Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Year Past and That to Come

Looking Backward, Looking Forward: 2014-2015

by James Petras - Dissident Voice

January 3rd, 2015

The balance sheet for 2014 and the prospects for 2015 provide us with a complex panorama of negative and positive outcomes. In most cases the advances, are not earth-shattering but open possibilities for further progress. The negative developments, however, have greater and more threatening systemic outcomes.

We will proceed in a telegraphic fashion to outline the positive and negative developments in 2014 and their real and potential symbolic and substantive impacts. In the second part of the essay we will sketch out some of the most important events and the way in which the positive and negative outcomes of 2014 will play out in 2015.

Positive Developments in 2014

While most leftist and progressive writers have emphasized the negative events of 2014, a more nuanced analysis will reveal ten important positive outcomes.

(1) The revelations that the US National Security Agency was engaged in a world-wide long-standing and continuous spying operations against hundreds of millions of Americans, allies and adversaries, citizens and leaders provoked deep distrust and questioning of Washington’s claims of upholding democracy and respecting the sovereignty of nations. The revelations led to greater vigilance among countries and domestic demands for reform.

(2) The US Senate revelations that the CIA engaged in widespread and repeated torture of political suspects, documented the growth of a police state apparatus and provoked a world-wide demand to prosecute prominent US leaders for crimes against humanity.

(3) The growth of economic, political and military ties between Russia and China augurs a rebalancing of global power – fostering a multi-polar world, which can act as a deterrent to future western imperial aggression.

(4) China’s President Xi’s deepening anti-corruption campaign has led to the arrest of leading business and political leaders and has encouraged popular denunciations and demands for ‘good government’ and greater attention to social demands.

(5) President Putin’s support for the Eastern Ukraine resistance to the Kiev puppet regime and for Crimean separatists, and his moves to restrict and, in some cases, prosecute criminal behavior among oligarchs has successfully countered Western efforts to encircle, undermine and revert Russia to a vassal state. US-NATO backed neo-liberals within Russia have been severely weakened Western sanctions may strengthen efforts to socialize the economy.

(6) The opening of a dialogue with Cuba, and Washington’s recognition that its half century blockade has only isolated the US in Latin America, is a step in the right direction. The increase in tourism and economic missions may increase demands for the end of the blockade.

(7) The growth and spread of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS)against the Israeli occupation of Palestine has reached major trade unions, student and religious organizations ,which in turn has influenced numerous political leaders to recognize Palestine, overcoming massive opposition from the Presidents of the 52 Major American Jewish organizations in the US and their counterparts overseas.

(8) The Iranian-US peace and nuclear negotiations have lessened the prospect of an Israeli promoted regional war. The ongoing negotiations have led to some advances, mostly concessions by Iran, but, at least, have favored diplomacy over US military aggression.

(9) Latin America witnessed a near sweep by ‘left of center’ regimes against US backed ‘hard right’ neo-liberals, in Brazil, Venezuela, Chile, Uruguay, Ecuador and Bolivia. While these election outcomes will not in any way challenge capitalism or lead to the expropriation of the agro-mineral and financial elite, they do indicate a relative degree of independence from US militarist foreign policy. The election of President Santos in Colombia, and the defeat of the far right opposition candidate, allowed for the peace negotiations with the FARC, the popular insurgency, to proceed toward a definitive agreement.

(10) The widespread dissemination of multi-media recordings of prominent scientists testifying to and documenting the evidence demonstrating that the collapse of the World Trade Center could only be a controlled demolition and not a result of the plane crashes, has led to widespread calls for a new investigation of 9/11.

Negative Events in 2014

Major events and policies in 2014 which have had a profoundly negative effect on the prospects for peace and social justice are equally numerous.

(1) The US and EU installation of a puppet regime in the Western Ukraine (Kiev) and its conversion into an economic vassal state of the European Union and NATO outpost on Russia’s border is a major blow against democracy and boost to Ukrainian neo-fascist political leaders. The militarization of the Ukraine, as an adversary of Russia, threatens a global nuclear war.

(2) The military coup in Egypt and the violent purge, jailing and torture of elected officials and secular dissidents, ensures the return of US influence in North Africa and reinforces Israel’s blockade of Gaza and colonization over the West Bank. Food and transport subsidies were ended in accord with the IMF. In 2014 as a result of the military dictatorship’s pro-business policies, the Egyptian stock market index returned 30% to foreign and domestic speculators. Between the coup in mid-2013 to the end of 2014, the M5CI stock index of Egypt doubled.

(3) The US re-entry in the Iraq civil war, its air war in Syria to counter the advance of ISIS, and the decision to retain thousands of troops in Afghanistan means that the militarist policies of the past decade continue to define US foreign policy in the Middle East. Civilian casualties are mounting and the wars are showing no signs of ending. The devastation wrought by the US-NATO military intervention in Libya continues to provoke Islamic extremism and civilian flight.

(4) US repeatedly supported Israeli seizures and colonization of Palestinian land in the West Bank and Jerusalem and Israel’s savage murder of 2000 Palestinians and 5 billion dollar devastation of property in Gaza. Under the prodding of Zionist multi-billionaires and AIPAC, the US blocked the PLOs effort to gain UN membership via arm-twisting of African representatives in the Security Council.

(5) The President and Congress’s defense of NSA spying and CIA responsibility for torture has further weakened residual constitutional guarantees.

(6) The electoral victories by the hard right in the US legislative elections will present major problems in proceeding with peace negotiations with Iran, in ending the economic blockade of Cuba and lessening the Government’s purge of immigrants.

(7) The Ferguson protest against the police assassination of a young black man grew into a nationwide protest (“black lives matter”) against the police impunity and violence, and had all the makings of a popular movement to democratize the state. Instead the police officials and police unions launched a massive counter-attack and mobilization, defending police power, by exploiting the killing of two policemen in New York City by a deranged individual.

(8) The US success in imposing sanctions against Russia, with the backing of the European Union, the escalation of military exercises on Russia’s Baltic frontiers and in the Caucuses, threaten a nuclear confrontation.

(9) Washington’s promotion of Asian-Pacific economic pacts excluding China, the military base agreements with Japan, Australia and the Philippines, and the expansion of provocative air and sea surveillance of China’s coastlines, has dimmed any prospect that Washington is willing to accommodate China’s ascent as a world power.

(10) Economic policies continue to concentrate wealth in the upper 1%, while investment bankers escape jail sentences for on-going multi-billion dollar swindles and illicit operations, laying the bases for a new financial crisis.

Looking Toward the New Year

The prognosis for 2015 is not promising. For one thing the positive changes that took place in 2014 are not sustainable and will be under threat by the further rightward shift in US policy.

The likelihood is that the new rightwing majority in Congress will do everything possible to prevent the ending of the US economic blockade of Cuba. The powerful Israel power configuration in the Congress, mass media and in the Treasury will likely impose such onerous and unilateral demands on Iran as to undermine any meaningful agreement. In Israel far right neo-fascist parties are likely to take power, early in 2015, and accelerate the seizure and colonization of Palestinian land foreclosing any prospects of a negotiated agreement. The Zionist power configuration in Washington will guarantee continued US backing.

The Obama Administration, blinded by its success in securing EU support for sanctions against Russia, will push harder for a full scale economic war, in hopes of overthrowing the Putin government.

Incremental increases in troops and military commitments in South Asia, the Middle East and the Baltic regions will further heighten economic tensions with China and North Korea as well as Russia.

Obama will work with the new rightwing Congress to lower corporate taxes, to secure fast track passage of free trade agreements with Europe (excluding Russia) and Asia (excluding China) and to strengthen the arbitrary police power of the CIA, NSA, and FBI.

The police, organized and mobilized, will further subordinate civilian authorities, and launch a full scale war on the movement to curtail police violence against Afro-Americans. New York City’s giant pro-police show of force is a dress rehearsal for 2015.

The US economy will become even more lopsided, unequal and subject to financial volatility. Middle and working class Americans will become further alienated from the parties, legislature and executive – abstention will increase. However, many Americans will struggle to elect popular representatives in local elections and initiatives.

Overseas the US will fail to secure any decisive military victory in any major theater of war. ISIS in Syria and Iraq is likely to continue to occupy wide swaths of territory and to sustain a long term war. The Taliban will eventually surround the big cities and garrisons in which US advisers are holed up. Libya will continue to be a failed sate. The Ukraine will likely descend into economic bankruptcy. In Greece the left-socialist party SYRIZA will probably win the elections and attempt to impose a moratorium on debt payments and stimulate the economy.

The neo-liberal political regimes in Italy, Spain and Portugal will continue to deteriorate. In France the Socialist regime’s embrace of a pro-business agenda will provoke major conflicts with trade unions and may fracture. The National Front may become the leading party, adopting positions on the Right (anti-immigrant) and Left (anti EU austerity). Leftist, populist and far-right parties and movements are likely to increase support in eight scheduled elections in the EU this year.

Turmoil, wars, and sanctions will lead to new political alignments. Just as Russia and China move to realign, so too, political forces in North and South America, Asia and the Middle East may find new de facto alignments. Saudi and Israel, Iran and Iraq, Turkey and Russia, Brazil and Venezuela …

Unpredictable challenges may emerge from minor and major players: Greece’s new SYRIZA government, by refusing to abide by Berlin’s austerity agenda, may provoke a major crises in the EU. China’s anti-corruption campaign could lead to heighten mass protests. North and South Korea may open long sought negotiations – excluding the US.

With the beginning of 2015 we enter a journey to the end of the night…

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras’ most recent books are The Politics of Empire: The Us, Israel and the Middle East (2014) and The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counterattack. He can be reached at: Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.

Stone Cold on Ukraine "Revolution"

Ukraine: ‘Regime Change 101’ - America’s Soft Power Technique

by Oliver Stone  - via  ICH 

Interviewed Viktor Yanukovych 4 hours in Moscow for new English language documentary produced by Ukrainians. He was the legitimate President of Ukraine until he suddenly wasn’t on February 22 of this year.
Details to follow in the documentary, but it seems clear that the so-called ‘shooters’ who killed 14 police men, wounded some 85, and killed 45 protesting civilians, were outside third party agitators.

Many witnesses, including Yanukovych and police officials, believe these foreign elements were introduced by pro-Western factions-- with CIA fingerprints on it.

Remember the Chavez ‘regime change’/coup of 2002 when he was temporarily ousted after pro and anti-Chavez demonstrators were fired upon by mysterious shooters in office buildings.

Also resembles similar technique early this year in Venezuela when Maduro’s legally elected Government was almost toppled by violence aimed at anti-Maduro protestors. Create enough chaos, as the CIA did in Iran ‘53, Chile ‘73, and countless other coups, and the legitimate Government can be toppled. It’s America’s soft power technique called ‘Regime Change 101.’

In this case the “Maidan Massacre” was featured in Western media as the result of an unstable, brutal pro-Russian Yanukovych Government. You may recall Yanukovych went along with the February 21 deal with opposition parties and 3 EU foreign minsters to get rid of him by calling for early elections. The next day that deal was meaningless when well-armed, neo-Nazi radicals forced Yanukovych to flee the country with repeated assassination attempts. By the next day, a new pro-Western government was established and immediately recognized by the US (as in the Chavez 2002 coup).

A dirty story through and through, but in the tragic aftermath of this coup, the West has maintained the dominant narrative of “Russia in Crimea” whereas the true narrative is “USA in Ukraine.” The truth is not being aired in the West. It’s a surreal perversion of history that’s going on once again, as in Bush pre-Iraq ‘WMD’ campaign. But I believe the truth will finally come out in the West, I hope, in time to stop further insanity.

For a broader understanding, see Pepe Escobar’s analysis “The new European ‘arc of instability,’” which indicates growing turbulence in 2015, as the US cannot tolerate the idea of any rival economic entity . You might also see “Untold History” Chapter 10 where we discuss the dangers of past Empires which did not allow for the emergence of competing economic countries.

Putting A SWIFT End to Russian (and EU) Ambitions

The new European 'arc of instability'

 by Pepe Escobar - RT

Dec. 10, 2014

The European Council on Foreign Relations and Berlin think-tank Friedrich Ebert Stiftung have just reached more or less the same conclusion.

If the dangerous stand-off between the EU and Russia over Ukraine is not solved, the EU could face, up to 2030, a military build-up in eastern Europe; a new arms race with NATO as a protagonist; and a semi-permanent “zone of instability” from the Baltic to the Balkans and the Black Sea.

What these two think-tanks don’t – and won’t – ever acknowledge is that a new European “arc of instability” – from the Baltic to the Black Sea, as myself and other independent analysts have stressed – is exactly what the Empire of Chaos and its weaponized arm – NATO – are working on to prevent closer Eurasia integration.

By the way, the Pentagon excels in fabricating “arcs of instability.” The previous one was – and remains – massive, stretching from the Maghreb to Xinjiang in western China across the Middle East and Central Asia.

Moscow has totally identified the plot; Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, once again, has made it crystal clear, in detail. And crucially, some influential sectors in Germany also did, as in members of the cultural elite destroying the notion of a new war in Europe: “Not in our name.”

The same applies to those that always preach more transatlantic cooperation, extol the US’s “defining” role in Germany, and effusively praise Germany as the most American country in Europe; that’s the case of the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper – which stands for the core of the political and economic establishment in Germany.

It’s still in an embryonic stage, and has not yet made Chancellor Angela Merkel see the light; but a reverse reengineering of Atlanticist relations is already in progress in Germany.

The SWIFT war

Meanwhile, the proverbial group of extremist US senators, plus the notorious poodles/vassals of Britain and Poland, haven’t stopped lobbying to shut Russia off from SWIFT – just as they did with Iran.

This would be nothing but yet another declaration of (economic) war – or the economic counterpoint to NATO hysteria. In fairness, a great deal of the EU – especially Germany – knows this is madness.

Germany’s top financial paper Handelsblatt recently published a key interview with head of VTB-Bank Andrei Kostin, which has still not been translated into any major English-language paper.

Kostin went straight to the point:

“Of course, there is a plan B [in the case of Russia being shut off from the SWIFT bank system], but in my personal opinion it would mean war – if this type of sanction will be introduced. America and Europe did that against Iran but with Iran at that time there were no diplomatic relations, only military containment...if Russian banks’ access to SWIFT will be prohibited, the US ambassador to Moscow should leave the same day. Diplomatic relations must be finished. Banking is the most vulnerable part of the Russian economy because the system is based so strongly on the dollar and the euro.”

Next May, Russia’s Central Bank is planning to introduce an analogue to SWIFT – after key consultations with China. It’s always important to keep in mind that China set up a parallel SWIFT to do business with Iran under sanctions. But still there will be a window of four months for a lot of nasty things to happen after a Republican-controlled US Senate is empowered in January.

All that glitters…

And then there’s the golden rule. Why is Russia buying so much gold? With the US dollar forced upward and gold downward, it makes total business sense to sell gas for inflated dollars and then buy cheap depressed gold; that’s what the Chinese call a “win-win.” And of course on both counts, the West loses.

The Washington/Wall Street elites are fully aware that both Moscow and Beijing won’t accumulate US dollars anymore. As for the Masters of the Universe plutocrats who manipulate/control the value of the US dollar, a case can be made that one of their purposes is wrecking the US’s industrial base and the nation’s middle classes.

Moscow, meanwhile, has adjusted to the new “instability.” The weak ruble has a positive effect – already stressed by President Putin – by forcing Russia to diversify its manufacturing and become more self-sufficient.

Of course, the problem remains for Russia to pay the foreign interest on its debt in US dollars. Moscow could always declare a moratorium in debt repayments. The ruble might go down even more. But as everyone from Lukoil to Rosneft converts more US dollars into rubles, that will drive the ruble back up. Not to mention that the ruble is shorted as it stands. The bottom line is that Moscow has learned yet another lesson for the immediate future: Never become indebted to the West.

What’s certain is that the Empire of Chaos won’t relent in its strategy of heating up the new arc of instability – inside Europe, across the economic/financial spectrum – and instrumentalizing its pre-fabricated New Iron Curtain from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

The Kremlin seems to know exactly how high the stakes are. As The Saker told me in an email, “Putin is telling both the West and the Russian people that there is a long war in progress and that the Russian people have to morally be prepared to accept sacrifices for the survival of Russia.

This is one more step in the 'coming-out' of what I call the ‘Eurasian Sovereignists’ in which the US [has] now openly declared as a Russophobic (Russia-hating and Russia-fearing) enemy, and the Europeans as a powerless colony. Military power is not directly a factor in this, the internal power balance between the pro-Western ‘Atlantic Integrationists’ and the ‘Eurasian Sovereignists’ is.”

It’s all here – from the debacle of a regime (Bretton Woods) to the current, provoked crisis, all brilliantly explained by Mikhail Khazin. Russia is getting ready to rock. Is the West?

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.

His new book is Empire of Chaos.
Follow him on Facebook.

Demo Against Oak Bay's Planned Dear Cull Saturday Jan. 3rd

DeerSafe Victoria Rally for the Deer in Oak Bay

by DeerSafeVictoria

We know that Oak Bay is going ahead with a clover trap/bolt gun kill of 25 deer in January 2015. Naturally they will not be announcing when the killing will take place. DeerSafe will be holding a rally at City Hall on Oak Bay Avenue on Saturday, January 3, 2015 between 1 pm and 3 pm. Some signs will be provided, but please feel free to bring a heartfelt sign of your own.

Listen. Hear.

It is not too late for Oak Bay to do the right thing. They could ask the CRD to renew the Regional Deer Management Strategy, with meaningful research into non-lethal management. The council recently agreed to a few more deer crossing signs, but stopped short of implementing lower speed limits. "Public education" included linking to two awareness pamphlets on the CRD website to Oak Bay's website! A $300 fine for feeding deer and raised fence heights were the only other conflict mitigation measures that the council undertook.

The price tag is $1000 per deer, and we should be asking the Oak Bay council why that was a prohibitive price when the topic was immunocontraception.

I hope to see you there on January 3, rain or shine. We are going to keep registering our opinion of this outrageous cruelty until we are listened to.

Many thanks,
Kelly Carson

Cuomo Dead at 82: Legacy of a Pol

A Tale of Two Cuomo's: The Tragic End of the Inspired Voice and the Duplicitous Pol

by Greg Palast

I knew Mario Cuomo well. Too well.

I helped write talking points for speeches that got him elected Governor and grieved that he did not become President.

But there was another Cuomo, the one that tried to stop the US publication of my book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy; the Mario Cuomo who went to court to try to put the Palast Investigative team out of business while we worked to expose the Bush Family election heist and the con job leading to war.

I just read the glowing New York Times obit. Even in death, Cuomo has pulled off one last con. The Times lauds his single stellar accomplishment as Governor: “He closed the Shoreham nuclear plant on Long Island,” New York.

No, he didn’t. As usual with Mario, he gave a great speech—and won election by calling for the nuclear plant’s closure. But behind the scenes, the other Mario, the back-room wheeler-dealer, the toady to the bankers and power industry magnates, moved heaven and earth to stand in the way of the courageous statesmen and activists who actually closed this dangerous, radioactive monstrosity.

On July 2, 1985, the New York State Legislature was about to pass the historic law authorizing the public takeover of the out-of-control private company that owned Shoreham. Near midnight, one of Cuomo’s stooges called me (the legislature had tasked me to write the law’s first draft) to ask that we delay the vote, “Because the Governor still hasn’t made up his mind.” I said, “Tell Governor Hamlet that history won’t wait for him.”

The bill passed the next day—and Cuomo made a big show of signing the bill he secretly tried to dilute and kill. But I admit, he gave a great speech.

After nearly a decade of investigation, I recommended that the government bring civil racketeering charges against the builders of the Shoreham nuclear plant, for, among other frauds, falsifying records on the plant’s earthquake safety and emergency diesel generators. [See the “Fukushima, Texas” chapter in “Vultures Picnic.”] Charges were brought, and a federal jury found the nuclear industry bigs liable for conspiracy, fraud, and racketeering.

The jury award would cost the plant owner $4.3 billion.

In public Governor Cuomo praised the jury verdict; but behind the scenes the other Cuomo went to work, scheming in back rooms to cut the award and save the company from bankruptcy—and save the banks that held its bonds. Daily, the judge’s master would tell us, “The Governor called again.” There’s nothing corrupt or illegal about the Governor secretly calling the judge’s chamber, just two-faced and sickening.

Cuomo won. He got the case settled, over the objections of the officials and activists who had brought the charges, for less than a dime on the dollar. The public got shafted out of billions, and the company and banks were saved.

Cuomo took full credit for putting the rogue company out of business, for closing the plant and buying it for just $1. It was a great speech—a great fairy tale.

Cuomo's little games meant the nuclear plant would cost the public billions of dollars, not a buck. When I tactfully explained this uncomfortable fact to the Governor, he responded with an Italian gesture that cannot be translated in a family newspaper.

But duplicity has its price and the Devil has the last laugh. While Cuomo was pleasing the bankers in private while publicly waving the liberal anti-corporate banner, a much brighter politician in Arkansas both pleased the bankers and sang their praises. The bankers’ favorite, their champion of the deregulation that Reagan could never dream of accomplishing, became President. And Cuomo spent his last, bitter years trying to hush up those like me who cast a shadow on his fabricated Glory Days.

Let me name a few of those who did close the Shoreham nuclear plant: Peter Maniscalco, Nancy Newell, Steve Liss, the Hon. Wayne Prospect and the Hon. Paul Harenberg. I name them here because I doubt their obituaries will make the front page of The Times. They are the heroes, all of them bullied by Cuomo but unbowed. I cherish them for their actions, not their speeches.

It is the harsh and uncomforting work of a journalist to reveal the unforgiving facts when history is falsified. It’s a task I would rather avoid, especially now that The Governor’s great, golden voice, the voice that spoke for the working person, is silenced forever.

The conflicted soul he carried within him must have been a terrifying burden.

Now, may you rest in peace, Mario Cuomo. Both of you.

* * * * *
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Billionaires & Ballot Bandits the The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic.

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Friday, January 02, 2015

Could ICC Get a War Crimes Conviction of Netanyahu: Can Monkeys Peel Bananas!

What would Happen if the Int’l Criminal Court Indicted Israel’s Netanyahu?

by Juan Cole - Informed Comment

If the International Criminal Court takes up Israeli government actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, it could well find specific officials guilty of breaches of the Rome Statute of 2002. Article 7 forbids “Crimes against Humanity,” which are systematically repeated war crimes. Among these offenses is murder, forcible deportation or transfer of members of a group, torture, persecution of Palestinians (an “identifiable group”) and “the crime of Apartheid.”

The Israeli government murdered Palestinian political leaders (not just guerrillas) and have routinely illegally expelled Palestinians from the West Bank or from parts of the West Bank illegally incorporated into Israel.

They deploy torture against imprisoned Palestinians. Their policies on the West Bank, of building squatter settlements on Palestinian land from which Palestinians are excluded, is only one example of Apartheid policies. Getting a conviction on Article VII should be child’s play for the prosecutor.

And there are other articles which Israel is guilty of contravening.

If Israeli government officials or leaders of the squatters in the Palestinian West Bank were convicted by the ICC, would there be any hope of enforcement? Israeli firms doing business in the West Bank would be exposed to billions of dollars of legal actions in European courts and would be unable to sell their goods in Europe, if they were declared fruits of crimes against humanity and apartheid. If the legal actions were brought by Palestine, Israel would be ordered to pay it massive reparations.

The ICC can only work through member states. But it could authorize those states to capture and imprison Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, for instance. While it is unlikely that this could happen, Israel’s leadership might not be able to visit most of Europe, which would isolate them and much reduce their influence.

The European institutions in Brussels would take an ICC conviction seriously.

The African Union and the Arab world decided to protect Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from the ICC verdict against him. According to the African Union, he can freely visit African countries. But he cannot visit Europe or large numbers of other countries without risking arrest. And even in Africa, al-Bashir in 2013 had to abruptly leave the Nigerian capital of Abuja after only 24 hours because a Nigerian international law association filed a court case to have him arrested.

Over a third of Israeli trade is with Europe, and technology transfers from Europe are crucial to Israel. It could be kicked out of European scientific and technological organizations, where it presently has courtesy memberships. And Israeli leaders could end up being afraid to visit European capitals lest they be arrested, Pinochet style (even if governments ran interference for them, they could not be sure to escape lawsuits by citizen groups and could not be insulated from activist judges).

The world wouldn’t end for Israeli leaders if they were convicted, as it hasn’t ended for al-Bashir. But the consequences would be real and unpleasant, and over time could have a substantial impact.

What Happened to TRIA? Terrorism Insurance Lapses on New Year's Day

Terrorism “Insurance” Expires

by Buddy Bell - VCNC

In 2002, at a time when insurance providers were unwilling to provide coverage for losses resulting from acts of terrorism, and when construction and utility companies were stalling in their development projects, Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). They decided to socialize some of the financial risk, giving a federal government guarantee on insurance payouts exceeding 100 million dollars.

Over the next 12 years, Presidents Bush and Obama and six different Congresses made countless decisions to increase the risk of terrorism (and of a bailout under TRIA). Of course, the most brutally profound effects of those decisions were imposed on children, women, and men in other parts of the world. Likely the least affected people were the ones complaining in the business sections of major papers last month.

They are worried because TRIA expired Jan. 1. An unexpected fluke on the last day of the last congressional session is to blame. “Everybody expected this would get done,” fumed Manhattan developer Douglas Durst, to New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman.

He won’t be waiting all that long: House Speaker John Boehner promised the Baltimore Sun to “act very quickly” to renew TRIA on January 3rd, when Congress reconvenes. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, quoted by Weisman, estimated that the act is 95% likely to pass through his chamber.

If rhetorical announcements in the past week turn out to be accurate, the first order of business that day will not actually be TRIA, but a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. A few days ago, activists in United Against Nuclear Iran announced that after Keystone, the next vote will be on a bill to impose tougher sanctions on Iran, which would scuttle any peace deal. This will paradoxically make a “nuclear Iran” much more likely. Presumably, TRIA would be acted on “very quickly” sometime after all that.

Whether the lapse in coverage will last a total of 3 or 4 or more days is probably not an issue that concerns most constituents of U.S. Congress members. People in the U.S. are much more likely to be concerned with how to reduce the threat of terrorism in the first place. Unfortunately, a desire to avert danger to the greater public is not what guides U.S. foreign policy. Policy makers instead insist that people in the U.S. and in other countries subordinate themselves to what U.S. elites claim is the national interest.

In 12 years, the Afghanistan War did not end. The Iraq War was started, ended, and then started again. Torture became commonplace, with prisoners indefinitely held at Bagram, Guantánamo Bay, and a network of secret CIA prisons; some prisoners were rendered to third countries such as Egypt, Libya, and Syria to be tortured there. Israel, Egypt, and many other brutal regimes conducted wars of choice and campaigns of repression while making use of U.S. weaponry, vehicles, and diplomatic support. And then a systematic drone war attacked people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia; the ‘targets’ were chosen by Obama in consultation with the Pentagon or by secret algorithm.

The former commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, in a 2013 interview with Reuters, said that the use of drones is hated on a visceral level and exacerbates a perception of American arrogance. Former General James E. Cartwright, quoted in the New York Times on March 21 of that year, stated an obvious fact:

“If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.”

The April 2013 issue of The Atlantic recounts the U.S. Senate testimony of a young man named Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemini. He attended English classes in Yemen before going to high school in Rosamond, California, then college in Beirut— all funded through U.S. State Department scholarships. One day a drone strike hit his remote home village of Wessab. Seven of his siblings died from injuries they sustained. During his testimony to the Senate, he said he has met dozens of civilians who were injured during drone strikes and other air attacks in Yemen. “The killing of innocent civilians by U.S. missiles in Yemen is helping to destabilize my country and create an environment from which AQAP benefits. [Drone strikes] are the face of America to many Yemenis.” (He was quoted using the acronym for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.)

The Rehman family was victim to another U.S. drone strike, this time in Pakistan. The strike appeared to be targeted at a 67-year-old midwife but also injured her two grandchildren. These children and their father came to testify to a Congressional hearing in late October 2013, yet only 5 members of Congress attended. Other Congress members did not attend despite knowing that law enforcement officers had recently investigated a botched car bombing in Times Square and identified U.S. foreign policy in Pakistan as a motive in the perpetrator’s attempt.

Now that TRIA has expired, the horrors inflicted by the United States on human beings abroad have more potential to cut into the bottom lines of insurance brokers and developers. This explains why the business press is paying attention to terrorism, yet the only genuine hedge fund against social decay for the rest of us is to transform the U.S. foreign policy, and quick.

Instead of reauthorizing TRIA, Congress should “act very quickly” to end the wars, ground the drones, stop using torture, and invest in the needs of children and adults through an internationally-administered reparations package. Justice is the only [i]nsurance of real security for everyone in the world.

Buddy Bell is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. He can be reached at

Lessons Learnt: A Journalist's Aspiration to Understand the Middle East

“Dos” and “Don’ts”: Things I Learned Writing about the Middle East

by Ramzy Baroud - Dissident Voice

Writing and reporting about the Middle East is not an easy task, especially during these years of turmoil and upheaval. Following and reporting on these constant changes without a deep and compassionate understanding of the region will achieve little but predictable and lackluster content that offers nothing original, but recycled old ideas and stereotypes.

From my humble experience in the region, I share these “dos” and “don’ts” as to how the Middle East should be approached in writing and reporting.

Question Terminology

To start with, the term “Middle East” is itself highly questionable. It is arbitrary, and can only be understood within proximity to some other entity, Europe, whose colonial endeavors imposed such classifications on the rest of the word.

To question the term “Middle East” is to become conscious of the colonial history, and the enduringly fierce economic and political competition which is felt in every facet of life in the region. Keep this in mind and learn to question many other terms: extremist, radical, moderate, terrorist, pro-western, liberal, socialist, Islamist, Islamic, anti-Islamist, secularist, and so on. These are mostly misleading labels. They might not mean at all what you think they do. Their use is often political as opposed to direct reference to an ideological or political position.

Learn the Language

If your reporting is intrinsically linked to the Middle East, then you must learn a language. If you are not an Arabic-speaking journalist, you must invest the time to learn Arabic (or Farsi, Turkish, etc, depending on the specific region of your interest). Even a local companion would hardly help bridge the language divide, for s/he is likely to have their own biases and limitations. Moreover, much is often omitted and lost in translation.

Speaking the native language will gain you more than access, but trust as well, and help you develop real compassion with people who are in greater need to be heard.

Start at the Bottom

Arundhati Roy is quoted as saying: “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”

Every Middle Eastern country has its educated elites. They are often approached by the media out of convenience. They often speak one foreign language or another; they know what a sound bite is, they don’t require much training; and they are always ready with their talking points. Although they may be the ideal media guest, they may be the least qualified to comment on a story.

Your best bet as a reporter is to start from the bottom, the people who are mostly affected by whatever story you are reporting: the victims, their families, eyewitnesses, and the community as a whole. While such voices are often neglected or used as content fillers, they should become the center of any serious reporting from the region, especially in areas that are torn by war and conflict.

Side with the Victim, but be Careful

True, there might be more than one side to the same story, but that should not be the driving force of your reporting.

Start by being aware of your limitations to report on a story without feeling sympathy towards people who are the subject of your report: a Syrian mother separated from her children, a Gaza father, who lost his wife and five kids to Israeli bombs, an Egyptian democracy activist on a prolonged hunger strike, and so on.

One of the greatest flaws in how the Syria war is reported is the simplistic and polarizing approach and terminology. Most media weep for the Syrian people, but the victim and victimizer differs when seen from the perspective of Al Jazeera vs. Al Mayadeen, to Press TV, to Russia Today, to Fox News, to the BBC. Manipulating who qualifies to be a victim is a highly political question with far-reaching consequences.

Learn History

Consider this, a once fringe group like the Houthis of Yemen is becoming the kingmaker of a country, whose central government is by name only, and whose military is divided between sectarian, regional, and tribal allegiances. How is one to report on this fairly new phenomenon without developing a solid understanding of Yemeni history and historical divides, regional and international politics that have greatly disturbed any sense of normalcy in that Arab country for decades?

History is essential to understanding any conflict in the region, because every single conflict has its own protracted history. Understanding this history is essential to fathoming the complexity of the present.

Raise Questions

Don’t be afraid to raise questions and provide context that you, and, at times, only you believe is essential to the story.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) is a relevant example. Virtually unknown few years ago, IS is now supposedly the greatest danger facing the Middle East, as its oddly composed, but well-armed battalions are moving in multiple directions, leaving in their wake gory stories of death and destruction. But how is one to position a story of this magnitude? What would be a proper context?

Remember, no such major upheavals happen in a vacuum. Dare to question the motives in the selective reporting of others.

Avoid Subjective Language

Don’t use the words “terrorist” and “terrorism” unless in proper context. You are not the judge of who is and who is not a terrorist, a term that doesn’t reference a fact but a political perspective. There are many such terminology which are pitfalls that could compromise the credibility of your reporting.

Don’t Be a Tourist

Reporting, especially from conflict zone is a huge responsibility. Sometimes, misleading reporting can cost lives. Avoid the passer-by casual reporting, as in a young New Zealander hopping from Yemen, to Bahrain, to Egypt, to Tunisia in two weeks, producing a whole number of articles for whatever outlet willing to publish, but without scratching the surface of a story. Five days in Sana’a and a week in Bahrain, doesn’t make you an international reporter, doesn’t give your insight much merit and, frankly does a disservice to the profession. You cannot possibly inform others of what you hardly comprehend.

Don’t Get Too involved

The opposite of the hopping reporter is the “expert” journalist, westerners and others who spend many years reporting from a single country. They can be enormously helpful in conveying a truly authentic story, with consistency over time. The pitfall however is that some get too involved, thus taking sides and falling into the trap of the divided politics of the areas from which they report. Lebanon is rife with such examples. Also, Kurdistan in northern Iraq, for it was accessible to western journalists for many years. Thanks to them, much of the Iraq story in skewed and one-sided.

Don’t Generalize

When your interest in the Middle East is centered on a single topic, for example, the Arab Spring, you are deemed to oversimplify and generalize. You are compelled to look for common dominators between “Arab Spring countries”, while willfully dismissing all else.

Avoid generalizations to a fault. It will require more research on your part, but that is what sets a serious reporter from others.

And finally, always remember, writing and reporting are a learned process, and there is always something new for all of us to learn. So remain humble, and always welcome the opportunity to learn new things.

Ramzy Baroud is an author and a journalist. His latest volume is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London). He can be reached at Read other articles by Ramzy.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New War: Same as the Old Wars

The Continuing US War in Afghanistan

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

30 December 2014

On December 28, the US-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, formally ended its combat operations in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama issued a statement declaring the step “a milestone for our country,” adding, “the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.”

Like virtually everything else that comes out of the American president’s mouth, this is a lie. The shabby little ceremony in Kabul Sunday, in which a US commander hauled down one battle flag and ran up another, only confirmed that the murderous 13-year US war in Afghanistan continues.

The flag-changing ceremony was held on the floor of an indoor basketball court at the Western military’s Kabul headquarters. Non-resident staff were told to stay away for fear of the Taliban, which has carried out an unprecedented wave of attacks in the capital while retaking territory abandoned by US and other foreign troops.

Over 18,000 foreign troops will continue to occupy Afghanistan—about 10,600 of them American. While ISAF—created after the US invasion of Afghanistan to lend multinational legitimacy to the country’s occupation—is being wound up and its flag furled, Operation Resolute Support is being launched under a virtually identical green banner (with the letters RS substituted for ISAF).

Approximately 5,000 American troops will be deployed as part of Resolute Support, in what one NATO commander described as a “non-combat mission in a combat environment,” training and advising Afghan security forces. Another 5,500 of the US forces will be deployed as a “non-NATO” contingent that will be engaged in so-called “counterterrorism” operations.

While previously, US forces formally operated under a UN resolution and as part of a NATO contingent, these troops will be answerable to no one but the Joint Special Operations Command, which in turn answers to no one but the US president.

Initially, Washington had insisted that these operations would be aimed solely at Al Qaeda, which by US accounts has for years had barely 50 members in Afghanistan. In the run-up to the formal end of the ISAF mission, however, the Obama administration announced that they would also be used to combat the Taliban and other armed groups opposed to the US puppet regime in Kabul.

While drawing down the number of uniformed troops, Washington is keeping over 20,000 military contractors, who will help man some 25 bases scattered around the country. Because of these plans, the Pentagon command has stated that there will be little reduction in the staggering cost of the war, which is estimated to have risen to over $1 trillion since 2001.

Far from begin concluded, the war is raging. This year has seen a record number of Afghan civilian casualties, topping the 10,000 mark, while Afghan security forces have suffered nearly 5,000 fatalities, more than all the 3,500 foreign soldiers—including over 2,225 Americans—who have lost their lives in the 13 years since the US invasion. US military analysts have described these losses—together with a closely related spike in desertions from the Afghan National Army—as “unsustainable.”

The US military is increasing its air strikes in an attempt to prevent a rout of the Afghan security forces. While on the decline over the last two years, these strikes, which have aroused intense popular hostility in Afghanistan, have sharply risen in the past few months. One of the more recent took place on December 25 in central Logar province. A local official told Pajhwok Afghan News that the bombing, while supposedly aimed at alleged “militants,” demolished two homes, killing five civilians and wounding another six.

With US backing, the government of neighboring Pakistan has launched a bloody new offensive in that country’s northwest, near the Afghan border. Washington, meanwhile, has stepped up its drone assassination program against targets in Pakistan. The country has seen more than 50,000 people killed over the last decade in fighting that was provoked by the US invasion of Afghanistan.

Just as Obama’s declaration that the war is over is a lie, so too is his explanation for its causes. He repeated the shop-warn claims that the deaths of thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans are all justified in the name of “devastating the core Al Qaeda leadership, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives.”

This is all nonsense. By early 2002, Al Qaeda had been largely driven out of Afghanistan. It and related movements have since developed and evolved in large part with the support of Washington, used as proxy forces in wars for regime-change in Libya and Syria.

On October 9, 2001, two days after the US military began the aerial bombardment that would be followed by the US invasion of Afghanistan, the World Socialist Web Site firmly rejected the claims that the war was being waged for “justice and the security of the American people against terrorism.”

The WSWS warned:

“The US government initiated the war in pursuit of far-reaching international interests of the American ruling elite. What is the main purpose of the war? The collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago created a political vacuum in Central Asia, which is home to the second largest deposit of proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the world.

“The Caspian Sea region, to which Afghanistan provides strategic access, harbors approximately 270 billion barrels of oil, some 20 percent of the world’s proven reserves. It also contains 665 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, approximately one-eighth of the planet’s gas reserves.
“These critical resources are located in the world’s most politically unstable region. By attacking Afghanistan, setting up a client regime and moving vast military forces into the region, the US aims to establish a new political framework within which it will exert hegemonic control.”

Whatever the US tactical changes, these geo-strategic aims remain and are at the heart of the continuing war in Afghanistan, just as similar objectives are the driving force in the renewed war in Iraq and Syria.

Today they are much more intimately bound up with the escalation of militarist threats and encirclement of both Russia and China, Washington’s principal rivals in the region.

All of Obama’s rhetoric about an end to war notwithstanding, Washington’s continuing aggression in Afghanistan is part of a growing eruption of American militarism, from Syria and Iraq, to Ukraine and the Baltic states, to the South China Sea. One or another of these military provocations will inevitably erupt into a nuclear third world war unless the international working class mobilizes itself as an independent revolutionary force against imperialist war and its source, capitalism.

Reviewing a Year of Doings in HyperEmpire

Hyperempire: Spreading Chaos and Trivia Everywhere in Its Path

by John Chuckman - DV 

The Palestinians are seeking a vote in the United Nations’ Security Council on a resolution favoring their statehood, unquestionably a reasonable proposal in the minds of most of the world’s people. Of course, the United States, a permanent member of the Security Council, would automatically veto such a resolution, as it vetoes all efforts to restore order to the chaos of the Middle East.

And of course, were such a resolution somehow miraculously to pass, Israel would simply ignore it, as it has ignored a long list of binding UN resolutions. But a veto and certain contempt are not enough for an upright, God-fearing Southern gentleman like US Senator Lindsey Graham. He busied himself recently with threatening America’s withholding funds from a United Nations that gets involved in the “peace process.”

Imagine, the United Nations getting involved in peace? That is a chilling thought. Since the United States has a history of withholding its UN dues against its solemn treaty obligations to bully its way to certain changes, such threats do carry weight.

Senator Graham, regarded neither as an idealist nor a voice for peace, is only doing what so many American politicians do under the unbelievably corrupt, money-drenched American election system, and that is to make ridiculous public statements about the Middle East in return for generous dollops of campaign funds from the world’s most tireless political lobby, that for Israel. You might think that the lobby itself would tire of funding backwater blowhards demanding the other ninety-five percent of humanity play the game by America’s rules or America is picking up its marbles or chips or whatever and going home, but clearly it does not.

“The peace process” is the longest running farce on the planet, continuing for nearly fifty years. It might have been funny in the vein of The Mouse That Roared, but there is nothing remotely funny in the killing of thousands of people and the extreme abuse and hopelessness of millions. 
You just could not make a worse hash of a diplomatic and human welfare situation than America has made in the Middle East. And the situation has only intensified in its cruelty and injustice. Today, Israel openly and regularly steals homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. It threatens ancient Muslim shrines and desecrates some of them. It has savaged Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison camp, twice, killing close to four thousand including nearly a thousand children. It has attempted to starve Gaza’s people out with a years-long embargo, and is making ugly noises about still another invasion. It is about to steal Syrian oil on the occupied Golan Heights, drilling there illegally, and it is busy arranging the theft of offshore natural gas that belongs to Gaza and Lebanon. It does all of this with complete impunity and not even a cross word from the likes of Senator Graham. I do think the Middle East provides the strongest possible evidence of the complete unsuitability of the United States to play a dominant role in international affairs. It is genuinely a case of the inmates running the asylum.

In another example of chaos mixed with farce, the United States pretends to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and while that charade continues, planes loaded with American weapons keep flying out of Turkey to make the seeming lunatics even stronger. Indeed, the various ragtag factions trying to overthrow the Syrian government, cutthroats assembled by the US and its friends from all corners of the globe in a kind of hellish foreign legion, announced a new alliance, so telling Washington’s approved terrorists in the conflict from those who haven’t made the cut is more difficult than ever. 
Recently, one or another of the lunatic mobs shot down two fighter jets, and how do you think they managed that without American anti-aircraft missiles? Turkey’s certifiably unbalanced president, Tayyip Erdoğan, one day makes fiery speeches threatening Israel (to please the poor fools voting for him) and the next makes new secret deals with Israel. Remember, this is a man who just built a one-thousand room palace for himself – yes, that’s right, exactly one thousand rooms – and it is the ugliest, most pointless large structure built since the early Soviet era, a kind of gigantic sprawling warehouse encrusted with jewels and filled with porcelain.

Well, dippiness is no barrier to membership in a secret club in the region which includes the UAE, Saudia Arabia, and Israel, all lovingly assisted by the US. They are all governments who regard change as desirable only when it results in an even more rigid status quo, as in Egypt. Never mind the welfare of the region’s people or democracy or human rights or national boundaries. 
These guys resemble twelfth century lords seeing paupers cross their paths: they run them down and proceed to a rollicking good dinner in the great hall. The club is all about security for hereditary monarchs, security for America’s crusader fortress colony in the Middle East, and security for helper states in the American agenda.
We’ve had many reports recently of secret air-freight flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi. We also have reports of flights out of Turkey into Syria. The never explained events at Benghazi were undoubtedly blowback from an operation collecting unemployed thugs and arms for secret shipment to Turkey and then into Syria. Saudi Arabia is voluntarily taking a bath by pushing oil prices down, a favor to the US and Israel and Turkey and a way of hurting Russia, Iran, Syria, and even Venezuela – all current members in good standing of Captain America’s ever-changing galaxy of villains – aka, the Axis of Evil. The US is willing to sacrifice for the time being its booming shale oil industry, whose more costly production requires higher prices than Saudi conventional crude, in return for the Saudi sacrifice.

Since both countries are desperate to hurt Russia, Iran, and Syria, the deal is a marriage made in Realpolitik heaven. Russia has helped Syria and does business with Iran, and Saudi Arabia and Israel hate Iran and Syria. The US has made a large investment in toppling Syria for Israel’s benefit, but the plan has been thwarted by Syrian endurance and Russian help. The plan also overlooked the loyalty of important Syrian societal groups to President Assad, but America often overlooks details as it attempts to reshape the world to its liking with bombs. Of course, there was also the precedent of Iraq, a bloody fiasco that achieved nothing but a million deaths and splintering a country into pieces. That splintering, by the way, continues with the ISIS fiasco: Iraq’s Kurds are being used against ISIS to strengthen their own region’s quasi-independence from Iraq.

The chaos the secret club-member countries have created in Syria – perhaps 200,000 killed and a couple of million refugees – appears not to bother them in the least, just so many paupers in the roadway when galloping home to dinner at the great hall. The victims do provide useful free material for the propaganda war being waged, the understanding implicit in America’s and Canada’s and Europe’s press being always that President Assad is responsible for the catastrophe. The US, and cheerleaders on the sidelines like Canada’s current dismal right-wing government, are doing virtually nothing for the refugees, or for the many civilians crippled or wounded. Ironically, Israel actually accepts for treatment in its northern medical facilities some of the very fanatics wounded in the dirty work. After all, it is ultimately Israel’s dirty work they do, regardless of their fanaticism. It’s a phenomenon we might call selective terrorism: fanatical killers who do America’s work, or Israel’s, are not treated as terrorists at all. No matter how many women and children you kill, no matter how many places you bomb, you only become a terrorist if you oppose the interests of America or Israel.

The toll in killed and wounded and homeless in Eastern Ukraine continues to mount. New punitive measures come regularly from Kiev, undoubtedly with American advice about possible vulnerabilities – after all, a top cabinet minister in the coup-created government is American. Only the other day we read reports of Ukrainian militia-types, the kind of right-wing thugs who helped the US overthrow an elected government in Kiev, blocking food traffic into the East. Attempting to starve people into submission is defined in international law as a war crime, but we hear no word of concern from America, just as we heard no word of concern for Israel’s original blockade of Gaza which actually included a calculated level of calories intended to just keep the population alive (since modified under intense secret international pressure).

In all these induced chaotic situations, we hear little or nothing from the UN, an institution which should be among the first condemning aggressive behavior. But the UN, despite the many differing private views of its members, is now in all official capacities under the thumb of the US. Its current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, a candidate favored by America, is ineffectual and behaves at times almost as though he headed an organization having nothing to do with peace or human rights.

Well, there is some intimidating history. Boutros Boutros-Ghali was the only UN secretary-general not to be elected to a second term in office, and the reason was an American plan to be rid of him, one of Madeleine Albright’s glorious career achievements. America vetoed his second term because it was most unhappy when he did not embrace the bombing of Bosnia, and they disliked other of his views which tended to be thoughtful and compassionate. Earlier, Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, a much admired man, was assassinated in an engineered plane crash, said to have been the work of Belgian mining companies unhappy with the UN’s policies in Congo, a place the mining companies had drained of wealth for decades of brutal exploitation, but I think it unlikely anything of that nature happened without at least a nod of approval from Washington, which after all was a major customer for the products of Congo.

The evidence is piling up, despite delays and many irregularities in the official investigation into the crash of airline Flight MH-17 in Ukraine, that a Ukrainian pilot deliberately shot the plane down. His fighter is said to have been armed with air-to-air missiles on take-off, something completely out-of-the-ordinary in the conflict since Eastern Ukrainians have no air force. It returned, according to an eye-witness, with no missiles and the pilot’s muttering cryptic phrases. Of course, this would be the kind of act you might expect from people who used sniper rifles earlier this year to kill many hundreds of civilians in Maidan, the central square of Kiev, in order to terrorize the population and start the coup. But where is America’s voice in these grotesque doings? 
As Russia has patiently pointed out, an American spy satellite was virtually overhead at the time of the crash, so definitive evidence exists without a doubt but is not produced. But then neither is it produced for the destruction of Flight MH-370 in the Indian Ocean, an event it is virtually certain was the work of American forces at the secret Diego Garcia base as the plane came their way for whatever unknown reason.

The irregularities around Flight MH-17’s investigation include Malaysia, owners of the airline, being excluded from the group conducting the investigation and include the fact that segments of the wreckage were left behind at the crash site, and that after taking a very long time to get there in the first place, making manipulation of forensic evidence possible and even likely. We also have the absence of any American satellite or radar records, and we have not a word about the autopsy on the pilot, something which might solve the entire mystery, as from the discovery of Ukrainian missile fragments in his body.

What kind of world do we want to live in? One where coups and civil wars are engineered for the pleasure of others? One where airliners full of people are shot down deliberately? This is the chaos, and just part of it, America has bestowed upon us in the twenty-first century. I won’t even go into the financial tsunami it created in 2008 with the same lack of caution for others and concern about doing things correctly. The full impact of that has yet to strike us all.

But America brings laughable trivia, too. The President of the United States spending time and breath on the hacking of a private company’s web site? A Japanese company, no less? And turning the relatively trivial business of hacking, which happens every day now somewhere, into an international incident by blaming, almost certainly incorrectly, North Korea?

The President said the FBI had investigated and assured him that North Korea was responsible. What he didn’t tell us was that the FBI has a decades-long record of being wrong, seriously wrong, a great deal of the time. Given the FBI’s history, it certainly is in the running for the title of Most Incompetent Security Organization in the Western World, although, like other national security institutions in the United States, it is grossly over-funded with money gushing out like water from broken plumbing. Americans pay more per unit of misinformation than likely any other people on the planet.

Anyone familiar with the record of the FBI listens to assurances like the President’s with a sarcastic smile at best. (1) Shortly after the president’s silly words, we had several world-class tech experts tell us why it could not have been North Korea, and I’ll take bets against the FBI on this one from anyone.

It likely was someone at Sony doing a publicity stunt to promote what by all reports is a dud of a film, but why should the man with the biggest job in the world join in? Consider also the fact that if you make what can be viewed as a threatening comment or presentation of any kind against the President of the United States, you will be visited and interviewed by the Secret Service, who will then keep you on file permanently. Why is it okay to make a movie about the assassination of North Korea’s president then, the subject of The Interview? Sony certainly has right to do stupidly foolish things, but it is more than a little muddled for the President eagerly to support it. Will he now address the rights of porn actors in California to work without condoms?

As I write this, a British newspaper reports that some Sony employees have been quietly dismissed. Reported also is the discovery of a web site strongly suggesting disgruntled employees. See what I mean about America overlooking the facts before it acts?

John Chuckman is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. He has many interests and is a lifelong student of history. He writes with a passionate desire for honesty, the rule of reason, and concern for human decency. John regards it as a badge of honor to have left the United States as a poor young man from the South Side of Chicago when the country embarked on the pointless murder of something like 3 million Vietnamese in their own land because they embraced the wrong economic loyalties. He lives in Canada, which he is fond of calling “the peaceable kingdom.”

(1) FOOTNOTE ON HOW WRONG AND DISHONEST THE FBI HAS BEEN: The FBI was wrong in claiming there was no such thing as the Mafia, something J. Edgar Hoover insisted for many years while he gambled at their racetracks and stayed at their resorts for free, some biographers believing Hoover had been compromised by the Mafia with photos of his secret gay, cross-dressing life. The FBI was wrong in focusing huge resources for many years on the pathetic American Communist Party, half of whose small membership is said to have consisted of FBI agents. The FBI was wrong about the threat of Albert Einstein, seeking his extradition for a time and checking the contents of his garbage to his dying day. The FBI was wrong about the danger of Dr. Martin Luther King, and it played judge and jury with his personal life. The FBI was wrong about Dr. Wen Ho Lee of Los Alamos being a spy, although it ruined his career. The FBI was wrong about the crash of TWA Flight 800, taking an inordinate amount of time trying to let public interest cool and avoid the obvious fact that the crash was an accidental shoot-down by the American military, there being a radar track showing something like a missile rising towards the plane. Despite its vast resources, the FBI never saw 9/11 coming. One of its own senior agents, Robert Hanssen, was one of the more damaging spies of modern times, a man whose carelessness in many details, classic indicators of a paid spy, went unnoticed for years. The FBI was wrong in the Atlanta Olympic bombing, ruining the life of another innocent man. It couldn’t have been more wrong in its handling of the sad kooks at Waco, effectively murdering them all. So, too, at the Ruby Ridge standoff where an FBI sniper killed a woman and her child needlessly. The FBI Crime Labs were cited in the 1990s by the Inspector General for misconduct and manipulating evidence, something many had suspected for years. The FBI specialized for years in hurting the reputations of those it didn’t like or those it merely suspected, as by asking questions at their place of work and neighborhood, not have any proof of wrong-doing. The FBI, at least under J. Edgar Hoover, held career-threatening information obtained by spying over the heads of many prominent congressmen and government leaders, effectively blackmailing them to do its bidding. It did the same with non-government officials where it felt so inclined. The FBI was wrong about the assassination of President Kennedy, it being the only investigative agency for the lamentable, embarrassing Warren Commission, thereby assuming at least equal responsibility for its inaccurate, dishonest report. Indeed, the FBI did not reveal at the time that Oswald secretly worked for them as a paid informant (since documented). It also lied about evidence a senior FBI agent destroyed after the assassination, a note Oswald had written.

Copyright © by John Chuckman

Guardian Searching Hard for Heroes

The Guardian Proclaims The President of Israel as a Hero of 2014

by Gilad Atzmon

Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian’s prime Hasbara mouthpiece, praised Israeli President Reuven ‘Ruvi’ Rivlin yesterday. Freedland wrote that that in spite of being a “lifelong member of Israel’s Likud party, and on the right of that rightwing bloc… ever since his elevation to Israel’s largely ceremonial presidency in June he (President Rivlin) has acted as something like his country’s conscience.”

Let’s examine how Freedland justifies his dubious choice for 2014’s hero.

In November the Israeli cabinet backed a Jewish state bill that would enshrine discrimination against Israel’s 1.7 million Arab citizens, denying them the full rights of citizenship accorded to Jews. Liberals and leftists denounced the bill, but, according to Freedland, “ the most potent attack came from the presidential mansion.” Freedland doesn’t tell the entire truth. The Israeli ‘liberals’ (such as war criminal Tzipi Livini) and the hawk President who opposed the bill, didn’t deny that Israel is a Jewish State, instead they argued that Israel is the Jewish State anyway and the National Bill didn’t add any new powers.

Though President Rivlin spoke in favour of civil rights, his primary argument was with the true meaning of the new bill – it exposed the deep intrinsic discrepancy between ‘Jewishness’ and ‘democracy’. Speaking against the bill, Rivlin wondered, “Does this proposal (The National Bill) not in fact encourage us to seek contradiction between the Jewish and democratic characteristics of the state?” Yes it does.

While Netanyhau and his cabinet are willing to admit the truth that the Jewish State is, by its nature, exclusivist; the Jewish Left, The Guardian, Freedland and President Rivlin prefer to keep the truth deeply hidden or at least obscured. Freedland and Rivlin may agree with each other that lying for the cause is kosher.

Freedland also seems to be overwhelmingly awed by a cheesy Israeli propaganda video made for Rosh Hashana. In the video the 75-year-old Israeli president sat alongside an 11-year-old Palestinian boy who had been the victim of bullying. The two held up a series of cards bearing slogans calling for mutual respect and dignity. But Rivlin and Freedland know very well that in the Jewish so called ‘democracy' with and without the National Bill, this young Palestinian boy will never be president in the Jewish State, nor could he be a minister. This young boy is destined to face constant abuse that is intended to make him leave Israel to find a better life somewhere else.

As far as I am concerned, The Guardian of Judea is far from being 2014’s Hero.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Janine Bandcroft GR Year-Ender 2014 Dec. 31, 2014

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

Happy New Year! You know that means it's time for our annual GR Year-Ender show!

It's been an eventful year here, and as has become the custom, I'll highlight some of the most impressive stories we covered during its course.

In a new news twist however, I'll mix in audio from story intros, and throw a little of the year's music featured to boot.

So, first up a piece from the much utilized, GasCD compilation album, and Chritian Doscher's 'Straight Lines'.

Listen. Hear.

As he has since 2011, Andy Worthington again crossed the U.S. in 2014, marking another infamous anniversary of America's gulag at Guantánamo Bay with a speaking tour. A long-time justice advocate for the inmates of Guantánamo Bay, Worthington is also a journalist and author whose book titles include: 'Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,' and 'The Guantánamo Files: Stories of 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison.' He also co-directed the film, 'Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.' From January 8th last year, Andy visited several US cities with Debra Sweet, National Director of the World Can't Wait campaign to shutter the prison, and he'll be back this coming year. A January 8th, 2015 event in New York City kicks off a five city tour talking up the closing, finally, of Camp X-ray and advocating for the release of all its remaining prisoners. This past month, 10 men were released; six Yemenis being sent into exile in Uruguay, while four Afghans were repatriated. But, more than a hundred men remain there still; many being long ago cleared of any terrorist, or military affiliations.

Well, roughly a fortnight ago Christy Clark's BC Liberal government made crystal clear, for any who still doubt the obvious, they are a captured entity whose loyalty and affiliation to the people and places around this province is a distant second place consideration to servicing the needs of the rapacious industrial monster that has settled over this province. Like a great darkening eclipse, determined to suck from the very soil we stand upon all that lives and breathes, our new overlords promise to leave nothing behind them but dust and ashes, (while naturally providing good fortune for their few, well-connected fifth columnists in government and local business). Yes, Crusty Crack has opened wide the legs of the province to allow the construction of the long-proposed, but always denied, (on the grounds of common sense) Site C project on the Peace River. Despite, or perhaps in spite, of all advice to the contrary, the lying in the high weeds Liberals gave the project the "Good to Go!" condemning a great swath of the Peace forever in the process. All for the promise of transitory profits, trinkets, and a pocket full of promises made by offshore corporate behemoths who care as much for the people of BC as they do for the peoples and lands of Asia they've already despoiled.

Israel attacked Gaza again this year past. This time, their "Operation Protective Edge" killed more than two thousand Gazan "patients" and left hundreds of thousands more wounded, homeless, jobless, and left to spend the winter huddled in the darkened husks of their city. Israel bombed hospitals, police, fire, and power stations, destroying all those things identifying modern civic life. The governments of Canada and the United States maintained steadfast support for the Jewish State, even as it violated every ordinance of international law. Rallies were held around the World, but to little apparent avail. I went down to several of Victoria's rallies, and recorded this next one, bizarrely crashed by both Christian Zionists, and Israeli tourists.

Police violence played large in the news in 2014. From Michael Brown and "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" in Ferguson, Missouri to the inflamatory, video-captured killing by a gang of New York's finest of "loosie" cigarette salesman, Eric Garner. In New York City and around America, that killing has found expression in the now famous phrase, "I can't breathe." Just last week, another teenager was killed, just a few miles from Ferguson, by a policeman who alleges 18 year-old Antonio Martin pointed a pistol at him at a gas station. Riots ensued.

Amnesty International released a report last week that warns of an impending "humanitarian disaster" in Eastern Ukraine due to a blockade of, mostly Russian, aid by Kyiv's fascist military forces. Amnesty says the government Stephen Harper and Barak Obama support is committing a war crime by starving the civilian populations in the east of the country. Canada's media is in lock-step support of Harper and the coupsters too, chucking out inconvenient notions of democracy, the defense of individual rights and rule of law, or even the advocacy of basic decency when it comes to forwarding America and company's corporate agenda. Much as seen in Chile, Honduras, Haiti, Venezuela, Bolivia, Libya, Egypt, and everywhere else national sovereignty rears its ugly mug, unchallenged hegemony is the Real Politic that really counts in the New American Century.

That does it for this year's Year Ender. Some of the stories we didn't have time for here, but covered over the course of the last year include: Fukushima, still melting after all these years; the Hong Kong student democracy uprising; the Burrard Mountain stand-off against Kinder Morgan; the Imperial Metals Mount Polley mine tailings spill disaster; Police abuse in Canada and abroad; the murder of 43 Mexican students through a collaboration between various Mexican government agencies and organized crime; stolen elections in Canada and the United States; and burgeoning, so-called austerity measures that always amount to a war against the poorest, and others, like the great news of the release of the last of the Cuban Five!

In short, we did what we have done for the past fifteen and more years here; reiterating our guiding principles of: Dedication to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in corporate and state media. You can check out the year's past stories at Pacific Free, under the Gorilla Radio banner. Thanks as always o Janine Bandcroft and all the folks at the station that keep the wheels turning week in and week out, and stayed tuned for more. That's all I've got for you this year.

Here's wishing you all have a happy and prosperous New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Renewed Resolution for North American Deep Integration

The Renewed Push For Deeper North American Integration

by Dana Gabriel - Be Your Own Leader

The globalist plan to incrementally merge the U.S., Canada and Mexico into a North American Union has been ongoing for years. While at times, the agenda appears to have seemingly stalled, current efforts to expand the trilateral partnership show that it is alive and once again gaining steam. With NAFTA as the foundation, the renewed push for deeper North American integration continues on many different fronts.

The Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), recently issued the report, Made in North America: a new agenda to sharpen our competitive edge. The CCCE is one of Canada’s most influential corporate lobby groups, with many of their proposals shaping the country’s domestic and foreign policy priorities. Throughout the years, they have pushed for deeper continental integration. With the 2015 North American Leaders Summit in mind, the CCCE offered a series of recommendations aimed at further expanding the trilateral relationship in areas such as border management, infrastructure, manufacturing, energy and regulatory cooperation.

The report stated, “We need trilateral agreement on future directions, a clear commitment from the three leaders, and a central agency in each government with the responsibility to coordinate effective and efficient implementation. By pursuing a strategic plan of intelligent change and reform, our three nations can lead the world economy for years to come.” 

The CCCE also acknowledged how their policy paper is intended to complement the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) report, North America: Time for a New Focus, which was released several months ago.

The fourth annual North American Competitiveness and Innovation Conference (NACIC) was held at the end of October and brought together government officials, policy experts and business leaders from all three countries. Among the attendees were U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Canada's Minister of International Trade Edward Fast and Mexico's Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal. In a joint statement, they pledged to enhance trade and to deepen their economic relationship through the development and advancement of a North American competitiveness work plan. Minister Fast pointed to more trilateral cooperation as key to increasing competitiveness. In a speech given before attending the NACIC, Secretary Pritzker also discussed the opportunity to upgrade NAFTA through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which she described as the next chapter in North American economic integration.

On December 15, at the North American Energy Ministers Meeting, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford and Mexico’s Secretary of Energy Pedro Joaquin Coldwell took steps to promote continental energy security and collaboration. This includes strengthening government-to-government relationships and supporting business-to-business engagement in the energy sector. The ministers also committed to working together to establish best practices for oil and gas development and to modernize North America’s energy infrastructure.

In addition, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding to improve cooperation on sharing energy public data, statistics and mapping information. As oil prices continue to slide, Colin Robertson, Vice President of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, believes what North America really needs is a common energy strategy. In advance of the trilateral energy minsters meeting, he argued how, “Mexico’s ambitious reforms, the energy industry’s commitment to innovation, and shifting geopolitics create new opportunities. A North American energy strategy would be a great leap forward in continental economic integration.”

Earlier this month, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a possible candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination visited Canada, where he discussed energy and trade issues. During a speech at the Calgary Petroleum Club, he called for approval the Keystone XL pipeline, which would link Canada’s oil sands to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Christie stressed that delays have hurt Canada-U.S. relations. He also explained that, “Keystone is perhaps the most visible pending energy project on our continent, but it is far from the only one. As a general matter, we need to reduce regulatory uncertainty and increase the speed and transparency of the American project approval process.”

This ties into H.R.3301 - the North American Energy Infrastructure Act, which is designed to streamline the cross-border permit process and prevent long delays to projects like the Keystone XL. In the end, if President Barack Obama does reject the Keystone pipeline, some have warned that Canada could challenge the decision as a breach of NAFTA’s principles.

As part of his speech, Governor Christie further highlighted the North American partnership and noted that, “the Council on Foreign Relations released a new report of a task force headed by General David Petraeus and my friend Bob Zoellick, former President of the World Bank. The report talks about how focusing on and strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Canada --- and Mexico - can increase our competitiveness and our mutual influence in the world. I couldn't agree more.”

He went on to say, “In the last few years, the leadership of the United States government has not always placed sufficient priority on North America. This is a mistake and a missed opportunity.” Christie’s message was similar to the one he delivered in Mexico back in September, where he promoted North American energy cooperation and emphasized how U.S. foreign policy should focus on its neighbours first.

A New York Times article also shed more light on the strategy behind the New Jersey governor's trips to Mexico and Canada. They reported that, “Mr. Christie, who has limited experience in international affairs, is fashioning a foreign policy that is heavily grounded in North America, which he views as an overlooked domain in an era of international threats to the United States. It is an approach shaped heavily by informal advisers, including Robert B. Zoellick, the former United States trade representative under President George W. Bush, who said in an recent interview that he has encouraged Mr. Christie to think about the continental base.” Zoellick is the co-chair of the CFR Task Force report and has urged 2016 presidential candidates to make North America a part of their foreign policy platform. In Christie, the CFR has found at least one potential candidate who is ready to champion for deeper North American integration.

In many ways, the conditions needed to further advance North American integration are more favourable than they've been in years, with recent changes presenting new opportunities. Whether it be an economic or security crisis, political instability or social unrest, the global elite will use any means necessary to move their agenda forward.

Ultimately, the North American Union incremental steps of erasing continental borders, abolishing national sovereignty and consolidating power and wealth are part of a much larger plan to establish a one world economic system.

Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues. Contact: Visit his blog at Be Your Own Leader

Related articles by Dana Gabriel:
Building a New North American Partnership for the Future
NAFTA and the Next Phase of North American Integration
NAFTA Partners Pushing North American Competitiveness Integration Agenda
Trilateral Defense Ministers Meeting Continues to Build North American Security Framework