Saturday, September 15, 2012

Carding the Capitalist: 52 Shades of Greed

Project: 52 Shades of Greed

by  Marc Scheff

52 Shades of Greed is a fully illustrated deck of finance and OWS-themed playing cards with drawings from 28 top illustrators. Learn about who and what is breaking our financial system. Enjoy the incredible art on the cards!

The Red Iguana Sez: Vivir Revolucion

 Vivir Revolucion

via Iguana Roja

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ramallah: Where Rock and Hard Place Meet

Protest in Ramallah

by Uri Avnery - Gush Shalom

Visiting Ramallah after an absence of several months, I was again amazed by the ongoing building activity. Everywhere new high-rise buildings are going up, and many of them are beautiful. (Arabs seem to have an innate talent for architecture, as any world anthology of architecture affirms.)

The building boom seems to be a good sign, confirming Israeli assertions that the economy in the occupied West Bank is flourishing. But on second thought, my enthusiasm faded. After all, the money invested in residential buildings does not go to factories or other enterprises that provide jobs and promote real growth. It only shows that some people are getting rich even under the occupation.

My destination was a diplomatic reception. Some high functionaries of the Palestinian Authority and other upper-class Palestinians attended.

I exchanged pleasantries with the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, and some of the well-dressed guests, and enjoyed the delicacies. I did not discern any excitement.

Nobody would have guessed that at that very moment, in the center of the city, a stormy demonstration was taking place. It was the beginning of a massive protest that is still going on.

THE DEMONSTRATORS in Ramallah and other towns and villages in the West Bank are protesting against the high cost of living and the economic hardship in general.

Palestinian journalists told me that the price of gasoline in the West Bank is almost the same as in Israel: about eight shekels per liter. That would be about eight dollars per gallon in the US or 1.7 Euro per liter in Europe. Since the minimum wage in the West Bank, about 250 $ per month, is only a quarter of the Israeli minimum wage, that is atrocious. (This week the Palestinian Authority hastily lowered the price.)

Recently, on the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday ending the Ramadan month of fasting, the occupation authorities surprisingly allowed 150 thousand Palestinians to enter Israel. Some went straight to the sea shore, which many of them had never seen before, though they live less than an hour’s drive away. Some went to visit ancestral homes. But many others went on a shopping spree. It appears that many goods are actually cheaper in Israel than in the impoverished occupied territories!
(By the way, not a single incident was reported that day.)

THE PROTESTS were against the Palestinian Authority. It’s a bit like a dog biting the stick, instead of the man who is wielding it.

Actually, the PA is quite helpless. It is bound by the Paris Protocol, the economic appendix of the Oslo agreement. Under this protocol, the occupied territories are part of the Israeli “customs envelope” and the Palestinians cannot fix their own customs duties.

Amira Hass of Haaretz quotes the following conditions: inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are not allowed to export their agricultural products; Israel exploits the water, minerals and other assets in the West Bank; Palestinian villagers pay much higher prices for water than Israeli settlers; Gaza fishermen cannot fish beyond three miles from the shore; Palestinian inhabitants are forbidden to travel on the main highways, compelling them to make costly and time-consuming detours.

But more than any restrictions, it’s the occupation itself that makes any real improvement impossible. What serious foreign investor would go to a territory where everything is subject to the whims of a military government which has every motive for keeping its subjects down? A territory where every act of resistance can provoke brutal retaliation, such as the physical destruction of Palestinian offices in the 2002 “Operation Defensive Shield”? Where goods for export can rot for months, if an Israeli competitor bribes an official?

Donor nations can give some money to the Palestinian Authority to keep it alive, but they cannot change the situation. Neither would the abolition of the Paris Protocol, as demanded by the demonstrators, change much. As long as the occupation is in place, any progress – if there is any - is conditional and temporary.

STILL, THE situation in the West Bank remains far better than the situation in the Gaza Strip.

True, as a result of the “Turkish flotilla”, the blockade of the Strip has been lifted to a large extent. Almost everything can now be brought into the Strip from Israel, though almost nothing can be brought out. Also, the naval blockade is in full force.

However, lately the situation there has been improving rapidly. The hundreds of tunnels under the Egyptian-Gaza border are in practice bringing in everything, from cars to gasoline to building materials. And now, with the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt, this border may be opened completely, a step that would radically change the economic situation of the Strip.

Nabeel Shaath, the top Palestinian diplomat, told me at the reception that this may actually be a major obstacle to PLO-Hamas reconciliation. Hamas may want to wait until the economic situation in the Strip surpasses that in the West Bank, reinforcing their chances to win all-Palestinian elections again. Mahmoud Abbas, on his part, hopes that the new Egyptian president will convince the Americans to support the West Bank and strengthen his Authority.

(When I reminded Shaath that years ago I attended his wedding at Jerusalem’s now desolate Orient House, he exclaimed: “We thought then that peace was just a step away! Since then, we have been thrown a long distance back!”)

DESPITE THE economic troubles, the picture of the Palestinians as a helpless, pitiable victim is far removed from reality. Israelis may like to think so, as well as pro-Palestinian sympathizers around the world. But the Palestinian spirit is unbroken. Palestinian society is vibrant and self-reliant. Most Palestinians are determined to achieve a state of their own.

Abbas may ask the UN General Assembly to recognize Palestine as a “non-state member”. He may do so after the US elections. I wondered aloud if this would really change the situation. “It certainly would!” a prominent Palestinian at the reception assured me. “It would make clear that the Two-State solution is alive and put an end to the nonsense about a bi-national state.”

On the way to the reception I did not see a single women in the streets with her hair uncovered. The hijab was everywhere. I remarked on this to a Palestinian friend, who is quite unreligious. “Islam is gaining,” he said. “But that may be a good thing, because it is a moderate form of Islam that will block the radical ones. It is the same as in many other Arab countries.”

I did not perceive any sympathy for the Ayatollahs of Iran. But nobody wished for an Israeli attack. “If Iran bombs Israel in retaliation,” Nabeel Shaath remarked, “their missiles will not distinguish between Jews and Arabs. We live so close to each other, that Palestinians will be hit like the Israelis.”

SINCE my visit, the demonstrations in Ramallah have intensified. It seems that Fayyad serves as a kind of lightning rod for Abbas.

I don’t think that this is just. Fayyad seems to be a decent person. He is a professional economist, a former official of the International Monetary Fund. He is not a politician, not even a Fatah member. His economic viewpoint may be conservative, but I don’t think that this makes much of a difference considering the situation in Palestine.

Sooner or later, and probably sooner rather than later, the wrath of the Palestinian poor will change direction. Instead of blaming the Palestinian Authority, they will turn against their real oppressor: the occupation.

The Israeli government is aware of this possibility, and therefore made haste to pay the PA an advance on the tax money that Israel owes the PA. Otherwise the PA – by far the biggest employer in the West Bank – would be unable to pay salaries at the end of this month. But that is only a stopgap measure.

Binyamin Netanyahu may stick to the illusion that all is quiet on the Palestinian front, so that he can concentrate on his efforts to get Mitt Romney elected and frighten Iran. After all, when Palestinians are protesting against Palestinians, that’s OK. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is frozen. No problem.

But this illusion is, well, an illusion. In our conflict, nothing is ever frozen.

Not only are the settlement activities going on steadily - if quietly - but on the Palestinian side, too, things are moving. Pressures are building up. At some time, they will explode.

When the Arab Spring finally arrives in Palestine, its main target will not be Abbas or Fayyad. Abbas is no Mubarak. Fayyad is the very opposite of a Qaddafi. The target will be the occupation.

Some Palestinians dream about a new intifada, with masses of people marching non-violently against the symbols of the occupation. This may be too much to hope for – Martin Luther King was no Arab. But the demonstrations in Ramallah and Hebron may be a sign of things to come.

There is still truth in the old saying, that the conflict here is a clash between an irresistible force and an immovable object.

Human Rights Cage Match: Obama v. Romney

Obama vs Romney on Human Rights


Michael Ratner: President Obama’s record on human rights is no better than George Bush

Watch full multipart 2012 US Elections

Michael Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is currently a legal adviser to Wikileaks and Julian Assange. He and CCR brought the first case challenging the Guantanamo detentions and continue in their efforts to close Guantanamo. He taught at Yale Law School, and Columbia Law School, and was President of the National Lawyers Guild. His current books include "Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in the Twenty-First Century America," and “ Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder.” NOTE: Mr. Ratner speaks on his own behalf and not for any organization with which he is affiliated.

Bibi's Huffing and Puffing

The Wind and the Sun

by William A. Cook

Aesop tells the story of the North Wind and the Sun: who is the stronger? They chose a traveler to test their strength; which of the two could force him to remove his cloak. The North Wind went first, whirling furiously down on the traveler, whipping his cloak to wrest it from him; but the more furiously he whirled, the more securely the man wrapped himself in his cloak. The Sun abided his time and smiled gently at the traveler, gradually warming the air and surrounding the traveler with warmth and gentleness. Before he had gone many steps, he was glad to throw off his cloak and walk lightly clad among his brethren. The moral: Persuasion is better than force.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said the United States had forfeited its moral right to stop Israel taking action against Iran's nuclear program because it had refused to be firm with Tehran itself.” (, Tuesday, September 11, 2012).

Curiously and perhaps ironically, Netanyahu claimed, “The world tells Israel, ‘Wait, there’s still time’. And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’” And the world might well respond, “When Israel decides to join the world community in a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement, and places itself in the same position as all mid-eastern states, bereft of weapons of mass destruction, standing with all other nations as free states, free of its military totalitarianism, free to join its neighbors beyond the walls of isolation it has erected to maintain its tribal nature living in constant fear of its true mid-eastern lineage. It might find that the communities of the world would find Israel’s willingness to abide by international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights justification to join that state as a friend worthy of world-wide acceptance into the United Nations, not a rogue state sustained by the impunity provided by the unequivocal backing of the US.

What moral right does Netanyahu refer to when his state has been operating without morals for 63 years? How strange, yet frighteningly real it is that a person’s life can be tracked by madness inflicted by one on utter strangers or on innocents made enemies to further the madness. When I was four Mahatma Ghandi penned this note:

“It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to the savage stage. Must you pay the price for an object however worthy it may appear to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has seliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success?” (“Letter to Herr Hitler,” 1939).

Today there is no Ghandi to pen such a note to Mister Netanyahu as he thrashes about to launch an invasion against his perceived enemy, the state of Iran. His madness is manifest in his deafness to his own contradictions: his moral right to destroy the industrial development of a sister state; his moral right to impose his judgment and his will on the citizens of that state who have done nothing to the citizens of Israel; his moral right to impose his sickness on his fellow Jews despite their pleadings that he does not speak for them; his moral determination that his state has moral rights to the very weapons he’d deny to his neighbors; his moral contempt for the perspectives of Russia and China and Brazil and 117 other nations that declared their objection to his idiocy at the NAM conference held just two weeks ago in Tehran; and, perhaps most glaringly to a citizen of the U.S., his moral condemnation of the President of the United States who has groveled with the best of our Congressional hoard before the altar of AIPAC to declare unequivocal allegiance to this state that has no loyalty to its Golem, just scorn for its weakness, lack of self-esteem and its acceptance of the disgraceful humiliation showered on it by that very state.

That is the madness of one who has crowned himself with glory, lifted himself to the pinnacle of self-righteous power, bathed in the adulation of the fanatical hoards that chant his praises in our House of Representatives, and praised the evangelical Zionists that bow before him as they urge him to fulfill the Armageddon promised their sick minds in the book of Revelation.

How sad. Centuries ago, over 2500 to be precise, Aesop penned fables, brief but telling tales of the human condition told in simple narratives, easily understood—even by the least of our intellectual brethren, even by an idiot—that conveyed a moral.

The tale of the North Wind and the Sun, the one that began this piece, conveys a simple reality of human history: the future of humankind depends on its kindness to all, its sensitiveness to the plight of others, its desire to aid those in distress, its awareness of the thinking that binds people together and a corresponding awareness to tolerate divergent thought, its hope and dreams for all who live and all who will inherit this earth, its absolute commitment to compassion, to caring, to sharing that all may live and love and know they too are equal to all others, bound in loving kindness that all may dream and live in peace.

That is a moral Netanyahu might consider as he thumps his way from podium to podium damning the Iranians, damning those who will not follow his madness, proclaiming his G-d given right to blast the Iranians from the face of the earth, to slaughter their soldiers, destroy their villages and towns, turn their rivers into streams of flowing blood, slaughtering their people because they dare to oppose his rule as though he ruled the earth even though he is PM of six million in a state the size of Rhode Island, but of such importance it must be the voice of all, or so he believes. If it were not that the Congressmen of this nation, the United States, might listen to his madness, this might be laughable. But that’s not the case.

So instead, what if the Israeli State were to take the high moral road built on true morals--to love one another, to love even your enemy, to love as you would be loved--to sit down with the Iranian people, to meet them as equals, to attempt to comprehend how two divergent peoples held at bay these many decades could understand each other, to negotiate an end to verbal hostilities and through dialogue and warmth and gentleness embrace each other that all might live to enjoy today and tomorrow, and forever, together.

Thus might the creative and constructive power of persuasion from both sides overcome the derisive anger and destructive power of force. May we let our ancient ancestors speak for us in lieu of Ghandi.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

PUI: Smells Like Old Times in South Africa

PUI in South Africa: The New Initials of Desperation

by Danny Schechter

Johannesburg, South Africa - During its long liberation struggle, South African organisations were known by initials like ANC, PAC, AZAPO, COSATU etc. It was a well-known alphabet of activism.

In today's South Africa, nearly 20 years after the arrival of a multi-racial democracy, there are three letters that are not as well known but central to understanding the conflicts that continue to swirl here from the recent massacre of 34 striking miners by police to almost daily protests against poor service delivery and outrage against growing corruption: PUI.

PUI stands for Poverty, Unemployment and Inequality, all social phenomena that are growing and some say worse today than when Nelson Mandela was elected South Africa's president.

To assess the feelings of South Africans, surveyors from the Gallup Poll organisation put this question to a carefully selected sample in February and March of this year: "Now I am going to read you a lot of issues the Government of South Africa could address in the next twelve months. Please tell me which is the most important."

The questions dealt with corruption, education, healthcare and the economy.

Fifty one per cent of the respondents put "Create New Jobs" at the top of their list.

Notes Gallup: "Currently, 28 per cent of South Africans overall say it is a good time to find a job in their community, while 69 per cent say it is a bad time. Those job opportunities that do exist are disproportionately concentrated in the cities, so that South Africans living in urban areas are almost twice as likely as those living in small towns or rural areas to say it is a good time to find a job - 40 per cent vs. 22 per cent, respectively. Correspondingly, the richest 20 per cent of South Africans are about twice as likely as the remaining 80 per cent to perceive job opportunities as good in the city or area where they live."
"Currently, 28 per cent of South Africans overall say it is a good time to find a job in their community, while 69 per cent say it is a bad time."

- Gallup Poll

The issue of jobs is of course a global challenge with unemployed and underemployed workers clamouring for job creation in every country. But, in South Africa, where workers fought so hard against a racial system of apartheid, many now find themselves stuck in an economic one.

An Afrikaner intellectual, Solomon Johannes (Sampie) Terreblanche is emerging as the country's leading and hardest-hitting analyst of growing and worsening inequality and poverty that impacts as many as 50 per cent of all black South Africans.

Unlike others who are just critical of the African National Congress government, he offers a structural and global analysis showing that the political transition that took place here in the early 90s was not accompanied by a social and economic transformation.

He explains how these inequalities have their roots in a long history of colonialism, segregation and apartheid.

His new book Lost in Transformation (KMM Review Publishing) goes in to how what he calls the Mining Energy Complex (MEC) subverted the demands for fundamental reform through secret deal making behind the scenes of the negotiations for a new order.

He then ties what happened locally to the growth of an international American-driven neo-liberal global economic agenda that limited local sovereignty and policy options.

Terreblanche is a serious researcher, not a conspiracy theorist, but followers of Noam Chomsky and many critics of the economic strategies of the World Bank and the IMF will find a great deal to learn from his incisive analysis.

"The PUI problem that was bequeathed to the ANC government by the apartheid regime in 1994 was already almost unsolvable," he writes.

"The ANC has proclaimed repeatedly that addressing the PUI problem is its highest priority. But this is true only in the rhetorical sense of the word. The policy measures implemented by the government over the past years have given strong preference to black elite formation and to promoting the interests of local and foreign corporations while it has shamelessly neglected the impoverished black majority."

This is the deeper background to the conflicts now surfacing in this country which are far more economic than political. When you hear about more uprisings and confrontation, think PUI - and what must be done about it.

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at His latest books are Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street and Blogothon (Cosimo Books). He also hosts a programme on Progressive Radio Network.

Cornering the Kill Market: America's Monopolization of War

Monopolizing War?

What America Knows How to Do Best

by Tom Engelhardt - TomDispatch

It’s pop-quiz time when it comes to the American way of war: three questions, torn from the latest news, just for you. Here’s the first of them, and good luck!

Two weeks ago, 200 U.S. Marines began armed operations in…?:

a) Afghanistan
b) Pakistan
c) Iran
d) Somalia
e) Yemen
f) Central Africa
g) Northern Mali
h) The Philippines
i) Guatemala

If you opted for any answer, “a” through “h,” you took a reasonable shot at it. After all, there’s an ongoing American war in Afghanistan and somewhere in the southern part of that country, 200 armed U.S. Marines could well have been involved in an operation. In Pakistan, an undeclared, CIA-run air war has long been underway, and in the past there have been armed border crossings by U.S. special operations forces as well as U.S. piloted cross-border air strikes, but no Marines.

When it comes to Iran, Washington’s regional preparations for war are staggering. The continual build-up of U.S. naval power in the Persian Gulf, of land forces on bases around that country, of air power (and anti-missile defenses) in the region should leave any observer breathless. There are U.S. special operations forces near the Iranian border and CIA drones regularly over that country. In conjunction with the Israelis, Washington has launched a cyberwar against Iran’s nuclear program and computer systems. It has also established fierce oil and banking sanctions, and there seem to have been at least some U.S. cross-border operations into Iran going back to at least 2007. In addition, a recent front-page New York Times story on Obama administration attempts to mollify Israel over its Iran policy included this ominous line: “The administration is also considering... covert activities that have been previously considered and rejected.” So 200 armed Marines in action in Iran -- not yet, but don’t get down on yourself, it was a good guess.

In Somalia, according to Wired magazine's Danger Room blog, there have been far more U.S. drone flights and strikes against the Islamic extremist al-Shabaab movement and al-Qaeda elements than anyone previously knew. In addition, the U.S. has at least partially funded, supported, equipped, advised, and promoted proxy wars there, involving Ethiopian troops back in 2007 and more recently Ugandan and Burundi troops (as well as an invading Kenyan army). In addition, CIA operatives and possibly other irregulars and hired guns are well established in Mogadishu, the capital.

In Yemen, as in Somalia, the combination has been proxy war and strikes by drones (as well as piloted planes), with some U.S. special forces advisors on the ground, and civilian casualties (and anger at the U.S.) rising in the southern part of the country -- but also, as in Somalia, no Marines. Central Africa? Now, there’s a thought. After all, at least 100 Green Berets were sent in there this year as part of a campaign against Joseph Kony’s Ugandan-based Lord’s Resistance Army. As for Northern Mali, taken over by Islamic extremists (including an al-Qaeda-affiliated group), it certainly presents a target for future U.S. intervention -- and we still don’t know what those three U.S. Army commandos who skidded off a bridge to their deaths in their Toyota Land Rover with three “Moroccan prostitutes” were doing in a country with which the U.S. military had officially cut its ties after a democratically elected government was overthrown. But 200 Marines operating in war-torn areas of Africa? Not yet. When it comes to the Philippines, again no Marines, even though U.S. special forces and drones have been aiding the government in a low-level conflict with Islamic militants in Mindanao.

As it happens, the correct, if surprising, answer is “i.” And if you chose it, congratulations!

On August 29th, the Associated Press reported that a “team of 200 U.S. Marines began patrolling Guatemala’s western coast this week in an unprecedented operation to beat drug traffickers in the Central America region, a U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday.” This could have been big news. It’s a sizeable enough intervention: 200 Marines sent into action in a country where we last had a military presence in 1978. If this wasn’t the beginning of something bigger and wider, it would be surprising, given that commando-style operatives from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have been firing weapons and killing locals in a similar effort in Honduras, and that, along with U.S. drones, the CIA is evidently moving ever deeper into the drug war in Mexico.

In addition, there’s a history here. After all, in the early part of the previous century, sending in the Marines -- in Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Repubic, and elsewhere -- was the way Washington demonstrated its power in its own “backyard.” And yet other than a few straightforward news reports on the Guatemalan intervention, there has been no significant media discussion, no storm of criticism or commentary, no mention at either political convention, and no debate or discussion about the wisdom of such a step in this country. Odds are that you didn’t even notice that it had happened.

Think of it another way: in the post-2001 era, along with two disastrous wars on the Eurasian mainland, we’ve been regularly sending in the Marines or special operations forces, as well as naval, air, and robotic power. Such acts are, by now, so ordinary that they are seldom considered worthy of much discussion here, even though no other country acts (or even has the capacity to act) this way. This is simply what Washington’s National Security Complex does for a living.

At the moment, it seems, a historical circle is being closed with the Marines once again heading back into Latin America as the “drug war” Washington proclaimed years ago becomes an actual drug war. It’s a demonstration that, these days, when Washington sees a problem anywhere on the planet, its version of a “foreign policy” is most likely to call on the U.S. military. Force is increasingly not our option of last resort, but our first choice.

Now, consider question two in our little snap quiz of recent war news:

In 2011, what percentage of the global arms market did the U.S. control?

(Keep in mind that, as everyone knows, the world is an arms bazaar filled with haggling merchants. Though the Cold War and the superpower arms rivalry is long over, there are obviously plenty of countries eager to peddle their weaponry, no matter what conflicts may be stoked as a result.)

a) 37% ($12.1 billion), followed closely by Russia ($10.7 billion), France, China, and the United Kingdom.
b) 52.7% ($21.3 billion), followed by Russia at 19.3% ($12.8 billion), France, Britain, China, Germany, and Italy.
c) 68% ($37.8 billion), followed by Italy at 9% ($3.7 billion) and Russia at 8% ($3.5 billion).
d) 78% ($66.3 billion), followed by Russia at 5.6% ($4.8 billion).

Naturally, you naturally eliminated “d” first. Who wouldn’t? After all, cornering close to 80% of the arms market would mean that the global weapons bazaar had essentially been converted into a monopoly operation. Of course, it's common knowledge that the U.S. arms giants, given a massive helping hand in their marketing by the Pentagon, remain the collective 800-pound gorilla in any room. But 37% of that market is nothing to sniff at. (At least, it wasn’t in 1990, the final days of the Cold War when the Russians were still a major competitor worldwide.) As for 52.7%, what national industry wouldn’t bask in the glory of such a figure -- a majority share of arms sold worldwide? (And, in fact, that was an impressive percentage back in the dismal sales year of 2010, when arms budgets worldwide were still feeling the pain of the lingering global economic recession.) Okay, so what about that hefty 68%? It couldn’t have been a more striking achievement for U.S. arms makers back in 2008 in what was otherwise distinctly a lagging market.

The correct answer for 2011, however, is the singularly unbelievable one: the U.S. actually tripled its arms sales last year, hitting a record high, and cornering almost 78% of the global arms trade. This was reported in late August but, like those 200 Marines in Guatemala, never made onto front pages or into the top TV news stories. And yet, if arms were drugs (and it’s possible that, in some sense, they are, and that we humans can indeed get addicted to them), then the U.S. has become something close enough to the world's sole dealer. That should be front-page news, shouldn’t it?

Okay, so here’s the third question in today’s quiz:

From a local base in which country did U.S. Global Hawk drones fly long-range surveillance missions between late 2001 and at least 2006?

a) The Seychelles Islands
b) Ethiopia
c) An unnamed Middle Eastern country
d) Australia

Actually, the drone base the U.S. has indeed operated in the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean was first used only in 2009 and the drone base Washington has developed in Ethiopia by upgrading a civilian airport only became operational in 2011. As for that “unnamed Middle Eastern country,” perhaps Saudi Arabia, the new airstrip being built there, assumedly for the CIA’s drones, may now be operational. Once again, the right answer turns out to be the unlikely one. Recently, the Australian media reported that the U.S. had flown early, secretive Global Hawk missions out of a Royal Australian Base at Edinburg. These were detected by a “group of Adelaide aviation historians.” The Global Hawk, an enormous drone, can stay in the air a long time. What those flights were surveilling back then is unknown, though North Korea might be one guess. Whether they continued beyond 2006 is also unknown.

Unlike the previous two stories, this one never made it into the U.S. media and if it had, would have gone unnoticed anyway. After all, who in Washington or among U.S. reporters and pundits would have found it odd that, long before its recent, much-ballyhooed “pivot” to Asia, the U.S. was flying some of its earliest drone missions over vast areas of the Pacific? Who even finds it strange that, in the years since 2001, the U.S. has been putting together an ever more elaborate network of its own drone bases on foreign soil, or that the U.S. has an estimated 1,000-1,200 military bases scattered across the planet, some the size of small American towns (not to speak of scads of bases in the United States)?

Like those Marines in Guatemala, like the near-monopoly on the arms trade, this sort of thing is hardly considered significant news in the U.S., though in its size and scope it is surely historically unprecedented. Nor does it seem strange to us that no other country on the planet has more than a tiny number of bases outside its own territory: the Russians have a scattered few in the former SSRs of the Soviet Union and a single old naval base in Syria that has been in the news of late; the French still have some in Francophone Africa; the British have a few leftovers from their own imperial era, including the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has essentially been transformed into an American base; and the Chinese may be in the process of setting up a couple of modest bases as well. Add up every non-American base on foreign soil, however, and the total is probably less than 2% of the American empire of bases.

Investing in War

It would, by the way, be a snap to construct a little quiz like this every couple of weeks from U.S. military news that’s reported but not attended to here, and each quiz would make the same essential point: from Washington’s perspective, the world is primarily a landscape for arming for, garrisoning for, training for, planning for, and making war. War is what we invest our time, energy, and treasure in on a scale that is, in its own way, remarkable, even if it seldom registers in this country.

In a sense (leaving aside the obvious inability of the U.S. military to actually win wars), it may, at this point, be what we do best. After all, whatever the results, it’s an accomplishment to send 200 Marines to Guatemala for a month of drug interdiction work, to get those Global Hawks secretly to Australia to monitor the Pacific, and to corner the market on things that go boom in the night.

Think of it this way: the United States is alone on the planet, not just in its ability, but in its willingness to use military force in drug wars, religious wars, political wars, conflicts of almost any sort, constantly and on a global scale. No other group of powers collectively even comes close. It also stands alone as a purveyor of major weapons systems and so as a generator of war. It is, in a sense, a massive machine for the promotion of war on a global scale.

We have, in other words, what increasingly looks like a monopoly on war. There have, of course, been warrior societies in the past that committed themselves to a mobilized life of war-making above all else. What’s unique about the United States is that it isn’t a warrior society. Quite the opposite.

Washington may be mobilized for permanent war. Special operations forces may be operating in up to 120 countries. Drone bases may be proliferating across the planet. We may be building up forces in the Persian Gulf and “pivoting” to Asia. Warrior corporations and rent-a-gun mercenary outfits have mobilized on the country’s disparate battlefronts to profit from the increasingly privatized twenty-first-century American version of war. The American people, however, are demobilized and detached from the wars, interventions, operations, and other military activities done in their name. As a result, 200 Marines in Guatemala, almost 78% of global weapons sales, drones flying surveillance from Australia -- no one here notices; no one here cares.

War: it’s what we do the most and attend to the least. It’s a nasty combination.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute's His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

Copyright 2012 Tom Engelhardt
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Just a small reminder of our special offer: in return for a contribution of $75 or more, you receive a personalized, signed copy of the just-published paperback of State Department whistleblower Peter Van Buren’s Catch-22 of a book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. Signed books by Noam Chomsky as well as by Nick Turse and me are also available at our donation page. And remember: your donations help keep the articles flowing at TomDispatch! Tom]  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Class War: Chicago's Teachers at the Front

Chicago Teachers Strike Rooted in Community Struggle 


 Chicago teachers fighting bipartisan consensus over "corporate" education reform

Watch full multipart Chicago Teachers Strike

States Joining Israel Boycott


Growing Isolation: Boycott of Israel Crosses to Governments’ Realm

by Ramzy Baroud

Should Israel be worried? Very much so, for the age of total impunity is coming to an end. Critical voices of the Israeli occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians are rising - not only within civil society circles, but among world governments as well.

The picture may seem grim if seen through the prisms of the recent US Republican and Democratic National Conventions. But the world is not the United States’ government, which is defined by self-serving politics and a quisling corporate media that often places Israeli interests over those of the US itself. Now with the decline of the US as an economic superpower, and as other countries and regional blocs jockey for an advanced position in the new world order, Israel is sure to suffer further isolation in coming years.

Almost daily new evidence is emerging to demonstrate this increasingly stark reality. Israel’s friends are fully aware of this, as are Israeli politicians. The emerging new realization is that money and power are rarely enough to buy legitimacy. South Africa is expectedly leading the way towards that new global paradigm shift, and others countries are following suit.

Recently, South Africa’s cabinet passed a decision requiring Israel to distinguish between products made in Israel and those made in illegal Jewish colonies in the West Bank. The decision was both politically sound and morally consistent with the country’s anti-apartheid legacy. It was also a natural progression of South Africa’s policies, which have reflected impatience with Israel through the years.

It is clear that Israel has chosen the apartheid option, not just as a de facto outcome of its military policies, but through a decided legal and political pattern. South Africa’s decision, however, was not just motivated by political necessity. Veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle have had numerous influences on the country’s civil society. Even the new generation is intoned with a freedom discourse that unites most sectors of society. ‘Freedom for Palestine’ was a natural fit in that powerful discourse and no amount of Israeli propaganda has been enough to deter South Africans from standing in solidarity with Palestinians. The feelings are, of course, mutual.

The total output of Israeli trade with South Africa was modest to begin with. Since 2009, trade volumes dipped significantly, and political ties became colder than ever. This had much to do with the Israel war on Gaza (2008-09) and what was seen as an act of Israeli piracy against the Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara in May 31, 2011. South Africa, along with few other countries, withdrew its ambassador from Israel in protest of the deadly raid which killed nine peace activists.

The matter is of greater significance than dollars and cents. The latter will become a major factor when a global boycott reaches a critical mass. The real danger is the precedence that South Africa continues to set, which will provide other countries with legal and political references.

Soon after South Africa’s decision – which followed remarks made by various officials discouraging their nationals from visiting Israel, and was followed by another major university voting for divestment and boycott – pro-Israel officials have tried to mobilize. Denis McShane, British MP and Policy Council member for ‘Labour Friends of Israel’, reacted by making dismaying and historically inconsistent parallels between South Africa and Nazi Germany. Writing in the Jewish Chronicle on September 6, Moira Schneider said that MacShane “likened the boycott of Israeli products to the kauf nicht bei Juden imperative of Nazi Germany.”

“Criticism of Israel is perfectly legitimate, but we have to be clear that the new antisemitic trope is beyond the pale of legitimate criticism,” he was quoted as saying. “The notion of Israel as an apartheid state is deliberately promoted because an apartheid state cannot exist.”

While the flawed logic has been uttered numerous times in the past, MacShane’s alarm now can be explained outside the political context of South Africa, but rather in terms of what is happening in his own country. Indeed, there has been a string of statements pointing at efforts underway in several European countries to enact laws relevant to the illegality of the Jewish settlements.

Some recent statements include British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt "dropp(ing) the strongest hint yet that the UK may be moving towards a ban on goods from illegal Israeli settlements." (The Electronic Intifada, July 5, 2012). Towards the end of last year, Ireland's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade renewed his country's commitment to the exclusion of settlement products from the EU. More recently, on September 5, Israel's daily Haaretz reported on the Norwegian Foreign Minister's comments regarding the import of goods produced in the settlements, “which we consider illegal according to international law.”

Still more, on September 7, The Jerusalem Post reported that “the European Union is considering instituting a ban on imports of products made in Israeli settlements, a Greek Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying to a group of Israeli and Palestinian journalists in Athens...”

Such a shift in language would never have been achieved without the civil society mobilization that occurred in several countries. As in South Africa, governments are being held accountable by vigilant and tireless groups, collectively pushing for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). They will not reduce their efforts until Israel changes course, respects international law, and frees Palestinians from decades-long military bondage.

Unable to fathom the global paradigm shift, Israeli politicians are responding with an incoherent strategy. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor accused the government of South Africa of ‘exclusion and discrimination.’ The Israeli government decried the “blatant discrimination,” claiming it was “based on national and political distinction”. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon went even further, accusing South Africa of exactly that which was alleged of Israel.“Unfortunately it turns out that the changes that took place in South Africa over the years have not brought about basic changes in the country, and it remains an apartheid state,” Ayalon said (Jerusalem Post, August 23).

But angry words aside, the world is changing. Israel, however, is digressing into a dark corner where racism and apartheid are still applied with impunity. Many Israelis are refusing to attest to their country’s fall into the abyss. A wakeup call can only arrive when the world treats the Israeli government in the same way that South Africa’s apartheid regime was once treated.

Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London.)

Disembodying the Corporation


On 'Corporate Citizenship' and Changing Views

by Rafe Mair - The

Sometimes a good dose of introspection is good for the soul...and as a test of whatever principles you now espouse.

I’m always amused when someone accuses me me of “inconsistency”, which reminds me of Emerson’s aphorism, “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”.

It remains, obviously, to decide if my changes in position are foolish.

I admit to being a contrarian. Seeing that, and recognizing that it might be an interesting experiment, Premier Bill Bennett made me Environment Minister in 1978. It was only a year as I was moved up to Health the next shuffle but that time gave me much pause for reflection and I became convinced that Industry would only care about the environment  if they were forced to or if, somehow, it made them money. As my associate Damien Gillis often points out, if corporations did things that prevented them from paying dividends or putting the bottom line first, it was tantamount to a breach of fiduciary duty.

This is true. The only thing a company is supposed to do is make a profit.

Companies often take pride in employing people as if that was an act of good citizenship, not for the purposes of profiting from employees’ labours.There is, of course, nothing wrong with companies employing people - what’s wrong is the notion that they do this out of some charitable gesture, motivated by altruistic philosophy.

They take pride in spending philanthropically although, as Jimmy Pattison has shown around the province, that is seldom done anonymously. Moreover donations are tax deductible.

Often the donation interferes with the plans in place - let me explain.

Say a company wants to place an MRI scanner in a certain hospital. The Health Ministry will have a schedule for placing these machines and the corporation’s choice is not at the top of the list. The donation now, in effect, deprives another hospital of the MRI it had reason to expect was theirs. Now, if the corporation were to say, “I understand that hospital X is in line for an MRI, I will build it for them,” that would be quite a different thing.

There’s another important factor - MRI's cost a fortune to run. If the corporation stays in the lineup, the government will have made provision for the cost. When it jumps the queue, the Health budget is distorted.

I have nothing but praise for philanthropy when it is done in cooperation with the targeted donee and the donor is not seeking to gain business from the publicity and is not seeking a tax break.

My only point is that one makes a serious mistake in thinking that donations from corporations are not intended to increase profits.

Back to the environment. In Tuesday’s Sun was a headlined story of how Teck Resources has been polluting the Columbia River for decades and doesn’t deny the story but simply denies the the damages claimed. This candid admission came only after they were sued.

In all events, my short stint as Minister of Environment confirmed what I long had suspected - the real environment department of a company is its public relations budget and that there were no exceptions to that rule.

British Columbians now face serious environmental problems on many fronts - mines, rivers, farm land, fish farms, pipelines and tankers to name a few. And here’s the rub - the corporations are under no compulsion to behave appropriately and, in fact, the onus is not on them to demonstrate that their venture is environmentally sound; no, it’s private citizens and organizations they form that bear that onus!

The Precautionary Principle places to onus of proof on the developer, not the public.

In fact, the onus should not just be on the developer. Counsel for the public should be the governments, but they are, when so-called “free enterprise” parties rule, virtually always bought and paid for and wind up supporting the developer and bad-mouthing environmentalist groups. It’s interesting to note that Ministers accuse environmental groups as being bankrolled by foreign money as they help foreign companies such as Chinese government-owned corporations and companies like General Electric gobble up our resources, pollute like hell then take their money and run.

(Incidentally, The Common Sense Canadian has no foreign “sugar daddies” and would like it known that we would love some!)

Does all this mean that I’m a neo-communist - or even a socialist?

Not at all. I believe in the marketplace, if only because nothing else works as well. I say this recognizing that "socialist" countries are not that at all - they just demand that companies pay their fair share of taxes and obey social and environmental rules. I don’t want public ownership, other than natural monopolies, but strong laws and good policemen.

That is what I mean when I call myself an environmentalist.

In Canada as a whole and in British Columbia we have government of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation.

That’s what we must change if we ever wish, as Lincoln actually said, to have a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Rafe Mair was a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. Since 1981 he has been a radio talk show host, and is recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

AIDS Drone

Drone Strikes on People With AIDS?

by Robert Naiman 

It is reported that Stalin said, "The death of one person is a tragedy; the death of a million people is a statistic." Today, a latter-day Stalin might say, "The death of four Yemeni civilians in a U.S. drone strike is a tragedy; the death of a million people because we let brand-name drug companies own U.S. 'trade policy' would be a statistic."

Right now, in Leesburg, Va., the office of the U.S. Trade Representative is negotiating a so-called "trade agreement" -- the "Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement" -- that could put the lives of millions of innocent civilians at risk. The process is secret: USTR refuses to publish a draft negotiating text, so any American who isn't cleared by USTR to see the text can't say for sure exactly what USTR is doing right now.

I put the phrase "trade agreement" in quotation marks because calling these deals "trade agreements" is fundamentally misleading for many people. The phrase "trade agreement" suggests to some that governments are only talking about "lowering barriers to trade." If you call it a "trade agreement," some people might think, "That doesn't concern me very much. I'll go check to see if Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are still married instead." If you called it "an agreement to raise drug prices so people you care about can't get life-saving medicines," more people might think, "I'd better pay attention to this. I can catch up with Brangelina later."

Bloomberg reports (emphasis mine): Transparency has become an issue of the Pacific-region talks, with consumer, labor and environmental groups siding with some U.S. lawmakers who want participants to make their positions public. U.S. officials have said they will hold a public comment period and congressional review after talks are complete, in line with their policy for recent trade deals including those with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

That's cold comfort, because "after talks are complete," as a practical matter it's almost impossible to change such agreements. If you don't have input before "talks are complete," then as a practical matter you have no effective input.

But because there was a previous leak of the chapter of the draft negotiating text that dealt with intellectual property claims, people who have followed these issues closely have some idea of what USTR has been doing on our dime. What we can say with confidence is this: In an agreement that USTR hopes will eventually cover 40 percent of the world's population, the negotiating position of USTR has reneged on previous commitments the U.S. government has made to promote the ability of governments to pursue public health goals in "trade agreements" rather than undermining the ability of governments to pursue public health goals.

And regardless of anything else, that fact alone should be a national scandal. When, at long last, you nail acknowledgement of a fundamental human right to the wall, it should stay nailed there. We shouldn't have to fight USTR on access to essential medicines every time they negotiate a new "trade deal." USTR should cry uncle on this for all time, no matter how much money brand-name drug companies spend on lobbying and political campaigns.

In August 2012, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders noted that the 19th International AIDS Conference "illuminated the profound contradiction" between the U.S. government's goal of "an AIDS-free generation" and "some of the U.S. government's trade policies." MSF noted the need to make antiretroviral therapy available to "more than 7 million people still in need of urgent treatment." To achieve this, MSF said, "antiretroviral drugs need to be available at affordable prices." But, MSF said, USTR is "promoting restrictive trade policies that would make it much harder for patients, governments and treatment providers like MSF to access price-lowering generic drugs."

Leaked drafts of the TPP agreement, MSF said, "outline U.S. aggressive intellectual property demands that that could severely restrict access to affordable, life-saving medicines for millions of people... [T]he U.S. is asking countries to create new, enhanced and longer patent and data monopoly protections for multinational pharmaceutical companies so they can keep competitors out of the market and charge higher prices for longer."

Affordable generic medicines have played a crucial role in expanding access to treatment, MSF noted.

But: demand for newer HIV treatments is growing fast... Access to these ARV drugs will largely be contingent on the same price-busting generic competition responsible for the first wave of AIDS treatment scale up. The TPP's provisions, aimed at creating stronger and longer monopolies and making it more difficult to use legal tools to promote access to generics, could cut off access to these lifesaving medicines for millions.

Do you think that "public comment" and "congressional review" of an agreement that "could cut off access to these lifesaving medicines for millions" should wait until after the agreement is signed, when, in practical terms, the prospects for changing the agreement would be near zero? Do you think it's intrinsically offensive that USTR (public employees whose salaries you pay through your taxes, and who are using as their negotiating leverage access to U.S. markets, including your consumer dollars) would press other countries to agree to such policies, regardless of whether the other countries resist or cave? Do you think that USTR should cry uncle on the issue of access to essential medicines for all time?

If you think you might have an opinion on this at some point, the time to make some noise is now. Later may be too late. One place you can make some noise is here.

Robert Naiman - Policy Director, Just Foreign Policy

Politics, Neoliberalism and Violence in the New Narcoeconomy

Reviewing - Drug War Mexico: Politics, Neoliberalism and Violence in the New Narcoeconomy, Peter Watt & Roberto Zepeda, Zed Books, 2012. 

 by Dawn Paley - Upside Down World

If you look for it, you might find find a buried headline about how a Caravan organized by Mexicans impacted by drug violence is making its way from the U.S. Mexico border to Washington DC, calling for justice and peace in Mexico. Hundreds of people are gathering at each of the stops along the way to remember the dead and disappeared, and to denounce the ongoing atrocities being committed in the name of the War on Drugs.

It goes without saying that coverage of the Caravan pales in comparison to reports of new atrocities in Mexico, which, stripped of any context, make headlines around the world. Even so, coverage of the violence can hide more than it reveals. By way of example, there is no reliable number of the total number of dead in the war. Most media figures tend closer to the lower estimate of 60,000, while some peg it at over 200,000.

For people looking for a more careful analysis on what is taking place in Mexico, Peter Watt and Roberto Zepeda's new book, Drug War Mexico, is a good place to start. The authors begin by acknowledging the problematic role the mainstream media play in the conflict in Mexico.

"Reports from media organizations like Televisa in Mexico, CNN in the US, and the BBC in the UK tend to present the 'drug war' in Mexico as a mysterious and inexplicable conflict in which the government (with the help of its ally, the United States) and the army attempt to defeat the evil tactics and poisonous influence of organized crime," write Watt and Zepeda in the introduction. "Within this narrow and misleading representation of the drug war, state actors who perpetrate violence and abuse human rights are rarely ascribed agency, and thus are afforded complete immunity by influential mainstream media organizations. Consequently, the drug war is seldom given the historico-political context and analysis it surely merits."

What follows in Drug War Mexico is Watt and Zepeda's attempt to map how the intensification of violence in Mexico "did not arrive out of the blue."

A brief history of drug cultivation, use, and state power in Mexico opens the book, which then delves into anti-drugs initiatives in Mexico from the 1970s onwards. By the time of the presidency of Luis Echeverría (1970-1976), write Watt and Zepeda, the government of Mexico was already associating "all types of political activism with criminality and frequently with drug trafficking." Watt and Zepeda set up the national and international context at the time, painting in broad strokes the Mexico where the CIA and the DEA began to set up a "permanent drug war."

The book describes in some detail Operation Condor, a US backed anti- drug plan that involved the militarization of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua, as well as aerial spraying of crops with Agent Orange. Drug War Mexico argues these processes made heroin and marijuana prices spike and encouraged the "cartelisation" of the drug trade. "For the producers and traffickers with the best political contacts, the largest networks, and sufficient resources, and for those who had adapted to survive the initial years of this new phase of anti-drug policy, this sharp and sudden rise in the price of their exports was both rewarding and tantalising," write Watt and Zepeda.

The false notion that the state and drug traffickers are oppositional forces is firmly dispelled in Drug WarMexico, which draws on numerous examples to prove cooperation and at the very least complicity between the political and business class and the so-called underworld. The authors argue that the 1982 election of Miguel de Madrid and the changes heralded in during his term were more significant than the break from the PRI in 2000.

They go on to document how narcotics trafficking must be understood as an "integral component" in Mexico's economic transformation towards neoliberalism. This economic restructuring took place just as the US led war on drugs was at its most active in the Caribbean, pushing cocaine smugglers into Mexico. Watt and Zepeda carefully document the connections between CIA-linked secret police in Mexico and high level traffickers, relationships which unfolded at the same time as the Iran-Contra debacle came to light in the US.

Later, the book discusses how the North America Free Trade Agreement "provided both the infrastructure and the labour pool to facilitate smuggling…" further developing the idea of a narcotics industry intertwined with neoliberal transformation.

"Proponents of NAFTA thus bear no small responsibility for the growth of drug production in Mexico and, ironically, are often the same individuals behind the 'war on drugs,'" they write. 

Drug War Mexico goes a long way towards explaining the notion that the militarization of Mexico through the drug war is a form of "armouring NAFTA." Even so, the "new narcoeconomy" referenced in the title is outlined but not described with as much detail as it merits. Woven together from journalist sources, analysts and academics, the book may leave readers wishing for more on the ground context and first person perspectives on the violence and terror wreaking Mexico.

In their treatment of the years 2000-2012, Mexico's two term break with PRI governance, Watt and Zepeda outline much of the more recent context around the drug war. Much of this section will be familiar to more casual observers of the drug war in Mexico, as it includes background on some of the direct groups and characters whose prowess and financial power are bandied around by the mainstream media today.

Here there are a few areas where Drug War Mexico could have gone into more detail so as to debunk baseless information repeated in the mainstream press. For example, the authors use information touted by Forbes magazine regarding the wealth of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka "El Chapo," even though there is little proof that Forbes has an accurate methodology for determining the fortune of a so-called drug lord.

Watt and Zepeda also claim that "Latin America has remained 'democratic' so far, but there is more poverty in the region today than there was 20 years ago," ignoring the 2009 coup d'état in Honduras, an event of key importance which is inextricably linked with US anti-drug policy in the region.

The authors write "As the USA's closest ally, Mexico has become the latest battleground in assuring US hegemony throughout the hemisphere." This is, again, worthy of further thought and elaboration in a regional context. Though Mexico's economy is much larger, it is not immediately clear that Calderón's Mexico is necessarily a closer ally the US than Colombia under Juan Manuel Santos, Panama under Ricardo Martinelli, Honduras under the post- coup presidency of Porfirio Lobo, or even Guatemala under ex-general Otto Pérez Molina.

All said, Drug War Mexico is a carefully constructed and well referenced book that provides valuable insight into the violence throughout Mexico. Dispelling the artificial binary between state forces and so-called drug cartels is perhaps the book's strongest suit, and is done here in an accessible manner. Excavating histories little known and seldom referenced in the English language press, Drug War Mexico is an important addition to a growing body of work suggesting a new frame through which to understand what is taking place in Mexico today.

Chicago's Schools Say "No!" to the Chicago School

Tens of Thousands Rally to Support Striking Chicago Teachers 


Historic Chicago teachers strike enters second day 

Watch full multipart Chicago Teachers Strike 

9/11 Story: Doubting It Then, Doubting It Still


On 9/11 Doubts Were Immediate

by Paul Craig Roberts

On September 11, 2001, a neighbor telephoned and said, “turn on the TV.” I assumed that a hurricane, possibly a bad one from the sound of the neighbor‟s voice, was headed our way, and turned on the TV to determine whether we needed to shutter the house and leave.

What I saw was black smoke from upper floors of one of the World Trade Center towers. It didn‟t seem to be much of a fire, and the reports were that the fire was under control. While I was trying to figure out why every TV network had its main news anchor covering an office fire, TV cameras showed an airplane hitting the other tower. It was then that I learned that both towers had been hit by airliners.

Cameras showed people standing at the hole in the side of the tower looking out. This didn‟t surprise me. The airliner was minute compared to the massive building. But what was going on? Two accidents, one on top of the other?

The towers—the three-fourths or four-fifths of the buildings beneath the plane strikes–were standing, apparently largely undamaged. There were no signs of fire except in the vicinity of where the airliners had hit. Suddenly, one of the towers blew up, disintegrated, and disappeared in fine dust. Before one could make any sense of this, the same thing happened to the second tower, and it too disappeared into fine dust.

The TV news anchors compared the disintegration of the towers to controlled demolition. There were numerous reports of explosions throughout the towers from the base or sub-basements to the top. (Once the government put out the story of terrorist attack, references to controlled demolition and explosions disappeared from the print and TV media.) This made sense to me. Someone had blown up the buildings. It was completely obvious that the towers had not fallen down from asymmetrical structural damage. They had blown up.

The images of the airliners hitting the towers and the towers blowing up were replayed time and again. Airliners hit the top portions of the towers, and not long afterward the towers blew up. I turned off the TV wondering how it was that cameras had been ready to catch such an unusual phenomenon as an airplane flying into a skyscraper.

I don’t remember the time line, but it wasn‟t long before the story was in place that Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda gang had attacked the US. A passport had been found in the rubble. Another airliner had flown into the Pentagon, and a fourth airliner had crashed or been shot down. Four airliners had been hijacked, meaning airport security had failed four times on the same morning. Terrorists had successfully assaulted America.

When I heard these reports, I wondered. How could a tiny undamaged passport be found in the rubble of two skyscrapers, each more than 100 stories tall, when bodies, office furniture and computers could not be found? How could airport security fail so totally that four airliners could be hijacked within the same hour? How could authorities know so conclusively and almost immediately the names of the perpetrators who pulled off such a successful attack on the world‟s only superpower, when the authorities had no idea that such an attack was planned or even possible?

These questions disturbed me, because as a former member of the congressional staff and as a presidential appointee to high office, I had high level security clearances. In addition to my duties as Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury, I had FEMA responsibilities in the event of nuclear attack. There was a mountain hideaway to which I was supposed to report in the event of a nuclear attack and from which I was supposed to take over the US government in the event no higher official survived the attack.

The more the story of 9/11 was presented in the media, the more wondrous it became. It is not credible that not only the CIA and FBI failed to detect the plot, but also all 16 US intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency, which spies on everyone on the planet, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, Israel‟s Mossad, and the intelligence agencies of Washington‟s NATO allies. There are simply too many watchmen and too much infiltration of terrorist groups for such a complex attack to be prepared undetected and carried out undeterred.

Washington‟s explanation of the attack implied a security failure too massive to be credible. Such a catastrophic failure of national security would mean that the US and Western Europe were never safe for one second during the Cold War, that the Soviet Union could have destroyed the entire West in one undetected fell swoop.

As a person whose colleagues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington were former secretaries of state, former national security advisors, former CIA directors, former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I was troubled by the story that a collection of individuals unsupported by a competent intelligence service had pulled off the events of 9/11.

As a person with high level government service, I knew that any such successful operation as 9/11 would have resulted in immediate demands from the White House, Congress, and the media for accountability. There would have been an investigation of how every aspect of US security could totally fail simultaneously in one morning. Such a catastrophic and embarrassing failure of the national security state would not be left unexamined.

NORAD failed. The US Air Force could not get jet fighters in the air. Air Traffic Control lost sight of the hijacked airliners. Yet, instead of launching an investigation, the White House resisted for one year the demands of the 9/11 families for an investigation. Neither the public, the media, nor Congress seemed to think an investigation was necessary. The focus was on revenge, which the Bush neocon regime said meant invading Afghanistan which was alleged to be sheltering the perpetrator, Osama bin Laden.

Normally, terrorists are proud of their success and announce their responsibility. It is a way to build a movement. Often a number of terrorist groups will compete in claiming credit for a successful operation. But Osama bin Laden in the last video that is certified by independent experts said that he had no responsibility for 9/11, that he had nothing against the American people, that his opposition was limited to the US government‟s colonial policies and control over Muslim governments.

It makes no sense that the “mastermind” of the most humiliating blow in world history ever to have been delivered against a superpower would not claim credit for his accomplishment. By September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden knew that he was deathly ill. According to news reports he underwent kidney dialysis the following month. The most reliable reports that we have are that he died in December 2001. It is simply not credible that bin Laden denied responsibility because he feared Washington.

But Osama bin Laden was too useful a bogeyman, and Washington and the presstitute media kept him alive for another decade until Obama needed to kill the dead man in order to boost his sinking standings in the polls so that Democrats would not back a challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Numerous bin Laden videos, every one pronounced a fake by experts, were released whenever it was convenient for Washington. No one in the Western media or in the US Congress or European or UK parliaments was sufficiently intelligent to recognize that a bin Laden video always showed up on cue when Washington needed it. “Why would the „mastermind‟ be so accommodating for Washington?” was the question that went through my mind every time one of the fake videos was released.

The 9/11 “investigation” that finally took place was a political one run from the White House. One member of the commission resigned, declaring the investigation to be a farce, and both co-chairman and the legal counsel of the 9/11 Commission distanced themselves from their report with statements that the 9/11 Commission was “set up to fail,” that resources were withheld from the commission, that representatives of the US military lied to the commission and that the commission considered referring the false testimony for criminal prosecution.

One would think that these revelations would cause a sensation, but the news media, Congress, the White House, and the public were silent.

All of this bothered me a great deal. The US had invaded two Muslim countries based on unsubstantiated allegations linking the two countries to 9/11, which itself remained uninvestigated. The neoconservatives who staffed the George W. Bush regime were advocating more invasions of more Muslim countries. Paul O‟Neill, President Bush‟s first Treasury Secretary, stated publicly that the Bush regime was planning to invade Iraq prior to 9/11. O‟Neill said that no one at a National Security Council meeting even asked the question, why invade Iraq? “It was all about finding a way to do it.”

The leaked top secret Downing Street Memo written by the head of British intelligence (MI6) confirms Paul O‟Neill‟s testimony. The memo, known as the “smoking gun memo” whose authenticity has been confirmed, states that “President George W. Bush wants to remove Saddam Hussein, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” In other words, the US invasion of Iraq was based on nothing but a made up lie.

As an engineering student I had witnessed a controlled demolition. When films of the collapse of WTC building 7 emerged, it was obvious that building 7 had been brought down by controlled demolition. When physics instructor David Chandler measured the descent of the building and established that it took place at free fall acceleration, the case was closed. Buildings cannot enter free fall unless controlled demolition has removed all resistance to the collapsing floors.

If airliners brought down two skyscrapers, why was controlled demolition used to bring down a third building?

I assumed that structural architects, structural engineers, and physicists would blow the whistle on the obviously false story. If I could see that something was amiss, certainly more highly trained people would.

The first physicist to make an effective and compelling argument was Steven Jones at BYU. Jones said that explosives brought down the twin towers. He made a good case. For his efforts, he was pressured to resign his tenured position. I wondered whether the federal government had threatened BYU‟s research grants or whether patriotic trustees and alumni were the driving force behind Jones‟ expulsion. Regardless, the message was clear to other university based experts: “Shut up or we‟ll get you.”
Steven Jones was vindicated when chemist Niels Harrit of the University of Copenhagen In Denmark reported unequivocally that the scientific team in which he participated found nano-thermite in the residue of the twin towers. This sensational finding was not mentioned in the US print and TV media to my knowledge.

Several years after 9/11 architect Richard Gage formed Architects and Engineers for 9/11 truth, an organization that has grown to include 1,700 experts. The plans of the towers have been studied. They were formidable structures. They were constructed to withstand airliner hits and fires. There is no credible explanation of their failure except intentional demolition.

I also found disturbing the gullibility of the public, media, and Congress in the unquestioning acceptance of the official stories of the shoe-bomber, shampoo and bottled water bomber, and underwear bomber plots to blow up airliners in transit. These schemes are farcical. How can we believe that al Qaeda, capable of pulling off the most fantastic terrorist attack in history and capable of devising improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that kill and maim US troops and destroy US military vehicles would rely on something that had to be lighted with a match?

The shoe and underwear bombers would simply have pushed a button on their cell phones or laptops, and the liquid bomb would not have required extended time in a lavatory to be mixed (all to no effect).

None of this makes any sense. Moreover, experts disputed many of the government‟s claims, which were never backed by anything but the government‟s story line. There is no independent evidence that anything was involved other than firecracker powders.

The case of the underwear bomber is especially difficult to accept. According to witnesses, the underwear bomber was not allowed on the airliner, because he had no passport. So an official appears who walks him onto the airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas day. What kind of official has the authority to override established rules, and what did the official think would happen to the passenger when he presented himself to US Customs without a passport? Any official with the power to override standard operating practices would know that it was pointless to send a passenger to a country where his entry would be rejected.

The circumstantial evidence is that these were orchestrated events designed to keep fear alive, to create new intrusive powers for a new over-arching federal policy agency, to accustom US citizens to intrusive searches and a police force to conducting them, and to sell expensive porno-scanners and now more advanced devices to the Transportation Safety Administration. Apparently, this expensive collection of high-tech gadgetry is insufficient to protect us from terrorists, and in August 2012 the Department of Homeland Security put in an order for 750 million rounds of ammunition, enough to shoot every person in the US 2.5 times.

Naive and gullible Americans claim that if some part of the US government had been involved in 9/11, “someone would have talked by now.” A comforting thought, perhaps, but nothing more. Consider, for example, the cover-up by the US government of the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty that killed or wounded most of the crew but failed to sink the ship. As the survivors have testified, they were ordered in a threatening way not to speak about the event. It was twelve years later before one of the USS Liberty‟s officers, James Ennes, told the story of the attack in his book, Assault on the Liberty. I continue to wonder how the professionals at the National Institute of Standards and Technology feel about being maneuvered by the federal government into the unscientific position NIST took concerning the destruction of the WTC towers.

What will be the outcome of the doubts about the official story raised by experts? I worry that most Americans are too mentally and emotionally weak to be able to come to grips with the truth. They are far more comfortable with the story that enemies attacked America successfully despite the massive national security state in place. The American public has proved itself to be so cowardly that it willingly, without a peep, sacrificed its civil liberty and the protections of law guaranteed by the Constitution in order to be “safe.”

Congress is not about to expose itself for having squandered trillions of dollars on pointless wars based on an orchestrated “new Pearl Harbor.” When the neoconservatives said that a “new Pearl Harbor” was a requirement for their wars for American/Israeli hegemony, they set the stage for the 21st century wars that Washington has launched. If Syria falls, there is only Iran, and then Washington stands in direct confrontation with Russia and China.

Unless Russia and China can be overthrown with “color revolutions,” these two nuclear powers are unlikely to submit to Washington‟s hegemony. The world as we know it might be drawing to a close.

If enough Americans or even other peoples in the world had the intelligence to realize that massive steel structures do not disintegrate into fine dust because a flimsy airliner hits them and limited short-lived fires burn on a few floors, Washington would be faced with the suspicion it deserves.

If 9/11 was actually the result of the failure of the national security state to deter an attack, the government‟s refusal to conduct a real investigation is an even greater failure. It has fallen to concerned and qualified individuals to perform the investigative role abandoned by government. The presentations at the Toronto Hearings, along with the evaluations of the Panel, are now available, as is the documentary film, “Explosive Evidence–Experts Speak Out,” provided by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth.

The government‟s agents and apologists try to deflect attention from disturbing facts by redefining factual evidence revealed by experts as the product of “a conspiracy culture.” If people despite their brainwashing and lack of scientific education are able to absorb the information made available to them, perhaps both the US Constitution and peace could be restored. Only informed people can restrain Washington and avert the crazed hegemonic US government from destroying the world in war.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following.