leader of August 21 observed:
'The video is one of a number of developments that have sharpened our understanding of the risks inherent in a new military campaign in the region, even if limited and carefully conducted – that is, as limited and carefully conducted as an undertaking aimed at blowing up things and people can ever be.'
Presumably the Guardian has inside knowledge indicating that the campaign is 'limited and carefully conducted'. But even the Guardian's own logic suggested Isis would become a threat to the West only when 'we' attack them:
'Bluntly put: if we target them, they will target us.'
So Isis are not in fact 'our' enemy until 'we' make them 'our' enemy! But of course it is 'our' job to sort them out:
'We should not be alone in a contest with Isis. Regional powers should take on a greater role, perhaps even military, but certainly a more coherent diplomatic role.'
At the Guardian's dissident extreme, Owen Jones wrote on August 20:
'Nobody is pretending that Isis is going to be defeated by a few rousing renditions of Kumbaya.'
So we can take for granted that the focus should be on defeating the new enemy identified by Western elites:
'Surely only then can the Iraqi military hope to defeat these sectarian murderers.'
But then should we not also aspire 'to defeat' the notoriously vicious and unaccountable Iraqi military? And Jones quoted veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn to the effect that 'Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies are the "foster parents" of Isis'. So should we not also be focusing on the need 'to defeat' Saudi Arabia and Qatar? And how about the US and UK governments who supply the weapons and other support empowering these tyrannies?

But even dissident 'mainstream' journalists conform to propaganda demanding that Official Enemies be targeted for 'defeat'. Favoured allies, and of course the West, are treated quite differently. The public is to believe that the sheer evil of the Enemy means that negotiation, compromise and accommodation are out of the question – war is often presented as the only option. Why? Because it allows the West to play its trump card, high-tech violence; to get what it wants on its own terms. When negotiation, later is mysteriously found to be possible even with the likes of Gaddafi (2004) and Assad (2014), few ask why it was once declared out of the question.
Jones concluded:
'Because Isis has proved so successful in spreading terror, it will be difficult to have a rational debate about how to defeat them.'
Because Western governments are so successful in spreading terror, it will be difficult for journalists like Jones to have a rational debate focused on something other than defeating the enemy du jour.

Modern Enlightenment Culture

A leader in The Times commented:
'Modern enlightenment culture [sic] finds it hard to grasp the notion of radical evil. When theocratic fanatics destroyed the Twin Towers on 9/11 and bombed the Spanish train network in 2004 and the London Underground on 7/7, the instinct of many western commentators was to wonder what Europe and America had done to provoke such hatred. The correct answer was "nothing".' (Leading article, 'Beating the barbarians,' The Times, August 12, 2014)
Modern enlightenment culture also finds it hard to grasp the notion that it has itself committed crimes of awesome violence.

The Times lamented the failure of 'a decade of efforts to build democracy in Iraq' – a level of wilful blindness that would have stunned the philosophes. Inevitably, The Times supported yet another war as the only enlightened option:
'A coherent strategy of striking jihadist targets, arming the peshmerga and supporting a new, inclusive Iraqi administration could salvage stability in Iraq. Anything less hands victory to barbarians.'
In 2005, journalist Seymour Hersh reported that between autumn 2003 and late autumn 2004, the US 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing alone had dropped '500,000 tons of ordnance [on Iraq], and that is two million, 500-pound bombs'. Perhaps these latest US bombs will do better.
The Times echoed the Guardian on Isis:
'The organisation is a threat to the peoples of the region, to the stability of the Middle East and to Britain directly.' (Leading article, 'State of Violence,' The Times, August 18, 2014)
David Aaronovitch has been playing his usual role of demoniser-in-chief, with his familiar calls for war to prevent - what else? - 'effective genocide', this time in Iraq (Gaza being someone else's problem). As usual, the Nazis are the obvious comparison:
'Isis are very like the SS in occupied eastern Europe. There is the same idea of a mystical destiny that doesn't just permit killing, but demands it... In service of that vision, the pits had to be filled with bodies.' (Aaronovitch, 'Isis will just keep killing - until we stop them,' The Times, August 11, 2014)
'Just like the SS, Isis men will kill more and more... stopping only when they are utterly defeated and every executioner - even if he is such a gentle boy from Purley - is dead or tried.'
Therapists describe a phenomenon called 'projection' – the 'enemy' acts as a screen on which the analysand projects precisely the qualities he or she is unwilling to face in him or herself. Thus, since 1945, the West has endlessly left pits 'filled with bodies' driven by the mystical 'manifest destiny' of 'American exceptionalism'. Aaronovitch himself summed up the thinking on August 14:
'Something broke in western policy when Ed Miliband won the vote preventing action in Syria after the chemical attacks this time last year... The message was clear to everyone and is the worst you can ever send - that the cops have left town.' (Aaronovitch, 'Only military action will defeat the jihadis,' The Times, August 14, 2014)
'We' are 'the cops'. Who voted 'us' Globocop? No-one, 'we' seized the role by right of military might. And so we find that the claim can again be exactly reversed. Are we really playing the role of 'cops'? Well, cops are not supposed to illegally invade countries, overthrow governments, flatten cities, steal resources, commit mass torture. What kind of people do that? Villains, criminals, terrorists.

To look hard in the mirror of the Official Enemy is to see the truth of who 'we' really are.

Suggested Action

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

 Write to:
Alan Rusbridger, Guardian editor
Email: alan.rusbridger@guardian.co.uk
Twitter: @arusbridger
Owen Jones, columnist at the Guardian
Email: o.p.jones@gmail.com
Twitter: @OwenJones84
David Aaronovitch, columnist at The Times
Twitter: @DAaronovitch


Monday, September 01, 2014

Democracy; Just Ideas, or Just Practices?

Just ideas - or disaster - will triumph

by Fidel Castro Ruz - Granma

If today it is possible to prolong life, health and the productive time of persons, if it is perfectly possible to plan the development of the population in accordance with growing productivity, culture and development of human values, what are they waiting for to do so?

Global society has known no peace in recent years, particularly since the European Economic Community, under the absolute, inflexible direction of the United States, decided that the time had come to settle accounts with what remained of two great nations which, inspired by the ideas of Marx, had achieved the great feat of ending the imperialist colonial order imposed on the world by Europe and the United States.

In former Russia, a revolution erupted which moved the world.

It was expected that the first great socialist revolution would take place in the most industrialized countries of Europe, such as England, France, Germany or the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This revolution, however, took place in Russia, whose territory extended into Asia, from northern Europe to southern Alaska - which had been Czarist territory, sold for a few dollars to the country which would later be the most interested in attacking and destroying the revolution and the country where it occurred.

The greatest accomplishment of the new state was the creation of a union capable of bringing together its resources and sharing its technology with a large number of weak, less developed nations, unwilling victims of colonial exploitation. Would a true society of nations be convenient or not, in the current world, one in which respect is shown for rights, beliefs, culture, technologies and resources in accessible places around the world, which so many human beings would like to visit and know? And wouldn’t the world be much more just today, - when in fractions of a second anyone can communicate with the other side of the planet - if people saw in others a friend or brother, and not an enemy disposed to kill, with weapons which human knowledge has been capable of creating?

Believing that human beings could be capable of having such objectives, I think that absolutely no one has the right to destroy cities; murder children; pulverize homes; sow terror, hunger and death anywhere. In what corner of the world can such acts be justified? If it is remembered that, when the last global conflict’s killing ended, the world placed its hopes in the creation of the United Nations, it is because a large part of humanity imagined it with such a perspective, although its objectives were not fully defined. A colossal fraud is what is seen today, as problems emerge which suggest the possible eruption of a war, with the use of weapons which could mean the end of human existence.

There are unscrupulous actors, apparently more than a few, which consider meritorious their willingness to die, but above all to kill in defense of their indecent privileges.

Many are surprised to hear the statements made by some European NATO spokespeople, expressed in the style and look of the Nazi SS. On occasion, they even wear dark suits, in the middle of summer.

We have a powerful enough adversary, our closest neighbor: the United States. We warned them that we would withstand the blockade, although this would imply a very high cost for our country. There is no greater price than capitulating to an enemy, which for no reason, or right, attacks you. This was the sentiment of a small, isolated people. The rest of the hemisphere’s governments, with a few exceptions, went along with the powerful, influential empire. This was not a personal attitude on our part, but rather the sentiment of a small nation which had been not only the political, but also the economic property of the U.S. since the beginning of the century. Spain had ceded us to this country, after we had suffered almost five centuries of colonialism, and innumerable deaths and material losses in our struggle for independence.

The empire reserved the right to intervene militarily in Cuba, on the basis of a constitutional amendment imposed on an impotent Congress, incapable of resisting. Besides being owners of almost all of Cuba, vast land holdings, the largest sugar mills, mines, and banks - with even the prerogative of printing our currency – they did not allow us to produce enough grain to feed the population.

When the USSR collapsed, and the socialist camp disappeared as well, we continued resisting. Together, the revolutionary state and people continued our independent march.

I do not wish, nevertheless, to dramatize our modest history. I prefer rather to emphasize that the empire’s policy is so dramatically ludicrous that its relegation to the dustbin of history will not long be delayed. Adolph Hitler’s empire, inspired by greed, went down in history with no more glory than that of the encouragement given to aggressive bourgeois governments of NATO, which became the laughing stock of Europe and the world, with their euro, which along with the dollar, will soon become wet paper, and they will be required to depend on the yen, and rubles as well, given the emerging Chinese economy, closely linked to Russia’s enormous economic and technical potential.

Cynicism is something which has become symbolic of imperial policy

As is known, John McCain was the Republican candidate in the 2008 elections. This individual came into the public light as a pilot who was shot down while his plane bombed the populous city of Hanoi. A Vietnamese missile hit the aircraft in action, and the plane and pilot fell into a lake located close to capital, on the city’s outskirts.

Upon seeing the airplane crash and a wounded pilot attempting to save himself, a retired Vietnamese soldier who was making his living in the area came to his aid. As the old soldier offered his help, a group of Hanoi residents who had suffered the aerial attacks, came running to settle accounts with the murderer. The soldier himself persuaded his neighbors not to do so, since the man was taken prisoner and his life must be respected. Yankee authorities themselves communicated with the government, begging that no action be taken against the pilot.

In addition to the Vietnamese government’s policy of respecting prisoners, the pilot was the son a U.S. Navy Admiral who had played an outstanding role in WWII, and was still holding an important position.

The Vietnamese had captured a big fish in that bombing, and, of course, thinking about the eventual peace talks which would put an end to the unjust war unleashed on them, they developed a friendship with McCain, who was very happy to take advantage of the opportunity provided by that adventure. No Vietnamese, of course, recounted any of this to me, nor would I have ever asked anyone to do so. I have read about it, and it coincides completely with a few details I learned later. I also read one day that Mr. McCain had written that when he was a prisoner in Vietnam, while he was tortured, he heard voices in Spanish advising the torturers as to what they should do and how. They were Cuban voices, according to McCain. Cuba never had advisors in Vietnam. The military there knew very well how to conduct their war.

General Giap was one of the most brilliant military strategists of our era, who in Dien Bien Phu was able to place missile launchers in remote, mountainous jungles, something the yankee and European military officers considered impossible. With these launchers, they fired from such a close point that it was impossible to neutralize them, without affecting the invaders as well. Other pertinent measures, all difficult and complex, were utilized to impose a shameful surrender on the surrounded European forces.

The fox McCain took as much advantage as possible of the yankee and European invaders’ military defeats. Nixon could not persuade his National Security Council advisor Henry Kissinger to accept the idea suggested by the President himself, who in a relaxed moment said: Why don’t we drop one of those little bombs, Henry? The true little bomb dropped when the President’s men attempted to spy on their adversaries in the opposing party. This surely couldn’t be tolerated!

Despite this, Mr. McCain’s most cynical behavior has been in the Near East. Senator McCain is Israel’s most unconditional ally in Mossad’s machinations, something that even his worst adversaries would have been able to imagine. McCain participated alongside this secret service in the creation of the Islamic State which has appropriated a considerable part of Iraq, as well as a third of Syria, according to its affirmations. This state already has a multi-million dollar income, and threatens Saudi Arabia and other nat9ons in this complex region which supplies the greatest part of the world’s oil.

Would it not be preferable to struggle to produce food and industrial products; build hospitals and schools for billions of human beings who desperately need them; promote art and culture; struggle against epidemics which lead to the death of half of the sick, health workers and technicians, as can be seen; or finally eliminate illnesses like cancer, Ebola, malaria, dengue, chikungunya, diabetes and others which affect the vital systems of human beings?

If today it is possible to prolong life, health and the productive time of persons, if it is perfectly possible to plan the development of the population in accordance with growing productivity, culture and development of human values, what are they waiting for to do so?

Just ideas will triumph, or disaster will triumph.

Fidel Castro Ruz
August 31, 2014
10:25 p.m.

George Galloway Reacts to Attack

Galloway Reax to Assault

by Press TV

Death and Torment at Rikers Island

New reports of inmate deaths from beatings at New York’s Rikers Island prison

By Philip Guelpa - WSWS

1 September 2014

Two recently revealed incidents at the Rikers Island prison in New York City confirm that the horrific conditions, already documented in a number of previous reports, at the city’s largest prison are the result of systematic, institutionalized brutality, not isolated aberrations.

In one incident, documents obtained by the Associated Press reveal that inmate Angel Ramirez, 50 years old, was beaten to death by prison guards using night sticks (police batons) in July of 2011. Ramirez was reportedly suffering hallucinations during withdrawal from alcohol and heroin, and had earlier been denied his prescribed medication. In this impaired state, he attempted to hit an officer, but missed. Several officers then took him out of view of surveillance cameras and inflicted a severe beating, resulting in Ramirez’s death.

The news account states, based on information provided by the family’s lawyer, that Ramirez “died of numerous blunt-impact injuries that included a ruptured spleen, shattered ribs and a stomach filled with blood.” This contradicts the statements of the officers, who were interviewed eight months later, that the inmate was struck only once, and only in self-defense.

So far, three inmate deaths due to beatings by guards are reported to have taken place over the last five years, without a single conviction of the officers involved. Given the difficulty in obtaining information on these cases, the actual number of such incidents is likely to be much higher. And that does not include other forms of abuse, in some cases leading to death, which have also come to light in recent years.

One recent case of death by neglect that has come to light is that of 19-year old Andy Henriquez. He died at Rikers in April 2013 after being locked in solitary confinement for days without necessary medical assistance. Henriquez died of a ruptured aorta after complaining of chest pains and breathing difficulties over a prolonged period. His mother is suing the city for “wrongful death.”

Last August another inmate, Carlos Mercado, 46, was allowed to go into diabetic coma and eventually died from lack of treatment while incarcerated at Rikers. He was denied assistance despite pleas from him and fellow inmates as his condition worsened. Again, the city is being sued for wrongful death.

In yet another case, Jerome Murdough was found dead in a 100-degree cell on Feb. 15. The family plans to sue the city for $25 million.

Corizon Health, the private company hired by the city to provide medical services to inmates at Rikers, has been sued over two dozen times since 2002 for incidents at the prison. 

Corizon had revenue of $1.2 billion last year. This profit-making business takes in tens of millions of dollars annually from the city while health care for inmates remains criminally inadequate.

The pervasive use of violence and abuse against inmates by authorities, without any significant consequences for the perpetrators, was further documented by a federal study of the juvenile section of the prison that was issued earlier this month (see: Federal report exposes “culture of violence” in New York City’s Rikers Island prison). It found that adolescent inmates are subjected to a “systematic culture of violence.” Many of the inmates are placed in solitary confinement for up to 60 days. The study demonstrated that extremely loose supervision, systematic falsification of incident reports, and long drawn out investigations have created an environment in which such behavior can be carried out with impunity. This is only the latest in a long series of investigations and news accounts documenting conditions at Rikers, stretching back at least a decade.

This city is in full damage control mode. The new Department of Correction Commissioner, Joe Ponte, appointed earlier this year by Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio, has made a series of statements intended to give the impression that abuses will be addressed. However, only cosmetic changes have been implemented. Last week, the de Blasio administration enacted new legislation intended to increase reporting of the use of solitary confinement, a practice that is documented to increase the rate of suicide and self-abuse by inmates. The law does nothing to actually curtail the practice or any of the associated brutality perpetrated by staff.

In a sign of growing crisis, the chief investigator at Rikers, Deputy Commissioner Florence Finkle, resigned her position last week as the revelations of inmate abuse and neglect mounted. Ms. Finkle is likely playing the role of a “sacrificial lamb” whose departure is an attempt to defuse the growing scandal.

Only last May, de Blasio’s Corrections Commissioner Ponte promoted two senior Rikers administrators to higher positions in the department.

The regime of abuse and brutality at Rikers, a virtual concentration camp on an island in the East River, as well as elsewhere in the prison system, is not the result of a few “bad apples,” as claimed by the city, but part of a system-wide, institutionalized policy which creates inhuman conditions for both inmates and staff, and is protected and condoned at the highest levels.

The horrific treatment of inmates at Rikers is made even more egregious by the fact that it is technically a jail, since it primarily holds individuals awaiting trial, rather than convicted prisoners. Legally, therefore, these inmates should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Instead, those incarcerated are subjected to unrestrained brutality and some are, in effect, sentenced to death before they are even tried.

In the few cases in which legal prosecution of inmate deaths is pursued, the city has pursued the practice of making a monetary settlement to the family of the deceased, sometimes for millions of dollars, thus effectively burying the crime and allowing the perpetrator to go free. In all three known cases of inmate deaths due to beatings by guards at Rikers over the last five years, the lack of convictions came despite the fact that the city’s medical examiner had ruled the deaths to be homicides.

These settlements represent what amounts to the “cost of doing business” for the city, allowing it to carry on with systematic brutality and legally condoned murder. Those few guards who have been convicted in non-lethal cases of abuse received little more than a slap on the wrist.

The use of extreme force by police agencies against the working class, whether in cities such as Ferguson, Missouri or in the prison system, expresses the deep-seated fear of the ruling class of growing social unrest, which leads it to respond with ever-increasing violence.

"Dear Angela" - VIPS Send Chancellor Warning on Washington Ukraine War Hype

Warning Merkel on Russian ‘Invasion’ Intel


Alarmed at the anti-Russian hysteria sweeping Official Washington – and the specter of a new Cold War – U.S. intelligence veterans took the unusual step of sending this Aug. 30 memo to German Chancellor Merkel challenging the reliability of Ukrainian and U.S. media claims about a Russian “invasion.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. 
Photo credit: א (Aleph)

MEMORANDUM FOR: Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Ukraine and NATO

We the undersigned are long-time veterans of U.S. intelligence. We take the unusual step of writing this open letter to you to ensure that you have an opportunity to be briefed on our views prior to the NATO summit on Sept. 4-5.

You need to know, for example, that accusations of a major Russian “invasion” of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the “intelligence” seems to be of the same dubious, politically “fixed” kind used 12 years ago to “justify” the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.

We saw no credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq then; we see no credible evidence of a Russian invasion now. Twelve years ago, former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, mindful of the flimsiness of the evidence on Iraqi WMD, refused to join in the attack on Iraq. In our view, you should be appropriately suspicious of charges made by the U.S. State Department and NATO officials alleging a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

President Barack Obama tried on Aug. 29 to cool the rhetoric of his own senior diplomats and the corporate media, when he publicly described recent activity in the Ukraine, as “a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now … it’s not really a shift.”

Obama, however, has only tenuous control over the policymakers in his administration – who, sadly, lack much sense of history, know little of war, and substitute anti-Russian invective for a policy. One year ago, hawkish State Department officials and their friends in the media very nearly got Mr. Obama to launch a major attack on Syria based, once again, on “intelligence” that was dubious, at best.

Largely because of the growing prominence of, and apparent reliance on, intelligence we believe to be spurious, we think the possibility of hostilities escalating beyond the borders of Ukraine has increased significantly over the past several days. More important, we believe that this likelihood can be avoided, depending on the degree of judicious skepticism you and other European leaders bring to the NATO summit next week.

Experience With Untruth

Hopefully, your advisers have reminded you of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s checkered record for credibility. It appears to us that Rasmussen’s speeches continue to be drafted by Washington. This was abundantly clear on the day before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq when, as Danish Prime Minister, he told his Parliament: “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. This is not something we just believe. We know.”

Photos can be worth a thousand words; they can also deceive. We have considerable experience collecting, analyzing, and reporting on all kinds of satellite and other imagery, as well as other kinds of intelligence. Suffice it to say that the images released by NATO on Aug. 28 provide a very flimsy basis on which to charge Russia with invading Ukraine. Sadly, they bear a strong resemblance to the images shown by Colin Powell at the UN on Feb. 5, 2003, that, likewise, proved nothing.

That same day, we warned President Bush that our former colleague analysts were “increasingly distressed at the politicization of intelligence” and told him flatly, “Powell’s presentation does not come close” to justifying war. We urged Mr. Bush to “widen the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

Consider Iraq today. Worse than catastrophic.

Although President Vladimir Putin has until now showed considerable reserve on the conflict in the Ukraine, it behooves us to remember that Russia, too, can “shock and awe.” In our view, if there is the slightest chance of that kind of thing eventually happening to Europe because of Ukraine, sober-minded leaders need to think this through very carefully.

If the photos that NATO and the U.S. have released represent the best available “proof” of an invasion from Russia, our suspicions increase that a major effort is under way to fortify arguments for the NATO summit to approve actions that Russia is sure to regard as provocative. Caveat emptor is an expression with which you are no doubt familiar. Suffice it to add that one should be very cautious regarding what Mr. Rasmussen, or even Secretary of State John Kerry, are peddling.

We trust that your advisers have kept you informed regarding the crisis in Ukraine from the beginning of 2014, and how the possibility that Ukraine would become a member of NATO is anathema to the Kremlin. According to a Feb. 1, 2008 cable (published by WikiLeaks) from the U.S. embassy in Moscow to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, U.S. Ambassador William Burns was called in by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who explained Russia’s strong opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine.

Lavrov warned pointedly of “fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.” Burns gave his cable the unusual title, “NYET MEANS NYET: RUSSIA’S NATO ENLARGEMENT REDLINES,” and sent it off to Washington with IMMEDIATE precedence. Two months later, at their summit in Bucharest NATO leaders issued a formal declaration that “Georgia and Ukraine will be in NATO.”

On Aug. 29, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk used his Facebook page to claim that, with the approval of Parliament that he has requested, the path to NATO membership is open. Yatsenyuk, of course, was Washington’s favorite pick to become prime minister after the Feb. 22 coup d’etat in Kiev.

“Yats is the guy,” said Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland a few weeks before the coup, in an intercepted telephone conversation with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. You may recall that this is the same conversation in which Nuland said, “Fuck the EU.”

Timing of the Russian “Invasion”

The conventional wisdom promoted by Kiev just a few weeks ago was that Ukrainian forces had the upper hand in fighting the anti-coup federalists in southeastern Ukraine, in what was largely portrayed as a mop-up operation. But that picture of the offensive originated almost solely from official government sources in Kiev. There were very few reports coming from the ground in southeastern Ukraine. There was one, however, quoting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, that raised doubt about the reliability of the government’s portrayal.

According to the “press service of the President of Ukraine” on Aug. 18, Poroshenko called for a “regrouping of Ukrainian military units involved in the operation of power in the East of the country. … Today we need to do the rearrangement of forces that will defend our territory and continued army offensives,” said Poroshenko, adding, “we need to consider a new military operation in the new circumstances.”

If the “new circumstances” meant successful advances by Ukrainian government forces, why would it be necessary to “regroup,” to “rearrange” the forces? At about this time, sources on the ground began to report a string of successful attacks by the anti-coup federalists against government forces. According to these sources, it was the government army that was starting to take heavy casualties and lose ground, largely because of ineptitude and poor leadership.

Ten days later, as they became encircled and/or retreated, a ready-made excuse for this was to be found in the “Russian invasion.” That is precisely when the fuzzy photos were released by NATO and reporters like the New York Times’ Michael Gordon were set loose to spread the word that “the Russians are coming.” (Michael Gordon was one of the most egregious propagandists promoting the war on Iraq.)

No Invasion – But Plenty Other Russian Support

The anti-coup federalists in southeastern Ukraine enjoy considerable local support, partly as a result of government artillery strikes on major population centers. And we believe that Russian support probably has been pouring across the border and includes, significantly, excellent battlefield intelligence. But it is far from clear that this support includes tanks and artillery at this point – mostly because the federalists have been better led and surprisingly successful in pinning down government forces.

At the same time, we have little doubt that, if and when the federalists need them, the Russian tanks will come.

This is precisely why the situation demands a concerted effort for a ceasefire, which you know Kiev has so far been delaying. What is to be done at this point? In our view, Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk need to be told flat-out that membership in NATO is not in the cards – and that NATO has no intention of waging a proxy war with Russia – and especially not in support of the rag-tag army of Ukraine. Other members of NATO need to be told the same thing.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (Ret.)

Coleen Rowley, Division Counsel & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)

Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret.); Foreign Service Officer (resigned)

How Cease Differs from Peace: Israeli Snipers Practice on Palestinian Youth in Gaza and West Bank

Israeli Forces Shoot, Critically Injure Jerusalem Teen

by Ma’an – www.maannews.net

A Palestinian teenager was critically wounded late Sunday after an Israeli soldier shot him in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet, relatives said.

Muhammad Abd Al-Majid Sunuqrut, 16, from Wadi al-Joz suffered a fractured skull after being shot, his father said.

The teenager was speaking on his mobile phone while walking to a nearby mosque for late evening prayers when he was hit, in what his father said was an unprovoked attack.

He underwent emergency surgery at Hadassah Medical Center to stop bleeding on his brain and to remove bone fragments caused by the impact of the bullet.

The teen is currently unconscious in an intensive care unit and is said to be in a critical condition.

Muhammad had been preparing for the new school year, his father said, adding that Israeli forces have been provoking local Wadi al-Joz residents in recent weeks by firing tear gas, rubber coated-bullets and skunk spray.

Related posts:

"Terror" Alert Accompanies Announcement of New NATO "Expeditionary" Force

UK announces new NATO military force, declares terror alert

by Robert Stevens - WSWS

1 September 2014

Prime Minister David Cameron, who is hosting this week’s NATO summit in Wales, is to announce that the imperialist alliance will create a new joint expeditionary force (JEF) of at least 10,000 troops for rapid deployment in crisis situations.

Previewing the plan Friday evening, the Financial Times reported that the new force is being created “to bolster NATO’s power in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.”

The FT said, “The force will incorporate air and naval units as well as ground troops and will be led by British commanders, with other participating nations contributing a range of specialist troops and units. Countries involved at present include Denmark, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Norway and the Netherlands. Canada has also expressed an interest in taking part.”

The “model for the new JEF will be Britain’s expeditionary force with France, which has been years in the making and is due to be fully operational by 2016.”

In 2010 Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed treaties on defence and nuclear co-operation, that included the eventual creation of a combined joint expeditionary force of 5,000 soldiers from each country, for training and possible operations.

Of the new plans, the FT article continued, “While the 28-state alliance has stopped short of permanently deploying troops in eastern Europe—a measure that would violate several long-standing agreements with Russia—it has committed to a programme of significant military exercises and the development of more flexible, rapid reaction forces.”

This strategy is in line with calls by sections of the US political establishment for “rotating” NATO forces to be placed in a number of countries bordering Russia, specifically the Baltic States.

Last week William J. Perry, secretary of defence in the Clinton administration, and George P. Shultz, a secretary of state in the Reagan administration, wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal, “We should reassure the Baltic States by deploying forces in those countries. A permanent deployment would contravene the NATO-Russia Founding Act, but a rotating force could be consistent with the Act while indicating to Russia how seriously we take their military actions.”

The Royal United Services Institute, a British defence and security think-tank, backed up the new JEF plan and troop rotation with its international director Jonathan Eyal telling the FT, “We need to end the idea of different zones of security in Europe. We need to be talking about prepositioning, regular rotation of troops and making it very clear that we do not accept that the eastern Europeans are in some different category of membership of NATO.”

The plan is the starkest confirmation that the ruling elite in Britain are now firmly on a war footing.

Cameron recently stated that the UK’s “military prowess” is available for use in the Middle East. The ongoing crisis in Iraq and Syria and the war being carried on by the Ukraine government against separatists has prompted demands from significant figures in the British Armed Forces that the government intervene militarily in order to defend its “national interests.”

The FT commented, “The British army has been intensively lobbying for more deployments abroad in order to keep it fighting fit. For the first time in their history, almost all of Britain’s land forces will be permanently based on home soil after the withdrawal from Afghanistan is complete.”

Ever watchful for an opportunity for the ruling elite to reap any financial advantage over their rivals, the FT said of the plans, “[T]he requirements for participating states to integrate into a harmonious command and control structure may produce benefits in encouraging the use of British-produced equipment.”

The military buildup is being bolstered by efforts to create a crisis atmosphere at home. Home Secretary Theresa May announced Friday that the UK’s terrorist “threat level” had been raised from “substantial” to “severe,” the second-highest of the five threat levels.

The declaration was the decision of the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), a branch of the MI5 domestic intelligence agency. May said the “increase in the threat level is related to developments in Syria and Iraq where terrorist groups are planning attacks against the West.”

This deliberately vague statement aside, the government did not give any specific reason as to why a terrorist attack on the UK was now deemed “highly likely.” Rather the Home Office added, “This means a terrorist attack is highly likely, although there is no intelligence to suggest that one is imminent.”

The decision was used by Cameron to make a fear-mongering speech in which he beat the drums ever louder in support of new wars. He used the Islamic State (IS) jihadist forces operating in Iraq as the bogeymen, saying they represented a “greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before.”

“We now believe that at least 500 people have travelled from Britain to fight in Syria, and potentially Iraq,” Cameron added. This is hardly a surprise, especially given that the British government was actively promoting the “rebel” forces in Syria fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, although the prime minister made no mention of this fact.

Referring to the 2003 US-British-led invasion of Iraq, Cameron insisted, “We must use all resources we have at our disposal—aid, diplomacy, political influence, and our military. Learning the lessons from the past doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for our military.”

Cameron said that because there were “foreign fighters who travel from Britain to Syria and Iraq, taken part in terrorist acts and now come back to threaten our security here at home,” it was necessary to further curtail democratic rights.

There were “some gaps in our armoury,” he said, and “we need to strengthen them.” He added that on Monday he would announce further measures “to stop people travelling, to stop those who do go from returning, and to deal decisively with those who are already here.” New legislation would be introduced “that will make it easier to take people’s passports away.”

Last week the Tory Mayor of London and prospective MP Boris Johnson urged, “We need to make it crystal clear that you will be arrested if you go out to Syria or Iraq without a good reason,” he said.

Johnson, who is routinely promoted as the next likely leader of the Conservatives, said, “The law needs a swift and minor change so that there is a ‘rebuttable presumption’ that all those visiting war areas without notifying the authorities have done so for a terrorist purpose.”

Conservative MP Bob Stewart commented supportively, “Perhaps we should be hard line on this and say it’s not you’re innocent until proved guilty, we will assume you are guilty until you are proved innocent. If you do become stateless you can always join the new caliphate called the Islamic State.”

Johnson also called for the restoration of Control Orders, first introduced by a Labour government in 2005, a form of house arrest preventing any form of contact not explicitly authorised by the state.

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband gave his support for the return of these authoritarian measures. “[T]he government should strengthen existing powers, including revisiting the case for control orders,” he said.

Two Meetings on a War Train: Ukraine's Disowned and Disaffected

Two Chance Meetings While Traveling in Europe: It's all about Ukraine

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

On a trip to Europe for a two-week stay in Finland, my wife and I at one point found ourselves seated next to a congenial 30-something guy, dressed casually in jeans and a T-shirt. He said he was US Army major.

Initially, our conversation revolved around his little kids, and his complaint about how often he was sent out on “short assignments” in Europe far away from home. He also mentioned being somewhat hard of hearing after having been sent out on 250 missions in Iraq as a soldier in the cavalry, where he had been the gunner on a stryker armored vehicle. (He explained that he couldn’t wear ear protectors despite the constant loud roar of the heavy vehicle’s engine, “because you have to hear when you’re taking fire, and also to be able to communicate with the other guys inside the vehicle.”)

He was voluble, but discreet when it came to his current Army role, saying only that he had been reassigned from cavalry to “international relations,” which he later explained meant “handling relations” between US military forces and various countries’ militaries in the “European Theater.” He said he had become particularly busy since the beginning of the “Ukraine crisis,” but wouldn’t go into detail about what he was busy doing.

One could make an educated guess. Looking at the bulging muscles on this guy’s arms, shoulders and chest, it seemed clear that this was not a someone who just who sat at conferences and talked across tables discussing protocol. More likely, he was Special Forces in some training capacity.

In any event, his regular travels, which he said had him flying back and forth from the US to assignments in Europe almost every other week, make suggest that the US has ramped up in its military activities in Europe.

Later, in Finland, I made a road trip from the southern city of Kuopio to northern Lapland above the Arctic Circle, to report on arctic climate change. Just before reaching the Arctic Circle on my first evening on the road, I came on two young people, a man and a woman, who were hitchhiking. Being a long-time hitchhiker myself, and deeply in karmic debt as a driver, I immediately pulled over and invited them to hop in.

Ukrainian mothers in an anti-conscription protest against the Kiev government, 
and destruction as separatist rebels fire on a demoralized Ukrainian military

They turned out to be two Ukrainians from Kiev, both just out of college. The young man, Vladimir, was trained as an engineer. The young woman, Svetlana, was a communications grad. She spoke better English than Vlad. They explained that they had left Ukraine a month earlier in a group of some 100 young people, “to find work, and to get away from the war.” At the time Ukraine had no conscription, but this month conscription was reimposed for all men between 18 and 25, with the potential, as the army is getting routed, of all males up to 60 getting called up. So they left for good reason. Protests, with mothers saying they won’t let their sons be sent off to fight, are reportedly spreading [1] all over western Ukraine against conscription (though this is not being mentioned in the US corporate media).

Both Vladimir and Svetlana said that they had no interest in fighting the rebels in eastern Ukraine, and they said that the Ukrainian government installed after rioters ousted elected President Viktor Yanokovych was “completely corrupt.”

They added that there was no prospect for work in Ukraine -- not even for communications majors and engineers. Only for soldiers. But the people aren’t really interested in being soldiers, or in fighting, which explains the army's high desertion rate and its poor performance in the field against eastern Ukraine's rebels. Only in the militias, which are filled with volunteer fascist Ukrainian ultra-nationalists, does one find people who want to fight.

I thought today of those two kids, who have obtained temporary summer work visas to pick berries in Finland, and wondered what will happen to them when the Finnish agricultural season ends in mid September and their visas expire. Given the marked anti-immigrant position of most of the European Union states, it seems unlikely that they would have much luck claiming refugee status as Ukrainian citizens.

I suspect that they are only a small sample of a huge wave of Ukrainians who are fleeing the disaster that has been created in Ukraine courtesy of US State Department and CIA meddling in that country. According to Moscow news reports, about a million people have fled Ukraine for Russia, mostly to avoid savage and indiscriminate bombing of eastern Ukraine cities and towns by the Ukrainian military. About an equal number of Ukrainians has also reportedly fled eastern Ukraine, most, like my two hitchhikers, trying to avoid the civil war and the draft, and to find work, which is unavailable in Ukraine.

I dropped off my passengers a little south of Kuusamo at a campsite where there were lots of others like them, all from Ukraine, living in tents. Svetlana handed me what she said was a nearly worthless Ukrainian one-Hyrvnia note “for good luck,” and invited me to stop back at their campsite on my return from Lapland, where they promised that their compatriots would be playing instruments and singing Ukrainian folksongs in the evenings.

I hope that they manage to stay well away from their chaotic and violent homeland until things clear up there. I hope too that the separatist rebels quickly trounce the Ukrainian army and the militia thugs who have been tormenting the Russian minority in eastern Ukraine, so some semblance of peace can return, and so that US army guy we met ends up being sent back home with nothing to do but play with his kids and watch them grow.

[1] http://www.globalresearch.ca/antiwar-and-anti-conscription-protest-across-ukraine-kiev-regime-wages-all-out-war-in-east-ukraine-nato-threatens-russia/5394449

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Remembering the Cause and Effects of 9/11: How China, India, and Wall Street Won the Afghan War

That Much Petroleum is That Much Bullshit: China Won the Oil War, and the Shale Oil Revolution is About to Shrivel Up

by Nicholas C Arguimbau - CounterCurrents

In January, 2011, this writer published a four-part article in Countercurrents and elsewhere entitled, "The War: Did We Sacrifice A Million Lives And A $Trillion Cash Just To Hand Our Jobs To China?" It was long (around 40 pages), and I must admit a little confusing, because the information was so stunning that I had a difficult time understanding what I was reading. The gist of the article was that Big Oil had asked Congress in 1998 to remove the Taliban so as to allow the building of a pipeline that would let Mideastern oil go to "the right markets." 
"The right markets"? Guess. The US and Europe, of course. 
Wrong. India and China. Those, it was explained, were "the right markets" because the oil market was stagnating in the US and Europe and actively growing in India and China. Hardly, it would seem, something for the US to go to war for. But, then, Wall Street is the government.

We went to war against the Taliban in 2001 shortly after the US officials who negotiated with the Taliban for permission to let the pipeline be built told them, according to two well-respected French journalists, "You can have a carpet of gold [if you allow the pipeline] or a carpet of bombs [if you don't]." Really? Yes. That's a 13-year-old story. The Taliban, as the well-documented story goes, chose the "carpet of bombs," we won the military war and our chosen successor to the Taliban, Hamid Karzai, promptly started to negotiate to get oil and natural gas to "the right markets."

And his administration, in a reportedly "fixed" deal, also sold China the world's largest undeveloped copper deposits at a staggeringly reduced price, despite an American bidder also among those seeking the deposits. The Afghan press announced, "China won the War." Stunning, given the level of corruption in Afghanistan, that OUR chosen successor to the Taliban gave China rather than the US the hot deals in oil, natural gas and copper. Why, unless that was what in fact the United States government (Wall Street remember?) intended, would our chosen successor to the Taliban in a notoriously corrupt country give China the goodies? George Monbiot wrote in November 2001 that the war was about oil, and we would put in a puppet who would assure we got it all and China and Russia got nothing. Nice try, George, but something was missing in your analysis: Wall Street and the US mega-corporations.

A mystery. Then we went to Iraq and undertook a "regime change" by force. If the cynics were right that the war was about oil, surely the new regime would be primed to assure the United States would get a "fair" share of the oil. Indeed, a major field, in a non-auctioned deal, was split between Russia and Exxon Mobil, but then came the auction, in December 2009, of Iraq's other major fields. There were bidders from the East, particularly a Chinese-Malaysian partnership, but not one American oil company participated in the auction. They were "noticeably absent," according to the Iraqi press. Needless to say, they got none of the oil, which instead went to "the right markets," So, "China won the war," again. Iraq laid out a literal red carpet and the whole thing was televised. Transparency in government. As for Exxon-Mobil it spent years wrangling with our puppets, finally gave up, and recently sold its share to China.
Try to find an "American" high-tech product that isn't produced in China.

It is hard to believe that China would get everything and the US would get nothing from our chosen regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq unless that is what our government intended. What are "puppet" governments for, after all? Instead of trouncing the Chinese, "we" laid out a red carpet for them. But why? My article explored that question, too. There has been a massive flight to China of "American" mega-corporations in recent years - GM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Pfizer, the oil companies themselves, including BP. 
The manufacturing sector of the United States economy is down to 12 percent and dropping. "American" manufacturers need an assured supply of oil in an era in which conventional oil is anything but assured. We know how corrupt Congress is, so is it going to bring the spoils of war to the US when the mega-corporations don't need oil here but need it in China where they have resettled their manufacturing operations? If the wars were about oil as the cynics say, then we would have to arrange for our chosen "puppet" regimes to turn over the spoils of war to "the right markets" where "American" business is now booming. And that is what happened. It makes perfect sense in a warped way.

Anyhow, that was the gist of my January 2011 article. Just about no one read it. The article is still there if you want links to the sources.

Two and a half years later, and four years after the auction, the New York Times announced in June, 2013, "China Is Reaping Biggest Benefits of Iraq Oil Boom." Pretty different from how George Monbiot had things figured in 2001.

Go figure. Now is a hopeful time to discover that China won the war. After all, as the Times said, "With the boom in American domestic oil production in new shale fields surpassing all expectations over the last four years, dependence on Middle Eastern oil has declined, making access to the Iraqi fields less vital for the United States."

Maybe, but things are a little "iffy" about the shale oil revolution, seen by its proponents to be turning the US in "the new Saudi Arabia." With Harvard University publishing its slick "Oil: The Next Revolution," with "Veritas" plastered over the cover, but with research 100 percent funded by BP, the world has gone into a frenzy of "shale revolution" rhapsody. Somehow in the din, actual numbers get lost. French oil geologist Jean Laherrere has produced a devastating technical critique of the Harvard/BP report, "Comments on Maugeri's Oil Revolution - Part I," and Part II
He is far from alone. David Strahan, an independent blogger, interviewed Maugeri and uncovered Maugeri's misunderstanding of much of what he was relying on, and he admitted flaws in his basic calculations, "Oil glut forecaster Maugeri admits duff maths," and David Hughes of the respected Post Carbon Institute has produced a serious, transparent and detailed (166 pages) analysis of productivity of the shale oil, shale gas and tar sands resources in the United States and Canada with the ironic title, "Drill Baby Drill." 
By painstakingly compiling data on drilling sites, productivity and decline rates of existing wells, he concludes that the Bakken and Eagle Ford plays, constituting 80 percent of present and expected shale oil deposits in the US, will peak in the 2015-2017 period, and produce a total of approximately 7 billion barrels of oil, in the range of USGS estimates. Production of shale oil has yet to exceed two percent of world conventional oil production – or, to put things differently, only half of the annual decline of world conventional-oil production, and the industry is already sputtering.

Sputtering or peaking? Oil geologists Jean Laherrere and David Hughes have independently concluded that "peak Bakken" and "peak Eagle Ford" are 2014 and 2016 respectively. They now predict the ultimate production to be around 11 billion barrels. Shale wells produce heavily, but deplete rapidly, so today's dramatic rise can be tomorrow's dramatic crash. Here's how things look to Laherrere and Hughes:

The years 2014 and 2016 aren't very far away, are they? If Hughes and Laherrere (not to mention the United States Geological Survey) are anywhere close to the truth, then "Peak oil" is alive and well, and the revolutionaries have been sent packing. We shall know very soon, but presently it appears that the Harvard/BP "revolution" is only "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," per Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5. People don't seem to see the difference between total production of around 7 billion barrels and a "revolution." See, for example, Bloomberg, "Bakken, Three Forks Has More Oil Than 2008 Estimate: USGS," an article by Mark Drajem published in the spring of 2013 about US Geological Survey findings.

How is the US actually doing? Its petroleum consumption is decreasing at 4.5 percent per year, according to an April 2012 Petroleum Economist report. That is about the decline rate predicted by many not long ago to be today's anticipated global decline rate for conventional oil, as previously documented. It is in fact precisely on target for major global conventional oil fields today. The graph of actual world crude production, including both the US shale oil and the Canadian tar sands, looks all too much like the graph featured in "Imminent Crash."

This is happening at the same time as China's demand continues to increase at 8-10 percent per year. The two curves, Chinese increase and global decrease, intersect around 2025, as I pointed out in my 2011 article. This means, at least in theory, that China will be in control of the entire remaining world oil supply by that date if nothing changes. In short, everyone but China is in serious long-term trouble, and shale oil is only a flash in the pan that won't help us.

As for the New York Times, I guess we've come to expect it will take four years to hear about televised petroleum auctions, three years to read the headlines in the Kabul Press and two and a half years, if ever, to read Countercurrents. Maybe the newspaper of record prints "all the news that's fit to print," but you have to be pretty patient.
Nicholas C. Arguimbau is an environmental and death penalty lawyer who has come home to rural Massachusetts after 34 years in California.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The New Phase of Guantánamo Torture: Prisoners Report Shaker Aamer “Beaten,” Another Man Assaulted “For Nearly Two Hours”

Guantánamo Violence: Prisoners Report Shaker Aamer “Beaten,” Another Man Assaulted “For Nearly Two Hours”

by Andy Worthington

In a recent letter to the British foreign secretary Philip Hammond, Clive Stafford Smith, the founder and director of the legal action charity Reprieve, described how he has “just received a series of unclassified letters from various detainees who we represent in Guantánamo Bay,” which “tell a disturbingly consistent story” — of “a new ‘standard procedure’ where the FCE team [the armored guards responsible for violently removing prisoners from their cells through 'forcible cell extractions'] is being used to abuse the prisoners with particular severity because of the on-going non-violent hunger strike protest against their unconscionable treatment.”

With particular reference to Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who is still held despite being cleared for release since 2007, Stafford Smith noted in his letter, dated August 22, “I have not received a recent letter from Shaker Aamer as I understand that he is seriously depressed — which is not surprising given all that he has been through.”

He added, “However, our other clients have reported that ‘[o]n Sunday, Shaker ISN 239 was beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood.’”

In a press release, Reprieve noted that Mr. Aamer “has previously described being beaten by the FCE team up to eight times a day,” and added that he “has been held for long periods of solitary confinement since 2005 and is in extremely poor health.”

Reprieve added, “An independent medical examination conducted earlier this year,” which I wrote about here, “diagnosed him with severe post-traumatic stress, and recommended urgent psychiatric treatment and ‘reintegration into his family.’”

Reprieve also explained that, in June, Hammond’s predecessor, William Hague, wrote to Clive Stafford Smith stating that the British government had “received assurances from the US Government that Mr. Aamer’s health remains stable and that he has access to” what was described as “the detainee welfare package.”

In the letter to Philip Hammond, Clive Stafford Smith also quoted from a letter in which one of Reprieve’s clients mentioned other prisoners who are being treated brutally, and who are both long-term hunger strikers — Abu Bakr Alahdal (ISN 171), a Yemeni, and Tarek Baada (ISN 178), another Yemeni, who has been on hunger strike since 2007.

Reprieve’s client wrote:

“In the last four days an FCE team has been brought in to beat the detainees. Anyone who refuses to comply will be beaten. They broke ISN 171’s hand. They twisted ISN 178’s hand and leg such that he cannot use his leg to walk.

“Stafford Smith also explained how Emad Hassan (ISN 680), another Yemeni, long cleared for release, who has also been on a hunger strike since 2007, “writes of the same incidents, describing a beating administered to ISN 171 [Abu Bakr Alahdal] that lasted one hour and 55 minutes.”

“Stafford Smith proceeded to explain that, in another letter, another Reprieve client, Khalid Qassim (ISN 242), who is also Yemeni, “describes the same kind of matters. He was himself FCE’d in an effort involuntarily to take his weight and he described being beaten badly.”

In his letter to Philip Hammond, Clive Stafford Smith concluded by stating, “I am particularly concerned about the mental health of Mr. Aamer and other prisoners in light of this latest bout of sustained violence,” and asked for the foreign secretary’s imminent “reassurance” that the government “has raised this concern forcefully with the US government.”

Last month, when Emad Hassan submitted a letter to US District Judge Gladys Kessler in the case of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, another hunger striker, long cleared for release, who is leading the prisoners’ legal challenges against their force-feeding, and who has secured the limited release of videotapes showing the force-feeding and “forcible cell extractions,” his description of how brutal the force-feeding is currently prompted Alka Pradhan of Reprieve to tell Jason Leopold of VICE News that she thought Mr. Hassan was “describing policy changes that have been implemented since the arrival of a new Guantánamo warden and commander of the detention facility last month,” as Jason Leopold put it. She said, “Every time you get a new commander, they will tighten up the rules if they had loosened before, and that’s what I think we’re seeing.”

If that is the case, it is time that senior officials in the Obama administration paid closer attention to what is happening at Guantánamo — although one way of doing that, of course, would be to free Shaker Aamer, Emad Hassan, Abu Bakr Alahdal, Tarek Baada, Abu Wa’el Dhiab and all the the prisoners long cleared for release but still held — of the 149 men still held, the 75 cleared for release in 2009 by President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and the four others cleared for release in recent months by newly-established Periodic Review Boards.
What you can do now

If you’re in the UK, please contact Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, and ask him to take urgent action on Shaker’s behalf. You can email him here via his Private Office at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). A general phone number for the FCO is 020 7008 1500.

If you’re in the US, you can call the White House on 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 or submit a comment online.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here – or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

- See more at: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2014/08/29/guantanamo-violence-prisoners-report-shaker-aamer-beaten-another-man-assaulted-for-nearly-two-hours/#sthash.fWfUqGbi.dpuf

Talking to Russians: What About That NATO?

So, I Asked the Russian Ambassador What He Thinks of NATO

by David Swanson - War Is a Crime

The Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, spoke at the University of Virginia on Tuesday evening, in an event organized by the Center for Politics, which no doubt has video of the proceedings. Kislyak was once ambassador to Belgium and to NATO.

Kislyak spoke to a packed auditorium and took, I think, well over an hour of questions. He spoke frankly, and the questions he was asked by students, professors, and other participants were polite and for the most part far more intelligent than he would have been asked on, for example, Meet the Press.

He told the audience that Russia had known there were no WMDs in Iraq, and had known that attacking Iraq would bring "great difficulties" to that country. "And look what is happening today," he said. He made the same comment about Libya. He spoke of the U.S. and Russia working together to successfully remove chemical weapons from the Syrian government. But he warned against attacking Syria now.

There will be no new Cold War, Kislyak said, but there is now a greater divide in some ways than during the Cold War. Back then, he said, the U.S. Congress sent delegations over to meet with legislators, and the Supreme Court likewise. Now there is no contact. It's easy in the U.S. to be anti-Russian, he said, and hard to defend Russia. He complained about U.S. economic sanctions against Russia intended to "suffocate" Russian agriculture.

Asked about "annexing" Crimea, Kislyak rejected that characterization, pointed to the armed overthrow of the Ukrainian government, and insisted that Kiev must stop bombing its own people and instead talk about federalism within Ukraine.

There were remarkably few questions put to the ambassador that seemed informed by U.S. television "news." One was from a politics professor who insisted that Kislyak assign blame to Russia over Ukraine. Kislyak didn't.

I always sit in the back, thinking I might leave, but Kislyak was only taking questions from the front. So I moved up and was finally called on for the last question of the evening. For an hour and a half, Kislyak had addressed war and peace and Russian-U.S. relations, but he'd never blamed the U.S. for anything in Ukraine any more than Russia. No one had uttered the word "NATO."

So I pointed out the upcoming NATO protests. I recalled the history of Russia being told that NATO would not expand eastward. I asked Kislyak whether NATO ought to be disbanded.

The ambassador said that he had been the first Russian to "present his credentials" to NATO, and that he had "overestimated" NATO's ability to work with Russia. He'd been disappointed by NATO actions in Serbia, he said, and Libya, by the expansion eastward, by NATO pressure on Ukraine and Poland, and by the pretense that Russia might be about to attack Poland.

"We were promised," Kislyak said, that NATO would not expand eastward at all upon the reunification of Germany. "And now look." NATO has declared that Ukraine and Georgia will join NATO, Kislyak pointed out, and NATO says this even while a majority of the people in Ukraine say they're opposed.

The ambassador used the word "disappointed" a few times.

"We'll have to take measures to assure our defense," he said, "but we would have preferred to build on a situation with decreased presence and decreased readiness."

Wouldn't we all.

Join the campaign to shut down NATO.

Sign a petition for an independent investigation into the airplane crash in Ukraine.

Send a note to the Russian Embassy to let them know you're against a new Cold War too.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Taking Wing: America's Chicken Hawks Fly Again!

America’s War Hawks Back in Flight

by Danny Schechter - Consortium News

Sound the bugle! Get the press to march along; we are going to war. Again! Enemies R ‘Us!

 For a long time with the killing of bin Laden, a jihadi fatigue had set in. With the apparent shriveling up of the Al Qaeda menace, America’s threat-defining and -refining machinery was somewhat adrift. What had been so simple turned too complex to fuse into one sound-bite.

Barack Obama, then President-elect, and President George W. Bush 
at the White House during the transition in November 2008. 

Former CIA official Thomas Fingar, now at Stanford University, describes his own frustration in finding out what U.S. policy priorities should be in national intelligence. He asked his colleagues to share the threats they worried about. He was soon inundated.

When I was given responsibility for the process known as the National Intelligence Priorities Framework, almost 2,300 issues had been assigned priorities higher than zero,” he explained. “My first instruction was, ‘Reduce the number’.”

He knew they needed only one bad-ass enemy to focus fears and attract appropriations to fight. He had too many threats to respond to. They had to go. Now, he and the Obama administration have that new bad guy: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS.

Political scientist/analyst Michael Brenner says Washington is in an ISIS panic: “The grotesque beheading of James Foley is stirring passions in Washington policy circles. From the highest levels of the Obama administration to the media pundits, emotions are flaring over what the United States should/could do. The act in itself has changed nothing insofar as IS’ threat to the United States and its significance for Middle East politics are concerned. It is the mood that has been transformed. Irresistible impulse is displacing cool deliberation. The flood of commentary, as usual, reveals little in the way of rigorous logic but much in the way of disjointed thinking and unchecked emotion.”

The response? Give us a war plan, and not just against ISIS, let’s throw in Syria too. Money is apparently no object.

Breaking Defense.com reports: “US operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (or whatever we’re calling it these days) have probably cost the country about $100 million so far, according to one of the top defense budget experts. It’s difficult to come up with a precise estimate for what current operations in Iraq are costing.”

Don’t forget, as Glenn Greenwald didn’t, before the current focus on ISIS, the U.S. was bombarding Syria’s Bashar al-Assad with calls that he step down amidst threats of overthrowing him.

It was not even a year ago,” Greenwald writes, “when we were bombarded with messaging that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a Supreme Evil and Grave Threat, and that military action against his regime was both a moral and strategic imperative. Now the Obama administration and American political class is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the failed ‘Bomb Assad!’ campaign by starting a new campaign to bomb those fighting against Assad – the very same side the U.S. has been arming over the last two years.”

Recall: the campaign for bombing Assad’s military was undercut when public opinion in the U.S. turned against it. The Obama administration negotiated instead, and accomplished something, eventually destroying Syria’s stash of chemical weapons. Why emulate a success when you can make more mistakes?

That was then, and this is now. ISIS is the new boogieman. The next stage of our assault is underway as we can deduce from a build up of recent press reports:

Daily Beast: Obama Wants ISIS War Plan

President Barack Obama wants to make a decision by the end of this week whether or not to expand his war against ISIS into Syria, report Josh Rogin and Eli Lake. However, nobody knows yet how we can do it, or what will happen next. 

Still, there are plenty of ominous headlines:

  • Syria and Isis committing war crimes, says UN

  • Alawites prepare as IS, Jabhat al-Nusra close in on regime areas

  • Drones a Step Toward Expanding War Into Syria

  • U.S. Mobilizes Allies to Widen Assault on ISIS

Specialops.org (Elite Magazine for Elite Warriors) reports:

Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS, were trained in 2012 by U.S. instructors working at a secret base in Jordan, according to informed Jordanian officials. The officials said dozens of ISIS members were trained at the time as part of covert aid to the insurgents targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The officials said the training was not meant to be used for any future campaign in Iraq.

The Jordanian officials said all ISIS members who received U.S. training to fight in Syria were first vetted for any links to extremist groups like al-Qaida.

Now, there are reports that the CIA is forming new hit squads to use ISIS tactics against ISIS with an ISIS-like assassination offensive, to “cut off the head of the snake.” (Sounds like beheading doesn’t it?) Shh! Sounds like we are headed back to the dark side with killings, torture, renditions, secret sites, etc. Will that long-awaited CIA report now be seen as a manual for more of the same.

The last time the U.S. organized assassination teams in Iraq in 2003, it didn’t work out that well, And guess who else was involved? Israel trains US assassination squads in Iraq:

Israel helping train US special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency (CI) operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads against guerrilla leaders, US intelligence and military sources said. … The new CI unit made up of elite troops being put together in the Pentagon is called Task Force 121, New Yorker magazine reported. … One of the planners, highly controversial … Lt. Gen. William ‘Jerry’ Boykin … with calls for his resignation after he told an Oregon congregation the US was at war with Satan who ‘wants to destroy us as a Christian army’.”

Ten years later – in 2013 – the German magazine Der Spiegel reported U.S. training Syrian rebels in Jordan. And so it goes, as once again, around and around, we become more and more like the enemy we warn against.

Back to Michael Brenner’s take on how our media hysteria is not helping, “There is a more general lesson to be learned from this latest exercise in ad hoc policy-making by press conference. The insistence of senior officials to speak at length in public on these complex, sensitive matters when there is no set policy is inimical to serious planning and diplomacy. If they feel compelled to react to events to satisfy the media and an agitated populace, they should just say a few well-chosen words and then declare themselves on the way to an important meeting – preferably not in Martha’s Vineyard.

Silence, though, is taken to be tantamount to death in the egocentric media age where image is all – confusing random motion with focused action.” Amen.

Why look back? No one wants to learn anything! Iraq 2.0 was a disaster for President George W. Bush. Can we expect Iraq 3.0 under President Obama to be any better? Afghanistan is a disaster. Israel failed in its aims in Gaza, whatever bloody “urban renewal” was imposed at a high human toll. Libya is a mess.

Knock, knock: raise your hand if you think Syria will become our next miracle?

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at Newsdissector.net and works on Mediachannel.org. Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org