Thursday, October 30, 2014

Imperial Metals, Mount Polley and the Failure of Compliance

Mount Polley and the Failure of Compliance 

by MiningWatch Canada

Investigations into the causes and legal implications of the spill are ongoing, as is monitoring of the impacts. Preliminary water sampling results show increased levels of copper and other metals in the water column, where a plume of fine sediments is moving with the currents in the lake. There is also concern over an increase in the E. coli bacteria in water as residents used to draw drinking water straight from the lake. There are observations of increased algae and weed growth due to the fertilizing effect of phosphorus in the wastes. Researchers from the Quesnel River Research Centre have noted that the impacts of the spill may last decades. (See our August 8 and October 8 posts for additional background.)

Speculation about the cause of the breach includes accusations that the there was too much water in the impoundment and that the impoundment was not adequately buttressed as its height was increased to accommodate more waste. As we wait for the conclusion of the technical review and criminal investigations, information that has been revealed by various media investigations and disclosures by the BC government show that there were a number of warnings and red flags raised about the impoundment in recent years. Whether the issues identified in the past are directly related to the spill or not, the response of the BC government to the issues at Mount Polley tells us a lot about how the system of oversight of mining sites works in BC. The situation at Mount Polley is, unfortunately, typical of governments that want to maintain an “open for business” climate and seek to promote compliance with environmental and engineering standards but do little to force companies into concrete action in a timely way.

Shortly after the spill, the CBC reported that the Ministry of the Environment had issued 5 warnings to the company for failing to report issues with the tailings impoundment and allowing the water level to go higher than was approved. These situations resulted in warnings and advisories but no charges and no public disclosure of the problems. When these issues were put to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas, Bill Bennett on the CBC’s Power and Politics, he acknowledged that there was an advisory in May 2014 but denied the previous warnings that Imperial had been given.

Former mine employee Gerald McBurney was widely cited in the media (e.g. Global News and DeSmog Blog) criticizing the mine’s management and stating that buttressing needed to stabilize the dam had not completed. Another former employee, Larry Chambers, has stated that he was fired after raising safety concerns with the BC Mines Inspector.

The Vancouver Sun’s Gordon Hoekstra found a 2010 report on the tailings impoundment that is particularly troubling. The report noted a number of important failings of Imperial’s management at Mount Polley including:

Not reporting a “tension crack” in the tailings dam to the design engineers.
Not constructing the impoundment to specifications advised by the engineers
Failing to deposit the tailings in such a way that would create a “tailings beach” around the perimeter as a buffer between the pooled water and the impoundment walls.
Not conducting the weekly inspections of drainage systems in the impoundment as committed to in their own Operations, Maintenance and Surveillance Manual.
40% of peizometers (small wells used to measure water level and pressure in the impoundment) were not operational, despite advice from 2006 to ensure a full compliment of working equipment.

Corporations must face much stronger financial penalties, and we need governments that are willing to impose them and that recognise we cannot be “open for business” at any cost.
After the 2010 report came to light Imperial issued a response noting that it had addressed many of these issues. What it doesn’t explain is why it operated in this way for a number of years prior to addressing them.

In 2011, the same engineering firm that wrote the previously mentioned report wrote a letter to the company and the BC government stating that: “The embankments and the overall tailings impoundment are getting large and it is extremely important that they be monitored, constructed and operated properly to prevent problems in the future”. Despite the increase in the size of the impoundment --and this warning-- the facility was not inspected by BC in 2010 or 2011.

The “soft on corporations” approach seen at Mount Polley is, unfortunately, not unique in BC. For years regulators have been aware of damaging selenium discharges at Teck’s Elk Valley coal operations. While management plans are discussed and measures to deal with the pollution are examined, the company continues to propose and receive permits to greatly expand its operations.

Responses to the Mount Polley disaster from First Nations, NGOs, and the public have appropriately included calls for increased inspections and improved regulations. While these are certainly necessary, to be effective they must also be accompanied by a change in the culture of how our governments deal with compliance and enforcement issues. Greater whistle-blower protection is also critical. The Mount Polley case shows us that technical advice from engineers, operational commitments, and even warnings and advisories from regulators are not sufficient for companies to implement changes in a timely way. 

On August 4th of this year, the tailings impoundment at the Mount Polley mine failed, releasing 25 million cubic metres of mine waste and construction material into the watersheds below. Some of the waste backed up into Polley Lake, most of it was dumped into the 10km Hazeltine Creek watershed, and some spread downstream into Quesnel Lake. 

Great Black North: Canada's Heart of Darkness

Canada’s Heart of Darkness

by Jim Miles - Palestine Chronicle

Once upon a time, Canada was able to create the illusion that it was the “peaceable kingdom”, an illusion accepted domestically and arguably by most of the rest of the world. This history has been well discredited with newer historical research outlining how Canada’s position as a “peacekeeper,” generally under UN auspices, remained effectively within the realm of U.S. foreign policy, just with a kinder gentler face.

Over the past decade, Canada has made a clear and distinct turn towards its inner ‘heart of darkness’, becoming much more overt about its right wing militarized alignment with the U.S. empire and its demands. It has done so to the extent of front-running – or trying to out do – the hubris and arrogance of the U.S. in its declamations of its self-righteousness concerning international affairs (with similar impacts on domestic affairs).

Much if not all of this is due to Canada’s (neo)Conservative government under Stephen Harper. Harper himself has declared that Canada will be a different nation when he is finished with his reign of office. Harper’s background is of a fundamentalist-dominionist Christian ideology that he himself hides reasonably well but which shows up quite frequently in his supporters and in caucus. He is determined to create a domestic order that is ruled by giving freedom to corporations, in alliance with the banksters, to do as they require to harvest the wealth of the country for their own benefit.

The two recent attacks on uniformed Canadian soldiers by ‘lone wolf’ attackers is well known at least to those attending to western media. It was the latest incident on Parliament Hill with the murder of an Honour Guard at Ottawa’s War Memorial that has created the most significant response.

The government response while rightly denouncing the violence of the actions highlights some of the double standards and the direction that the current government wants to go. Many of the comments used descriptors such as “unexpected,” “shocking,” “senseless,” and “we’ll never be the same.”

What the comments truly highlight is the ignorance of the speakers concerning Canada’s role in global affairs historically and within current events in the Middle East. Some kind of action like this was probably very much expected (otherwise, why a watch list of 90+ individuals?), and while the act of murder is a shock to those witnessing it and suffering from it, it is not a shock in the political usage of the word. Senseless, yes, for those not cognizant of the various psychological combinations of disempowerment, drugs, alienation, and religious dogma. But the ‘senselessness’ goes deeper into Canada’s changing role in world affairs.

When Harper spoke to Parliament the day after the Ottawa killing, he spoke of the support he had received from other countries, mentioning by name the UK, Australia, the U.S. and Israel. An interesting conglomeration – of settler colonial states birthed by the racist empire of the British. Perhaps this is taking it too far, but it is as only as far as Harper has gone with his more militant foreign policy.

Without qualification Harper supports Israel’s ongoing use of warfare against the people of Gaza, supports the ideology of Israel’s foundational myths, and supports its actions in the West Bank and Jerusalem. He supported the U.S. in their role in destroying the government of Libya, to the extent of honouring the jet fighter pilots who bombed army units and infrastructure well beyond the intent of a ‘no fly zone’. He has sided with the other minions of the western powers in demonizing Putin while supporting the neo-Nazis in the Ukraine who overthrew a duly – if corrupt – elected government.

Ironically he has supported the U.S. in Syria by backing the Islamist militants trying to overthrow Assad, who have morphed into ISIS which is supported and supplied by Saudi Arabia and Qatar among other Arab countries who are our supposed allies. And these militants had morphed into shape from the U.S.’ obliteration of the Iraqi state, following its lack of success in Afghanistan. Turkey, a fellow NATO ally member, has until recently allowed ISIS to beat up on the Kurds as it plays out a triple game in the region without too much concern for which militant is the good guy or the bad guy.

These are Canada’s actions in the world today. Backing the U.S. in its increasing desperation to save its global hegemony, supporting autocratic monarchies (FYI – Saudi Arabia beheaded 26 people in August using only the authority of Wahhabi religious law to do so), supporting the attempts to revive the Cold War mythology of the evils of Russia and Putin, accusing them of threatening “NATO’s doorstep” when it is NATO that has advanced 700 km towards the Russian border, and supporting the ongoing colonial-settler apartheid of Israel.

And then we wonder why Canada has suffered these attacks. The ‘senseless’ aspect of it all is Canada’s role in global affairs. Various pundits in Canada are arguing about the significance of these events, in particular because the Harper regime was intending to introduce new legislation to give CSIS (Canada’s security services) and the RCMP (its national police force) and other police more surveillance powers and more powers of pre-emptive interventions.

Current Justice Minister Peter MacKay has defended the idea of new legislation allowing greater surveillance for terrorists, adding that it also allows for more surveillance of undefined criminal acts. With the current governments mind-set that could easily become translated to mean people who are protesting against corporations, for the environment, against government initiatives in general. To the pundits credit on CBC, they agreed that the idea was far too open and intrusive.

One of the pundits argued that Canadians would normalize the surveillance as the U.S. and the UK people had done, without changing the essence of democracy in those countries. 

It is easily arguable that true democracy does not exist in either of those countries as they are mainly controlled by the corporate-military-political elites. Sure, we all have a vote, but the real deals are made behind closed doors in secret meetings, a distinct lack of surveillance there.

One of the more ironic comments from a pundit returns to the idea of the violence of the people who committed these acts of terror. After mentioning briefly several violent acts by different people in the U.S. and Canada, Muslim and Christian alike, he said it was the “willingness to use violence that unites them.”

That sadly returns the argument back to the countries that gave verbal sympathy to the Canadian government after the second killing. It is these very countries, on a much larger scale, that have an underlying violence that unites them. Violence used domestically during their years of formation, violence ongoing against subjugated racial/religious groups, violence against other countries who are made to appear as the evil ‘other’ and thus to be destroyed or violently contained.

Final picture, of Justice Minister MacKay wearing a t-shirt printed with a high powered automatic rifle at a Conservative fundraiser supported by the National Firearms Association. Ironically, that same association does not want the surveillance bill,C-13, to pass, “We think that this is probably the most draconian step towards police interference in people’s lives since George Orwell revealed the potential for it when he wrote 1984.”

It comes full circle to the vanished illusion of the “peaceable kingdom.” Canada’s democracy and civility is a tarnished and cracked veneer disguising an underlying racial prejudice and fear of the ‘other’, a legacy of colonial-settler violence inherited from the British empire. Stephen Harper and his (neo) Conservative government have exposed these flaws in our supposedly democratic civilizational superiority with his violence towards the people of the world and the violence towards the land and people domestically. Our inner heart of darkness has been revealed.

Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications. He contributed this article to

Spilling: CIA Mouthpiece Lets Slip On Russian ‘Aggression’

CIA Mouthpiece Lets Slip On Russian ‘Aggression’

Finian Cunningham - SCF

For months now, Western mass media have been in lockstep with the US State Department and the NATO military alliance, promulgating claims of Russian aggression in Ukraine and towards Europe generally. The mantra-like repetition of these claims, with scant substantiation, resembles the Big Lie technique of Third Reich master propagandist Josef Goebbels. Told often and brazenly enough, the claims acquire normalcy as "accepted facts."

Western news media, from the BBC to the New York Times, uncritically peddle NATO and Washington claims that Moscow has «annexed» Crimea and infiltrated troops into eastern Ukraine to destabilise the pro-Western «government» in Kiev. Last month at the NATO summit in Wales, outgoing secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen asserted: "So we continue to call on Russia to pull back its troops from Ukrainian borders, [and] to stop the flow of weapons and fighters into Ukraine."

Last week, that narrative was debunked by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The OSCE has been appointed to monitor the border between Russia and eastern Ukraine. The organisation’s monitoring chief Paul Picard confirmed that since the beginning of its observer mission at the end of July to present, it has not recorded any movement of military equipment or units from Russia into Ukrainian territory.

"The movement of military equipment has not been seen by the OSCE from our border point [of observation]," said Picard during a press conference in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don last week.

The OSCE monitoring chief did say that there was Russian military movement of airplanes, helicopters and drones inside Russian territory along the border, but that there was no cross-border incursion. "We observed their movement, but didn’t see them fly into Ukraine, so they did not cross the border," Picard said.

Tellingly, the OSCE assessment nullifying Washington and NATO claims of Russian invasion and infiltration of Ukraine was given negligible reportage in the Western media, which persists with the anti-Russian narrative that seems to operate on the basis of not letting the facts intrude on a convenient storyline.

However, the OSCE version of reality was surprisingly corroborated by an unlikely source – Radio Free Europe – albeit unintentionally, it would seem.

RFE was set up during the height of the Cold War as a mouthpiece for the American Central Intelligence Agency to broadcast anti-Soviet propaganda across Eastern Europe. As a recent France 24 headline put it: ‘Radio Free Europe back on frontline over Ukraine’ in which the obsequious report said gushingly: "A quarter of a century after it helped topple totalitarian Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is duelling Moscow again, this time in a media war over the Ukraine crisis."

In any case, in a RFE report last week under the headline ‘He was just a boy’, the American broadcaster told of the anguish of a Russian mother who recently buried her 18-year-old son after he was killed fighting in eastern Ukraine earlier this month. A grief-stricken Zalogina Pushkaryov told RFE how her son, Yevgeny, was shot dead by Kiev military forces after he had volunteered to join anti-Kiev militia. That part of the story is real enough.

But the significant detail is that the report makes clear that young Yevgeny travelled from his hometown of Kronshtadt, near St Petersburg, to eastern Ukraine after he was recruited via the internet social media. He did so surreptitiously without his mother’s knowledge. The RFE report also quotes other Russian "volunteers" who have gone to take up the fight for independence in the Donbass region from Kiev. It noted that these individuals are "ill-equipped and unprepared" for military action and are often "cannon fodder" in the battle against Ukrainian regular army units and self-styled National Guard battalions.

Thus RFE inadvertently spills the beans on the real nature of Russian involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. As Moscow has been consistently saying for several months, it has not sent weapons, troops or commandos into Ukrainian territory to support the pro-independence self-defence militia battling against Kiev forces, since the latter were dispatched in April on a so-called anti-terror operation against the dissenting ethnic Russian population of Donetsk and Luhansk.

To the extent that there is a Russian connection it is mainly on the basis, as the RFE report acknowledges, of young men volunteering unofficially through informal internet channels. These hapless volunteers are driven by personal reasons to defend what they see as a compatriot population under fire from an illegal regime. The RFE reported that these Russian volunteers have to arrange and pay for their own travel to the conflict region. That is obviously the behaviour of private Russian citizens, who are taking it upon themselves to take up arms in eastern Ukraine. It is not the kind of channel that Moscow would be operating if there was any official covert military plan to destabilise Ukraine – as Washington, NATO and the Western media, including RFE, have been claiming ad nauseam without the slightest proof.

The decision to bear arms in Ukraine by Russian individuals cannot be attributed as Russian government policy, in the same way that hundreds of Western private citizens travelling to fight as mercenaries in Syria is not automatically cited as proof of Western government endorsement of that activity.

Together with the latest OSCE assessment of no cross-border military transport, the CIA’s RFE report of "untrained and ill-prepared" Russian youths dying in eastern Ukraine provides an important rebuttal of Western claims against Moscow. Those claims can now be seen for what they are: propaganda in the service of a political agenda from Washington and its NATO allies to mount aggression on Russia.

The West’s specious claims of Russian expansionism in Ukraine serve to distract from the reality that Washington and its European allies are the ones who have in fact destabilised Ukraine by fomenting an illegal regime in Kiev. This regime cannot salvage legitimacy even with the latest farcical parliamentary elections. The regime and its Western sponsors have sought to legitimise the illegal subversion of Ukraine’s sovereignty by turning reality on its head and blaming Russia for the unrest in that country since the CIA-backed coup in February this year.

The baseless claims against Russia’s interference in Ukraine is part and parcel of a bigger picture of similar innuendo against Moscow for jeopardising European-wide security.

Rasmussen’s successor in the top NATO job, former Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, has continued in the same vitriolic vein accusing Russia of aggression and having nefarious expansionist ambitions.

On his first official visit, Stoltenberg went to the NATO airbase in Lask, Poland, earlier this month where he declared that increased NATO "policing" fighter jets over the Baltic Sea were "solidarity in action" to deter alleged Russian belligerence.

Last week, Western media reported, as good coin, NATO claims that a Russian Il-20 surveillance plane had breached Estonian airspace. Russia denied that the aircraft had strayed from international airspace.

But the Western media sought to substantiate that claim by merely piling on more unverified NATO claims that there was a threefold increase in "provocative" Russian military flights over recent months.

"I would suggest that the level of this provocative flying is higher than at the height of the Cold War," said a NATO spokesman quoted by US government-sponsored Voice of America. The NATO official added there had been "a threefold increase in the number of NATO intercepts this year than last year in the Baltic region."

In a Financial Times version of the same report, it was said that there was a "threefold increase in the number of scrambles Nato fighters have had to make since January." If the Western media were really doing its job of independent journalism, it would inquire of the sceptical question: perhaps NATO is just scrambling more aircraft not out of an objective security concern over Russia, but rather to simply produce flight data that appears to support allegations of Russian "provocation"? There is a big difference between scrambling jets and actual territorial breaches.

The Financial Times goes on to report that NATO has spent nearly $200 million already over the past year in upgrading air bases in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to handle what has been a four-fold increase in NATO fighter planes in the region since 2013. Citing expenditure in euro amounts, the FT reports:

"Runways have been extended and resurfaced, new hangars built and larger ammunition and fuel depots installed.

"In Estonia, €40m has been spent on Ämari air base. In Latvia, €42m has gone on upgrading Lielvārde – a large fuel dump will be finished there next year. In Lithuania, 29 separate projects costing more than €41m have overhauled the airfield at Šiauliai, and in Poland, €17m has been spent on Malbork."

It should be obvious that such infrastructure upgrades must have been part of a long-term plan, not as the FT would have us believe, as part of a short-term «response» to Russian "provocation."

In other words, the Washington, Brussels, NATO and Western media narrative of "Russian aggression" in Ukraine is as baseless as the extended theme of "Russian provocation" in the Baltic region. The real narrative is one of US-led NATO aggression and expansion towards Russia under the cover of specious claims against Moscow, which are invoked as a retrospective justification of NATO belligerence.

This is consistent with Washington’s long-term geopolitical agenda of "throwing Russia off balance," as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented in an interview with Itar-Tass last month.

So keen is Washington in pushing its propaganda offensive that the CIA mouthpiece Radio Free Europe seems to have overlooked a few gaping holes in its own Big Lie technique, as shown by its recent report on the Russian mother grieving the loss of her son in Ukraine.

By the way, ironically, in this era of capitalist austerity, it is reported that RFE has endured serious cutbacks and staff redundancies over the past year. The CIA’s mouthpiece seems to have incurred an "intelligence" retrenchment as a result.

Fight for Women's Rights Abandoned in Afghanistan

The Missing Women of Afghanistan: After 13 Years of War, the Rule of Men, Not Law

by Ann Jones  - TomDispatch

On September 29th, power in Afghanistan changed hands for the first time in 13 years. At the Arg, the presidential palace in Kabul, Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as president, while the outgoing Hamid Karzai watched calmly from a front-row seat.

Washington, congratulating itself on this “peaceful transition,” quickly collected the new president’s autograph on a bilateral security agreement that assures the presence of American forces in Afghanistan for at least another decade. The big news of the day: the U.S. got what it wanted. (Precisely why Americans should rejoice that our soldiers will stay in Afghanistan for another 10 years is never explained.)

The big news of the day for Afghans was quite different -- not the long expected continuation of the American occupation but what the new president had to say in his inaugural speech about his wife, Rula Ghani.

Gazing at her as she sat in the audience, he called her by name, praised her work with refugees, and announced that she would continue that work during his presidency.

Those brief comments sent progressive Afghan women over the moon. They had waited 13 years to hear such words -- words that might have changed the course of the American occupation and the future of Afghanistan had they been spoken in 2001 by Hamid Karzai.

No, they’re not magic. They simply reflect the values of a substantial minority of Afghans and probably the majority of Afghans in exile in the West. They also reflect an idea the U.S. regularly praises itself for holding, but generally acts against -- the very one George W. Bush cited as part of his justification for invading Afghanistan in 2001.

Tomgram: Ann Jones, Genuine, Handcrafted, Man-Made Government

[For TomDispatch Readers: Here’s a special, limited-time offer. Ann Jones is going to pass through New York City early in November. It’s a rare opportunity to get a personalized, signed copy of her remarkable Dispatch book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story. If you remember, at age 73, she followed grievously wounded American soldiers just off Afghan battlefields all the way back home, an odyssey of a journey and a vivid education in the true cost of America’s recent wars. The book is already a classic and we at TomDispatch are proud that it’s in our publication program. For a $100 contribution to this site, you can get that copy signed by Jones. Just check out our donation page for the details (and note that signed copies of former Army Ranger Rory Fanning’s book, Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America, and my new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World, are also on offer). Ann will sign books on November 7th, so make sure to get your donation in before then. It’s a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity.

And TomDispatch readers in or near Santa Fe, New Mexico, don’t miss Jones in conversation with Andrew Bacevich on November 12th at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, part of Lannan Foundation’s cultural freedom program. It's an event that shouldn't be missed. Tom]

From the beginning, it was to be “Russia’s Vietnam.” First the administration of President Jimmy Carter, then that of President Ronald Reagan was determined to give the Soviet Union a taste of what the U.S. had gone through in its disastrous 14-year war in Southeast Asia. As National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski would later put it, "On the day that the Soviets officially crossed the [Afghan] border [in 1979], I wrote to President Carter, saying, in essence: 'We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.'" And with that in mind, the CIA (aided by the Saudis and Pakistanis) would arm, train, and advise extreme Islamist factions in Pakistan and dispatch them across the border to give the Soviets a taste of what Washington considered their own medicine, Vietnam-style.

It worked in a major way. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev would later call Afghanistan “the bleeding wound” and, in 1989, a decade after the Red Army had crossed that border, it would limp home to a fading empire on the edge of implosion. It was a classic Cold War triumph for Washington, the last needed before the Soviet Union stepped off the edge of history and disappeared... oh, except for one small thing: those well-armed extremists didn’t conveniently go away. It wasn’t mission accomplished. Not by half. A taste of Vietnam for the Russians turned out to be only the hors d’oeuvre for a main course still to come. And the rest of the disastrous history of what Chalmers Johnson would term “blowback,” even before it fully blew back not just on devastated Afghanistan, but on New York City and Washington, is painfully well known and not yet over. Not by half.

As a result, when the Bush administration launched America’s second Afghan war in October 2001, whether it knew it or not, it was prescribing for itself a taste of the medicine it had given the Soviets back in the 1980s. Think of it as the worst possible version of do-it-yourself doctoring. Now, another 13 years have passed. We're three and a half decades beyond Brzezinksi’s urge to Vietnamize the USSR in Afghanistan and that Central Asian country is a basket case. The Taliban insurgency is back big time; the Afghan army and police are taking horrific casualties, and you can bet that, with one eye on the collapsed Iraqi army the U.S. trained and armed, there are plenty of anxious people in the Pentagon when it comes to those Afghan security forces into which the U.S. has sunk at least $60 billion. In the meantime, the “democracy” that the U.S. promised to bring to the country has experienced a second deeply fraudulent presidential election, this time with a vote so contested and filled with questionable balloting practices that the final count couldn’t be released to the country. A new government was instead cobbled together under Washington's ministrations in a way that bears no relation to the country’s constitution.

In the meantime, Afghanistan is rife with corruption of every imaginable sort and, worst of all, its only real success story, its bumper crop, is once again the opium poppy. In fact, last year the country raised a record opium crop, worth $3 billion, beating out the previous global record holder-- Afghanistan -- by 50%! On America's watch, it is the planet’s preeminent narco-state. And keep in mind that, in line with the history of the last 13 years of the American occupation and garrisoning of the country (with a possible 10 more to go), the U.S. put $7.6 billion dollars into programs of every sort to eradicate poppy growing. So, once again, mission accomplished! Today, TomDispatch regular Ann Jones, author of They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story, looks back at what those 13 years of “America’s Afghanistan” meant to the women whom the Bush administration so proudly “liberated” on invading the country. And given its success in poppy eradication, how do you think Washington did on that one? Tom

The Missing Women of Afghanistan: After 13 Years of War, the Rule of Men, Not Law

by Ann Jones

The popular sell for that invasion, you will recall, was an idea for which American men had never before exhibited much enthusiasm: women’s liberation. For years, human rights organizations the world over had called attention to the plight of Afghan women, confined to their homes by the Taliban government, deprived of education and medical care, whipped in the streets by self-appointed committees for “the Promotion of Public Virtue and the Prevention of Vice,” and on occasion executed in Kabul’s Ghazi stadium. Horrific as that was, few could have imagined an American president, a Republican at that, waving a feminist flag to cover the invasion of a country guilty mainly of hosting a scheming guest.

While George W. Bush bragged about liberating Afghan women, his administration followed quite a different playbook on the ground. In December 2001, at the Bonn Conference called to establish an interim Afghan governing body, his team saw to it that the country’s new leader would be the apparently malleable Hamid Karzai, a conservative Pashtun who, like any Talib, kept his wife, Dr. Zinat Karzai, confined at home. Before they married in 1999, she had been a practicing gynecologist with skills desperately needed to improve the country’s abysmal maternal mortality rate, but she instead became the most prominent Afghan woman the Bush liberation failed to reach.

This disconnect between Washington’s much-advertised support for women’s rights and its actual disdain for women was not lost upon canny Afghans. From early on, they recognized that the Americans were hypocrites at heart.

Washington revealed itself in other ways as well. Afghan warlords had ravaged the country during the civil war of the early 1990s that preceded the Taliban takeover, committing mass atrocities best defined as crimes against humanity. In 2002, the year after the American invasion and overthrow of the Taliban, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission established under the auspices of the U.N. surveyed citizens nationwide and found that 76% of them wanted those warlords tried as war criminals, while 90% wanted them barred from public office. As it happened, some of those men had been among Washington’s favorite, highly paid Islamist jihadis during its proxy war against the Soviet Union of the 1980s. As a result, the Bush administration looked the other way when Karzai welcomed those “experienced” men into his cabinet, the parliament, and the “new” judiciary. Impunity was the operative word. The message couldn’t have been clearer: with the right connections, a man could get away with anything -- from industrial-scale atrocities to the routine subjugation of women.

There is little in the twisted nature of American-Afghan relations in the past 13 years that can’t be traced to these revelations that the United States does not practice what it preaches, that equality and justice were little more than slogans -- and so, it turned out, was democracy.

Taking Sides

The American habit of thinking only in the short term has also shaped long-term results in Afghanistan. Military and political leaders in Washington have had a way of focusing only on the most immediate events, the ones that invariably raised fears and seemed to demand (or provided an excuse for) instantaneous action. The long, winding, shadowy paths of history and culture remained unexplored. So it was that the Bush administration targeted the Taliban as the enemy, drove them from power, installed “democracy” by fiat, and incidentally told women to take off their burqas. Mission accomplished!

Unlike the Americans and their coalition partners, however, the Taliban were not foreign interlopers but Afghans. Nor were they an isolated group, but the far right wing of Afghan Islamist conservatism. As such, they simply represented then, and continue to represent in extreme form today, the traditional conservative ranks of significant parts of the population who have resisted change and modernization for as long as anyone can remember.

Yet theirs is not the only Afghan tradition. Progressive rulers and educated urban citizens have long sought to usher the country into the modern world. Nearly a century ago, King Amanullah founded the first high school for girls and the first family court to adjudicate women’s complaints about their husbands; he proclaimed the equality of men and women, and banned polygamy; he cast away the burqa, and banished ultra-conservative Islamist mullahs as “bad and evil persons” who spread propaganda foreign to the moderate Sufi ideals of the country. Since then, other rulers, both kings and commissars, have championed education, women’s emancipation, religious tolerance, and conceptions of human rights usually associated with the West. Whatever its limitations in the Afghan context, such progressive thinking is also “traditional.”

The historic contest between the two traditions came to a head in the 1980s during the Soviet occupation of the country. Then it was the Russians who supported women’s human rights and girls’ education, while Washington funded a set of particularly extreme Islamist groups in exile in Pakistan. Only a few years earlier, in the mid-1970s, Afghan president Mohammad Daud Khan, backed by Afghan communists, had driven radical Islamist leaders out of the country, much as King Amanullah had done before. It was the CIA, in league with the intelligence services of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, that armed them and brought them back as President Ronald Reagan’s celebrated “freedom fighters,” the mujahidin.

Twenty years later, it would be the Americans, spearheaded again by the CIA, who returned to drive them out once more. History can be a snarl, especially when a major power can’t think ahead.

Whether by ignorance or intention, in 2001-2002, its moment of triumph in Afghanistan, the U.S. tried to have it both ways. With one hand it waved the progressive banner of women’s rights, while with the other it crafted a highly centralized and powerful presidential government, which it promptly handed over to a conservative man, who scarcely gave a thought to women. Given sole power for 13 years to appoint government ministers, provincial governors, municipal mayors, and almost every other public official countrywide, President Karzai maintained a remarkably consistent, almost perfect record of choosing only men.

Once it was clear that he cared nothing for the human rights of women, the death threats against those who took Washington’s “liberation” language seriously began in earnest. Women working in local and international NGOs, government agencies, and schools soon found posted on the gates of their compounds anonymous messages -- so called “night letters” -- describing in gruesome detail how they would be killed. By way of Facebook or mobile phone they received videos of men raping young girls. Then the assassinations began. Policewomen, provincial officials, humanitarian workers, teachers, schoolgirls, TV and radio presenters, actresses, singers -- the list seemed never to end. Some were, you might say, overkilled: raped, beaten, strangled, cut, shot, and then hung from a tree -- just to make a point. Even when groups of men claimed credit for such murders, no one was detained or prosecuted.

Still the Bush administration boasted of ever more girls enrolled in school and advances in health care that reduced rates of maternal and infant death. Progress was slow, shaky, and always greatly exaggerated, but real. On Barack Obama’s watch, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton renewed American promises to Afghan women. She swore repeatedly never to abandon them, though somehow she rarely remembered to invite any of them to international conferences where men discussed the future of their country.

In the meantime, Karzai continued to approve legislation that tightened restrictions on the rights of women, while failing to restrict violence against them.

Only in 2009, under relentless pressure from Afghan women’s organizations and many of the countries providing financial aid, did Karzai enact by decree a law for “The Elimination of Violence Against Women” (EVAW). It banned 22 practices harmful to women and girls, including rape, physical violence, child marriage, and forced marriage. Women are now reporting rising levels of violence, but few have found any redress under the law. Like the constitutional proviso that men and women are equal, the potentially powerful protections of EVAW exist mainly on paper.

But after that single concession to women, Karzai frightened them by calling for peace negotiations with the Taliban. In 2012, perhaps to cajole the men he called his “angry brothers,” he also endorsed a “code of conduct” issued by a powerful group of ultra-conservative clerics, the Council of Ulema. The code authorizes wife beating, calls for the segregation of the sexes, and insists that in the great scheme of things “men are fundamental and women are secondary.” Washington had already reached a similar conclusion. In March 2011, a jocular anonymous senior White House official told the press that, in awarding contracts for major development projects in Afghanistan, the State Department no longer included provisions respecting the rights of women and girls. “All those pet rocks in our rucksack,” he said, “were taking us down." Dumping them, the Obama administration placed itself once and for all on the side of ultraconservative undemocratic forces.

Why Women Matter

The U.N. Security Council has, however, cited such pet rocks as the most durable foundation stones for peace and stability in any country. In recent decades, the U.N., multiple research organizations, and academicians working in fields such as political science and security studies have piled up masses of evidence documenting the importance of equality between women and men (normally referred to as “gender equality”). Their findings point to the historic male dominance of women, enforced by violence, as the ancient prototype of all forms of dominance and violence and the very pattern of exploitation, enslavement, and war. Their research supports the shrewd observation of John Stuart Mill, the nineteenth century British philosopher, that Englishmen first learned at home and then practiced on their wives the tyranny they subsequently exercised on foreign shores to amass and control the British Empire.

Such research and common sense born of observation lie behind a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions passed since 2000 that call for the full participation of women in all peace negotiations, humanitarian planning, and post-conflict governance. Women alter the discourse, while transforming unequal relations between the sexes changes men as well, generally for the better. Quite simply, countries in which women and men enjoy positions of relative equality and respect tend to be stable, prosperous, and peaceful. Today, for instance, gender equality is greatest in the five Nordic countries, which consistently finish at the top of any list of the world’s happiest nations.

On the other hand, where, as in Afghanistan, men and women are least equal and men routinely oppress and violate women, violence is more likely to erupt between men as well, on a national scale and in international relations. Such nations are the most impoverished, violent, and unstable in the world. It’s often said that poverty leads to violence. But you can turn that proposition around: violence that removes women from public life and equitable economic activity produces poverty and so yet more violence. As Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong put it: “Women hold up half the sky.” Tie our hands and the sky falls.

Women in Afghanistan have figured this out through hard experience. That’s why some wept for joy at Ashraf Ghani’s simple words acknowledging the value of his wife’s work. But with that small, startling, and memorable moment came a terrible sense of opportunity wasted.

Some in the international community had taken the rights of women seriously. They had established women’s quotas in parliament, for instance, and had written “equal rights” into the Afghan constitution of 2004. But what could women accomplish in a parliament swarming with ex-warlords, drug barons, and “former” Taliban who had changed only the color of their turbans? What sort of “equality” could they hope for when the constitution held that no law could supersede the Sharia of Islam, a system open to extreme interpretation? Not all the women parliamentarians stood together anyway. Some had been handpicked and their votes paid for by powerful men, both inside and outside government. Yet hundreds, even thousands more women might have taken part in public life if the U.S. had sided unreservedly with the progressive tradition in Afghanistan and chosen a different man to head the country.

The New Men in Charge

What about Ashraf Ghani, the new president, and Abdullah Abdullah, the “CEO” of the state? These two top candidates were rivals in both the recent presidential election and the last one in 2009, when Abdullah finished second to Karzai and declined to take part in a runoff that was likely to be fraudulent. (In the first round of voting, Karzai’s men had been caught on video stuffing ballot boxes.)

In this year’s protracted election, on April 5th, Abdullah had finished first in a field of eight with 45% of the votes. That was better than Ghani’s 31%, but short of the 50% needed to win outright. Both candidates complained of fraud. In June, when Ghani took 56% of the votes in the runoff, topping Abdullah’s 43%, Abdullah cried foul and threatened to form his own government. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hustled to Kabul to lash the two men together in a vague, unconstitutional “unity government” that is still being defined but that certainly had next to nothing to do with electoral democracy.

Both these men appear as famously vain as Hamid Karzai in matters of haberdashery and headgear, but both are far more progressive. Ghani, a former finance minister and chancellor of Kabul University, is acknowledged to be the brainy one. After years in academia and a decade at the World Bank, he took office with plans to combat the country’s notorious corruption. He has already reopened the superficial investigation of the Kabul Bank, a giant pyramid scheme that collapsed in 2010 after handing out nearly a billion dollars in “loans” to cronies in and out of the government. (Ghani may be one of the few people who fully understands the scam.)

Abdullah Abdullah is generally credited with being the smoother politician of the two in a country where politics is a matter of allegiances (and rivalries) among men. As foreign minister in the first Karzai cabinet, he appointed a woman to advise him on women’s affairs. Since then, however, his literal affairs in private have become the subject of scandalous gossip. In public, he has long proposed decentralizing the governmental structure Washington inflicted upon the country. He wants power dispersed throughout the provinces, strengthening the ability of Afghans to determine the conditions of their own communities. Something like democracy.

The agreement between Ghani and Abdullah calls for an assembly of elders, a loya jirga, to be held “within two years” to establish the position of prime minister, which Abdullah will presumably want to occupy. Even before his down-and-dirty experiences with two American presidents, he objected to the presidential form of government. “A president,” he told me, “becomes an autocrat.” Power, he argues, rightly belongs to the people and their parliament.

Whether these rivals can work together -- they have scheduled three meetings a week -- has everyone guessing, even as American and coalition forces leave the country and the Taliban attack in greater strength in unexpected places. Yet the change of government sparks optimism and hope among both Afghans and international observers.

On the other hand, many Afghans, especially women, are still angry with all eight candidates who ran for president, blaming them for the interminable “election” process that brought two of them to power. Mahbouba Seraj, former head of the Afghan Women’s Network and an astute observer, points out that in the course of countless elaborate lunches and late night feasts hosted during the campaign by various Afghan big men, the candidates might have come to some agreement among themselves to narrow the field. They might have found ways to spare the country the high cost and anxiety of a second round of voting, not to mention months of recounting, only to have the final tallies withheld from the public.

Instead, the candidates seemed to hold the country hostage. Their angry charges and threats stirred barely suppressed fears of civil war, and fear silenced women. “Once again,” Seraj wrote, “we have been excluded from the most important decisions of this country. We have been shut down by the oldest, most effective, and most familiar means: by force.” Women, she added, are now afraid to open their mouths, even to ask “legitimate questions” about the nature of this new government, which seems to be not a “people’s government” consistent with the ballots cast -- nearly half of them cast by women -- but more of “a coalition government, fabricated by the candidates and international mediators.” Government in a box, in other words, and man-made.

Knowing that many women are both fearful and furious that male egos still dominate Afghan “democracy,” Seraj makes the case for women again: “Since the year 2000, the U.N. Security Council has passed one resolution after another calling for full participation of women at decision-making levels in all peace-making and nation-building processes. That means a lot more than simply turning out to vote. But we women of Afghanistan have been shut out, shut down, and silenced by fear of the very men we are asked to vote for and the men who follow them... This is not what we women have worked for or voted for or dreamed of, and if we could raise our voices once again, we would not call this ‘democracy.’"

Ask yourself: Would you?

Ann Jones, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of Kabul in Winter, and War Is Not Over When It’s Over, among other books, and most recently They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story, a Dispatch Books project. She and Andrew Bacevich will be in conversation November 12 at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as part of Lannan Foundation’s cultural freedom program.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt's just published book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2014 Ann Jones

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Oil Wars and Rumours of Oil Wars (yet the price of oil keeps dropping!?)

The Kerry-Abdullah Secret Deal: Oil-Gas Pipeline War On Iran, Syria And Russia

by ​​​​F. William EngdahlICH

The details are emerging of a new secret and quite stupid Saudi-US deal on Syria and the so-called IS.

It involves oil and gas control of the entire region and the weakening of Russia and Iran by Saudi Arabian flooding the world market with cheap oil.

Details were concluded in the September meeting by US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Saudi King. The unintended consequence will be to push Russia even faster to turn east to China and Eurasia.

One of the weirdest anomalies of the recent NATO bombing campaign, allegedly against the ISIS or IS or ISIL or Daash, depending on your preference, is the fact that with major war raging in the world’s richest oil region, the price of crude oil has been dropping, dramatically so. Since June when ISIS suddenly captured the oil-rich region of Iraq around Mosul and Kirkuk, the benchmark Brent price of crude oil dropped some 20% from $112 to about $88. World daily demand for oil has not dropped by 20% however. China oil demand has not fallen 20% nor has US domestic shale oil stock risen by 21%.

What has happened is that the long-time US ally inside OPEC, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has been flooding the market with deep discounted oil, triggering a price war within OPEC, with Iran following suit and panic selling short in oil futures markets. The Saudis are targeting sales to Asia for the discounts and in particular, its major Asian customer, China where it is reportedly offering its crude for a mere $50 to $60 a barrel rather than the earlier price of around $100. [1] That Saudi financial discounting operation in turn is by all appearance being coordinated with a US Treasury financial warfare operation, via its Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, in cooperation with a handful of inside players on Wall Street who control oil derivatives trading. The result is a market panic that is gaining momentum daily. China is quite happy to buy the cheap oil, but her close allies, Russia and Iran, are being hit severely.

The deal

According to Rashid Abanmy, President of the Riyadh-based Saudi Arabia Oil Policies and Strategic Expectations Center, the dramatic price collapse is being deliberately caused by the Saudis, OPEC’s largest producer. The public reason claimed is to gain new markets in a global market of weakening oil demand. The real reason, according to Abanmy, is to put pressure on Iran on her nuclear program, and on Russia to end her support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria.[2]

When combined with the financial losses of Russian state natural gas sales to Ukraine and prospects of a US-instigated cutoff of the transit of Russian gas to the huge EU market this winter as EU stockpiles become low, the pressure on oil prices hits Moscow doubly. More than 50% of Russian state revenue comes from its export sales of oil and gas.

The US-Saudi oil price manipulation is aimed at destabilizing several strong opponents of US globalist policies. Targets include Iran and Syria, both allies of Russia in opposing a US sole Superpower. The principal target, however, is Putin’s Russia, the single greatest threat today to that Superpower hegemony. The strategy is similar to what the US did with Saudi Arabia in 1986 when they flooded the world with Saudi oil, collapsing the price to below $10 a barrel and destroying the economy of then-Soviet ally, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and, ultimately, of the Soviet economy, paving the way for the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, the hope is that a collapse of Russian oil revenues, combined with select pin-prick sanctions designed by the US Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence will dramatically weaken Putin’s enormous domestic support and create conditions for his ultimate overthrow. It is doomed to fail for many reasons, not the least, because Putin’s Russia has taken major strategic steps together with China and other nations to lessen its dependence on the West. In fact the oil weapon is accelerating recent Russian moves to focus its economic power on national interests and lessen dependence on the Dollar system. If the dollar ceases being the currency of world trade, especially oil trade, the US Treasury faces financial catastrophe. For this reason, I call the Kerry-Abdullah oil war a very stupid tactic.

The Kerry-Abdullah secret deal

On September 11, US Secretary of State Kerry met Saudi King Abdullah at his palace on the Red Sea. The King invited former head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Bandar to attend. There a deal was hammered out which saw Saudi support for the Syrian airstrikes against ISIS on condition Washington backed the Saudis in toppling Assad, a firm ally of Russia and de facto of Iran and an obstacle to Saudi and UAE plans to control the emerging EU natural gas market and destroy Russia’s lucrative EU trade. A report in the Wall Street Journal noted there had been “months of behind-the-scenes work by the US and Arab leaders, who agreed on the need to cooperate against Islamic State, but not how or when. The process gave the Saudis leverage to extract a fresh US commitment to beef up training for rebels fighting Mr. Assad, whose demise the Saudis still see as a top priority.” [3]

For the Saudis the war is between two competing age-old vectors of Islam. Saudi Arabia, home to the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina, claims de facto supremacy in the Islamic world of Sunni Islam. The Saudi Sunni form is ultra-conservative Wahhabism, named for an 18th Century Bedouin Islamic fundamentalist or Salafist named Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahha. The Taliban derive from Wahhabism with the aid of Saudi-financed religious instruction. The Gulf Emirates and Kuwait also adhere to the Sunni Wahhabism of the Saudis, as does the Emir of Qatar. Iran on the other hand historically is the heart of the smaller branch of Islam, the Shi’ite. Iraq’s population is some 61% majority Shi’ite. Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad is a member of a satellite of the Shi’ite branch known as Alawite. Some 23% of Turkey is also Alawite Muslim. To complicate the picture more, across a bridge from Saudi Arabia sits the tiny island country, Bahrain where as many as 75% of the population is Shi’ite but the ruling Al-Khalifa family is Sunni and firmly tied to Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the richest Saudi oil region is dominated by Shi’ite Muslims who work the oil installations of Ras Tanura.

An oil and gas pipeline war

These historic fault lines inside Islam which lay dormant, were brought into a state of open warfare with the launching of the US State Department and CIA’s Islamic Holy War, otherwise known as the Arab Spring. Washington neo-conservatives embedded inside the Obama Administration in a form of “Deep State” secret network, and their allied media such as the Washington Post, advocated US covert backing of a pet CIA project known as the Muslim Brotherhood. As I detail in my most recent book, Amerikas’ Heiliger Krieg, the CIA had cultivated ties to the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood death cult since the early 1950’s.

Now if we map the resources of known natural gas reserves in the entire Persian Gulf region, the motives of the Saudi-led Qatar and UAE in financing with billions of dollars the opposition to Assad, including the Sunni ISIS, becomes clearer. Natural gas has become the favored “clean energy” source for the 21st Century and the EU is the world’s largest growth market for gas, a major reason Washington wants to break the Gazprom-EU supply dependency to weaken Russia and keep control over the EU via loyal proxies like Qatar.

The world’s largest known natural gas reservoir sits in the middle of the Persian Gulf straddling part in the territorial waters of Qatar and part in Iran. The Iranian part is called North Pars. In 2006 China’s state-owned CNOOC signed an agreement with Iran to develop North Pars and build LNG infrastructure to bring the gas to China.[4]

The Qatar side of the Persian Gulf, called North Field, contains the world’s third largest known natural gas reserves behind Russia and Iran.

In July 2011, the governments of Syria, Iran and Iraq signed an historic gas pipeline energy agreement which went largely unnoticed in the midst of the NATO-Saudi-Qatari war to remove Assad. The pipeline, envisioned to cost $10 billion and take three years to complete, would run from the Iranian Port Assalouyeh near the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf, to Damascus in Syria via Iraq territory. The agreement would make Syria the center of assembly and production in conjunction with the reserves of Lebanon. This is a geopolitically strategic space that geographically opens for the first time, extending from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.[5] As Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar put it, “The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline – if it’s ever built – would solidify a predominantly Shi’ite axis through an economic, steel umbilical cord.”[6]
Shortly after signing with Iran and Iraq, on August 16, 2011, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Ministry of Oil announced the discovery of a gas well in the Area of Qarah in the Central Region of Syria near Homs. Gazprom, with Assad in power, would be a major investor or operator of the new gas fields in Syria. [7] Iran ultimately plans to extend the pipeline from Damascus to Lebanon’s Mediterranean port where it would be delivered to the huge EU market. Syria would buy Iranian gas along with a current Iraqi agreement to buy Iranian gas from Iran’s part of South Pars field.[8]

Qatar, today the world’s largest exporter of LNG, largely to Asia, wants the same EU market that Iran and Syria eye. For that, they would build pipelines to the Mediterranean. Here is where getting rid of the pro-Iran Assad is essential. In 2009 Qatar approached Bashar al-Assad to propose construction of a gas pipeline from Qatar’s north Field through Syria on to Turkey and to the EU. Assad refused, citing Syria’s long friendly relations with Russia and Gazprom. That refusal combined with the Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline agreement in 2011 ignited the full-scale Saudi and Qatari assault on Assad’s power, financing al Qaeda terrorists, recruits of Jihadist fanatics willing to kill Alawite and Shi’ite “infidels” for $100 a month and a Kalishnikov. The Washington neo-conservative warhawks in and around the Obama White House, along with their allies in the right-wing Netanyahu government, were cheering from the bleachers as Syria went up in flames after spring 2011.

Today the US-backed wars in Ukraine and in Syria are but two fronts in the same strategic war to cripple Russia and China and to rupture any Eurasian counter-pole to a US-controlled New World Order. In each, control of energy pipelines, this time primarily of natural gas pipelines—from Russia to the EU via Ukraine and from Iran and Syria to the EU via Syria—is the strategic goal. The true aim of the US and Israel backed ISIS is to give the pretext for bombing Assad’s vital grain silos and oil refineries to cripple the economy in preparation for a “Ghaddafi-”style elimination of Russia and China and Iran-ally Bashar al-Assad.

In a narrow sense, as Washington neo-conservatives see it, who controls Syria could control the Middle East. And from Syria, gateway to Asia, he will hold the key to Russia House, as well as that of China via the Silk Road.

Religious wars have historically been the most savage of all wars and this one is no exception, especially when trillions of dollars in oil and gas revenues are at stake. Why is the secret Kerry-Abdullah deal on Syria reached on September 11 stupid? Because the brilliant tacticians in Washington and Riyadh and Doha and to an extent in Ankara are unable to look at the interconnectedness of all the dis-order and destruction they foment, to look beyond their visions of control of the oil and gas flows as the basis of their illegitimate power. They are planting the seeds of their own destruction in the end.

William Engdahl is author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics in the New World Order.


[1] M. Rochan, Crude Oil Drops Amid Global Demand Concerns, IB Times, October 11, 2014

[2] Nihan Cabbaroglu, Saudi Arabia to pressure Russia Iran with price of oil, 10 October 2014, Turkish Anadolu Agency,–saudi-arabia-to-pressure-russia-iran-with-price-of-oil

[3] Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, Deal With Saudis Paved Way for Syrian Airstrikes: Talks With Saudi Arabia Were Linchpin in U.S. Efforts to Get Arab States Into Fight Against Islamic State, Wall Street Journal, September. 24, 2014,

[4] POGC, North Pars Gas Field, Pars Oil and Gas Company website,

[5] Imad Fawzi Shueibi , War Over Gas–Struggle over the Middle East: Gas Ranks First, 17 April, 2012.

[6] Pepe Escobar, Why Qatar Wants to Invade Syria, Asia Times, September 27, 2012,

[7] Ibid.

[8] F. William Engdahl, Syria Turkey Israel and the Greater Middle East Energy War, Global Research, October 11, 2012,

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Snowblind Support from Liberals for Stone Cold Obama

Pale Riders: The Moral Blindness of our Leading Liberals

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

Behold the quintessential earnest progressive liberal in the highest moral dudgeon: Digby railing with thunderous fury at the possibility (the very distinct possibility) that Barack Obama is going to suppress the Senate's report on CIA torture.

Digby quotes the recent letter from some of Obama's fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureates, who are calling on Obama to release the report (and close the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, for good measure.)

Worthy sentiments and justifiable anger indeed. But then Digby adds this gloss:

"Honestly, if they deep six the report (or redact it so heavily that it's meaningless) I think President Obama has no choice but to give back his prize. There's [sic] a lot of actions he's taken as president that people could claim disqualify him for the prize anyway. Arguments about the dirty wars and targeted assassination programs alone will go on for generations. But one can, at least, say they represent some form of modern warfare and that the President of a military Empire is always going to be required to deal in such ugly matters. (That, in fact, s one reason why it was ludicrous to give him the prize in the first place --- he runs the most powerful killing machine on the planet.)

But however you see his performance as Commander in Chief, There can be no debate about torture. It's a war crime. It should be prosecuted. But even if they cannot do that, covering it up is to be complicit."

Old cynic that I am, I must admit that even my grizzled jaw dropped as I read these words. "Arguments about the dirty wars and targeted assassination programs alone will go on for generations." This, again, is from one of our leading liberal lights. She thinks dirty wars -- secret incursions into other nations to murder, subvert, wreak havoc, terrorize -- are open to debate. She thinks that "targeted assassination programs" -- one of which is run directly out of the White House, with regular weekly meetings where Obama and his advisors tick off names of human beings to be killed without warning, without the slightest pretense of judicial process or rule of law -- will be argued about for generations. The morality of death squads and dirty wars is something about which serious, concerned citizens can disagree and debate, apparently.

Running a death squad -- which, among many others, kills American citizens without due process, then, just for the hell of it, murders their children: this doesn't put a person beyond the pale of acceptable human behavior. Not at all. It's something we can argue about, sure; but not only is it within the parameters of acceptable behavior, it does not even disqualify you from enthusiastic political support, not even from earnest, peace-loving antiwar liberals like Digby, who fought tooth and nail to keep Obama running his death squads and dirty wars in 2012. (And if he could run for a third term there is no doubt -- none whatsoever -- that he would have fierce backing of the earnest, peace-loving antiwar liberals like Digby.)

But my poor jaw had not yet done descending. For Digby, astonishingly, goes on to offer one of those arguments for state murder and the Nuremberg-level war crime of carrying out "dirty wars" on the sovereign territory of other nations: "One can, at least, say they represent some form of modern warfare and that the President of a military Empire is always going to be required to deal in such ugly matters."

Now, I'm sure we are all to understand that Digby herself wouldn't make that argument. But she does see its point. She thinks it’s something that can be debated. She might not like it, she might even oppose it (while of course never opposing the continuation of its perpetrator in power). But from the gritty, savvy realpolitik perspective that our earnest progressive liberals are always so keen to show they understand and appreciate, you can certainly make that argument and remain within the bounds of respectable debate in Digby's eyes.

Isn't this a wonderment? A progressive, peace-loving liberalism that can accept a president actually checking off names on a death list, like Stalin in the Politburo -- that can accept "dirty wars" that have slaughtered thousands of innocent civilians and destabilized whole regions, breeding more violence and terror. And although Digby has criticized such actions, it is obvious that none of them have put Obama beyond the moral pale for her. He's still within the bounds of acceptable realpolitik. ("Hey, the guy has to run a military Empire. What's he supposed to do?"). He is still -- if only just -- on "our" side.

Wholesale murder, wanton destruction, untold -- and unnecessary -- anguish and grief and suffering and turmoil: these things can be borne, if reluctantly, by our liberal progressive peace-lovers. But torture -- that, apparently, is the one thing that is beyond the pale. And in this particular case, it is not even torture being carried out by the Obama administration. (There is torture still going on, of course, but it's not at issue in the Senate report on past CIA actions which has so fixated our progressive liberals.) No, just the mere act of covering up a report on past torture is, for Digby, a step too far at last. Killing, mayhem, subversion -- well OK, if you have to; but torture -- why, that's "a war crime"! There can be absolutely "no debate about torture."

But here the obvious question arises: why not? If you can swallow all the rest and still support the perpetrator, why draw the line at torture? If, by Digby's own logic, you can "at least" make the argument that dirty wars and death squads "represent some form of modern warfare" -- then why not torture? Why not lump it in with those other "forms of modern warfare"? "Hey, we do lots of things now that used to be considered war crimes --- because we now face new dangers in our modern warfare. We have to kill people without due process, we have wage dirty wars -- and every now and then, we have to get rough with a prisoner. If you can support a president who murders and subverts, why not support him when he tortures, or covers up for torturers?"

What is that makes torture worse than actually murdering innocent people? Why is torture an undebatable war crime, but blowing up children sleeping in their homes in some Pakistani village is something that can be "argued about" -- indeed, such an open moral question that the debate will go on "for generations"?

The truth, of course, is that murder and dirty war are even worse than torture. But all of them partake of a radical evil that should put any perpetrator beyond the pale, making the person a war criminal who indeed "should be prosecuted." But if our earnest progressive liberals took off their blinders and acknowledged this truth -- then what? They would have to admit that they have been supporting -- with however much showy reluctance and "savvy" constructive criticism -- the perpetrator of monstrous war crimes.

So they focus on what is, relatively speaking, the lesser evil. Probably because most of them believe that Obama really has abolished torture in our far-flung gulags and bases and "secret facilities," rather than just entrenching it and codifying it with new manuals and different jargon. So in the end, Obama is not really that evil, is he? Since they cannot accept the full moral import of the death squads and dirty wars, they expend their righteous fury on the safer and more limited ground of torture. Or again, in this case, on "complicity" with torture, by covering up a report on the crimes committed years ago by the real bad guys, from the other side of the partisan divide: the Bush gang.

But let's say that Obama does quash or whitewash the report, confirming his "complicity" in torture. What then? What condign punishment does our morally furious liberal progressive envision for him in that case? Impeachment? Prosecution? Imprisonment? No. If Obama does this really, really bad thing -- which is so much worse than murdering people and waging dirty war -- then Digby believes he should ... he should ... give his Nobel Peace Prize back.

That's it. Pretty rough, huh? That would really teach him a lesson, if he had to do that!

But even if Digby's worst fears come to pass, is there anyone who believes that she would then disown the president, break with him, denounce him publicly as a war criminal? Of course not. She, and the other earnest progressive liberals, will continue to support him -- with loving chastisement and sad shakes of the head, to be sure -- but they've got his back.

And we will see them on the hustings for Hilary Clinton when the time comes for her to perpetrate these same moral outrages, these same war crimes. Their partisan tribalism blinds them to the fullness of the reality that confronts us. (And I know how that works; I suffered from the same tribal blindness for many, many years.) They cannot genuinely and effectively oppose the monstrous system of military Empire because, in the end, what is most important to them is not stopping the system -- but making sure that one of "theirs" is running it.

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Greg Palast, Zaria Stoffman, Janine Bandcroft Wed. Oct 29, 2014

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

November is right around the corner, and befitting the monotonous return of a least loved season, this year it means too another turn of the civic election cycle. It's also time for our neighbours south to head to the polls for mid-term elections; and, as with all things it seems, America's November contest has outshone us again, with the big time fraud and election-fixing Stephen Harper and his insipid robo-callers can only envy.

Listen. Hear.

Reporting investigator, Greg Palast is just returned to New York after a trip into the heart of Republican America, where he and his crack team of researchers recently wrapped a year-long investigation for Al Jazeera America; obtaining among other things the first-ever copies of the lists of targeted voters, that is; voters subject to being “scrubbed” from voter rolls.

And surprise surprise, the list lurches heavily towards Blacks, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans. Who could be behind such skullduggery? Stay tuned...

Greg Palast has been on the trail of ballot bandits for a long time now; breaking the story on George W. Bush's 2000 election win assist by orange juice heiress Katherine Harris' mass purgative of Florida's voter rolls. Then, as an elections official, Harris disallowed thousands of Black "felons" access to the voter's booth. Small problem: they were innocent. Palast is also the author of several books, including New York Times bestsellers: 'Billionaires & Ballot Bandits,' 'Armed Madhouse,' and 'The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.' His latest is 'Vultures' Picnic,' named by the BBC's Newsnight Review as "Book of the Year for 2012."

In addition to appearing in Britain's Guardian newspaper, (who regard him as "the most important investigative journalist of our time...") and on the BBC flagship news program Newsnight, Greg's reports are featured stateside by The Nation Magazine, Rolling Stone, Harper's Magazine, and online at and at Palast film exposés include: 'Billionaires and Ballot Bandits - The Movie,' 'Vultures and Vote Rustlers.' 'Why We Occupy - Palast Live!,' 'Big Easy to Big Empty,' 'Bush Family Fortunes, ' 'The Assassination of Hugo Chavez,' 'Palast Investigates,' 'The Election File,' and with Jeremy Scahill 'Big Noise: From Black Water to White Powder.'

Greg Palast in the first half.

And; though mere pikers compared to America's anti-democrats, Canadian politicians are learning how to spike the process here too. Federally, Stephen Harper's New Government of Canada has stifled federal employees of all stripes, barring especially scientists from talking un-minded to the press, and has allowed tax agency intimidation tactics against non-profit organisations with inconvenient politics to continue. Right here in BC meanwhile, the Chirsty Clark government recently proposed changes to the Society Act - something promising to effect, according to the West Coast Environmental Law Association, "community development organizations, church groups, secular groups, community organizations, and hunting groups" among many others. Particularly contentious is the seemingly innocuous provision, s.99.

Zaria Stoffman is an articling student with the Environmental Law Centre Society, or ELC right here at UVic. That society's mission is to "provide research and advocacy on public interest environmental issues" and provide for an social environment where "local communities, environmental groups, and First Nations have the legal tools and resources to advocate effectively for the restoration, conservation, and protection of this province's unique and diverse environment."

Zaria Stoffman and BC Liberals' Society Act engineering in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour to bring us news from our city's streets and beyond there too. But first, Greg Palast and the purge this time.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: And now heard at Simon Fraser University's . He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Reviewing John Pilger's Utopia

Reviewing John Pilger's Utopia - An Epic Story of Struggle and Resistance

by Jim Miles

In a clash of cultures, the one carrying the most guns, germs, and steel wins. In Australia as with all former British colonial possessions, cultural views are dominated by white society.

The First Nations of Australia, commonly referred to as the aborigines, have struggled through two centuries of subjugation by a white society that refuses to recognize the histories of the two peoples and their conflicting cultures.

As described by native elder Robert Eggington at the end of the film:

“In our culture, our laws, if we were to harm the land and to hurt that land the way in which it is being done today, we would be punished spiritually severely for that. White Australia doesn’t have a sense of belonging to this land and it only has a sense of belonging to the establishment and its institutions and it cities it’s built here. It doesn’t understand their country.”

Utopia examines the many contradictions and double standards, the many ignorances of the white population, and the many cruelties and violences that they have visited on the land and people of the First Nations of Australia. It is a captivating and hauntingly disturbing film as these actions are not simply historical incidents to be forgiven by some simplistic apology, but are actions that are occurring through the beginning of the Twenty-first Century without concern for essential human rights.

The capital city, Canberra, was where a “city of white was born,” and the first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton said that “equality of man never intended to apply to those who were not British and white skinned.” This arrogant, ignorant, and racist viewpoint was common throughout the British empire and still clings strongly to former empirical states, but is arguably strongest in Australia.

Throughout the film John Pilger examines the lies and platitudes of those in government with the actual historical record and with the narrative of the First Nations people.

As recently as the 1990s, there was an “ideological campaign known as the history wars.” The historians claimed that there were “no invasions, no massacres, no genocide” and the natives should be grateful for Britain’s arrival, as: “they and their culture were all but obsolete, their history worthless.” This genocide denial was the propaganda of empire, trying yet again to justify the stealing of a land, and banishment of its people.

Specific cases are examined, looking at their history, their modern history of the past twenty-five years as witnessed by Pilger, and the ongoing lack of real concern and real action to address the problems. Comparison are between a lavish resort that charges $30 000 (AUSD) per week on land from which it was “resolved to exterminate the whole race of blacks in that quarter (Sidney Monitor, 1838);” and a former concentration camp - Rattnest Island - that now serves as a holiday resort with rooms (former cells) renting at $240 a night, where “thousands of aboriginal men and boys incarcerated here, many of them tortured and killed. Today it a hotel with a luxury spa (Karma Spa).”

Government is only part of the factor of Australia’s racism. Pilger examines how the media, print and visual, support the generalized racist views within Australia. Towards the end of the film, he makes a comparison between the “lost generation” - those that were removed from their homes and families in order to deny their culture and lifestyle embedded into the landscape the government and corporations wished to exploit (again a typical factor in other British colonial regimes) - and the much more recent “Interventions” of 2008-09, a government scheme concocted for the same reasons - exploitation of the land and its resources.

The excuse for the interventions was a false claim by a disguised government minister on a TV show about sexual abuse and drugs being rampant within the aboriginal communities. The government suspended the racial discrimination act (!!), they sent in the military, job schemes were eliminated, benefits and pensions were restricted, and a pass card was issued (how so much like South Africa, Canada, Israel and their British supported histories of apartheid!). “With incomes quarantined, starvation was reported and “rates of self harm and suicide quadrupled.”

The fraud was exposed with no evidence for the charges that led to the intervention. No one paid any penalty, not the government personnel involved nor the media station (ABC, “Lateline”) that promulgated the misinformation. The bitter irony of the event is that it created situations similar to the previous “lost generation” wherein children were and still are being removed from families without explanation, many adopted for domestic servants leading to “rape and sexual exploitation used by whites against black women and children.”

Enter the corporations. In 2007 a government program, “Top Secret 2” in 2007 was searching to create “the new frontier in mining.” After this, and the “interventions” it was found that there was a “huge amount of uranium and rare earths” in the affected area.

While it is mostly a service economy (as per most neo-liberal economies today) mining is a large part of the industrial economy, shipping mostly coal, iron ore, and gold to China (30%) and other Asian countries. It is “enormously profitable - one billion per week….from minerals they didn’t make from land they don’t own.”

In the 1980s an attempt was made to legislate national land rights, but a combination of industry, media ads, and scare tactics were “bold, crude, and sadly effective” in defeating it. Universal land rights were abandoned. In 2010, PM Gillard attempted to raise the tax rate on the mineral super-profits, but the tax was effectively reduced to nothing, with lost revenue estimated at $60 billion dollars.

Today, the First Nations of Australia are still discriminated against with all the resultant socio-economic problems that go along with the lack of good housing, education, and land and employment. The Australian government and the majority of its white population hold the typical ignorant and racist British colonial views concerning other races.

Utopia addresses these issues directly, creating a picture of struggle and survival against the oppressive nature of a racist society. Australia is the “only western country repeatedly condemned for its abuse of indigenous people….reconciliation is not possible without justice.” The First Nations should be “offered genuine treaty that shares this land….until we give back their nationhood, we can never claim our own.”

Utopia - An Epic Story of Struggle and Resistance. John Pilger/Dartmouth Films, 2013.