Saturday, August 31, 2013

Into Syria? As the Wise Man Said: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

Fool Me Twice, Shame on US


Michael Ratner: Obama administration asserting the use chemical weapons by Assad feels like deja vu of the lead-up to the Iraq War.

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. 

Decrypting the 'Miranda Key' (coming to select theatres near you)

Greenwald, Miranda, and Encryption Keys 

by Peter Lee - China Matters

It isn’t essential to my world view for Snowden et. al. to be supercompetent, supersecure, superleakers…or for them to be stupid, narcissistic, traitors. But it seems to be important for some people…

So the British allegation that Miranda was carrying a written decrypt key on his person at Heathrow, and the British police have been able to decrypt 75 files has generated a considerable amount of hoo-hah.

My humble opinion: Greenwald and Miranda could have been guilty of sloppy tradecraft. Maybe.

But I think it’s equally possible that the British spooks are loading documents onto Miranda’s seized electronics themselves so they can recover them and announce the Snowden gang is a bunch of reckless and dangerous dingbats.

Only way that Greenwald could rebut the allegation would be to decrypt everything on the drive and say:

 “You see! Those documents weren’t part of the dump (or already were in a different folder). They’ve been added!”

Don’t see him doing this.

I had the same thought when the Independent published a document that it said was among the documents Snowden had taken. I noticed they didn’t say"

 “We obtained Snowden’s digital copy of the document.” It was more like, “We got this document. GCHQ says Snowden’s got it (too).”

That kind of activity helps divert the narrative from “Snowden reveals massive surveillance” to “Snowden endangers spooks and national security.”

I don’t think that’s an accident…and I think that it would be considered worth diddling with Miranda’s electronics to get this kind of result.

Just sayin…

Friday, August 30, 2013

End of Innocence: Shift Hitting the Fan

The Stampede of Lies That's Pushing the West Towards War in Syria

by 21st Century Wire

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” - Smedley Butler, 1933

British Prime Minister David Cameron tried and failed this week, but it looks like US President Barack Obama may get his war on in Syria this weekend. He says it’s because of ‘chemical weapons’.

Even at its lowest ebb, the the run-up to the Iraq War never saw so much desperation, so much spinning and overt lying from the government-media-complex, about what ‘intelligence’ is there to justify a new and dangerous war in Syria. The political narcissism around this desire for war makes Bush and Blair’s moral heist look like a polite outing.

It’s become a stampede of lies regarding Syria, with our political con men producing every trick in the bag, and yet, none of these PR illusionists dare mention during any of their diatribes on “the moral duty of the ‘international community” – that for the last 2 years the US, UK have given their backing to the armed “Syrian Opposition”, featuring 40,000 of the most vile and violent imported Islamic fundamentalist terrorist brigades the world ever seen, who have infested Syria. Now the US wants to act as al Qaeda’s Airforce in Syria, as it did already in Libya.

In this dirty proxy war, human lives mean very little to puppet masters, as the money flows into the foreign mercenary gangs. Money and arms are being supplied by US and UK allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar, special military (or terrorist?) training by the US, UK and others in Jordan and Turkey. To fill in the gaps, the US and others have been managing Blackwater (Xe) and other private military contractors (mercenaries) operating out of Cyprus and other locations, many of which are active militarily inside of Syria training and commanding ‘the opposition’ in their war to overthrow the Syrian government.

These resources of war continue to fuel the violence in Syria, and political cover is provided by the US, Britain, France, Turkey, Israel and others who seek to benefit from the shattering of the Syrian nation-state, the first of many more nation-states they would like to eliminate through catastrophe, or through wars.

The world has slid into a political abyss. David Cameron, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and William Hague have all took turns running point for this three year destablisation effort in Syria -with each, repeating each other’s script, peppered with half-cocked truths, and and endless banquet of cooked-up ‘intelligence’. Each appears to be completely convinced by his/her own highly subjective and wonderfully deceptive version of reality in the Middle East. They bank on public apathy, and the chaos of propaganda, in order to clear their path for more extreme violence, and profits for the top end of the military industrial complex, and for the top end of a predatory banking sector which makes all wars possible.

Yes, leaders have all been bought and paid for. Yes, the mainstream media has been bought and paid for. But the public has not been bought and paid for yet. In an incredible turn of events on Thursday, the British public set a rare, but clear example of what a functioning democracy can look like by rejecting military aggression. Washington and London political hacks may be too myopic to realise it, but the rest of the world has taken notice, and this small victory over global tyranny cannot be erased.

In 2003, the government-media-complex was cool, cold and calculated in its deception and drive to war, while the public were emotional, wild and desperate in their frustration to stop the establishment’s drive to war.

In 2013, the tables have turned, as political leaders and their media propagandists have become wildly emotional, highly unstable and completely desperate, in their bid to kick-start their war, while the public have been cool, calm and decisive in their condemnation of the war fraud.

We’ve seen it all this time around: inflated figures, reports with actors and sound stages dressed to look like hospitals, and we have seen heads of state site YouTube videos as evidence – videos they now refer to as “open source reporting”. The desperation to ram home a war in Syria has become obsessive rush to the point of being vulgar in itself. TV anchors, radio hosts, and newspaper editors – all shilling for war, even as the people are not.

Syria is only a stepping stone towards the Washington-London-Israeli nexus’s publicly stated objective of a war with Iran. From there, a confrontation could be forced – with the US-NATO confab on one side, and Russia and China on the other. This is a worrying prospect, considering the conduct of our leaders, who have been shown to lie on a regular basis to their public. Could we trust our current political class to make the right decisions should a World War 3 situation escalate that far? Can anyone answer ‘yes’ to this, especially after watching the adolescent performances of recent… by men and women who call themselves Prime Ministers, Presidents and Secretaries of State? Can these men be trusted with such overwhelming military fire power? Can they be trusted with their nuclear arsenals?

It seems that the establishment have failed to realise the shift that has taken place just now, nor are they able to foresee the blow back they may reap from their rancid enterprise, where a few profit – and the many pay.

You can never fully satisfy the appetite of a political, or corporate psychopath. They always want more. They see markets, and they want to control them. They see populations, and they want to control, or even eliminate them.

Although still confident with their formula for war – one which has worked for them so many times in the past, they could very well fall flat on their face this time in Syria, but even so and unfortunately for humanity, they will cause much damage and suffering in the process.

There is a global awakening taking place, and more than ever, people are finally realising en mass what General Smedley Butler learned back in 1993… those three words: “war is racket”.

Every one knows it seems, except those trapped in their own elite ghettos, so high up in their ivory towers that they’ve all but lost touch with the rest of the human race.

The shift… has just hit the fan.

Hydro Skins Us Twice with Powerex Payoff

BC Hydro Customers Victimized Again with $750 Powerex Settlement

by Erik Andersen - The

Reported by the Vancouver Sun on 17th August, 2013: Powerex (subsidiary of BC Hydro) “has reached a $750 million out-of-court deal to settle claims it drove up electricity prices in California more than a decade ago”.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett indicated, “The loss [penalty] will be applied to BC Hydro’s debt in deferral accounts and paid down by BC Hydro’s five-per-cent rate-rider.”

So what was done by whom, how and when? One certainty - BC Hydro's customers had no hand in the fraud, nor were they ever asked if they wanted their electricity supplier to be engaged in much out-of-province trading.

Trading of electricity by Powerex was historically thought of as a marginal business, only to facilitate occasionally bringing in electricity to meet provincial short-term needs and to sell temporary surpluses to others. Oh, how far off the rails did matters go?

In Enron’s salad days, its board and executives were held up for admiration for their unbridled, rapacious conduct. The Wall Street mantra, preached by the likes of Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, that “greed is good”, prevailed at Enron and, by extension, with the many “wannabees”.

For no reason other than it was there to be done, California was singled out as a worthy place to enjoy the benefits of electricity "deregulation" and this transpired with Enron leading the charge.

The average annual market price for electricity - measured by the PX-Day Ahead Prices, expressed in USdollars per megawatt hour (MWhr) - were stable at $30 for the years 1998 and 1999. In 2000, this price level continued without much change through to the end of April. By December the monthly average was US$385.60 per MWhr. In an 8 month period, electricity measured at the wholesale level, had increased by nearly 1,300%.

That scale of that price increase, in such a short period, just did not make sense in what had always been a stable industry, where balance is well maintained by producers and customers. Just imagine yourself facing a 1,000% increase for gasoline, bread or water. Your sense of outrage would be through the roof, and rightly so.

This pricing change would have been recognized as a game-changer by everyone in the electricity industry in North America. Ignorance of this change by the likes of Powerex, BC Hydro and even the BC cabinet is unbelievable.

In February, 2002, two California researchers published, “A Quantitative Analysis of Pricing Behavior in California’s Wholesale Electricity Market During Summer 2000; The Final Word.” They concluded that “there is considerable empirical evidence to support a presumption that the high prices experienced in the Summer of 2000 reflect the withholding of supplies from the market by suppliers (generators or marketers)”.

This polite representation just describes the fraudulent conduct of the few to extort unearned money from the innocent and many. Morality did not exist among the producers and marketers, making all participants guilty in an active conspiracy to defraud the innocent.

So, just how big a deal was this fraudulent behavior for Powerex/BC Hydro and the government?

Starting in 2000, Powerex reported a gross volume of trading in GWhrs of 23,410 at an average price of CDN$48.22 per MWhr. Given the currency differential then, this price was roughly in accord with the US prices above. Only one year later, with volume almost the same, the average per unit price increased by nearly 500% to CDN$228.37. That change in unit price is one huge “speed bump” not to notice and ask why. It wasn’t until 2004, after the stuff hit the fan in California, did trading prices return to the normal steady state of about CDN$30 per GWhr and has mostly held there until now in 2013.

If the electricity professionals at Powerex, BC Hydro and the provincial cabinet claimed to have missed noticing a 500% price change, you would think they would have noticed unplanned revenue increases of about $8 billion over the course of 2001-2003. Long before 2003 the evidence was in of a fraud being perpetrated on the citizens of California that no one in the Pacific Northwest would have been unaware of.

Even if the $750 million settlement looks like a good deal, it is now easy to understand why the Governor of California showed Premier Campbell the back door when he, Campbell, sought to have run-of-river power generation designated “green electricity”, thereby qualifying this energy for pricing premiums in California.

Dumping this penalty onto the shoulders of BC Hydro customers is an act of accountability avoidance. The BC cabinet should be ashamed for continuing to make BC Hydro customers victims targeted for the immoral, if not illegal conduct of others.

Erik Andersen is a retired economist who practiced as a transportation economist with the Canadian Transport Commission; with Airports Branch, Transport Canada; with ICAO and at private corporations such as Pacific Western Airlines. He has been using his talents of late to expose the calamitous fiscal impact of private power companies on British Columbians.

Amateur Hour with Barack and John: Making W.'s WMD Story Look Good

A Dodgy Dossier on Syrian War

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

The Obama administration’s three-page white paper making the case that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on Aug. 21 is even skimpier than the “evidence” that George W. Bush’s team put out to “prove” that Iraq was hiding WMD in 2003.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks on Syria at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 30, 2013. [State Department photo]

The white paper against Syria is noteworthy in that it lacks any specifics that can be assessed independently, in contrast to, say, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s infamous presentation to the UN Security Council which included intercepted quotes from Iraqi officials and satellite photographs of suspected Iraqi WMD locations.

As it turned out, Powell had misquoted the Iraqi officials to make their intercepted comments appear more sinister (but at least the State Department posted the actual transcripts online so Powell could be fact-checked) and the satellite photos ended up not proving anything at all.

But there was at least a presentation that – however misleading – didn’t simply call on the American people and the world to “trust us.” That is pretty much all that the Obama administration is saying in its indictment of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for allegedly deploying deadly chemical weapons last week.

The white paper states: “The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting.”

But the white paper offers no verifiable details to support any of its conclusions. For instance, it states: “We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC [the Scientific Studies and Research Center, which oversees Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal] – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack.

“In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack. Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin.
“On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks. Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.”

Yet, despite these seemingly incriminating assertions, no supporting evidence is cited: no satellite or other photos of these military movements were released, no names of individuals mentioned, no communications intercepts published. Just assertions attributed to “sources” with no way to assess their reliability.

In 2003, Secretary Powell also cited “sources” to buttress his case that Iraq was hiding WMD – and only after the Iraq War was underway did the public learn that these “sources” had code names like “Curve Ball” or were connected to self-interested outfits like the Iraqi National Congress. [For details, see Neck Deep.]

Damning Claim

Perhaps, the Obama administration’s most damning claim on Friday was that “We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations.”

However, again, the identity of the “senior official” is not included, nor is the direct quote cited. Given the history of the U.S. government doctoring quotes to make a case – besides Powell in 2003, the Reagan administration also did it in accusing the Soviet Union of intentionally shooting down KAL Flight 007 in 1983 – you might have thought the Obama administration would take pains to include the actual words and put them in their proper context. But no.

In the KAL 007 case, as presented to the UN Security Council, the Reagan administration cut and pasted intercepts from a Soviet pilot and his ground control to transform what was really a tragic mistake into a case of premeditated murder.

Only years later did one of the participants in the propaganda stunt, Alvin A. Snyder, who had been director of the U.S. Information Agency’s television and film division, describe how the scam was pulled off, by releasing some incriminating snippets packaged in a way to suggest the slaughter was intentional.

In his 1995 book, Warriors of Disinformation, Snyder reported that the Reagan administration wanted to use the incident as a propaganda club against the Soviets and did so by manipulating the tape recording of the Soviet pilot who actually believed he was chasing a spy plane, not a civilian airliner that had wandered off course.

“The tape was supposed to run 50 minutes,” Snyder wrote. “But the tape segment we [at USIA] had ran only eight minutes and 32 seconds. … ‘Do I detect the fine hand of [Richard Nixon's secretary] Rosemary Woods here?’ I asked sarcastically.’”

But Snyder had a job to do: producing the video that his superiors wanted. “The perception we wanted to convey was that the Soviet Union had cold-bloodedly carried out a barbaric act,” Snyder noted. “The objective, quite simply, was to heap as much abuse on the Soviet Union as possible.”

In a boastful but frank assessment of the successful disinformation campaign, Snyder noted that “the American media swallowed the U.S. government line without reservation. Said the venerable Ted Koppel on the ABC News ‘Nightline’ program: ‘This has been one of those occasions when there is very little difference between what is churned out by the U.S. government propaganda organs and by the commercial broadcasting networks.’”

Propaganda Gold

George W. Bush’s administration struck similar propaganda gold with Powell’s speech to the UN Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003. The few skeptical voices in the mainstream U.S. news media were silenced after Powell laid it on thick.

One of Powell’s techniques was to play excerpts of intercepted Iraqi telephone conversations in which the precise topic was unclear, but Powell applied the worst possible interpretation. In one such conversation, an Iraqi official said, “we evacuated everything. We don’t have anything left.”

Powell added, “Note what he says: ‘We evacuated everything.’ We didn’t destroy it. We didn’t line it up for inspection. We didn’t turn it into the inspectors. We evacuated it to make sure it was not around when the inspectors showed up.” But Powell was speculating that the “everything” referred to WMDs.

In another excerpt, Powell embellished an original State Department translation to cast more suspicion on the Iraqis. To prove that Iraqis were removing illegal weapons before a U.N. inspection team arrived, Powell read from one supposed transcript of an Iraqi official giving orders: “We sent you a message yesterday to clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there.”

What the original State Department transcript said, however, was: “We sent you a message to inspect the scrap areas and the abandoned areas.” There was no order to “clean out all of the areas” and there was no instruction to “make sure there is nothing there.” Powell’s gamesmanship with the intercept was later reported by Gilbert Cranberg, a former editor of the Des Moines Register’s editorial pages, when he compared Powell’s testimony to the original State Department translation.

Powell used the needled transcript to draw a powerful conclusion. “This is all part of a system of hiding things and moving things out of the way and making sure they have left nothing behind,” he said. “They were trying to clean up the area to leave no evidence behind of the presence of weapons of mass destruction. And they can claim that nothing was there. And the inspectors can look all they want, and they will find nothing.”

However, as deceptive as Powell and the Bush administration were regarding Iraq, they at least provided details that could be checked out independently. A careful journalist or an attentive citizen could do what Gilbert Cranberg did, overlay the official story on top of the raw data to see if they matched.

With the Obama administration’s white paper on Syria, not even that is possible. The claims are so lacking in detail that they amount to an insistence that the American people and the world’s public simply trust the U.S. government not to mislead them — again.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Below is the three-page white paper released by the White House.

U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013

The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting.

Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what took place.

Syrian Government Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21

A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack took place in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.

A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information. We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21.

We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime’s preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.

The Syrian regime maintains a stockpile of numerous chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and VX and has thousands of munitions that can be used to deliver chemical warfare agents. Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is the ultimate decision maker for the chemical weapons program and members of the program are carefully vetted to ensure security and loyalty.

The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) – which is subordinate to the Syrian Ministry of Defense – manages Syria’s chemical weapons program. We assess with high confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, including in the Damascus suburbs.

This assessment is based on multiple streams of information including reporting of Syrian officials planning and executing chemical weapons attacks and laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin.

We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons. The Syrian regime has the types of munitions that we assess were used to carry out the attack on August 21, and has the ability to strike simultaneously in multiple locations. We have seen no indication that the opposition has carried out a large-scale, coordinated rocket and artillery attack like the one that occurred on August 21.

We assess that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons over the last year primarily to gain the upper hand or break a stalemate in areas where it has struggled to seize and hold strategically valuable territory. In this regard, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime views chemical weapons as one of many tools in its arsenal, including air power and ballistic missiles, which they indiscriminately use against the opposition.

The Syrian regime has initiated an effort to rid the Damascus suburbs of opposition forces using the area as a base to stage attacks against regime targets in the capital. The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus neighborhoods of opposition elements, including neighborhoods targeted on August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems. We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.


We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.

Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks. Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.

The Attack:

Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.

Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.

Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours on the morning of August 21, according to a highly credible international humanitarian organization. The reported symptoms, and the epidemiological pattern of events – characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers – were consistent with mass exposure to a nerve agent. We also received reports from international and Syrian medical personnel on the ground.

We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure. The reported symptoms of victims included unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, constricted pupils, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Several of the videos show what appear to be numerous fatalities with no visible injuries, which is consistent with death from chemical weapons, and inconsistent with death from small-arms, high-explosive munitions or blister agents. At least 12 locations are portrayed in the publicly available videos, and a sampling of those videos confirmed that some were shot at the general times and locations described in the footage.

We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associated with this chemical attack.

We have a body of information, including past Syrian practice, that leads us to conclude that regime officials were witting of and directed the attack on August 21. We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations. At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the 24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding days.

We continued to see indications of sustained shelling in the neighborhoods up until the morning of August 26.To conclude, there is a substantial body of information that implicates the Syrian government’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21.

As indicated, there is additional intelligence that remains classified because of sources and methods concerns that is being provided to Congress and international partners.

What Democracy, Ours?

Our Democracy?

by Robert Jensen - Dissident Voice

The issue-packed title of this event—“Our Democracy in Crisis: The Rise of the Total Surveillance State and the War on a Free Press”—offers a panelist a number of potential targets. Given the expertise of other panelists on the specifics of surveillance and journalism, I want to focus on what may seem like the least controversial part of the title, “Our Democracy,” to which I would add a question mark.

Our democracy? Really? Is the U.S. system a democracy, and if so, does it belong to us? This leads to uncomfortable questions: What do we mean by democracy, and who do we mean by us? My thesis tonight is that there is little consensus on these matters, and that left/progressive organizing requires blunt assessments of rather grim contemporary realities.

From grade school on, we are taught that the United States is a constitutional republic founded on democratic principles, and that over time the scope of this democracy has expanded. People once excluded from full citizenship have been included; even a formerly enslaved people have been fully enfranchised, albeit far too slowly.

There is much about the standard story that is true, but it leaves out one crucial element: No matter who votes in elections, powerful unelected forces—the captains of industry and finance—set the parameters of political action. Voting matters, but it matters far less than most people believe, or want to believe. This raises the impolite question of whether democracy and capitalism are compatible. Is political equality possible amid widening economic inequality? Can power be distributed when wealth is concentrated?

These questions remain unspeakable in mainstream political circles, even though the economic inequality continues to widen and the distorting effects of concentrated wealth are more evident than ever. The limited successes of the Occupy movement nudged this into view, but this impolite question must be central in our conversations, raised without sectarian rhetoric and with a clearer analysis of the foundational nature of the problem.

Let me be clear: I’m not suggesting that there is nothing democratic about the contemporary United States, nor am I suggesting that we live in a fascist state. It’s important to avoid rhetorical overkill. Rather, I’m simply recognizing that, counter to the mythology of the United States, no existing nation-state is a democracy in any deep sense. The question is, to what degree are the features of a society—not just the formal political process, but the economic and social structures as well—truly democratic. Formulating the question that way opens up a more meaningful discussion of those realities.

Onto the question of who we mean by us: I think we have for too long believed that the population of the United States is more “left” than it is, or at least more “left” as I define the term.

Conservatives insist this is a “center-right” country, and progressives counter that various polls suggest popular support for policies that are left of center, such as national health insurance. Whatever the outcome of that limited debate, here’s what we have to acknowledge: If by “left” we mean a consistent critique of the domination/subordination dynamic that structures life in these United States, the left is essentially invisible. Such a left would be anti-capitalist and consistently critical of U.S. imperial adventures abroad. Such a left would take seriously the deeply embedded white-supremacist nature of U.S. society, as well as the devaluing and exploitation of women that is so deep that its sexual component is a routine part of pop culture. And such a left would recognize that the high-energy/high-technology industrial system that produces the much sought-after American “lifestyle” is a death cult, so fundamentally unsustainable that continued allegiance to that lifestyle guarantees catastrophic results for coming generations, and possibly for those of us currently here.

When I describe myself as being on the left, that’s what I mean. I don’t expect all my comrades to agree with all the points I just listed, but I would expect an acknowledgement that all those points are coherent and must be engaged. But even within the small left that exists in the United States, such agreement is hard to come by.

Summing up: We don’t live in a meaningful democracy and the vast majority of people don’t really want to change that.

OK, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but consciously so in order to make the point that we need to come to terms with reality, and devise organizing strategies based on that reality, no matter how grim that reality is. Expanded surveillance and the suppression of critical journalism are part of the problem, but in my opinion we should be discussing them in this larger context, which is far scarier than concerns about the NSA and reporting. Wishful thinking—believing the country is on the verge of turning to progressive and left ideas—won’t magically lead to progressive and left public policy.

If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, it’s because reality at this moment in history is a bit overwhelming. So, I’ll end with an observation made by the great writer and activist James Baldwin, who in a 1962 essay pressed the need for reality-based thinking. “Not everything that is faced can be changed,” Baldwin wrote, “but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

An edited version of a presentation on the panel “Our Democracy in Crisis: The Rise of the Total Surveillance State and the War on a Free Press” organized by Chicago Area Peace Action at North Park University, Chicago, Thursday, August 29, 2013.

Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. His latest book is We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out (Monkey Wrench Books). Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary film Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing (Media Education Foundation, 2009), which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist. An extended interview Jensen conducted with Osheroff is online. He can be reached at: Twitter: @jensenrobertw. Read other articles by Robert, or visit Robert's website.

Florida University Punishes Student Protesters, Violates Free Speech Rights

Free Speech Violations and Re-Education Programs at Florida University


In April, five students from Florida Atlantic University's Students for Justice in Palestine chapter staged a protest and silent walkout during a speaking event featuring an Israeli soldier to highlight his involvement in Operation Cast Lead, the weeks-long assault on the Gaza Strip beginning in December 2012 which resulted in the death of more than 1,400 Palestinians, 13 Israelis, and was condemned universally by human rights groups.

The students were then investigated by the school for their conduct. And while none of them accepted the validity of the charges brought against them, they signed, quote, sanction agreements with the university in order to avoid further punishment and are required to take a reeducation program sponsored by the pro-Israeli Anti-Defamation League. 

Intimidation of Palestine solidarity activists increasing on US college campuses.

Trains, Oil, and Social Transformation

Climate Change and Social Change

by ROGER ANNIS - CounterPunch

August 27, 2013As the toxic oil from the July 6 oil train disaster in Lac Mégantic, Quebec seeps deeper into the town center’s soil and disperses into waterways, and as town residents slowly reestablish their shattered lives, the corporate interests that caused the disaster and have been keeping a low profile are beginning to assert themselves anew.

Irving Oil, the company that brought the ill-fated oil train through the town in the crazed oil-by-train scheme it launched in 2012, says it’s concerned to get the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MM&A) fully operational again. The line is severed at the explosion site in center of the town. The railway was threatened with closure by federal transportation authorities several weeks ago for lack of insurance and then ok’d to continue provisionally.

There still looms its eventual and inevitable insolvency.

Getting MM&A rolling again

The cleanup costs that federal law assigns to the companies responsible for rail disasters will be in the many hundreds of millions of dollars. Additionally, the survivors of the 47 people who died as well as other people affected by the disaster will without doubt be awarded many tens of millions of dollars in the lawsuits they have launched against MM&A, its parent company, the Illinois-based, rail shortline conglomerate Rail World Inc, and their partners and enablers.

A certainly won’t be paying those bills. It has only $18 million worth of assets. It was not even paying to maintain its tracks. Its whole network in Canada (in the province of Quebec) was under a 40 mph maximum speed restriction with parts restricted to as low as 5 mph.

It also chose to cut corners on staffing, recklessly operating its trains with only one person. Company head Ed Burkhardt went so far as to stupidly declare, “”We actually think one-man crews are safer than two-man crews because there’s less distraction.”i

It’s tempting to wish for the railway’s demise. It’s been dilapidated and dangerous for a long time. CP Rail sold off the run-down track along with the rest of its historic line from Montreal to Saint John, New Brunswick in 1994. (Rail World bought a 500 km stretch of it in 2003 and the MM&A was reborn.)

The problem is that many manufacturing enterprises and communities along MM&A’s line connecting Farnham, Quebec, just south of Montreal, to northern Maine depend on it for their economic lifeblood. That includes the largest particle board manufacturer in North America, Tafisa, and 12 sawmills in and around Lac Mégantic itself. Tafisa alone employs 350 people.ii

The freight transportation needs of MM&A’s clients are being partially met by switching to trucking. But that’s hardly a safe or environmentally desirable solution in the longer term. Most of the regions served by the railway are semi-mountainous and popular with tourists. Winter lasts six months and brings lots of snow on the roads.

There’s also a great potential for passenger service. Not that Canadian or Quebec governments have shown the slightest interest in that. The last passenger train to roll along those tracks was closed by CP Rail, with federal government approval, in the mid-1980s. (VIA Rail took over service but that didn’t last long.)

But what to do about the profound mistrust of residents all along the line, not only in MM&A but also in the federal regulators that were supposed to assure safe rail transport and the companies that contracted with the hapless shortline–CP Rail and Irving Oil?

“At a social and emotional level, it will be very difficult to convince people to let the train through town again, but for factories in the region, the train is indispensable,” local businessman Gilles Pansera told the August 19 Globe and Mail.

The same issue of the paper reports, “Local business leaders have so far spawned three plans to restore rail service. All three, however, have been delayed by environmental questions. The Quebec government has yet to certify that the ground where new tracks would be built is free of contamination from the thousands of liters of light crude oil spilled on July 6.”

The soil around the rail line in the center of Lac Mégantic is so saturated with toxic crude oil that no building on it is likely possible for a very long time.iii

Irving conglomerate to the rescue?

So how to get the east-west rail line connected again, its two portions currently severed at Lac Mégantic?

To reconnect the line, a passage around Lac Mégantic must be built (app. 15 km of track). But who would invest in what has been a marginally profitable line (in capitalist terms) for a long time already? Turns out, none other than the Irving corporate conglomerate, the principal enabler of the disaster in the first place. Ross Marowits of Canadian Press reported on August 19 that such a buyout plan is contemplated.

It’s all a bit mysterious at this time. Beginning in 2012, Irving Oil switched some 25 per cent of the crude oil delivery to its refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick (Canada’s largest) to oil-by-rail from North Dakota. The plan was hatched with CP Rail, which brought the oil trains as far as Montreal and then contracted with MM&A to get them to Irving’s rail network in northern Maine and New Brunswick.iv But does Irving seriously believe that it could convince residents on the line not only in Lac Mégantic but elsewhere in Quebec and Maine that the “black trains” (the designation by Quebec residents along the line well before the disaster occurred) could resume their deliveries of crude oil to Saint John?

Several things are at play in this mystery. In the short term, Irving has an alternative rail connection to Saint John in the form of the shortline Pan Am Railways running from New York state through New England to the northern Maine. According to environmental activist sources in Maine, the black trains are rolling again to Saint John via Pan Am (a company whose rail network is reportedly as run down as that of MM&A and which has suffered at least three train derailments since March of this year). So Irving doesn’t necessarily need MM&A though it’s the preferred route and there’s nothing to guarantee that the company won’t press for resumption of oil trains if the re-connection at Lac Mégantic is built.

The bigger story is likely the one that Globe and Mail senior business writer Barrie McKenna penned in the Globe and Mail on August 19–that a revival of the MM&A line could serve a very useful public relations purpose for Irving. It has eyes on a big prize, a very big prize–the proposed $12 billion Energy East pipeline across Canada that would connect the Alberta tar sands to refineries in Quebec and Saint John.

That dream keeps Prime Minister Stephen Harper awake at nights thinking of the fantastic sums it could generate for his oil industry friends and sponsors. He visited Saint John on August 8 in an unseemly promotion tour on behalf of the Alberta tar sands producers, pipeline companies and oil refiners that want to see Energy East built.

McKenna notes: “The railway’s days of transporting crude may be over. But MM&A tracks remain a vital part of the transportation infrastructure for manufacturers across a swath of eastern Quebec. Its rail lines serve the cities of Saint-Hyacinthe, Saint-Jean, Farnham, Cowansville, Magog and Sherbrooke, linking these centers to Montreal, Maine, Vermont and beyond.”

He says a buyout of MM&A would be complicated. But Irving would end up with something that Quebec wants to see continuing to operate. Meanwhile, Quebec holds a key to something Irving wants very badly—backing of federal regulatory approval of Energy East. The pipeline would run through Quebec, parallel to the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, and will face stiff opposition.

McKenna goes on, “It wouldn’t be the first time that Quebec and the Irvings find themselves on the same side of a major energy project. Irving backed the aborted 2010 deal that would have seen Hydro-Québec buy most of the assets of NB [New Brunswick] Power, the provincially owned power utility. Irving saw the deal as an opportunity to get cheaper electricity rates for New Brunswick industry. The province eventually backed out, but the episode demonstrates the potential for finding economic common ground between the provinces.”

Rail and oil industry safety debated

In the weeks following the disaster at Lac Mégantic, the astonishing rate of expansion of oil-by-rail transport in Canada and the U.S. since 2009 has come under public scrutiny for the first time. It has also prompted great scrutiny of the safety practices of the railways.

Judging by a column by one of Canada’s most influential newspaper writers, Andrew Coyne, Canadians have lots of reasons to be very worried about what their political leaders are thinking about rail safety and who is influencing them. Coyne writes for the oligopic Postmedia newspaper chain and is he is also one of the members of CBC Television’s regular, evening news panel, ‘At Issue’.

Coyne wrote in a July 13 column that it’s, “Time to halt this runaway regulatory train” that is threatening to place the railways and oil companies under closer scrutiny.

“As I’ve argued before, this [the disaster at Lac Mégantic] is a unique event. Nothing like it has ever happened before. Nothing like it is ever likely to happen again.

“There is no reason on the face of it to take such an outlier event as proof of a general crisis of safety on Canada’s rails…”

Coyne then goes on to argue point by point against the interim, emergency changes to railway practices that Transport Canada announced on July 23 in response to what its inspectors in the Transportation Safety Board were learning about the disaster.

To make his case, Coyne marshaled a number of statistics from the TSB showing that runaway trains happen “only” ten times a year in Canada. He then speculates that the chance of runaways derailing and exploding “approaches zero”.

He also argues that there’s no proof that one-person operated trains are any more unsafe than when operated by two persons. He cites a 1997 study by Transport Canada that looked at railways around the world, notably in Europe, and stated, “all the railways found the one-person safety record to be excellent and do not believe that two persons in the cab improves safety.”

In a terrible irony, Coyne’s column was published just two days before the horrific passenger train crash in Spain that killed 80 people.

Coyne’s column conveniently avoids many important facts. For one, his selective statistics on rail accidents in Canada do not account for the massive increase in oil-by-rail shipments in the past several years.v And, the rail networks in Europe that were part of the Transport Canada study (published 16 years ago) are better maintained with more safety monitoring equipment compared to their counterparts in Canada, particularly on dilapidated, lesser routes of the big railways, including those that have been spun off to shortline operators like MM&A.

According to the latest numbers, the number of rail accident in Canada in 2012 declined by 10 per cent compared to a 2007-11 annual average. But that same year, there 88 rail accidents in North American that spilled oil, compared to an annual average of two prior to 2010.

A quick read of the harrowing accounts of rail accidents and derailments on CN Rail that are published on the blog Railroaded is further reason to dismiss Coyne’s reassurances.


The tragedy at Lac Mégantic was a perfect storm bringing together a deadly mix. First there was a crazed fossil fuel industry that is hell-bent on drilling, digging, fracking and selling every last drop of hydrocarbon it can get its hands on, irrespective of the world’s climate-warming emergency.

Then there were oil refiners, who will take no end of risk to get access to the cheapest crude supply possible.

Enter the railways. All North American railways have been given increasing monitoring authority by successive federal governments over the safety of their operations. During this same time, they have cut tens of thousands of jobs, including in track and equipment maintenance, crew sizes and the use of

CN Rail, Canada’s largest railway, was privatized in 1995. It and CP Rail have spun off their least profitable (and, likely, least well maintained) divisions over the past several decades (while simultaneously acquiring extensive trackage in the U.S.). Meanwhile, provincial and municipal governments have abdicated responsibility to oversee the rail transport of dangerous cargos through their jurisdictions.

So what is the main lesson to draw from the disaster? It’s not about improvements to rail safety, important as they are. It’s also not about the relative safety merits of oil transport by pipeline instead of rail.

No, the disaster is another argument in favour of an urgent, emergency shift away from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

Oil-by-rail should be banned for compelling safety reasons. But a banning is also needed for urgent environmental reasons. The same goes for new oil and gas pipelines.

North Americans need to mobilize to stop the crazed expansion of Alberta tar sands production and the extraction-by-fracking of conventional oil. The expansion and transport of coal and fracked gas is also a deadly threat to the earth’s future. It, too, must be ended.

A shift to alternative energy sources is needed, but even that is just a beginning point. Much of the greenhouse gas emission reductions that are required around the world can only be met by eliminating wasteful energy production and consumption—in the manufacturing processes that produce consumer junk and flog it, in transportation that relies on the private automobile and unrestricted air travel, and so on.

But excessive energy production and consumption is a hallmark of the capitalist system, because it’s profitable. So reducing the waste requires a revolutionary transformation of the economy, from capitalism to a planned socialist economy. We must challenge ever more deeply the madness of capitalism and its addiction to fossil fuels.

Movement towards such revolutionary change is taking place, step-by-step, by the likes of those who are rightly raising their voices against dangerous rail lines transporting dangerous and climate-threatening oil and coal.

Roger Annis is a coordinator of the Canada Haiti Action Network and resides in Vancouver, Canada.


i Rail transportation regulations in Canada do not prohibit one person train crews. Rather, they merely require that those railways wishing to use one-person crews pass safety audits conducted by the Canadian Transportation Agency.

ii For the comparable situation in the state of Maine, see this article from the Portland Press Herald (includes a wonderful photo essay of the town of Lac Mégantic).

iii The exact condition of the soil and water in and around Lac Mégantic remains a subject of great controversy. The Quebec environmental group Société pour vaincre la pollution has produced a preliminary report in collaboration with Greenpeace showing alarmingly high rates of water and soil contamination. The Société criticizes the Quebec government’s Environment Department officials for conducting its soil and water tests in a “culture of secrecy”. Greenpeace says the department is underestimating the consequences of the July 6 derailment.

iv CP Rail is embroiled in a dispute with the Quebec government, which says the railway must contribute to the costs of remediating the soil and waters around Lac Mégantic. CP says it’s not its responsibility. In a supreme irony, the rail company ceased doing business with MM&A two weeks ago because it said the company’s rail system was not safe for transporting oil or other dangerous cargo! CN Rail made the same decision. Irony upon irony, the federal transport authority then told the two railways that they could not decide this because it considers MM&A to be safe for operating.

v CP Rail alone will ship 140,000 wagons of oil this year, up from 500 in 2009. CN Rail figures are comparable.

vi For an essay on rail safety by multi-generation, CP rail worker Sean Smith, see here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Syria Propaganda Blitz: People Deaf to Crying Wolf Media

Americans Oppose Criminal US Syrian Attack

by Dave Lindorff - CounterPunch

If you needed more evidence that former president Jimmy Carter was correct [1] when he said, in response to reports of the massive National Security Agency spying program exposed by Edward Snowden, that democracy no longer exists in the US, just look at Washington’s push to launch a new war against Syria.

According to the latest Reuters poll [2], 60 percent of Americans, despite weeks of propaganda out of Washington, and cheerleading in the corporate media, oppose a US war in Syria. Only nine percent are in favor of the US launching an attack.

Does that matter? Clearly not. The aircraft carriers and cruise missile-armed submarines and surface ships have been moved into position. The corporate media quote unnamed government “sources” as saying that “only the timing of an attack” is in question, and suggesting that an attack could come as early as Thursday.

UN inspectors have just gone to the site of an alleged gas attack to see if such a thing actually happened, as charged by Syrian rebels. But is the US (which reportedly tried to scuttle the independent UN investigation into the alleged gas attack [3]) waiting to see whether there even was an attack, and to hear whether if there was one, it was the work of the Syrian government, or, as some have charged, of the rebels themselves? No. Rather, the Obama administration and the war-mongers in Congress are already declaring that the attack “certainly” occurred, and that it was the Syrian government’s doing. (Hey, if the US really wanted a justification for a war, and was “certain” Syrian troops were behind the poison gas attack, wouldn’t they have wanted UN investigators’ confirmation of the crime and the guilty party?)

The media are talking about an “intervention” in, not an invasion of Syria. CBS News reports [4] that President Obama has “ordered up” a legal justification to be used for attacking Syria, and says that “particular emphasis is being placed on alleged violations of the Geneva Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

Not mentioned is that there is a broader international law that flat-out bans the launching of a war by one nation against another, unless there is an “imminent” threat of attack against the attacking nation by the nation being attacked. Violating that law is called a “crime against peace” under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and under the terms of the UN Charter. The concept of a “crime against peace” was incorporated into the Nuremberg Charter, largely at the urging of the US, following World War II and the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, and was later incorporated into the UN Charter as Article 51. The US is a treaty signatory, which the Constitution says means it is as binding on the government as any law passed by Congress.

This law was declared to be jus cogens, meaning that it is superior to all other laws of war and therefore cannot be superceded by any other international or national law except of the same ranking. The Geneva Convention against the use of chemical weapons, for example, is a subordinate law, as are laws against other war crimes, against genocide, or against torture.

The government war-mongers in Washington, including the president and secretary of state, when they speak of finding, creating or digging up a legal justification for attacking Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons, ignore this reality. For their part, the corporate media don’t mention UN Charter Article 51, the Crime Against Peace, or the fact that it makes a joke out of any administration effort to justify an attack on Syria. (No wonder Obama just asked a federal court to block any effort to bring war crime charges against his predecessor, George W. Bush, and his consigliere, VP Dick Cheney. The man, trained as a constitutional scholar, is thinking ahead, hoping his successor will do the same for him.)

Legalities aside, any attack on Syria by the US and its puppet states in Europe, Britain and France, can only worsen a bad situation. Originally the plan was to arm the rebels. That was supposed to reduce the killing by allowing the rebels to defend their territory against Syrian government troops. Instead, arming the rebels, who as it turns out are a bloodthirsty lot themselves, has only made things worse by leading to more killing from their side, and to a prolongation of the already more than two-year-old internal Syrian conflict.

If the US and its puppet “allies” enter the fray directly, there is a strong likelihood that things could spiral out of control, with the war spreading beyond Syria’s borders. Iran has already warned that it could enter the fray in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Israel has already conducted bombing raids in Syria, and there are fears it has an itchy trigger finger on its low-yield tactical nuclear weapons, which if used in any expanded conflict would be a total disaster for the region and the world.

Roger Boyes, diplomatic editor of the London Times newspaper and a 35-year veteran foreign affairs journalist, is warning [5] that the Syrian conflict, if further inflamed by a US attack and more western intervention, could easily become the flash point for a region-wide war or worse.

“In August 1914 there was a lot of grouse shooting going on,” he says in reference to the events that sparked World War I.
“In August 2013, politicians prefer to read doorstopper biographies in Tuscany and Cornwall. Yet the spreading Middle East crisis, its multiple flashpoints, is every bit as ominous as the prelude to war in 1914.”

Back to America, where the economy is still on a shaky footing with official unemployment still at 7.5% five years on into the Great Recession that began in 2008 (and actual unemployment, counting workers who have given up trying to find a job, and those who are working part time involuntarily, just to survive, is closer to 20%), and where the military is still engaged in another losing war in Afghanistan, while trying to maintain bases in some 1000 locations around the globe at a cost of some $1 trillion a year.

Americans are clearly fed up with war. Only three in 10 people think that the Afghanistan War was “worth it.” And the evidence is there daily that the invasion of Iraq in 2003, at a cost of perhaps as much as $3 trillion, and the slaughter of over 100,000 innocent civilians, not to mention the creation of millions of refugees, produced nothing but a failed state where massive, horrific sectarian bombings are a daily occurrence.

Not surprisingly, the American people don’t want yet another war, this time against Syria, which clearly poses no threat at all to the US.

Does that opposition matter?

No. The Obama administration and the war mongers of both parties who control Congress, not to mention the corporate arms industry and the corporate media are all gung-ho for a new war to replace the fading one in Afghanistan.

Ex-President Carter has it right: “The US has no functioning democracy.” Until Americans start putting wrenches into the gears of the war machine, it will continue to clank along on it’s grim, destructive and self-destructive path.

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

Syria: Stopping Military Interventions


by Dr. Joan Russow - Global Compliance Project

COGNIZANT THAT resorting to military intervention, the US and its allies will be in violation of the fundamental purpose of the United Nations – to prevent the scourge of war

CONCERNED ABOUT the years of using various ill-conceived guises for justifying Military intervention: "human security" (Iraq 1991), "Humanitarian intervention"(Kosovo, 1999), "Responsibility to Protect" (Haiti, 2004, Libya, 2011) or "will to intervene" (Mali, 2013)

AWARE THAT in May 2013 U.N. human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria's civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators;

AWARE THAT the US has ratified the UN Chemical Conventions but has not yet completely eliminated chemical weapons, Israel has signed but not ratified the UN Chemical weapons Convention, and Syria will only ratify the chemical weapons Convention if Israel enounces nuclear arms

AWARE ALSO THAT Canada, Israel and US have refused to adopt the Declaration on a nuclear Arms Free Middle East

NOTING THAT 188 states have ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, the provisions in the Convention have become international peremptory arms

DEEPLY CONCERNED that the US and its allies are attempting to secure support, through Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, for an intervention into Syria, rather than invoking chapter VI- the peaceful resolution of disputes.

Given the social, environmental, health, human rights, economic consequences of war, under no conditions or circumstance is war legal or just.

THE FOLLOWING SIGNATORIES : oppose military intervention in Syria and call for

*invoking Chapter VI - the peaceful resolution of disputes- of the Charter of the United Nations, and

*respecting the International rule of law including a referral to the International Court of Justice, as per the Chemical weapons convention

*for increased humanitarian aid to countries aiding Syrian refugees

For more information contact Joan Russow

Global Compliance Research Project

A Reign of Knaves and Fools: Monumental Hypocrisy, Western Psychopathy

Western Pathological Liars Hold World to Ransom

by Finian Cunningham  - PressTV

The US, British and French governments have engaged in a decade of constant lies and war crimes around the world. The intermittent imperialist adventures of these capitalist powers over the past century have now subsumed into a seamless, never-ending state of permanent war on the world, as American fascist ideologues have long salivated for.

Syria is but their latest slaughter house, having unleashed a covert terror campaign on that country for the past two and half years using an array of mercenary death squads to topple the sovereign government of President Bashar al-Assad.

We now await phase two of the bloody Syrian operation - outright aerial bombardment and missile strikes, where the US, Britain and France act as the air force for the death squads on the ground. It’s an outrageous re-run of NATO’s regime change sacking of Libya during 2011.

Ten years ago, Washington and Britain launched a war on Iraq that resulted in as many as one million dead and an entire country still in ruins. That genocide was based then on blatant lies and fabrications concocted by the US and Britain. There is no dispute about that.

The world knows that the American and British governments indulged in an audacious hoax. Since then the world has not known one day of peace as the US and its cabal of allies launch murderous attack after murderous attack on one or another country.

Now the US, Britain and France are preparing to move from covert terrorism in Syria to all-out war - a war that could engulf, not just the region, but the entire world. The grotesque spectacle of those criminal regimes posing as upholders of international and human rights is sickening beyond words.

The warping of common morals and words into ugly inversions is consistent with the depraved world of criminality that the Western rogue states have imposed on the planet.

Every word, every action that comes from Washington, London and Paris betrays these liars. American Vice President Joe Biden feigns solemnity and says “there is no doubt” that the Syrian government forces of Bashar al Assad used chemical weapons of mass destruction last week, killing hundreds of civilians in “a heinous crime”.

Britain’s David Cameron grimaced and speaks of “appalling suffering caused by the Syrian regime” while French President Francois Hollande tries to sound statesmanlike, saying his country was “ready to punish” those responsible for “murdering innocents”.

Who are these butchers, mass murderers and liars to pose as defenders and protectors of humanity? Their cynicism and hypocrisy are astounding. The truly appalling thing is that the vast majority of sane, moral humanity has to endure listening to these psychopaths who hold the rest of us ransom with their criminal insanity.

Their fraudulence and duplicity pokes through the hollow, fake bombast. The White House says it is going to release “intel” to show the Syrian government’s culpability - but not before it had already dispatched warships to the coast off Syria.

So if the White House has evidence against Assad’s government, where is it? Why doesn’t Washington submit it to the UN chemical inspectors who are currently in Damascus trying to gather facts on the alleged gas incident last week?

American, British and French military chiefs meet their Saudi, Qatari, Turk and Israeli counterparts to draw up strike plans on Syria. It is done with a telling haste that demonstrates their reckless drive for another war before evidence and facts emerge showing that the perpetrators of last week’s chemical gas attack near Damascus were actually the al Qaeda death squads whom the Western media have cloaked with the risible identify of “Syrian rebels”.

Joe Biden says “no doubt” and Francois Hollande contends that “there is every reason to believe” that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. So, which is? “No doubt” or “every reason to believe”? That hint of ambiguity nails the absolute lack of anything.

A few days ago, US officials were less convincing in their assessment, when one told the New York Times: “Based on the reported number of victims, reported symptoms… witness accounts… the US intelligence community and international partners… there is very little doubt that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime.” In other words, the US and its criminal allies have simply watched dubious videos posted on Youtube and are now contriving justification for an otherwise criminal war on the Syrian people. This is gangsterism meets smoke-and-mirrors chicanery writ large.

Russia, Iran and Syria rightly demand that the Western rogue states present their supposed evidence. But the latter won’t comply because they don’t have any evidence. In a previous incident involving a chemical weapon on 19 March 2013 in the village of Khan al Assal, near Aleppo, the US, Britain and France also made accusations against the Syrian government. There were then similar bombastic claims of “no doubt”; and yet five months later there is still no independently verifiable substance from the Western states to back up those spurious claims.

Meanwhile, the Russia government study into the Khan al Assal attack - conducted to international standards with independently verifiable results - concluded that it was the Western-backed mercenaries who carried out that atrocity in which more than 25 were killed.

Another telling contradiction emanating from the West that betrays fraudulence is the assertion that the efforts of the UN chemical weapons inspectors - being fully facilitated by the Damascus government - is “too late” to establish the facts of the gas attack last week.

How is that investigation by UN experts within days of the incident too late, when Washington, London and Paris “concluded” their “secret tests” into the Khan al Assal attack some three months after that event?

Pathological liars can’t help themselves even when they sound ridiculous. Washington, London and Paris are telling the world that they are preparing a “carefully calibrated” blitz on Syria to “save civilians” and not aimed at “regime change”. Just like in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Mali where the West is conducting “humanitarian work”.

Hollande says the (Western-fomented) conflict in Syria is “a threat to world peace”, Barack Obama says it’s not “about regime change” and David Cameron says the military intervention “must not spread to the wider region”. These criminals can’t even be bothered getting their alibis consistent.

The timing of the expected military attack on Syria is said to have been delayed because Obama was working on his oration to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the Martin Luther King “I have a dream” speech this week in Washington. Also, Western media speculated that there would be no cruise missiles slamming into Syria on Friday “out of respect for the Muslim day of prayer”. But bombs and missiles can then be expected to rain down over the weekend. The lunatics are indeed in charge of the asylum.

Finian Cunningham, originally from Belfast, Ireland, was born in 1963. He is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For many years, he worked as an editor and writer in the mainstream news media, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. He is now based in East Africa where he is writing a book on Bahrain and the Arab Spring.He co-hosts a weekly current affairs programme, Sunday at 3pm GMT on Bandung Radio. More articles by Finian Cunningham

All That Glitters: Gold Miners Eye Clayoquot Sound

Clayoquot Sound: Searching for a Mine of Gold

by Eduardo Sousa - Greenpeace

As I write this blog, Neil Young's song, Heart of Gold keeps looping in my head. However what I have to write about couldn't be further from Neil's search for a heart of gold. Rather the quest I blog about here is for a mine of gold, one that threatens the ecology and entirely disrespects the rights and aspirations of the region's Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation.

Clayoquot Sound is now one step closer to having a gold mine amidst its beautiful ecologically intact valleys and majestic old-growth trees. Although not an altogether surprising move (given current BC Government priorities and other past developments that I write on, below), I was shocked nevertheless to learn that the government in the last dog days of summer has issued a mineral exploration permit to Selkirk Metals Corp (owned by Imperial Metals Corp) for its Fandora Gold Mine project. The area they seek to ‘explore’ for the possible development of a gold mine is in the traditional territory of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, and less than 20 kilometres from Tofino.

Aside from the very polluting nature of gold mining and what such development would do to the region, more importantly from my perspective is that the decision flies in the face of solid Tla-o-qui-aht opposition. The Province claims it has consulted with the Nation, and, while acknowledging that the Tla-o-qui-aht are against the proposal, they felt they did their due diligence and thus approved the permit.

What about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People that Canada (and by extension all the provinces) signed on to? Within this groundbreaking global declaration is the central principal of FPIC – Free and Prior Informed Consent. In its Fandora Mine decision, the BC Government only went as far as consultation (as they define it) and appeared to have ignored the key notion of ‘prior consent’. As James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur stated in his recent report on the rights of indigenous people and extractive industries, the principles of consultation and consent are central in upholding the rights of Indigenous people especially when it comes to decisions over extractive industries:

“…principles of consultation and consent function as instrumental to rights of participation and self-determination, and as safeguards for all those rights of indigenous peoples that may be affected by external actors, including rights that indigenous peoples have under domestic law or treaties to which they have subscribed, or rights recognized and protected by authoritative international sources like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and various widely ratified multilateral treaties. These rights include, in addition to rights of participation and self-determination, rights to property, culture, religion and non-discrimination in relation to lands, territories and natural resources, including sacred places and objects; rights to health and physical well-being in relation to a clean and healthy environment; and the right of indigenous peoples to set and pursue their own priorities for development, including with regard to natural resources.” (pg 9, 1-28)

So in light of this, I find it at least naive if not hypocritical and shameful of the BC Government to go ahead and give its blessing to Selkirk/Imperial to explore for gold despite steadfast Tla-o-qui-aht opposition. The Tla-a-o-qui-aht have for months been asking for a meeting with the Minister of Energy and Mines tpo no avail.

Environmental allies and ourselves have been working for close to a year with the Nation behind the scenes to try and stop the proposal from going forward. We met on several occasions with provincial officials on the issue, and what repeatedly came through as an undercurrent from them was that since the area is already ‘disturbed’, why not allow for further development?

While indeed the Fandora site is ‘disturbed’ in that there is an older mine (which ceased operation many years ago) and that the site is not in one of the unprotected intact valleys (because it was logged years ago), the fact is that the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation has a vision for their land, and that doesn’t include a gold mine, or a mine of any sort. As Saya Masso, their resource manager has noted, they want the previously disturbed land to be given time to ecologically recover from past industrial activity. And we agree wholeheartedly with that wise approach.

The land use vision of the Tla-o-qui-aht is one of conservation, whereby it is acknowledged that the kinds of economic activity they wish to undertake must be fully compatible and limited by their territory’s ability to function ecologically so that it can continue to supply fresh water and healthy food to the people. Their elegant vision is expressed through the idea of a ‘Tribal Park’, for which they have designated their entire territory (an exciting concept that I will blog about at a future date).

At Greenpeace we fully support their vision and stand with them, as we have in the past in protecting the remaining old-growth valleys in their territory. It is why we are part of the recent Press Release which announced to the world the Tla-o-qui-aht’s public opposition and that of other supportive environmental organizations.

The situation is disconcerting to say the least. I still can’t understand the short-sightedness of the government in approving the exploratory mine permit. When one travels through this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (which does allow for industrial activity like mining, unfortunately) one is overwhelmed by the sheer delicate and unique beauty of the region. The area includes world-renowned Pacific Rim National Park, many protected and unprotected ecologically and culturally significant areas (home to three First Nations), Tofino itself and numerous economic enterprises that rely on a healthy environment to survive and prosper. A gold mine, or a mine of any sort, doesn’t belong in the region.

This is Clayoquot Sound. It behooves the BC Government to track this one closely in terms of the expected growing resistance, and carefully think about the implications should it ultimately approve a gold mine (if the exploratory phase proves successful and Selkirk/Imperial goes the next step). The irony is not lost on me that 20 years ago this summer the provincial government of the time also made an ill-fated decision (back then it was about logging dwindling old-growth forests) that led to the largest mass arrest for civil disobedience in Canadian history through the blockades. It put Clayoquot on the international map and the region remains iconic, laden with ecological and cultural meaning. People are very passionate about Clayoquot Sound and its protection– especially those who have been here the longest and who thus have a moral and legal right to healthy land and water. We support the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, resolute in helping them manifest their vision for healthy lands and waters, and a vibrant future for all who are blessed to live in the region and the future generations to come.

You can take action by signing a petition supporting the conservation and sustainablle economic aspirations of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation here.

Cameron Repudiated: Brit Parliament Stands Against Syria Adventure

Cameron’s War with Syria Defeated in House Vote Tonight

by 21st Century Wire 

LONDONDavid Cameron’s march to war in the Middle East hit a wall tonight, as British MPs have voted against ‘possible military action against Syria’ regarding retaliation for last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus.

The government motion was defeated 285 to 272, a majority of 13 votes. MP’s were shouting ‘resign, resign’ in the House of Commons.
Cameron lamented, “The British parliament does not want to see military action. I get that and the government will act accordingly.”

Tory MPs and ministers were noticeably irritated and upset during today’s Commons debate over Labour leader Ed Miliband’s last minute move that blocked Cameron’s fast track to war. Later in the day, Downing Street accused the Labour opposition of giving ‘succour to Assad’.

Ian Dunt, political correspondent from, described the tension during this previous afternoon’s debate best:
“David Cameron couldn’t even bring himself to look at the Labour leader today. As soon as Ed Miliband stood up, the prime minister started flicking through his notes. He did this for minutes on end, until the Labour leader gave way for someone else to speak. Then Cameron would lean his head back on the bench and listen. The body language between the two has never been so poisonous.Immediately afterwards, Downing Street issued a furious briefing against the Labour leader, calling him “incoherent” and accusing him of “flipping and flopping”.

It was by all accounts, a humiliating defeat, not only for Cameron, but for the Tory coalition government as a whole.
Dunt added this evening, “The only possible comparison of a party leader not being able to command the support of his own side in a matter of foreign policy is Neville Chamberlain in the Norway debate of 1940.