Saturday, October 27, 2012

Assassin in Chief: Voting Back in the Killer

Institutionalized State Assassinations and the November 6 Election

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

With barely a week and a half to go until the November 6 presidential elections, the entire spectrum of the American pseudo-left is exerting maximum efforts to turn out votes for Obama with the claim that the reelection of the incumbent Democrat would represent the “lesser of two evils.”

If there was any need for a further refutation of this shabby political argument it has been provided in the form of the exposé run by the Washington Post this week on the Obama administration’s institutionalization of assassinations orchestrated from the White House.

“Disposition Matrix,” sounding like the title of a science fiction film, is the term crafted by Obama’s intelligence and military advisers to describe a new system that is “codifying and streamlining” the extrajudicial killings that are being carried out on the orders of the US president on virtually a daily basis.

The media’s bloodless reports referring to unmanned aircraft carrying out strikes against “compounds” and killing unnamed “militants” serve to mask the reality of US drone warfare, which in Pakistan alone has torn to pieces and incinerated thousands of civilians, men, women, children, while leaving entire communities in a permanent state of terror. An untold number more have been killed in Yemen and Somalia and no doubt elsewhere.

The Post series reveals that the individual playing the presiding role in this program of state assassinations is John Brennan, a former top-ranking Central Intelligence Agency official tapped by Obama to be his counterterrorism adviser.

In the run-up to his inauguration, Obama had moved to name Brennan as the new CIA director. He was forced to back off the nomination, however, in the face of popular outrage over the fact that the candidate of “hope” and “change” was installing a holdover from the Bush years who was deeply implicated in the policies of torture, indefinite detention, extraordinary rendition and cover-up that many thought they had voted against.

What emerges from the Post account is that Brennan has in his role of White House adviser amassed more control than the CIA director himself. Unelected and not subject to confirmation by Congress, Brennan wields “enormous power in shaping decisions on ‘kill’ lists and the allocation of armed drones, the war’s signature weapon,” the Post reports.

Carrying out these decisions are a combination of CIA paramilitary operatives and military commandos of the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command. JSOC, which operates under conditions of extreme secrecy and outside of the Pentagon’s chain of command, has been described by one military official as an “industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine” and by others as the “President’s Army.”

Among the victims of this machine are American citizens, including the New Mexico-born cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a drone missile attack in Yemen in September 2011. His 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was murdered in another drone strike two weeks later along with his 17-year-old cousin. No charges or even evidence was ever brought against Anwar al-Awlaki for any crimes, outside of his thoughts and speech. As for the 16-year-old son, there was not even that.

In a recent interview with CNN, Obama made the incredible claim that American citizens targeted in his assassination campaign are afforded “the protection of the Constitution and due process.” It did not occur to the reporter to ask what part of the Constitution grants the American president the power to order executions without presenting charges, much less proving them in a court of law.

What Obama means by “due process” is that he rubber-stamps decisions made by Brennan and the CIA spooks and military brass who gather weekly at the White House to prepare “kill lists” in what they cynically refer to as “terror Tuesdays.”

This entire criminal procedure is a repudiation in practice of the US Constitution and of the most elementary democratic rights dating back nearly 900 years to the English Magna Carta, which held that no person could be put to death or imprisoned “except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”

Attorney General Eric Holder, however, has directly asserted the president’s right to order state killings with no need for charges or trials. And Obama at the end of last year signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, allowing the president to throw anyone, including US citizens, into a military prison indefinitely without charge.

What has been put in place, on a scale that far surpasses what was done under George W. Bush, is the framework for an American police-military dictatorship.

Among the more chilling facts disclosed in the Post series is that the coordination of the “kill lists” has been entrusted to the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which it was recently revealed is simultaneously mining government data bases to accumulate vast amounts of information on average American citizens.

The erosion of democratic rights within the United States is far more advanced than most people realize. The methods of “kill lists” and military detention without charges or trial will be used against opponents of American imperialism all over the world and, increasingly, against those perceived as enemies of the state and impediments to profit interests within the US itself.

These policies are not driven fundamentally by the political ideology of either the Democratic or Republican parties, which give them bipartisan support. This was evidenced in Monday night’s debate, where Obama bragged about bringing alleged culprits “to justice” and Romney vowed “to kill them, to take them out of the picture.”

Rather they are the outcome, on the one hand, of unprecedented social inequality within America. The gap between a corporate and financial aristocracy that monopolizes economic wealth and political power and the vast mass of working people has become so wide as to be incompatible with democratic forms of rule. On the other hand, they are the byproduct of the unchecked growth of militarism, as US imperialism seeks to offset its economic crisis and decline by using armed force to assert control over the world’s strategically vital regions and resources.

The very fact that the detailed reports of a Murder, Inc. being run out of the West Wing of the White House have not prompted a public outcry and demands for Obama’s impeachment is testimony to the collapse of democratic consciousness within America’s ruling political establishment. Just as the economic practices of Wall Street and corporate America have assumed an increasingly criminal character, so the essential functioning of the state itself is ever more bound up with murder, brutality and extra-constitutional repression.

The startling revelations about the institutionalization of state assassinations under the Obama administration should impel workers and youth to consider very carefully what is happening in the US today and to draw the necessary political conclusions.

No matter which of the two capitalist parties emerges victorious on November 6, the immense dangers to basic democratic rights will only intensify in the wake of the election. Neither these rights, nor the jobs and conditions of working people, can be defended outside of a break with the Democratic Party and the preparation of a new revolutionary leadership and perspective in the working class for the great social struggles that are to come.

Copyright © 1998-2012 World Socialist Web Site

Haitian Oligarch Kidnapping Ring Busted as Clintons Pay a Call

Haiti: Wealthy Clifford Brandt arrested for kidnapping 

by Ezili Dantò of HLLN

On Monday, October 22, 2012, Hollywood helped the Clintons inaugurate the US's flagship sweatshop at Caracol, Haiti. Outside, protesting Haitians who don't applaud are arrested and silenced.

On Monday, October 22, 2012, another dirty business enterprise was being exposed while the Clintons and their wealthy Hollywood celebrity friends were showcasing the Caracol hoax, sharing a romantic moment -"opening Haiti," yet again, with the sharp media propaganda tools of providing relevant "jobs and housing" for Haiti.

Clifford Brandt, son of the wealthy Fritz Brandt and a member of one of Haiti’s billionaire families, was arrested at his place of business and put in handcuffs, accused of being the mastermind behind an organized kidnapping ring in Haiti.

According to Haiti officials, Clifford Brandt admitted his involvement in several kidnappings including the October 16, 2012 kidnapping of Coralie (23) and Nicolas Moscoso (24), two members of another wealthy Haiti family.

Clifford Brandt in handcuffs – arrested for involvement in kidnapping ring in Haiti

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, at 3:am, the morning after his arrest, interrogation and confession, Brandt took police to the place where the two young Moscoso adults were being held. Police freed them.

Clifford Brandt is the managing director of Mazda dealership in Delmas Haiti.

“His activity, indicated the Secretary of State for Public Security, Reginald Delva, “was to come to Haiti from his home in Miami, collect the ransom monies from his kidnapping enterprise in Haiti “

Local Haitians call this foreign-authored organized criminal activity: Ayisyen kidnape, Blan fè pri.

In a Haiti radio public broadcast, Haiti State Secretary of Public Security, Reginald Delva, interviewed by Gary Pierre Paul for Scoop FM maintains that documents show the kidnapping network Clifford Brandt is involved with demanded U.S. $2.5 million for the release of the two Moscoso victims. This is an on-going investigation explains Mr. Delva. He says authorities found a list of folks Clifford Brandt’s kidnapping ring had “a macabre plan” to kill or kidnap for the coming Christmas season. Oct. 23 2012 Scoop FM interview of Reginald Delva, State Secretary of Public Security by Gary Pierre Paul

Sources confirm that this well-connected mafia ring has been in operation for some time wreaking havoc in Haiti.

Many Haiti observers question whether the weak Haiti justice system will be bought out by the Brandt family, as its one of the most prominent families in Haiti where justice is oftentimes for sale. The Brandts’ friends include some of Haiti’s most powerful neocolonial corporate enemies whose many transnational businesses they give a Haiti subcontractor face to and mostly export all accumulated capital out, impoverishing Haiti, paying little to no taxes or tariffs. (See Haiti: The soul of Africa, not for sale; 05% of Haitians own 98% of Haiti’s wealth – Disaster capitalism; Shock-Doctrine Schooling in Haiti: Neoliberalism Off the Richter Scale; 206 years since Desalin.)

We are not the kidnappers: Site Solèy Speaks, 2006 (HLLN archives)
Transcripts from Ezili/HLLN archives at "We are not Kidnappers"and Original Kreyòl Audio of Interview:We are not Kidnappers - Site Solèy speaks, May 22, 2006, Ezili Dantò Witness Project (English translation &Kreyòl audio.)


The Untouchables: It will surprise no one in Haiti if this case is suddenly reduced to a rumor despite the photos of Mr. Brandt in handcuffs at the police station and Haiti State Secretary of Public Security, Reginald Delva public statements. Most likely, if the local Haiti authorities who broke this case are not serving a neo-colonial purpose, the ruling imperial hands may have them silenced, marginalized, fired or worse. Those who serve foreign interests, or are well connected enough to these authorities to buy their freedom, do not, like the criminalized Haiti poor, remain in prison.

In 2005, another wealthy Haitian businessman in Haiti was arrested in relation to a slew of kidnappings and crimes.

"According to police sources, the investigation in the disappearance of UNIBANK’s employee allowed police to uncover the existence of a huge and powerful network of crooks, linked with drug money laundering, kidnappings, and many other shady activities. The businessman Stanley Handal and the bank employee Genelus were apparently part of this network. " (An Important Businessman was Arrested in Relation to Kidnapping cases reported in Port-au-Prince.)Besides the Stanley Handal example, others connected to power and empire who still roam free, with complete impunity in US/UN occupied Haiti include: DEA-suspected drug trafficker Guy Philippe; the 2004 coup d'etat/US regime change paramilitary enforcers known as the Lame Timanchèt death squad assassins; Michael Lucius, a top Haitian police officer indicted for kidnapping; the 15 police officers who were to face the bar of justice for brutal murders ; Louis Jodel Chamblain; and Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, the FRAPH head of the 1991 coup detat/US regime change paramilitary enforcers charge with thousands of murders, rapes and crimes against humanity. Toto Constant was granted a US visa and residency until finally caught and put in prison on mere bank fraud charges there.

For decades, Haiti’s worst violence has been authored, not locally, but mostly imported. (Our nasty little racist war in Haiti; Eyewitness account of the abduction of President and First Lady Aristide of Haiti by the United States Special Forces, Obama’s offered HOPE is sweatshop slavery.)

Kidnapping in Haiti began to find a footing after the UN took over and with the 2004 US kidnapping of president Aristide out of Haiti back to Africa. The powerful, connected and wealthy are the worst purveyors of violence and corruption in Haiti. (Yo se chèf zinglendo yo, epi yo di se Nèg nan Geto, se ti malere k’ap bay pwoblèm: Corruption uninterrupted in Haiti)

The international and national media which are owned by the corporate organizations mostly benefiting from the status quo, will generally criminalized the poor, disenfranchised and working masses worldwide. This is why Ezili’s HLLN continually ask this most pertinent question

Why is there a UN, Chapter 7 peace enforcement mission in Haiti for 8 years? A country not at war, without a peace agreement to enforce and with less violence than most countries in the Western Hemisphere?” (See the UN’s own Global Study on Homicide at page 93 and Legacy of Impunity.)

The wealthy sons of Haiti’s Oligarchy, who’ve formed organized killing coup d’etat and criminal gangs known to local Haitians as, the Ninjas, have eluded the law and prison time. With their connections to power and the police, rarely have suspected members of the Ninjas spent time in prison and then not for long. Crime in Haiti is generally blamed on the poor in Site Solèy. (See transcripts at HLLN archives at “We are not Kidnappers” and Original Kreyòl Audio of Interview:We are not Kidnappers – Site Solèy speaks, May 22, 2006, Ezili Dantò Witness Project (English translation & Kreyòl audio.)

The distraction to note is that since this summer and throughout September 2012, the US-supported government has face almost daily protest demonstrations from practically all sectors of the society. This Brandt kidnapping case changes the discourse. Moves the focus from the people issues of foreign gold/oil pillage, the internationally sponsored Caracol hoax of jobs and housing for Haitians and basic discontent towards the Martelly/Lamothe government to this alluring Ninja Brandt kidnapping issue. On the street sources indicate that Clifford Brandt has bragged to having 275 Haiti police officers on his payroll and was in charge of 15 gangs.

Secretary of Public Safety, Reginald Delva, indicated that senior police officers and former police officers including former police inspector Mr. Edner Comé were actively being sought, suspected of being part this organized kidnapping ring. Clifford Brandt's lawyer, Calixte Delatour, interviewed by Gary Pierre Paul for Scoop FM

Brandt’s defense lawyer, Delatour Calixte, told Scoop radio that Brandt did lead police to where the two Moscoso victims were being held, but denied his client participated in a kidnapping.

Calixte told Scoop’s Gary Pierre Paul that “removing a person is not the same thing as kidnapping…There’s a difference between kidnapping and a personal feud.” Calixte, in his public radio Scoop interview, defended Brandt saying this was not a kidnapping as his client did not ask for a ransom. Calixte suggested Brandt may have organized their “removal” in a power play to settle a business dispute – that this was a settlement of scores between two wealthy families. Calixte, when pressed, would not elaborate on the “personal feud” or as he said, “un règlement de compte” that caused the “removal” of the Moscoso victims who were found held hostage, handcuffed and blindfolded inside the abandoned residence Clifford Brandt took the police to.

In researching this case, a quick internet name search of the Moscoso kidnapped victims garnered this FB post from the day of the kidnapping:

“Ayiti Pap Peri
Sa grav net “Haiti-kidnapping: Hier soir, vers 8hrs sur la route de bourdon, une patrouille de la #PNH cagoule aurait kidnappée #Nicholas Moscoso et sa soeur #Coralie. Source: Chantal M. Elie, Journaliste”

Nicolas and Coralie Moscoso, found handcuffed and blindfolded, were apparently kidnapped by fake police in black hoods and rescued by real police, also wearing black hoods. No wonder the victims kept their heads down and were so terrified to take off their blindfolds when their police rescuers appeared. (See Haiti police rescue video at 3:49).

Alterpresse reports that Brandt is the suspected mastermind of not only a kidnapping ring, but a powerful criminal syndicate practicing forgery, counterfeiting and money laundering.

During police searches conducted at Brandt's place, police said they found police equipment, flashing lights (des gyrophares) and a set of license plates of vehicles. They were planning "attacks against public authorities...This is a solid team. They are true professionals, which speaks of big organized crime," said Frantz Lerebours, spokesperson for the Haiti National Police (PNH) force.

More and more, this Clifford Brandt kidnapping case sounds like that other wealthy businessman kidnapping case, all over again. This time, perhaps the victims will be heard and it won't be business as usual.

One thing is for sure, Robert Moscoso, the father of the Brandt kidnapped victims, would probably have given his entire fortune to get his children back. The business model of making decisions based on cost effectiveness priorities and making a profit at all cost, suddenly did not apply.

Similarly, the profit consideration of foreigners is not worth the loss of life, livelihood, liberty or health of any Haitian. But the US, through the Clintons unregulated capitalists at Caracol, and in general in their reconstruction plans for Haiti, are casually swapping Haiti domestic interests, lives, livelihood, liberty, health, its future and environmental safety for getting the largest possible foreign profit to export out of Haiti. (See, Haiti: Foreign Investment means Death and Repression: A Historical Perspective.)

Until civil society stops equating business interests as the same as governmental interests or the common good, it will be business as usual. Where’s the Haitian, courageous enough to ride Galipòt - Janjak Desalin's fictional horse - and put a stop to the organized international crimes in Haiti? Perhaps it’s the ones, like the policemen, who risked their lives and careers to rescue the Moscoso victims. Chapo ba and kudos to them.
Here is a Kreyòl radio broadcast of the Galipòt story and where voiceless Haiti, not the Avatar crew, speak about their lives in Caracol Haiti. Haitians working at Caracol speak to LakouNewYork, say the 200gds (about $4:74 per day) is slave wage, "they're taking my health, this is not jobs for Haiti."

Ezili Dantò
Oct. 23, 2012
(Check this link for updates.)

Background Information

(Check this link for updates)


In the photo, Haiti Oligarch, Grégory Brandt, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Franco-haïtienne : “Mes enfants ont étudié à l’étranger mais ont choisi de revenir à Haïti malgré la situation. Et j’en suis très fier” - "My children studied abroad, but they chose to come back to Haiti, despite the situation. It is my greatest source of pride." Crédits : Paolo Woods / Institute (Source: Les Nantis D’Haiti;Haiti's 1 Percent: A look at the lives of plenty in the land of the poor.) Serving maids, gardeners and butlers for blan (foreigners). Clinton/Obama and the Haiti Oligarchs “development” for Haiti is Caribbean-style tourism where Haiti’s huddled masses are exotic backdrop, convenient bodies and props for privileged Northern tourists, Paul Farmer’s false NGO benevolence and the Caracol hoax used to fleece Haiti out of its vast oil, coast lands, $20billion in gold and mineral resources.

**** "Clinton’s oversized role in Haiti only makes sense when we remember that both the left and right see Haiti through deeply racist lenses...Clinton is the co-chair of the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti. He is the UN Special Envoy for Haiti. And he is the co-director of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, a foundation involved in number of neoliberal economic initiatives in Haiti. Clinton justifies his involvement by saying he is “responding to the needs of Haitians.” But what needs? Which Haitians? And to what end?" (Bill Clinton Loves Haiti by Jemima Pierre, Black Agenda Report, Oct. 23, 2012)

"...although the oppressed often do revolt, the object of their hostility is misplaced. They vent their fury on a political puppet, someone who masks colonial power, a despised racial or ethnic group or an apostate within their own political class. The useless battles serve as an effective mask for what Gamer calls the “patron-client” networks that are responsible for the continuity of colonial oppression. The squabbles among the oppressed, the political campaigns between candidates who each are servants of colonial power, Gamer writes, absolve the actual centers of power from addressing the conditions that cause the frustrations of the people. Inequities, political disenfranchisement and injustices are never seriously addressed.”( Colonized by Corporations )

Disaster Capitalism: 0.5 % in Haiti – Haiti’s Oligarchy – own 98% of Haiti wealth through monopolies supported by Western policymakers and corporations

Haiti: Where Has All the Money Gone? – Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz

The Subcontracted Haitians – Haiti overseers

Une Bourgeoisie déracinée!

Haiti servants of colonial power:
The mercenary families

Ezili Dantò: Haïti, une invasion sous couverture humanitaire

Swapping Haiti Lives: False aid, charity, orphanages, false Caracol jobs, housing or Haiti – pretext for the fake humanitarians to steal Haiti sovereignty, land & resources

Avatar unobtainium are Haiti Riches

Unobtanium in Haiti
Oil in Haiti – Economic Reasons for the UN/US occupation

Gold Rush in Haiti – Good for whom?
Video - Ezili Dantò: Haïti, une invasion sous couverture humanitaire

Oil in Haiti and Oil Refinery - an old notion for Fort Liberte as a
transshipment terminal for US supertankers

Video: Oil - Strategic denial of oil in Haiti
A Massive Oil Mine in Haiti ****
To: Ezili Network Listserve
Subject: [ezilidanto] Searching for Desalin's horse on Caracol holocaust day-Which living Haitian can ride Galipòt? | Haitians working at Caracol speak to LakouNewYork say the 200gds is slave wage, 'they're taking my health, this is not jobs for Haiti' | Obama: The African American Achilles Heel |Third piece of US election theater, the duopoly debates itself with nobody there to provide the irrefutable facts
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2012 15:31:38 -0700 (PDT)

Ezili Dantò's Note: Here is a Kreyòl radio broadcast where voiceless Haiti, not the Avatar crew, speak about their lives in Caracol Haiti.

Haitians working at Caracol speak to LakouNewYork, say the 200gds is slave wage, "they're taking my health, this is not 'jobs for Haiti.'"

Manno, the broadcaster, points out that the minimum wage is now 300gds (as of Oct 1, 2012) not 200gds. The Caracol workers say they are only paid 200gds and not on time and it doesn't cover their expenses whatsoever. One worker explains how she is treated like trash - like a second class citizen within the industrial park.

Also, this audio (in Kreyòl) begins with Koralen's Galipòt. Searching for Desalin's horse on Oct 22nd Caracol holocaust day. This Koralen performance piece asks the question "Where is the living Haitian who can ride Galipòt?" "Galipòt," the author explains is Desalin's horse who wanders Haiti looking for another warrior who can walk his path.

Yesterday, during the opening of the Caracol park, those Haitians who didn't readily applaud the Martelly gov, the Clintons, Sean Penn, Richard Branson, Donna Karen Avatar crew, the opening of the Caracol mothership/Avatar Haiti were pushed out of the way, some even immediately arrested. One person who talked on this Oct 22nd broadcast about the repression was immediately arrested by the special police from Fort Liberte.

Listen to:
Lakou New York Broadcast reporting on Oct 22, 2012
Another brutal October day for Haiti is celebrated by the "star-studded" Avatar crew - Sean Penn, Ben Stiller, Donna Karan, Richard Branson & the beyond-the-pale Clintons share a romantic moment. (The Avatar Movie from a Haitian perspective)

But this was the general mainstream media's reporting Avatar Caracol mothership piloted by Clintons opened #Haiti again w/ sharp media propaganda tools= "jobs, housing for Haiti."

Ezili Dantò of HLLN
Oct 23, 2012

Forwarded by Ezili's Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network
Monday, Oct 22, 2012 marking day of brutal Haiti sorrow is celebrated by the "star-studded" Avatar crew (Sean Penn, Ben Stiller, Donna Karan, Richard Branson, led also by the beyond-the-pale Clinton capitalist vampires, giving cover for the corporate stealing of Haiti's unobatainium -$20+billion, vast oil reserves in Northern Haiti, its coast lands and dismissing its cultural heritage: Bill and Hillary Share Romantic Moment In Haiti - (See, Haiti: Foreign Investment means Death and Repression: A Historical Perspective.)

Criminally accused Sae-A Helps Continue the Euro/US "New Day" for Haiti

The Avatar Movie from a Haitian perspective

New American Hell: Murder as "Our Way of Life"

Welcome to the Age of Hell: Entrenching Murder as the American Way

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque  

The Washington Post has just laid out, in horrifying, soul-slaughtering detail, the Obama Administration's ongoing effort to expand, entrench and "codify" the practice of murder and terrorism by the United States government. The avowed, deliberate intent of these sinister machinations is to embed the use of death squads and drone terror attacks into the policy apparatus of future administrations, so that the killing of human beings outside all pretense of legal process will go on, year after year after year, even when the Nobel Peace Laureate has left office.

They have even come up with a new euphemism for state murder: "disposition."

The new "counterterrorism matrix" is "designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the 'disposition' of suspects beyond the reach of American drones," the Post reports.

In other words, it involves expanding and varying the menu of arbitrary murder, mixing the blunderbuss of drone blasts and night raids with more selective "bullet-in-the-brain," "bomb-in-the-car-engine," "polonium-in-the-pea-soup," and "doping-and-defenestration" approaches. Arbitrary murder by unaccountable elites and their spies, paid for by money taken from ordinary citizens who have no say in and no knowledge of what is being done in their names (and who will be the victims of the inevitable blowback from the state terror and murder campaign): this is now being "codified," officially, formally, as the American way.

To be fair -- and by all means, let us be fair with these butchers -- the term 'disposition' is also stretched to cover a multitude of sins: kidnapping, rendition, indefinite detention, turning captives over to proxy torturers. But it is worth remembering that all of these dispositions -- including the murders, wholesale and retail -- involve "alleged" terrorists, terrorist "suspects," people who have found themselves, for whatever reason (or no reason at all) on one of the innumerable "lists" gathered by whatever method (or no method at all) by the many fatly-funded agencies now involved in "counter-terrorism."

But that's not all, not by a long shot. These codified murders are also being inflicted on people who are not on any list whatsoever: their names, affiliations, beliefs, intentions -- indeed, their dispositions -- are completely unknown to those who kill them. They are the faceless targets of "signature strikes," which allow American death squads to kill people based on "patterns of activity" which may -- or may not -- signal some possible malign intent -- or none -- toward someone -- or no one -- somewhere -- or nowhere. This rigorous process rests entirely on in the magical mind-reading abilities of drone jockeys ogling a computer screen. If the armchair warrior doesn't like the cut of someone's jib, then he squeezes his joystick and turns the stranger into "bug splatter," to use the term favored by our bold defenders of civilization.

Like last year's NY Times piece that first detailed the murder racket being run directly out of the White House, the new Washington Post story is replete with quotes from "senior Administration officials" who have obviously been authorized to speak. Once again, this is a story that Obama and his team WANT to tell. They want you to know about the murder program and their strenuous exertions to make it permanent; they are proud of this, they think it makes them look good. They want it to be part of their legacy, something they can pass on to future generations: arbitrary, lawless, systematic murder.

Perhaps this fact should be borne in mind by all those anguished progressives out there who keep telling themselves that Obama will "be different, that he will "turn to the left," if we can only get him a second term. No; the legacy of arbitrary, lawless, systematic murder is the legacy he wants. It is the legacy he has been building, with remarkable energy and meticulous attention to detail, day after day, week after week, for the past four years. This is what he cares about. And it is this -- not jobs, not peace, not the environment, not equal rights for women and ethnic and sexual minorities, not the poor, not the middle class, not education, not infrastructure, not science, not diplomacy -- that he will apply himself to in a second term. (Along with his only other political passion: forging a "grand bargain" with Big Money to gut the remaining shreds of the New Deal.)

There is little point in going through the Post story and offering detailed comment. The sickening nature of this perpetual-motion death-machine -- and the husk-like inhumanity of those who operate it and the sycophants who applaud it -- are all too plain. Just read the whole thing, and see for yourself. See how these butchers -- our bipartisan elites, our whole respectable, self-righteous establishment -- have trapped us all in an Age of Hell.


UPDATE: Arthur Silber has much more on the moral implications -- and the heartbreaking historical resonances -- of the state murder program. Get over there now, read it -- and weep for where we are, and where we're going.

Covering Up the BP Coverup

BP Coverup, Coverup


Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Washington.The BP gulf oil disaster has been the subject of a lot of examination, and recent examination shows that there's more of a coverup then perhaps we have known. One of the people who's done a lot of work on this is investigative journalist Greg Palast. And he now joins us from New York City. Greg's a BBC investigative reporter, author of Vultures' Picnic, and author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse and many other pieces of investigative work.

Greg Palast is a BBC investigative reporter and author of Vultures' Picnic. Palast turned his skills to journalism after two decades as a top investigator of corporate fraud. Palast directed the U.S. governmentʼs largest racketeering case in history– winning a $4.3 billion jury award. He also conducted the investigation of fraud charges in the Exxon Valdez grounding.

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN:  Thanks very much for joining us, Greg.

GREG PALAST, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Glad to be with you, Paul.JAY: So, first of all, what is the—I mean, people know the basic story of what happened, but what is the real essence of the coverup here?

PALAST: Yeah, they don't know the real story, not in the U.S. press. For British television, I investigated what really happened. Actually, right after Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010, I get a message from a witness, an insider from the Caspian Sea, which is, you know, the other side of the planet, in Asia, saying, I know exactly what happened here, 'cause the exact same thing happened in the Caspian Sea two years earlier: there was another BP rig—another BP rig blew out, just like the Deepwater Horizon. And BP covered it up. BP hid it because it occurred offshore off the nation of Azerbaijan, which is what I call—in my book Vulture's Picnic I call it the Islamic Republic of BP. They own that place. They bought it—bribery.

JAY: Now, the point here is that the cause of the Caspian Sea blowout, you're saying, is essentially the same as what happened in the Gulf.

PALAST: Absolutely. Same thing. In other words, what happened in the Caspian Sea is that they used a cheap, crap cement process to close up the well. It's called quick-dry cement. They put nitrogen in the cement—makes it like a milkshake. So it's easy to pour, it dries quickly. But just like any milkshake, if you put a straw in it and blow into it, you get bubbles. But if that happens in an oil well, you get methane and you blow out the rig. That's what happened in the Caspian Sea. That's what happened in the Gulf of Mexico.And you should understand that in most of the world and most producers would never touch this stuff for a high-pressure place like offshore deepwater drilling. It was insane, it was dangerous, and it was proven to be deadly. And I have to say, I confronted BP with this information. Was there a blowout previously in the Caspian Sea for the same reason? And all they said was, we've reported this fact to the government of Azerbaijan. Hey, thanks a lot. BP itself has said that it was a cement failure that caused the death of the 11 men on the Deepwater Horizon. But they blame Halliburton. They said Halliburton never told us that this quick-dry cement of theirs could fail. In fact, BP knew it failed because it had two years earlier. This was not an accident. This was homicide, negligent homicide.

JAY: Now, you get a call from somebody who witnessed this, is that it? In the Caspian Sea.

PALAST: That's correct. So I get a call—well, I don't get a call; I get a cable from the Caspian Sea, from a ship floating offshore, a witness. And, of course, it's very—he said, it's too dangerous for me to speak to you by phone or by official systems. So I have to fly into Asia with my cameraman from British TV and we sneak in. We head off across the desert, a roadless desert, to the BP terminal. And someone has ratted us out, so I get arrested. I get arrested, and they let me go, but they scare off my witnesses, who end up disappearing. So, yes, there was a blowout. But even though the witnesses were scared away, I got their statements—not on camera, but I got the most extraordinary confirmation, which was actually extraordinary and sickening as well.JAY: So BP has now acknowledged that this happened. But they're not drawing any link between the two things. And what about the American investigation into what happened in the gulf? How did this not come out of that?

PALAST: Well, two things. One, BP has never admitted that there was another blowout officially, to me or anyone else. They just said that they reported the incident to the government of Azerbaijan. But here's where we found out what happened. In the WikiLeaks documents—I work with The Guardian in Britain. We have access to the WikiLeaks documents. WikiLeaks documents show a meeting of the president of BP with the United States State Department, U.S. Embassy, because Chevron said, which is a junior partner of BP, hey, where's our money? We're not getting any money from the Caspian Sea. So the State Department called in BP's president, who said, listen, man, there was a blowout, so shh, keep it quiet. So Chevron kept quiet. Exxon kept it quiet—they knew about it too. The U.S. State Department kept it quiet. BP kept quiet. MI6 in Britain, secret service, kept it quiet. They hid it from the U.S. Congress. BP, Chevron, and Exxon all went before the United States Congress and said, we've never had a problem with deepwater drilling, six months before the Deepwater blew up. They didn't mention the year earlier, Caspian Sea.

JAY: So when did this come to light for you? When did you report this for BBC?

PALAST: I reported it, ultimately, on British television on the one-year anniversary of the explosion, in April 2011. And I have to tell you—and then I [incompr.] the entire investigation in my latest book, Vultures' Picnic. In fact, if you want, you can go to and you can see a film of me—there it says "THE FILMS". I had a little—one of those Austin Powers pen cameras, 'cause, right, they take your film out of the cameras, but they didn't take my pen. So I had a pen camera where I still kept the information on there. So you can see me under arrest on this pen camera.But I put it on TV more than a year ago in Britain. It was all over the top of the nightly news all over the world, all over Europe, everywhere but the United States, where you could not get it on TV. You couldn't get it into the news here for love or money. No way. And, you know, the Petroleum Broadcast System, PBS, was the worst of all. They absolutely refused to take the information. We offered it to them.

JAY: So we're a year later since this story broke. Has there been any change in the American investigation on this? I mean, this is obviously explosive. It means BP lied to Congress.

PALAST: Yes, it's explosive. It's criminal. It's criminal in many ways. It's criminal negligence. But it's also that they lied to the U.S. Congress. They lied to—by the way, they lied to the Securities Exchange Commission, because BP filed papers saying—they had to explain why they weren't making any money in the Caspian Sea, and they made up a cockamamie story about some natural gas leakage somewhere. So they lied to the SEC. This is serious stuff. I'm working with Bobby Kennedy, who's the dean of environmental law at Pace University, and Kennedy has said, you know, this is—we have laws against this type of lying, besides people dying. So he's calling on the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, to open an investigation. But on the other hand—while on one hand, you know, Holder may be not unhappy about exposing the fact that Condi Rice and the Bush State Department knew about the explosion, I don't know what Obama's State Department also kept hidden in its files, and I'm not sure they want to open that all up.

JAY: Now, you're saying the Bush State Department knew about what happened in Azerbaijan.

PALAST: Yes. What happened was, remember, Chevron went to the U.S. State Department and said, we don't know why we're not making money in the Caspian Sea; something happened and BP won't tell us. So the U.S. State Department on behalf of Chevron—not on behalf of the United States, but on behalf of Chevron—went to BP and got the real story. Now, why would they do that? I would just like to remind you that the secretary of state, prior to becoming secretary of state, Condi Rice, was for 12 years on the board of directors of Chevron, and, you know, there's a tanker named the Condoleezza. And so the State Department embassy was basically acting as an investigative arm for Chevron, but hid the material from the U.S. public and the U.S. regulators.

JAY: So this story's been out now for a year. What's the Obama administration done to follow up on this?

PALAST: Nothing. And, in fact, what I'm very concerned about is that there won't be a trial, that they're going to cut some type of deal with BP. One of the problems is once you go to trial, not only does this open up, which makes it—I used to be a racketeering investigator for the government, and this is absolutely bog standard racketeering fraud case. And while the co-conspirators involved the Condi Rice State Department, BP, Exxon, Chevron, we just don't know what can of worms is going to open up within the Obama administration. I have no information on what happened inside the Obama administration, and I think they like to keep it that way. I think they'd like to keep a lid on the whole thing.

JAY: Now, is there not a lawsuit where BP is suing Halliburton? And wouldn't this then also come up in some of that civil litigation that's going on?

PALAST: Yeah. I mean, one of the—you know, I had expected, actually, to get a call from Halliburton for my information, but we haven't. I think they're not going to go to trial either. BP's blaming Halliburton, saying, you didn't tell us this cement was dangerous. Of course, Halliburton could now turn around and say, well, wait, you knew it was dangerous; you used it in the Caspian Sea and it blew out.But we do know also that Halliburton, for its part, had run a—. Halliburton, by the way, had no idea what happened in the Caspian Sea. I checked that out. They really didn't know. That was concealed from Halliburton. But we do know that Halliburton had a computer model showing this stuff might fail. So Halliburton has dirty hands, even blood on his hands. So does BP.So they have reasons to kind of work out their differences. I think you're not going to see a trial between BP and Halliburton. They're not going to open up each other's files and air their dirty laundry, because that's going to stop—if those guys open their files, it's going to stop deepwater drilling worldwide, and both of them will suffer.JAY: And what do you make of the American media's reaction to this story? Why aren't at least some of them covering it?

PALAST: That's why we have you, don't we? If we didn't have The Real News Network—'cause basically they're the unreal news network. I mean, understand, I work with BBC television, Channel 4, ITV. These are the big stature international English language outlets. And, you know, so that's at the top of the nightly news. My story, by the way, also broke at the top of Arte, which is the big giant European network. The question is: why not the U.S.A.? And you're going to have to tell me.But that's why we actually have The Real News Network, 'cause the unreal news networks just won't take the stuff. They won't touch it. I got to tell you, Frontline, for example, was offered our material, Frontline, PBS. Instead they ran a story that the Deepwater Horizon was caused by a so-called culture of lack of safety at BP, and they said specifically—you'll love this—that if it had been Chevron, this would not have happened, the Deepwater Horizon explosion. They actually had the president of Chevron saying, we wouldn't have done this. But Chevron knew about the Caspian explosion, covered it up. I investigated Chevron. If you go, again, to or, you'll get the information from Vultures' Picnic that Chevron, you know, basically poisoned the Amazon Jungle areas, big parts of the Amazon in Ecuador.So PBS is basically fronting for Chevron. Why? Take a look at Chevron and at the PBS NewsHour home page. You have to go into the WayBack machine, in which you will find out that the number-one official national sponsor of NewsHour and PBS is Chevron oil. So what you're getting is Chevron news, not real news. And the best, that's PBS. I mean, you'll never get this stuff on 60 Minutes. You'll never—you know, they're not going to touch anything that—it's this, literally, explosive (and the pun is intended).

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Greg.

PALAST: You're very welcome.JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Street Notes from Syria

In the Grip of War and Sanctions… Damascus Street Notes

by FRANKLIN LAMB in Damascus

The half hour drive from the Lebanese border at Maznaa to Damascus is always pleasant with the wide, well paved and maintained highway, cutting through rolling hills often with large herds of goats and sheep lazily watching the traffic below. As this observer watched some of the herds the other day when traveling to Damascus, I noticed that there appeared to be an unusually large number of shepherds above us tending their herds. On second look, the shepherds turned out to be soldiers peering down on the main highway from among and behind the vegetation nibbling animals.

The increased security in Damascus has brought hundreds of shabab (youths), shahiba (“ghosts” in Arabic, but in the vernacular, “thugs”), popular committees, neighborhoods watch types and one presumes various security agency personnel from their early 20’s to middle age to control literally hundreds of checkpoints in central Damascus and the suburbs. Sometimes it appears that every fifty yards or so one encounters yet another checkpoint.

Damascus is currently calm with a few exceptions such as the Tadamon, Al-Qadam and Al-Asali neighborhoods where sporadic clashes are being discussed by friends the past two days. As with Libya last summer, many media reports are not at all accurate in depicting this city as on the edge and a panicked population. Last night this observer was up until almost 1 a.m. with friends in the old city at a restaurant and then driving around Damascus with still some cafes open, although according to local residents not as late as before the crisis began.

There are also plenty of security measures being strictly imposed around many governmental building including erected cement walls and the closure of nearby streets that cause traffic problems.

The Syrians are very serious about security. One government official told this observer, “Look, if someone is intending to become a suicide bomber, it is very difficult for us to stop them. But we are doing our best and we conduct many random vehicle searches.” A checkpoint experience here is not like in Lebanon where typically an approaching driver will simply roll down his window with a quick salute and a grinned “kefack habibi?” (“How are you dear?”) as the frequently sleepy soldier often just waves through the vehicle. In contrast, Syrian checkpoints employ hi-tech weapons and explosive detection devices and search most cars, from underneath-up. Near government buildings or certain streets where high ranking officials have homes or offices metal detectors are also used.

This observer had an experience with a metal detector yesterday and with half a dozen or so security guys. Passing thorough the airport style device, having emptied my pockets of any metal and my phone, the loud alarm still went off. I was asked to pass through a second time. I did with the same result. As three guys came close with new model hand held devices now being used, I also set off their alarms.

It finally dawned on me what the problem was.

I have recently had a state of the art pacemaker implanted a few inches above my left nipple. I suddenly remembered that my cardiologist in Beirut warned me against passing thru a metal detector or allowing a hand held scanning device to come within two feet of my pacemaker due to potential electronic problems.

Too late for that precaution, I opened my shirt and pointed to the four inch square lump in my chest and said “batterie.” Not being understood, two of the guys cocked their Kalashnikovs and things got tense. Later I was informed that they were pretty sure I was another of the recent suicide bombers plaguing Damascus and the lump was a bomb and they were edgy.

The situation was diffused by a middle aged fellow who apparently was the squad’s commander. When he approached me, by now I had my hands up, I said, “batterie, batterie, Dr!” He stared at my chest and replied, “Yalla, batterie, cardio, nam?” (“Ah, for your heart yes?”) After a little more discussion and checking my passport and visa I was on my way. This morning the young lady at the guest relations desk in my hotel kindly wrote me a card in Arabic, for future use if necessary, that I had a pacemaker and would very likely set off metal detectors. So as long as no one tips off my dream doctor at Hezbollah’s Cardiac Center in Beirut she won’t shout at me during our next appointment.

Sanctions as indiscriminate weapons against non-combatants

The legality of the western imposed sanctions on Syria and Iran are being discussed at the University of Damascus as well as among some officials and NGO’s here. A fairly cogent argument can be made that the type of sanctions being imposed on Syria and Iran are illegal under international customary law and, as with the banning of cluster bombs in 2008, should also be outlawed by an international convention. This is because the sanctions are political, rather obviously designed to achieve regime changes. They are also fundamentally indiscriminate and target and endanger the civilian non-combatants population particularly the poor, young, infirm and senior citizens

Claims are made in Washington and Europe that the increasing layers of sanctions target only the regime’s leader and its policies. This is nonsense. As in Iraq where US organized sanctions have been found to be a main cause of nearly 500,000 deaths of children, those seriously affected here are not the government officials.

The sanctions, as designed for application to both Syria and Iran also violate Art. 2 (4) of the UN Charter which commands that all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

In discussions with officials as well as a rough cross-section of the citizenry of Damascus, including shoppers and clerks at a central Damascus supermarket, as well as students, it is possible to get a fairly good idea how the Western imposed sanctions are affecting families here.

A progressive Syrian journalist who works part time with an American NGO, and is critical of the Assad government but even more so of the desperate rebel groups, shared a fairly representative analysis regarding what is the current situation in Damascus regarding the Western sanctions:

“I think the sanctions being imposed on our country have a tremendous effect on the current crisis. Prices on average have risen at least 40 percent, especially consumer goods and basic food, like meat, milk bread, vegetables, fruit etc. Eggs and chicken have doubled in price and are unavailable in some small shops. Lines are getting longer at some gas stations in some parts of Damascus. The sanctions have also forced many people to close down their factories in Damascus and Aleppo because of lack of raw materials, and the spiral increase in their prices. My daughter works in an accessory household company. They need to import materials from Turkey. Clothing is more expensive since Turkish goods are not entering. I believe her company will close down soon. You can talk to her about it if interested. My son is considering traveling because of the lack of job opportunities. Young men his age are very frustrated here and some of the idle young are joining gangs and being recruited by jihadist groups offering cash and weapons along with indoctrination. As a mother I worry about him staying out of trouble but young people don’t seem to listen. The crisis has also forced employers to discharge people to cut down expenses. Many merchants have already left the country and transferred their money elsewhere. Others, such as warmongers, have benefited from the crisis. Smuggled goods are expensive if available. The sanctions have hurt the ordinary people more than the regime by far. We are far worse off than 20 months ago.”

What worries this observer a bit is that last night a businessman close to the leadership assured me that “We can fight ten years to retain control of Damascus from Al Qaeda and the fanatics. Do not worry my friend.”

Worried? I was speechless. Because on exactly August 12, 2011, these were the exact words spoken to me by a friend, Mr Khaled Kane, a good man and at the time Deputy Foreign Minister of Libya. Ten days later, not ten years, Tripoli fell to the rebels and following arrest, torture, and now ill health, Khaled languishes in a Misrata jail.

All We Have to Fear: America Armed to the Teeth Yet Scared Stiff

A Nation Armed to the Teeth but Living in Fear

by Dave Lindorff - This Can't Be Happening

A new study by researchers at the University of Illinois in Urbana, showing that young children who are fearful in childhood are likely to be conservative when they grow up got me to thinking.

It’s not just that a whole generation of kids who get regularly belted by their parents, who are warned that if they behave in a certain manner they’ll go to hell, or that their faces will freeze in some horrible contorted way, or that they will be thrown out of the house, are becoming Republicans. It’s that virtually the whole country is populated by adults who have been raised in a climate of fear by a media and a government that are hell-bent on scaring the shit out of everyone.

The result is that a nation that once, for better or worse, was full of people who could strike out for unknown regions to stake a claim on land when they didn’t even know how to farm (land admittedly belonging to native Americans who could understandably be expected to react with aggressive hostility to being expropriated), who could weather brutal winters with nothing to get them through but a musket and a store of root vegetables in the cellar, who could stand up to the mightiest military of its day and throw off a colonial yoke and boldly create a new country, now cowers in fear at the imagined threats of a landlocked group of uneducated and incredibly poor people living in a country that is a throwback to the 16th century.

America is supposedly the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave,” as our unsingable national anthem puts it at its most unsingable point, but to tell the truth, it is no longer either of those things. Don't believe me? Just try telling a cop who stops you for standing off the side of the road with your thumb out and says you are breaking the law against hitchhiking, that he is wrong and that the law does not in fact bar thumbing. For exercising your right of free speech, even if you were polite about it, he will in response threaten you with arrest. Argue (which is your right), and you’re likely to be slammed against his vehicle, cuffed, and dragged off to the slammer. Never mind that the cop is wrong about the law, and that your charges will be tossed out later. If you resist, or mouth off further during this arrest process, you might even be tased. In the end, you are busted, probably bruised, too, and you’ll be detained for a couple of hours until your family can come spring you by paying an extortionate bail.

In an environment like this, you're not free, and the cop is certainly anything but brave. And that is the situation we're in today in the U.S.

When the Twin Towers in New York City were attacked and struck by two planes and collapsed, I agree it was a horrible shock, but at no point was the survival of the United States, or even of the American people, threatened. Even if you throw in the attack by a third plane on the Pentagon, which collapsed a section of the world’s biggest building, the US wasn’t facing any existential risk. But the reaction of the American public to this attack on 9-11-2001, encouraged mightily by the US government, was to hunker down, beg for police-state laws, and to stop all normal activity. (In fact, any serious damage to the US following those attacks was caused by the reaction of government, business and the people of the US to the event, not by the events themselves.)

Americans have been put in a state of mindless fear

In my town, the local school board cancelled all school trips for the rest of the 2001-2 school year, claiming, with the full support of most of the parents in the school district, that there was a risk that terrorists might attack school buses!

This is not rational behavior. It is irrational fear.

The same fear that has led to public support for bi-partisan funding of the most bloated, grotesquely over-armed military in the history of the world. That porkbarrel military is not any good at fighting wars, as the defeat in Iraq, and the looming defeat in Afghanistan by forces armed with AK-47 rifles and home-made mines has proved, and it’s not any good at fighting terrorism, as the spreading of fundamentalist Muslim terror groups across the Middle East and northern Africa demonstrate, but it creates a warm feeling of comfort for terrified Americans to see those huge nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, bristling with heavily armed fighter bombers on their decks, plowing through the ocean, just as it makes people comfortable to see US troops, puffed out with body armor so that they look like pro-football players on a gridiron, standing at the ready at some far off desert outpost.

They’re “keeping us safe,” people think, even as they rush out to buy guns in record numbers.

The depths to which this nation has sunk in this miasma of mindless fear became apparent when President Obama, at both the first abysmal debate and the third, opened his remarks by declaring that it was his primary duty as president “to keep Americans safe.”


I thought the primary responsibility of the president of the United States was to defend the Constitution. In fact, here’s the presidential oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Note that it doesn’t say anything in this oath of office about keeping Americans “safe.”

It’s our Constitution and our freedom that the president is supposed to be defending, not our safety!

Imagine President George Washington, or President Abraham Lincoln, saying that their “number one goal” was to “keep Americans safe”!

I was at a gathering of journalists last night -- the annual dinner of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship program. Actually it was a gathering of journalists, bankers, public relations executives and media tycoons, all of the latter of whom help to fund this program at Columbia University designed to train journalists to report on financial and economic affairs. A former director, Pauline Tai, from Hong Kong, an old friend, was talking with me and said that she was amazed in her visits back to the US, at how afraid Americans have become.

We remarked on how bizarre that was. America is far and away the most powerful nation in the world, favored in so many ways with abundant resources, with a diverse culture and population, and yet its people cower in fear -- fear of the outside world and, sadly, even fear of each other. People in Hong Kong aren’t afraid. People in Taiwan and China aren’t afraid, and yet objectively they all live in much more vulnerable places -- Hong Kong right next to a totalitarian government that could snuff out its civil liberties overnight, Taiwan under the threat of Chinese missiles just across a narrow strait -- missiles that were test fired into adjacent shipping lanes during a crisis in 1995. And China itself a kind of pressure cooker of public frustration and anger held at bay by a sclerotic Communist Party elite that doesn’t really know how to change and reform without losing its grip in an uncontrolled explosion.

The same can be said of much of the rest of the world, from what I have seen in my own travels. Look at Greece. It is seeing its economy destroyed and pillaged by the greedy demands of banks in northern Europe and by the governments of the more powerful economies in the European Union, yet far from cowering in fear, its people are fighting back in massive public demonstrations.

Americans, worried about their own country’s economic future, go out and buy more and bigger guns and huddle in their homes in fear of the future. And then they vote for politicians who tell them they should be afraid --whether of terrorists, "death panels" in Obamacare, a bankrupt Social Security program, the budget deficit, regulations, or a black president -- and who, to public applause, hand ever more power over to an intrusive and increasingly violent domestic police/army.

The worst thing about all this fear and fear-mongering is that it has turned the US into a nation of conspiracy theorists, so ready to believe the most far-fetched plots and schemes by the rich and powerful that we Americans are unable to see the real challenge facing not just us, but the entire world: the threat of catastrophic climate change. And that is a very real threat that cannot be avoided by cowering in a basement or by electing some tough-talking chief executive, or by buying guns. It can only be tackled by taking bold united action as a people to change the whole basis of the socio-economic system from one premised on encouraging wasteful consumption to one based upon utility and on bettering the lot of all as efficiently as possible -- and doing this not just as a nation, but in collaboration with the rest of the world.

It is time for Americans to reject the fear-mongering, and to take responsibility for our own society and government. We don’t need a leader who will “keep us safe.” We need a leader who will denounce fear, who will declare that the freedoms that are enshrined in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights are the foundation of this nation, and that we will rely on them, not police and armies, to move the country forward to face the real challenges of the future.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Destroying a Country to Save It: Standing on Guard Against Stephen Harper in Canada

Dismembering Canada to Save It From Stephen Harper’s Fascism

by Robin Mathews

The Stephen Harper forces are putting the torch to Canada, to the rule of law in Canada, to Canadian freedom of expression, to Canadian electoral integrity, to Parliamentary legitimacy … and more … every day. Their Mein Kampf-style plans become clearer with every hour. Having won majority power by what appears more and more to be major election fraud, their imposition of “junta rule” in Canada grows.

The Opposition parties flail into the increasingly fiery air, refusing to undertake direct, personal, constituency-by-constituency, on-the-ground appeal and organization of people in Canada to reject the Harper program. The Opposition parties appear to fear the task of directly organizing the Canadian people more than they fear the increasingly fascist moves of the Harper forces. Perhaps the Opposition parties are simply confused….

Maybe. But an increasingly large number of Canadians are not confused.

One of the latest, gross invasions of Canadian democracy by the Stephen Harper forces is a treaty with China, called The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA). To put the matter briefly: “the Canada-China treaty effectively concedes legislative and judicial elements of our sovereignty…” to, in fact, Chinese agencies. (quoted from Gus Van Harten, Osgoode Law Professor, letter to Stephen Harper).

The implications of the treaty for the destruction of Canadian democracy and independence are enormous. The treaty was never formally considered by the representatives of Canadians in the House of Commons. It was never discussed in presentation to Parliament. There was not a moment of debate about its intent, its construction, its implications, its effect - in the House of Commons or any of the provincial legislatures. The treaty was created by the Harper Junta, in secrecy and in private with Chinese agencies working in the same way.

Only one of the aspects of the treaty destroys democratic rule in British Columbia. If British Columbia’s government acts against the imposition of the Gateway Pipeline, the results are almost unbelievable. The Chinese interests may act against British Columbia in secret (laughable) courts (or arbitration panels), not recognized by Canadians, outside of Canada, which may – in fact – overrule the government elected by Canadians in British Columbia.

The “arbitrators under the Canada-China treaty operate outside of the authority of the Canadian legal system and Canadian courts [and so] the treaty appears to contravene the judicature provisions of the Constitution concerning the role of the superior courts.” “Notably, the arbitrators may make non–monetary orders against states as well as issue damages awards for potentially massive amounts.” [Gus Van Harten, letter to Stephen Harper.]

That kind of behaviour applies to any economic activity in British Columbia (and the rest of Canada) owned by Chinese interests or in which Chinese interests have only a very small part.

We remember Stephen Harper undertaking another violation of democracy in relation to British Columbia. Almost certainly in concert with Gordon Campbell (who Harper paid off with the position of Canadian High Commissioner in London) the two appear to have arranged a surprise imposition of the infamous HST in B.C. Gordon Campbell (in collusion with Stephen Harper, we may be sure) declared he would not impose the HST in British Columbia. A few weeks after re-winning election, he did so … to Stephen Harper’s delight. It was a minor coup, but only child’s play compared to The Canada-China Foreign Investment and Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA).

But the HST coup, you will remember, lasted a very short time.

And it did so because British Columbians rose up and forced the Gordon Campbell/Christy Clark Harperites, by referendum, to withdraw the HST. Democracy prevailed despite a Harper/Campbell attempt at Junta Rule and at an anti-democratic coup.

At the time of the victory celebration Chris Delaney, referendum activist said “we know the referendum works, we know it has a legitimate place in our society, our democracy now. The people have endorsed it overwhelmingly.”

There is nothing to stop British Columbians using referendum again in this hugely more vicious and destructive attack on democracy in Canada and in the province of British Columbia – an attack undertaken by the Stephen Harper government in collusion with the government of China and its corporations.

[Gus Van Harten suggests the treaty with China may violate Canada’s Constitution. A constitutional challenge to the treaty, therefore, might be undertaken. But that cannot be the only route of challenge, because of the time it takes – and especially since the Harper Junta is undermining the rule of law in Canada every day, the police forces, and the courts. Even (after a long passage of time) a win in the Supreme Court of Canada wouldn’t stop the Harper Junta from signing just such a treaty again (and even during Supreme Court hearings) and working on many other ways to destroy democracy in British Columbia and the rest of Canada.]

The wording of such a British Columbia referendum, therefore, would have to be narrow, direct, and clear. It could not, effectively, request or demand anything from the federal government. The B.C. referendum process has no power outside of British Columbia. Stephen Harper could simply laugh at a referendum - even overwhelmingly carried – asking him to change Junta law and policy. Nothing British Columbians could do to sway the Harper Junta could work – through referendum.

And so the people of British Columbia are driven to a simple question, within their own powers to ask and then to act upon. It must be a question that erases the power of the Stephen Harper Junta to impose fascist, oppressive, democracy-destroying laws upon British Columbians (and other Canadians).

The question must ask British Columbians if they wish to leave Confederation, to separate from Canada, and to set up (in whatever sovereignty-association status they wish to have in relation to the federal government), a democracy that cannot be forced by Ottawa to erase itself and accept totalitarian domination by Ottawa, by any foreign power, or by any combination of the two.

[Such a referendum could be sponsored or supported by the B.C. government – or like the referendum against the HST could be conducted legitimately against the wishes of the presiding provincial government. Government can refuse to act on the outcome of a referendum in most provinces … but a referendum with this kind of question would be hard to refuse if a strong percentage vote supported it.]

The situation in Canada is dire and the threat to democracy in British Columbia and Canada is real as a result of the nefarious actions of the Stephen Harper forces and especially of the Stephen Harper Junta/Canada-China Foreign Investment and Promotion Agreement (FIPPA). I suggest British Columbians begin, now, to create a referendum organization. It must begin removing British Columbia from the reach of the corrupt and rapacious hands of Stephen Harper and his global corporate companions in thievery.

[Referendum legislation exists in most other provinces in Canada. People in those provinces should be urged to move immediately, also, to set up referendum organizations with the same purpose in mind. Later they might “re-Confederate” in a Canada that couldn’t rob them of democracy in the service of global thieves and looters.]

What the FIPPA!?

ACTION ALERT: Harper must tear up the Canada-China investment treaty

by Council of Canadians

October 19, 2012

Canadians are fuming about the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPPA), tabled quietly by the Harper government at the end of September. Tens of thousands of us have used action alerts like this one to ask Prime Minister Harper to cancel the investment treaty. It is resonating with opposition parties, which are demanding a public debate the government does not want to have. In fact, the FIPPA will become law on November 1 unless we can stop it.


The Harper government’s new investment pact with China fundamentally undermines democracy. It will give Chinese firms in Canada and Canadian firms in China 31 years of “protection” – from environmental, human rights or resource conservation measures they don’t like. It gives companies and private investors the right to sue Canada or China in controversial private, unaccountable tribunals outside the court system.

As a net importer of Chinese investment, especially in energy and resources, the treaty will compromise what we can do to better manage mining and energy projects. Globally, mining and oil companies have used their excessive corporate rights in trade and investment treaties to bully or punish governments that don’t give them the project approvals they want.

Even when a project was cancelled or improved because the community demanded it, multinational oil and mining companies have demanded hundreds of millions in compensation. Investment panels have obliged them with ever growing awards paid by governments to corporations. This is of the greatest importance given the need to power down the tarsands and stop proposed pipelines to the west coast.


Demand parliamentary hearings into the Canada-China investment pact!

Phone or send a short email to your Member of Parliament today saying you oppose the Canada-China investment treaty and ask that the issue be debated in the House of Commons. You can use the form below to send a note to all MPs, or find your own MP’s contact information here if you want to send personalized letter. Phone calls can go a long way, so please consider phoning your MP today in support of a debate on the Canada-China investment pact.


Video by Caitlin Dodd, Heather Libby and Kai Nagata. Starring Dylan Burns and Kaylah Zander. Music by Kevin McLeod and used under a Creative Commons license.

What is the Canada-China investment treaty?

The Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments is a bilateral investment treaty similar to what Canada has included in its free trade deals, or standalone investment deals (FIPPAs), since NAFTA. These corporate rights pacts allow companies to sue governments when they feel their investments or profits have been undermined by public policies, including public health or environmental measures, or by delays to energy and resource projects.

These bilateral investment treaties (BITs, as some countries call them) have proliferated over the past decade to the point where today there are over 3,000 in effect between countries. Canada has dozens of FIPPAs in place, mostly with developing countries where Canadian mining and energy firms want to establish or expand projects, with as few obstacles as possible. For example, the Harper government just announced the conclusion of a FIPPA with Tanzania and is beginning negotiations with Nigeria. The right to sue the host country for policies or decisions they don’t like is very attractive to Canadian mining profiteers.

But in reality, this investor-state dispute process has been unambiguously harmful to Canada. Because of the investment protections in NAFTA, we are the sixth most sued country in the world, and the federal government has paid out $157 million in awards and settlements to foreign investors. It is perverse that Canada continues to pursue ever larger investment treaties with China, with the European Union through the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, which Harper recently joined.

Let the oil profits flow freely

The investment pact with China will notably allow Chinese energy companies, once they are established in Canada, to threaten the federal, provincial or territorial governments against imposing environmental rules on tar sands production, pipeline construction and other projects. Delays or denials on energy and mining investments could result in costly lawsuits outside Canada’s courts, which will be settled by unaccountable private arbitrators with a vested interest in the outcome. It’s a corrupt process to begin with, made more so by the lack of transparency in this particular investment treaty. It will be up to the Chinese government whether any of the investment lawsuits are made public or not.

Chinese firms are almost certain to make use of their new treaty protections as they increase their investments in Canadian energy and resource projects, including through the planned CNOOC purchase of the Canadian energy firm Nexen. About one in five investor-state lawsuits relates to resource extraction, and at least nine of the NAFTA investment lawsuits against Canada involve resources. For example, U.S. firms Exxon Mobil and Murphy Oil had no qualms about suing Canada under NAFTA because they did not like having to transfer a portion of their profits into research and development in Newfoundland and Labrador. A private NAFTA tribunal ruled earlier this year against the R&D measures. Canada is on the hook for another $65 million, most of that to be paid to 2011’s richest company in the world (Exxon).

There IS an alternative

Ideologues like the Harper Conservatives will argue that investment treaties are an important tool for attracting foreign investment to Canada but there is no evidence to back this up. On the other hand, the evidence keeps piling up that the pacts undermine democracy by making corporate rights to profit more important than environmental and other social priorities. In a very real sense, this China deal and other investment pacts are tools for locking in and expanding controversial resource projects like the tar sands in Alberta, the digging of mega-quarries in Ontario, or hydro-fracking for natural gas across Canada.

Last year, the Australian government, faced with the threat of investor-state challenges to public health measures related to cigarettes (plain packaging laws) and environmental regulations on coal-fired plants, decided it would not negotiate protections like the ones in the China-Canada deal into its own trade deals. If companies wanted to invest abroad, they should take out insurance instead of dumping the financial risks onto the Australian public. When companies invested in Australia, they should have no greater rights than local companies whose disputes with government policies must go through national courts.

Send a letter to your MP today saying you oppose this unfair corporate rights pact and demand a public debate!

I am opposed to the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). These investment agreements are nothing but corporate rights pacts that put public policy at risk from costly, secretive lawsuits. They undermine basic notions of democracy. Canada has already paid out more than $157 million in awards or settlements with foreign investors under NAFTA's investor-state dispute settlement system. It was a bad idea then, it's a bad idea now.

Last year, faced with the threat of investor-state challenges to public health measures related to cigarettes and environmental regulations on coal-fired plants, Australia decided it would not negotiate these extreme investment protections into its trade deals. The Australian government decided that if companies wanted to invest abroad, they should take out insurance instead of dumping the financial risks onto the Australian public. When companies invested in Australia, they would have no greater rights than local companies whose disputes with government policy must go through national courts.

I urge you to support the Australian government's approach to investment protection, and to discontinue the policy of including investor-state dispute settlement in trade deals or standalone treaties like this FIPA with China. At the very least, Parliament should have the opportunity to debate and make changes to the treaty, or to eventually reject it if MPs determine it is not in Canada’s best interests.

The Chinese government denies their people basic democratic rights. We would be sinking to that level if we bring this treaty into force without public scrutiny or debate as the Prime Minister is proposing.

I look forward to your response.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dungeons and Dragons: Gillard's Dangerous, Eager Role


Making the World a More Dangerous Place: The Eager Role of Julia Gillard

by John Pilger

The Australian parliament building reeks of floor polish. The wooden floors shine so virtuously they reflect the cartoon-like portraits of prime ministers, bewigged judges and viceroys. Along the gleaming white, hushed corridors, the walls are hung with Aboriginal art: one painting after another as in a monolithic gallery, divorced from their origins, the irony brutal. The poorest, sickest, most incarcerated people on earth provide a façade for those who oversee the theft of their land and its plunder.

Australia has 40% of the world’s uranium, all of it on indigenous land. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just been to India to sell uranium to a government that refuses to sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and whose enemy, Pakistan, is also a non-signatory. The threat of nuclear war between them is constant. Uranium is an essential ingredient of nuclear weapons. Gillard's deal in Delhi formally ends the Australian Labor Party's long-standing policy of denying uranium to countries that reject the NPT's obligation "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament".

Like the people of Japan, Australian Aborigines have experienced the horror of nuclear weapons. During the 1950s, the British government tested atomic bombs at Maralinga in South Australia. The Aboriginal population was not consulted and received scant or no warning, and still suffer the effects. Yami Lester was a boy when he saw the nuclear flash and subsequently went blind. The enduring struggle of Aboriginal people for recognition as human beings has been a fight not only for their land but for what lies beneath it. Since they were granted a status higher than that of sheep -- up to 1971, unlike the sheep, they were not counted – many of their modest land rights have been subverted or diminished by governments in Canberra.

In 2007, prime minister John Howard used the army to launch an "emergency intervention" in Aboriginal communities in the resource-rich Northern Territory. Lurid and fraudulent stories of paedophile rings were the cover; indigenous people were told they would not receive basic services if they did not surrender the leasehold of their land. Gillard’s minister of indigenous affairs has since given this the Orwellian title of "Stronger Futures".

The tactics include driving people into “hub towns” and denying decent housing to those forced to live up to a dozen in one room. The removal of Aboriginal children has reached the level of the infamous "Stolen Generation" of the last century. Many may never see their families again.

Once the “intervention” had got under way, hundreds of licences were granted to companies exploring for minerals, including uranium. Contemporary politics in Australia is often defined by the power of the mining companies. When the previous Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, proposed a tax on record mining profits, he was deposed by a backroom party cabal, including Gillard, who reduced the tax. Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks reveal that two of the plotters against Rudd were informants of the US embassy, which Rudd had angered by not following to the letter US plans to encircle China and to release uranium for sale to US clients such as India.

Gillard has since returned Australia to its historic relationship with Washington, similar to that of an east European satellite of the Soviet Union. The day before Barack Obama arrived in Canberra last year to declare China the new enemy of the “free world”, Gillard announced the end of her party’s ban on uranium sales.

Washington's other post-cold war obsessions demand the services of Australia. These include the intimidation of Iran and destruction of that country’s independence, the undermining of the NPT and prevention of nuclear-free zones that threaten the nuclear-armed dominance of the US and Israel. Unlike Iran, a founding signatory of the NPT and supporter of a nuclear-free zone Middle East, the US and Israel ban independent inspections. And both are currently threatening to attack Iran which, as the combined agencies of US intelligence confirmed, has no nuclear weapons.

The necessary inversion of reality and double standard require a “carefully orchestrated process”, the US embassy is assured by an Australian official quoted by WikiLeaks. According to the US cables, there are enthusiastic "Australian ideas" for "dredging up" information to help discredit Mohamad El Baradei who, as director of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1997 to 2009, repeatedly refuted US claims that Iran was building a nuclear weapon. The Director of the Australian Arms Control office is portrayed as a US watchdog, warning against "a slippery slope" of governments "exercising independent judgment" on nuclear matters. A senior Australian official, one Patrick Suckling, is reporting as telling the US that “Australia wants the most robust, intrusive and debilitating sanctions possible” against Iran. Suckling’s victims are today mostly ordinary men, women and children.

On 5 October, the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, which includes Aboriginal groups from across the country, gathered in Alice Springs. They called for a moratorium on all uranium mining and sales. Indigenous women made a special plea to Gillard, recently ordained by the white media as a feminist hero. No response was expected.

On 17 October, all the testaments of obedience and servility to the mighty patron finally paid off when Australia was rewarded with a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, known in Canberra as “the top table”. The timing is striking. An attack by Nato on Syria or Iran, or both, has never been closer. A world war beckons as 50 years are marked since "the world stood still", wrote the historian Sheldon Stern. This was the 1962 Cuba missile crisis when the US and the Soviet Union came within an ace of nuclear war. Declassified files disclose that President John F. Kennedy authorised "NATO aircraft with Turkish pilots ... to take off for Moscow and drop a bomb."

The echo today could not be clearer