The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to supervise construction of a five-story underground facility for an Israel Defense Forces complex, oddly named “Site 911,” at an Israeli Air Force base near Tel Aviv.
Expected to take more than two years to build, at a cost of up to $100 million, the facility is to have classrooms on Level 1, an auditorium on Level 3, a laboratory, shock-resistant doors, protection from nonionizing radiation and very tight security. Clearances will be required for all construction workers, guards will be at the fence and barriers will separate it from the rest of the base.
Only U.S. construction firms are being allowed to bid on the contract and proposals are due Dec. 3, according to the latest Corps of Engineers notice.
Site 911 is the latest in a long history of military construction projects the United States has undertaken for the IDF under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. The 1998 Wye River Memorandum between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has led to about $500 million in U.S. construction of military facilities for the Israelis, most of them initially in an undeveloped part of the Negev Desert. It was done to ensure there were bases to which IDF forces stationed in the West Bank could be redeployed.
As recorded in the Corps’ European District magazine, called Engineering in Europe, three bases were built to support 20,000 troops, and eventually the Israeli air force moved into the same area, creating Nevatim air base. A new runway, 2.5 miles long, was built there by the Corps along with about 100 new buildings and 10 miles of roads.
Over the years, the Corps has built underground hangers for Israeli fighter-bombers, facilities for handling nuclear weapons (though Israel does not admit having such weapons), command centers, training bases, intelligence facilities and simulators, according to Corps publications.
Within the past two years the Corps, which has three offices in Israel, completed a $30 million set of hangars at Nevatim, which the magazine describes as a “former small desert outpost that has grown to be one of the largest and most modern air bases in the country.” It has also supervised a $20 million project to build maintenance shops, hangars and headquarters to support Israel’s large Eitan unmanned aerial vehicle.
Site 911, which will be built at another base, appears to be one of the largest projects. Each of the first three underground floors is to be roughly 41,000 square feet, according to the Corps notice. The lower two floors are much smaller and hold equipment.
Security concerns are so great that non-Israeli employees hired by the builder can come only from “the U.S., Canada, Western Europe countries, Poland, Moldavia, Thailand, Philippines, Venezuela, Romania and China,” according to the Corps notice. “The employment of Palestinians is also forbidden,” it says.
Among other security rules: The site “shall have one gate only for both entering and exiting the site” and “no exit or entrance to the site shall be allowed during work hours except for supply trucks.” Guards will be Israeli citizens with experience in the Israeli air force. Also, “the collection of information of any type whatsoever related to base activities is prohibited.”
The well-known Israeli architectural firm listed on the plans, Ada Karmi-Melamede Architects, has paid attention to the aesthetics of the site design as well as the sensibilities of future employees. The site, for example, will be decorated with rocks chosen by the architect but purchased by the contractor. Three picnic tables are planned, according to the solicitation.
The Corps offered a lengthy description of the mezuzas the contractor is to provide “for each door or opening exclusive of toilets or shower rooms” in the Site 911 building. A mezuza (also spelled mezuzah) is a parchment which has been inscribed with Hebrew verses from the Torah, placed in a case and attached to a door frame of a Jewish family’s house as a sign of faith. Some interpret Jewish law as requiring — as in this case — that a mezuza be attached to every door in a house.
These mezuzas, notes the Corps, “shall be written in inerasable ink, on . . . uncoated leather parchment” and be handwritten by a scribe “holding a written authorization according to Jewish law.” The writing may be “Ashkenazik or Sepharadik” but “not a mixture” and “must be uniform.”
Also, “The Mezuzahs shall be proof-read by a computer at an authorized institution for Mezuzah inspection, as well as manually proof-read for the form of the letters by a proof-reader authorized by the Chief Rabbinate.” The mezuza shall be supplied with an aluminum housing with holes so it can be connected to the door frame or opening. Finally, “All Mezuzahs for the facility shall be affixed by the Base’s Rabbi or his appointed representative and not by the contractor staff.”
What’s the purpose of Site 911? I asked the Pentagon on Tuesday, and the Corps on Wednesday said that only an Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman could provide an answer.
This may be a trend-starter. The Corps is also seeking a contractor for another secret construction project in Israel in the $100 million range to awarded next summer. This one will involve “a complex facility with site development challenges” requiring services that include “electrical, communication, mechanical/
HVAC [heating, ventilation, air conditioning] and plumbing.” The U.S. contractor must have a U.S. secret or equivalent Israeli security clearance for the project, which is expected to take almost 21/2 years to complete.
That sounds like a secure command center.
The purpose of Site 911 is far less clear.
Source: Walter Pincus | TheWashingtonPost
Across Syria these days, one is able to examine massive evidence that this ancient civilization, the historic bastion of nationalist Arabism and since the 1948 Nabka, an essential pillar of the growing culture of Resistance to the Zionist occupation of Palestine, is becoming awash with foreign arms being funneled to “rebels” by countries advocating regime change.
This observer has been researching foreign arms transfers into certain Middle East countries since last summer in Libya, where to a lesser degree the identical foreign actors were involved in facilitating the transfer of arms and fighters to topple the then, “Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.”
During a recent stay in Syria, I was able to observe first hand, substantial demonstrative evidence supporting the thesis that American, Zionist and Gulf intelligence agencies as well as private arms dealers from these countries top the list of more than two dozen countries benefiting from the crisis in Syria by injecting arms. These countries gain politically and financially, via governmental and black market arms transfers.
Which countries are sending the most weapons into Syria to arm militia?
A list of the top 24 countries, among the more than three dozen that are currently involved in sending weapons to Syria to achieve regime change include: USA, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, UK, France, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Brazil, Portugal, Poland, Yugoslavia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, and Argentina.
Above: one of the periodic lists complied of foreign weapons confiscated from foreign fighters in Syria. Aug.-late September, 2012
Nearly two-thirds of the above listed arms suppliers are members of NATO and constitute almost half of NATO’s 28 country membership.
Russia is not included in the above list because it is the main supplier of arms to the Syrian government. Yet, one finds older USSR era weapons and even some more recent vintage Russian arms in rebel hands, the latter from the decade (12/79-2/89) of Soviet, occupation of Afghanistan. Also offering Russian weapons are a growing number of black market arms dealers of whom there is no shortage along the Turkey-Syrian border and elsewhere. This recent visitor to Syria was offered near the Old City, AK 47’s (Russian Kalashnikovs) or Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG) for $ 1,800 (in Lebanon today and before the Syrian crisis the price was around $800. After some bargaining and starting to walk away a couple of times, the “special one-time only price for an American friend” dropped to $ 750 each. Russian made Dragunov sniper rifles are being offered at $ 6,500 but can be bought for around $ 5000.Buying arms these days in Syria is a caveat emptor proposition. Fake weapons and military rejects/defects are also being offered by hustlers from nearby countries including Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey.
The involvement of numerous countries in the Syrian crisis as arms suppliers and political operatives was tangentially referenced by the recent UN Security Council Statement of 12/25/12 which admits the existence of foreign actors and implies their arms supplying activities by urging “all regional and international actors to use their influence on the parties concerned to facilitate the implementation of the (Eid al Adha) ceasefire and cessation of violence.”
Syria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Bashar al-Jaafari observed last week: “This part of the [Security Council] press statement, mentioned for the first time, proves Syria’s view repeated since the beginning of the crisis on the existence of Arab, regional and international parties influencing the armed groups negatively or positively. Therefore, those parties need to be addressed.”
One of the key challenges for the UN and Arab League envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi whose aides told this observer at the Dama Rose hotel on 10/22/12 where we were staying, is: “We need to persuade key countries in the Middle East, but also internationally, not to support the rebels with arms.
The failed initiative of envoy El Brahimi, was the third ceasefire attempt to date following the December 2011Arab League proposal and the April 2012 Kofi Annan initiative, both of which were endorsed by the Syrian government and most of the world community. Some rebel militia, but not nearly enough, did endorse the Brahimi four day Eid al Adha ceasefire only to have it collapse this past weekend. To his credit, Brahimi continues his work.
The same Brahimi sources suggested that the United States may also be supplying man-portable air-defense systems (Manpods) to rebels in Syria. According to Russian Foregin Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich, speaking on 12/15/12: “At the same time, it is also well-known that Washington is aware of supplies of various types of arms to illegal armed groups operating in Syria. Moreover, the United States, judging by admissions by American officials that have also been published in American media, is conducting coordination and providing logistical support for such supplies.” NBC News, based in New York reported in July that Syrian insurgents had obtained two dozen US MANPADS, delivered from Turkey.
A month after the October 2011 death of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in Tripoli that the U.S. was committing $40 million to help Libya “secure and recover its weapons stockpiles.” Congressional sources report that the Obama administration is fully aware that quantities of these arms are current in Syria and more in transit.
With respect to arms moving from Libya to Syria, on the night of Sept. 11 Libya time, in what was his last public meeting, US Ambassador Christopher Stevens met with the Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin, and accompanied him to the consulate front gate just before the assault began. Although what was discussed has not yet been made public, Washington sources including the pro-Zionist Fox News speculate that Stevens may have been in Benghazi negotiating a weapons transfer, from Libya to Syria.
Earlier this year, Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro expressed concerns that the increasing flow of Libya arms was far from under control. Speaking to the Stimson Center in Washington D.C. on 2/10/12 Shapiro said: “This raises the question — how many weapons and missiles are still missing? The frank answer is we don’t know and probably never will.”
According to a 10/14/12 report by the Times of London, a vessel flying the Libyan flag named Al Entisar (Victory), loaded with more than 400 tons of cargo, docked in southern Turkey 35 miles from the Syrian northern border. While some of the undeclared cargo was likely humanitarian, staff accompanying UN envoy Brahimi during his recent Syrian trip report the Al Entisar also carried the largest consignment of foreign weapons to date, including surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles, RPG’s and MANPADS destined for Syria.
Partly because of the jihadists and arms entering Syria from its northern border, southern Turkey is increasingly referred to here in Damascus as “New Afghanistan”, given its matrix of jihadists, salafists, wahabists, and battle-hardened panoply of arriving foreign would-be mujahedeen and al Qaeda affiliates.
One teenage al Qaeda wannebe explained to the author that his specialty was making and using homemade specialized knives as shown in this photo. He also delivered a mini-lecture he said was based on a Koranic Hadith explaining why severing heads of animals and adversaries is actually the most humane method. He gave earnest assurances that if allowed to perform a one-time demonstration, this observer would feel no pain and he would post the photo on Facebook!
Remarkably, as was witnessed in 2007, during the conflict at the Nahr al Bared Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon, some of the arriving eager jihadists in “New Afghanistan” actually believe that they are fighting against Zionist forces near occupied Palestine and not killing fellow Arabs in Syria.
Some, but not all of the many types of small arms flowing into Syria in large numbers, and viewed by this observer include:
7.62mm Tabuk (Yugoslavia) rifles, Mass rifles (UK), 7.62 mm rifles (Poland), 12 mm rifles (Italy), 7.62 mm Kalashnikovs (several countries versions), 9 mm ‘fast gun’, (Austria), 7.62 mm Val (Belgium), G3 7.62 mm G3 rifles (Germany), 7.5mm model 36 rifles (France), M16 and a variety of sniper and other rifles (USA), 7.62 rifles (Bulgaria, 10.5 Uzi and other automatic machine guns, three types of hand grenades (Israel), 9 mm guns (Canada), 7 mm guns (Czech Republic), 7 mm guns (Brazil).
Photo: 10.23.12 Syria
Israeli weapons are among the most frequently found in Syria as was the case in Libya. Israeli arms dealers are claimed to have recently intensified links with Blackwater International and also are currently smuggling through the Golan Heights, the tri-border area of south Lebanon, occupied Palestine and Syria.
The observer also examined and was briefed on M72 LAW and AT-3 anti-tank missiles developed by the United States. But the extent of their use is difficult to verify. Most of the arms shown in accompanying photos are from the main urban centers and near the Turkish, Iraqi, Lebanese and Jordanian borders.
In tightly built up urban areas such as Homs, Idlib and Aleppo, door to door fighting includes a battle among snipers. According to one Syrian military intelligence source in whose Damascus office this observer discussed the subject, the most frequently confiscated sniper rifles currently being found in the hands of “rebels” include:
· the U.S. Army & USMC M1903-A4 (also: USMC M1903-A1/Unertl), the U.S. Army & USMC M1C & M1D and U.S. Army M21;
Photo: Damascus 10/23/12: American weapons from Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey and NATO stores are entering Syria with the aid of Qatar and Saudi Arabia and black market arms dealers.
· the Israeli M89SR Technical Equipment International 7.62x51mm NATO Semi-automatic, Galil Sniper Rifle and the T.C.I. M89-SR,
· the British .243 Winchester, 7.62x51mm NATO/.308 Winchester,.300 Winchester Magnum, and the 338 Lapua Magnum Bolt action sniper rifles.
Photo: Syria 10/13/12: The most frequently confiscated sniper rifles currently being found in the hands of “rebels” in Syria include the above shown U.S. Army & USMC M1903-A4. Other US sniper rifles include the USMC M1903-A1/Unertl), the U.S. Army & USMC M1C & M1D and U.S. Army M21
A few Afghanistan era Russian Dragonov SVD and SV-98 sniper rifles have also been confiscated among an assortment of others.
Foreign jihadists have some access to Soviet-era DShK heavy machine guns or ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft cannons which are used for anti-aircraft and fire support. Both use fairly scarce high-explosive rounds and armor-piercing rounds, which are capable of penetrating the armor of the Syrian military’s BMP infantry fighting vehicles. The ZU-23-2 “Sergey”, also known as ZU-23, is a Soviet towed 23 mm anti-aircraft cannon. Vehicle mounted Zu-23-2’s are relatively easy to spot by government aircraft and artillery units are used to attack a target and quickly flee to avoid counter strikes.
On 10/25/12 Russia reiterated its claims that the US assists and coordinates arms deliveries to foreign-sponsored insurgents battling the Syrian government forces. Russia’s chief military officer said that Syrian armed groups have acquired US-made weapons, including Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. This observer saw many weapons from more than a dozen types of IED’s (improvised explosive device) to medium sized artillery pieces but no missiles.
Photo: 10/24/12 Damascus, Syria
Improvised Explosive Devices are a key rebel weapon with many arriving from Iraq and camps near Hataya, Turkey. Many DIY (do it yourself) improvisations have been uncovered across Syria in both urban and rural areas. This observer examined and was briefed on several types, including those shown above.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry issued statement of 10/25/12, “Washington is aware of the deliveries of various weapons to illegal armed groups active in Syria. Moreover, judging by the declarations of US officials published in US media, the US coordinates and provides logistical assistance in such deliveries.”
Some analysts in Damascus claim that Syria’s potential military strength has not been as effective as it could be in the current urban fights against rebels. The government appears very strong militarily if one studies the statistics regarding Syria’s large and disciplined army which continues its support and also given its sophisticated long range missiles, air defense systems that have deterred an airborne attack from Israel. One reason progress has at times appeared slow against the “rebels” according to some local analysts was a certain initial unpreparedness to confront highly motivated guerrilla militia in downtown densely populated areas. These kinds of battles, it is claimed, require a mobile infantry, armored flexibility and very effective use of light arms. The Assad government’s “adapt, catch up and go on the offensive” paradigm is developing rapidly according to US Senate Armed Service Committee sources who assert that the Syria army has actually become battle hardened, tougher, stronger and more disciplined over the past several months. But it has taken time and has incurred a significant cost.
Weapons examined by this observer in Syria during 10/12 include some of the more than 1,750 new American sniper rifles channeled from Iraq and NATO supply stores to rebel militia.
How foreign weapons are entering Syria
As widely speculated particularly in the regional media, foreign supplied weapons to “rebels” arrive by air, sea and mainly by land from Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and occupied Palestine.
Israel is reported, by some researchers in Damascus who have been covering the crisis for nearly 20 months, to be sending arms to Syria from Kurdistan, having had much experience in Africa, South America and Eastern Europe via Mossad and Israeli black market arms dealing. What Israel did in Libya in terms of a wide spread arms business it is also trying to do in Syria. Israeli arms, according to Syrian and Lebanese sources are being transported into Syria from along the tri-border area of South Lebanon, near Shebaa Farms, close to Jabla al-Saddaneh, and Gadja. In addition, Israeli smugglers have increasingly, over the past five months, been seen by locals moving arms inside Syria via the Golan Heights. These violations of Syrian and Lebanese sovereignty raise serious questions about the vigilance of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone (UNDO) based in the Golan Heights as well as the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese Army as well as National Lebanese Resistance units near the ‘blue line’ to stop the illicit Israeli arms transfers.
The recent arrival in southern Turkey and along the northern Syrian border of Blackwater mercenaries is expected to increase the foreign arms flow. Currently using the name Academi (previously known as Xena- Xe Services LLC, Blackwater USA and Blackwater Worldwide) Academi is currently, according to Jane’s Defense Weekly, the largest of the US governments “private security” contractors. Details of its relationship with the US Defense Department and the CIA are classified.
Is there a coherent US policy toward the Syrian crisis?
Secretary of State Clinton has been announcing recently that the U.S. is increasing its “non-lethal support” (i.e. direct shipments as opposed to boots on the ground or ballistic weapons) according to her Congressional liaison office. She also confirmed that Washington is working with its friends and allies to promote more cohesion among the disparate Syrian opposition groups with the aim of producing a new leadership council following meetings scheduled for Doha in the coming weeks.
Photo: Syria: 10/24/12
Examples of US, UK and NATO “non-lethal aid” equipment taken from militia in south and north Syria between 5/2011 and 10/2012.
However, to the consternation of the State Department, General David Petraeus the former US commander of NATO forces in Iraq, now director of the CIA acknowledged, during his senate confirmation hearings. “Non-lethal aid to combatants, including communication equipment, is sometimes more lethal and important than explosive devices due to the logistical advantages they provides on the battlefield.”
In tandem with the US, the UK and several European governments are supplying “non-lethal” aid to the Syrian opposition, including satellite communications equipment according to Syria security sources.
There is also plenty of anecdotal and demonstrative and probative evidence in Syria of human weapons patterned on the “Zarqawi model” which refers to the bloody al Qaeda in Mesopotamia campaign named for its leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi after U.S. troops occupied Iraq.
In a speech this week in Zagreb, Croatia, this week, Secretary of State Clinton insisted that any group seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad must reject attempts by extremists to “hijack” a legitimate revolution. She added, “There are disturbing reports of heavily armed foreign extremists going into Syria and attempting to take over.” Clinton used her strongest words to date concerning risks that the uprising in Syria could be overtaken by militants who do not seek a democratic replacement or the reforms that the current government claims it is trying to implement. She told her conferees: “We made it clear that the SNC can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition. They can be part of a larger opposition, but that opposition must include people from inside Syria and others who have a legitimate voice. We also need an opposition that will be on record strongly resisting the efforts by extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution. There are disturbing reports of heavily armed extremists going into Syria and attempting to take over.” Clinton advised her colleagues that the US has become convinced that the SNC does not represent the interests of all ethnic and religious groups in Syria and that it has little legitimacy among on-the-ground activists and fighters, and has done little to stem the infiltration of Islamist extremists into the opposition forces.
Clinton’s language is being interpreted by some as evidence that a post-election Obama Whitehouse, she he win on November, may move toward the Russian, Chinese, and Iranian position and away from, what one Congressional source derisively labeled, “ the view from the Gulf gas stations” i.e. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and some other despotic monarchies.
The intervention in Syria by more than three dozen countries supplying weapons must be stopped. Both sides of the Syrian crisis need to manifest by actions, not just words, a serious commitment to meaningful dialogue. The above noted arms supplying countries, and others off stage, have a solemn obligation to their citizens and to the world community to immediately halt the shipment of arms.
They should, and their people should demand that they do without further delay, honor the words of Isaiah 2:3-5….”and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
Granted, perhaps a cliché and certainly far easier said than done.
Yet, as Oregon’s late great US Senator Wayne Morse used tell audiences around America during the Vietnam War, quoting General George Marshall, “The only way we human beings can win a war is to prevent it.”
It’s time for the international community to end the Syrian crisis diplomatically, stop funneling arms and cash fueling hoped for regime change elements. Instead, they must demand that all the involved parties immediately engage in serious dialogue and settle their differences.
The greatest crimes of human history are made possible by the most colorless human beings. They are the careerists. The bureaucrats. The cynics. They do the little chores that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality. They collect and read the personal data gathered on tens of millions of us by the security and surveillance state. They keep the accounts of ExxonMobil, BP and Goldman Sachs. They build or pilot aerial drones. They work in corporate advertising and public relations. They issue the forms. They process the papers. They deny food stamps to some and unemployment benefits or medical coverage to others. They enforce the laws and the regulations. And they do not ask questions.
Good. Evil. These words do not mean anything to them. They are beyond morality. They are there to make corporate systems function. If insurance companies abandon tens of millions of sick to suffer and die, so be it. If banks and sheriff departments toss families out of their homes, so be it. If financial firms rob citizens of their savings, so be it. If the government shuts down schools and libraries, so be it. If the military murders children in Pakistan or Afghanistan, so be it. If commodity speculators drive up the cost of rice and corn and wheat so that they are unaffordable for hundreds of millions of poor across the planet, so be it. If Congress and the courts strip citizens of basic civil liberties, so be it. If the fossil fuel industry turns the earth into a broiler of greenhouse gases that doom us, so be it. They serve the system. The god of profit and exploitation. The most dangerous force in the industrialized world does not come from those who wield radical creeds, whether Islamic radicalism or Christian fundamentalism, but from legions of faceless bureaucrats who claw their way up layered corporate and governmental machines. They serve any system that meets their pathetic quota of needs.
These systems managers believe nothing. They have no loyalty. They are rootless. They do not think beyond their tiny, insignificant roles. They are blind and deaf. They are, at least regarding the great ideas and patterns of human civilization and history, utterly illiterate. And we churn them out of universities. Lawyers. Technocrats. Business majors. Financial managers. IT specialists. Consultants. Petroleum engineers. “Positive psychologists.” Communications majors. Cadets. Sales representatives. Computer programmers. Men and women who know no history, know no ideas. They live and think in an intellectual vacuum, a world of stultifying minutia. They are T.S. Eliot’s “the hollow men,” “the stuffed men.” “Shape without form, shade without colour,” the poet wrote. “Paralysed force, gesture without motion.”
It was the careerists who made possible the genocides, from the extermination of Native Americans to the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians to the Nazi Holocaust to Stalin’s liquidations. They were the ones who kept the trains running. They filled out the forms and presided over the property confiscations. They rationed the food while children starved. They manufactured the guns. They ran the prisons. They enforced travel bans, confiscated passports, seized bank accounts and carried out segregation. They enforced the law. They did their jobs.
Political and military careerists, backed by war profiteers, have led us into useless wars, including World War I, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. And millions followed them. Duty. Honor. Country. Carnivals of death. They sacrifice us all. In the futile battles of Verdun and the Somme in World War I, 1.8 million on both sides were killed, wounded or never found. In July of 1917 British Field Marshal Douglas Haig, despite the seas of dead, doomed even more in the mud of Passchendaele. By November, when it was clear his promised breakthrough at Passchendaele had failed, he jettisoned the initial goal—as we did in Iraq when it turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction and in Afghanistan when al-Qaida left the country—and opted for a simple war of attrition. Haig “won” if more Germans than allied troops died. Death as score card. Passchendaele took 600,000 more lives on both sides of the line before it ended. It is not a new story. Generals are almost always buffoons. Soldiers followed John the Blind, who had lost his eyesight a decade earlier, to resounding defeat at the Battle of Crécy in 1337 during the Hundred Years War. We discover that leaders are mediocrities only when it is too late.
David Lloyd George, who was the British prime minister during the Passchendaele campaign, wrote in his memoirs: “[Before the battle of Passchendaele] the Tanks Corps Staff prepared maps to show how a bombardment which obliterated the drainage would inevitably lead to a series of pools, and they located the exact spots where the waters would gather. The only reply was a peremptory order that they were to ‘Send no more of these ridiculous maps.’ Maps must conform to plans and not plans to maps. Facts that interfered with plans were impertinencies.”
Here you have the explanation of why our ruling elites do nothing about climate change, refuse to respond rationally to economic meltdown and are incapable of coping with the collapse of globalization and empire. These are circumstances that interfere with the very viability and sustainability of the system. And bureaucrats know only how to serve the system. They know only the managerial skills they ingested at West Point or Harvard Business School. They cannot think on their own. They cannot challenge assumptions or structures. They cannot intellectually or emotionally recognize that the system might implode. And so they do what Napoleon warned was the worst mistake a general could make—paint an imaginary picture of a situation and accept it as real. But we blithely ignore reality along with them. The mania for a happy ending blinds us. We do not want to believe what we see. It is too depressing. So we all retreat into collective self-delusion.
In Claude Lanzmann’s monumental documentary film “Shoah,” on the Holocaust, he interviews Filip Müller, a Czech Jew who survived the liquidations in Auschwitz as a member of the “special detail.” Müller relates this story:
“One day in 1943 when I was already in Crematorium 5, a train from Bialystok arrived. A prisoner on the ‘special detail’ saw a woman in the ‘undressing room’ who was the wife of a friend of his. He came right out and told her: ‘You are going to be exterminated. In three hours you’ll be ashes.’ The woman believed him because she knew him. She ran all over and warned to the other women. ‘We’re going to be killed. We’re going to be gassed.’ Mothers carrying their children on their shoulders didn’t want to hear that. They decided the woman was crazy. They chased her away. So she went to the men. To no avail. Not that they didn’t believe her. They’d heard rumors in the Bialystok ghetto, or in Grodno, and elsewhere. But who wanted to hear that? When she saw that no one would listen, she scratched her whole face. Out of despair. In shock. And she started to scream.”
Blaise Pascal wrote in “Pensées,” “We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us from seeing it.”
Hannah Arendt, in writing “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” noted that Adolf Eichmann was primarily motivated by “an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his personal advancement.” He joined the Nazi Party because it was a good career move. “The trouble with Eichmann,” she wrote, “was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.”
“The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else,” Arendt wrote. “No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against words and the presence of others, and hence against reality as such.”
Gitta Sereny makes the same point in her book “Into That Darkness,” about Franz Stangl, the commandant of Treblinka. The assignment to the SS was a promotion for the Austrian policeman. Stangl was not a sadist. He was soft-spoken and polite. He loved his wife and children very much. Unlike most Nazi camp officers, he did not take Jewish women as concubines. He was efficient and highly organized. He took pride in having received an official commendation as the “best camp commander in Poland.” Prisoners were simply objects. Goods. “That was my profession,” he said. “I enjoyed it. It fulfilled me. And yes, I was ambitious about that, I won’t deny it.” When Sereny asked Stangl how as a father he could kill children, he answered that he “rarely saw them as individuals. It was always a huge mass. … [T]hey were naked, packed together, running, being driven with whips. …” He later told Sereny that when he read about lemmings it reminded him of Treblinka.
Christopher Browning’s collection of essays, “The Path to Genocide,” notes that it was the “moderate,” “normal” bureaucrats, not the zealots, who made the Holocaust possible. Germaine Tillion pointed out “the tragic easiness [during the Holocaust] with which ‘decent’ people could become the most callous executioners without seeming to notice what was happening to them.” The Russian novelist Vasily Grossman in his book “Forever Flowing” observed that “the new state did not require holy apostles, fanatic, inspired builders, faithful, devout disciples. The new state did not even require servants—just clerks.”
“The most nauseating type of S.S. were to me personally the cynics who no longer genuinely believed in their cause, but went on collecting blood guilt for its own sake,” wrote Dr. Ella Lingens-Reiner in “Prisoners of Fear,” her searing memoir of Auschwitz. “Those cynics were not always brutal to the prisoners, their behavior changed with their mood. They took nothing seriously—neither themselves nor their cause, neither us nor our situation. One of the worst among them was Dr. Mengele, the Camp Doctor I have mentioned before. When a batch of newly arrived Jews was being classified into those fit for work and those fit for death, he would whistle a melody and rhythmically jerk his thumb over his right or his left shoulder—which meant ‘gas’ or ‘work.’ He thought conditions in the camp rotten, and even did a few things to improve them, but at the same time he committed murder callously, without any qualms.”
These armies of bureaucrats serve a corporate system that will quite literally kill us. They are as cold and disconnected as Mengele. They carry out minute tasks. They are docile. Compliant. They obey. They find their self-worth in the prestige and power of the corporation, in the status of their positions and in their career promotions. They assure themselves of their own goodness through their private acts as husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. They sit on school boards. They go to Rotary. They attend church. It is moral schizophrenia. They erect walls to create an isolated consciousness. They make the lethal goals of ExxonMobil or Goldman Sachs or Raytheon or insurance companies possible. They destroy the ecosystem, the economy and the body politic and turn workingmen and -women into impoverished serfs. They feel nothing. Metaphysical naiveté always ends in murder. It fragments the world. Little acts of kindness and charity mask the monstrous evil they abet. And the system rolls forward. The polar ice caps melt. The droughts rage over cropland. The drones deliver death from the sky. The state moves inexorably forward to place us in chains. The sick die. The poor starve. The prisons fill. And the careerist, plodding forward, does his or her job.
Source: Chris Hedges | Truthdig
The EU’s unilateral sanctions come after the United States targeted Iran with a set of sanctions against the country’s Central Bank and a number of individuals and companies and threatened to penalize the foreign firms and banks which have financial transactions with Iranian counterparts.
The sanctions are not unprecedented and unexpected for the Iranians, as the United States began to cut off its economic deals with Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 which toppled the Washington-backed Shah; however, what is new and surprising is that the United States and its European allies are extraordinarily intensifying the sanctions, tightening the noose around the ordinary Iranians who are unquestionably the innocent and silent victims of the West’s vitriolic animosity with Iran.
Perhaps what the majority of people in different countries think about Iran’s nuclear program which is the main cause of the West’s hostility with Iran is inspired by the mainstream media’s coverage of the developments in the country. After the painful 9/11 attacks which was followed by George W. Bush’s initiation of the War on Terror plan, the corporate media began to disseminate and foster anti-Iranian sentiments as part of their agenda for demonizing the Muslims and Muslim-majority countries. Iran was dubbed as one of the elements of the so-called Axis of Evil by President Bush during his 2002 State of the Union address and a venomous media campaign against Iran was set in motion afterwards.
Aggrandizing the shortcomings and internal problems, frequently accusing the country of violating human rights, propagating the idea that Iran has become an isolated and reclusive country and portraying a distorted and falsified image of Iranian people and their lifestyle constituted the core of Western mainstream media’s coverage of Iran over the past years. Such a biased coverage laid the groundwork for the United States and its allies to put an excessive pressure on Iran, work to further isolate the country, adopt crippling sanctions against her and even drum-beat for a possible military invasion with the final objective of a regime change in Tehran.
President Bush and his successor who came to power with the flaunting and pompous slogan of “change” identically pursued a policy of antagonism with Iran and although the latter had vowed to take up reconciliation and détente with Iran, he exactly imitated what his predecessor has done.
On September 30, 2006, the U.S. Congress ratified the Iran Freedom and Support Act which allocated $10 million to anti-Iranian groups both inside and outside the country who were seeking to overthrow the Iranian government.
On May 27, 2007, Daily Telegraph quoted intelligence sources as reporting that President Bush had given the CIA approval to launch covert “black” operations to achieve regime change in Iran. According to the British paper, Bush had signed an official document endorsing CIA plans for a campaign of propaganda and disinformation intended to destabilize and eventually topple the Islamic Republic government.
Bush’s plan also included covert support for notorious terrorist gangs such as Jundallah and MKO which over the past years have carried out several terrorist operations across Iran, claiming the lives of tens of innocent civilians. The main goal of these cults is to sabotage Iran’s security and pave the way for the United States and its allies to invade Iran and implement their perilous plans for the country.
According to an ABC News report published on May 22, 2007, some former officials in the Bush administration who spoke on the condition of anonymity revealed that the U.S. government had designed plans for manipulating the value of Iran’s currency and damaging its international financial transactions.
They also unveiled that the U.S. government which has been involved in several regime change operations in such countries as Syria, Guatemala, Indonesia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Greece, Chile, Argentina, Afghanistan, Turkey, Poland and Nicaragua since the World War I had authorized a $400 million covert operation to create unrest in Iran, especially following the 2009 presidential election in which the defeated candidates claimed that the results had been rigged.
At the same time, however, the leaders of the United States and the European states who imposed upon Iran a set of relentless biting sanctions hypocritically talk of friendship with the Iranian nation and state that they seek rapprochement and camaraderie with Iran.
In his March 2009 videotaped message to the Iranian people on the occasion of Persian New Year (Nowrouz), the U.S. President Obama adored Persian culture, civilization, arts and literature and overtly cajoled Iranians with the aim of persuading them to confide in the United States and its policies vis-à-vis Iran: ” In particular, I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nowruz is just one part of your great and celebrated culture. Over many centuries your art, your music, literature and innovation have made the world a better and more beautiful place… Here in the United States our own communities have been enhanced by the contributions of Iranian Americans. We know that you are a great civilization, and your accomplishments have earned the respect of the United States and the world.”
Thereafter, he turned to the leaders of Iran to reach out to them directly: “we have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community. This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.”
President Obama appreciated Iranian culture and talked of his commitment to diplomacy and negotiations with Iran; however, by the end of the same year, he authorized the renewal of the long-standing U.S. financial sanctions against Iran, provoking a wave of anger and disappointment among Iranians.
In the following years, President Obama recorded similar videotaped messages on the occasion of Nowrouz, and despite the fact that his tone got unsympathetic over time, he still insisted on his being concerned for the Iranians and their “rights.”
With regards to Iran, the Western politicians, including President Obama, seemingly follow a modus operandi of “divide and rule.” They want to separate the Iranian government and people and pretend that they care for the interests of the Iranians, and at the same time, oppose the policies of the government; a government which they say has long repressed its own people, while the reality proves otherwise.
Now, the gist of Iran-West standoff can be expressed this way: the United States and its allies demand that Iran should give up its nuclear rights and make other concessions. Iran doesn’t accept these demands, calling them illegitimate and beyond its liability. The West doesn’t spare any effort to punish Iran: sanctions, assassination of its nuclear scientists, passing resolutions in the UN Security Council, psychological operations and other punitive measures. Iranians have firmly tolerated the pressures to show that they don’t give in to bullying. The future is unclear and blurred; however, what is certain is that the ones who bear the burden of West’s hostility toward Iran are the ordinary people.
The sanctions have targeted Iran’s medical sector. Aside from the official data which show that many European countries have banned the shipment of different medicines to Iran, my personal observations prove that Iran is direly running out of sensitive medical products, including medicine for psychological patients, those who suffer from various types of cancer, diabetes, hemophilia, thalassemia, multiple sclerosis and heart diseases. I’ve personally encountered patients who needed medicine from countries such as Canada and Belgium, but as a result of the sanctions, they couldn’t find them. Aren’t such diabolical sanctions contrary to the principles of human rights? Why don’t those who preach human rights and democracy take the fact into consideration that banning the export of medicine to a country whose people are in dire need of such products is simply a collective punishment of innocent civilians?
Every year, tens of Iranian citizens are killed in painful air accidents, which is a direct result of the U.S.-engineered sanctions against Iran. According to the U.S. sanctions which were implemented almost 30 years ago, the European aviation companies are not allowed to sell aircrafts to Iran and the aging fleet of Iranian airlines cannot accommodate the growing demand of the people for safe and secure air travels. According to the chancellor of Amir Kabir University of Iran, the country needs at least 600 civilian aircraft, but no country sells Iran such a huge number of aircrafts and the people always travel via Iranian airliners in an atmosphere of trepidation and anxiety.
Overall, what is clear is that the sanctions game started by the U.S. and its European allies has no winner. It simply blackens the image of the Western superpowers in the eye of Iranian people and makes them believe that the United States and its cronies cannot ever be trusted.
It is now pretty much a matter of record that, after World War II, refugees from Europe landed in Palestine and started a massive terrorist blitzkrieg campaign, massacring thousands of Christians and Muslims in their wake. In a vast display of ethnic cleansing similar to what had previously happened in Europe, approximately 500 local towns were destroyed, 15,000 residents of Palestine were killed and 750,000 more were expelled. Local residents of this area (the ones who actually survived, that is) started referring to this premeditated slaughter as “al Nakba” — The Catastrophe.
And a second “Nakba” is apparently now in the works.
According to University of Chicago political science professor John Mearsheimer, “Given the right circumstances – say a war involving Israel that is accompanied by serious Palestinian unrest – Israeli leaders might conclude that they can expel massive numbers of Palestinians from Greater Israel and depend on the lobby to protect them from international criticism and especially from sanctions. We should not underestimate Israel’s willingness to employ such a horrific strategy if the opportunity presents itself.” http://www.silviacattori.net/
Are the land-grabbing neo-cons and faux-Jewish corporatists who now run Israel actually contemplating the instigation of an actual Second Nakba? Holy yikes! Are they seriously actually thinking about starting a second wide-ranging slaughter and ethnic cleansing on the scale of the first Nakba? Perhaps under the cover of a war on Iran? Good grief.
Both strategically and morally, that whole idea sucks eggs.
But then I got an e-mail from a Palestinian friend of mine who lives on the West Bank and he said that his village had just been brutally invaded by a needlessly-large number of highly-armed Israeli neo-con occupation forces.
“During the invasion last night,” wrote my friend, “one of the soldiers stole 1000 Nis (200€) from a moneybox of the youngest brother of my neighbor Mosab. Mosab’s brother had been saving this money for months, little by little from his work as a vegetable farmer and salesman. A laptop was also stolen from the house.
“Throughout the operation the soldiers fired sound grenades, a type of riot control weapon that produces a flash and a loud bang. The sound is sufficient to make the most weathered and well-prepared person flinch in fear and when this weapon is used inside a village at night, it will not only serve to keep people awake but also to bring about memories of past atrocities that the village of Ni’lin has had to live through.
“Many villagers came out of their houses to protest the brutality of the Israeli army and were met with tear gas and more sound bombs. The tear gas was fired straight at civilian houses which caused dozens children to suffer from tear gas inhalation. Live ammunition was also used by the Israeli soldiers as a scare tactic.”
And, right at this very moment, this type of malicious military activity is going on constantly all over the West Bank. Constantly. Night and day. Occupation armies and armed settlers constantly swoop down upon Palestinian citizens night and day. No one is safe. And there are all-too-many instances where the occupation armies shoot Palestinian children, shop-keepers and farmers, steal Palestinian goods, defecate in Palestinian homes and piss in their water supplies. To say the least.
Sure, maybe some day another full-scale blitzkrieg-style Nakba invasion of armed soldiers, settlers and thugs may suddenly descend en mass upon occupied Palestine and expel every single Christian and Muslim Palestinian in “Greater Isreal” to the other side of the Jordan River, into Lebanon and Syria, or over into Egypt. And this would be dramatic as hell and make the front pages of all the newspapers. Sure.
But in the meantime, another “Second Nakba” has actually already begun: The Nakba by a Thousand Cuts.
According to Mearsheimer, “There are now about 480,000 settlers in the Occupied Territories and a huge infrastructure of connector and bypass roads… Between 1993 and 2000, Israel confiscated 40,000 acres of Palestinian land, constructed 250 miles of connector and bypass roads, doubled the number of settlers, and built 30 new settlements…. [And since then,] the Israeli prime minister has not only refused to stop building the 2500 housing units that were under construction in the West Bank, but just to make it clear to Obama who was boss, in late June 2009, he authorized the building of 300 new homes in the West Bank. Netanyahu refused to even countenance any limits on settlement building in East Jerusalem, which is supposed to be the capital of a Palestinian state.”
I could write more about this death by a thousand cuts but what good would it do. The Second Nakba has already begun. And nobody seems to care — except for its victims. History is repeating itself here. This is so much like Germany in 1933 when corporatists started establishing prisons-for-profit and nobody cared what happened to the Jews. And it’s also like South Africa in 1962 when corporatists took control of establishing Bantustans and nobody cared what happened to the Blacks.
And will this also be like America in a few more years, after corporatists have also seized absolute power here — and nobody will care what happens to us either?
Here’s another example of a forced population displacement that nobody cared about, one that was overseen by Britain and the United States (not by Nazis), involved 13 million Europeans and cost approximately 500,000 to 2,000,000 lives, including the lives of 7,000 children under the age of five:
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Between 1945 and 1950, Europe witnessed the largest episode of forced migration, and perhaps the single greatest movement of population, in human history. Between 12 million and 14 million German-speaking civilians—the overwhelming majority of whom were women, old people, and children under 16—were forcibly ejected from their places of birth in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and what are today the western districts of Poland.
“As The New York Times noted in December 1945, the number of people the Allies proposed to transfer in just a few months was about the same as the total number of all the immigrants admitted to the United States since the beginning of the 20th century. They were deposited among the ruins of Allied-occupied Germany to fend for themselves as best they could. The number who died as a result of starvation, disease, beatings, or outright execution is unknown, but conservative estimates suggest that at least 500,000 people lost their lives in the course of the operation.” http://chronicle.com/article/
Are we having fun yet?
I was recently thinking about all the wars that America has been in over time, and then started listing them. Let’s see. There’s been America’s various wars on the Middle East, that Korean “police action”, World War I, World War II, the American Civil War, Vietnam, the Central American Wars, the Cold War and also various covert wars where other countries did the fighting but Washington supplied the cash — such as the violent and tragic fall of democratic governments in the Congo and Iran.
But when we consider the Big Picture, did any of these wars ever even make even the slightest difference — other than to make innumerable American citizens poorer and/or deader?
Even World War II, which was supposed to keep us safe from corporatism? But did it? Now that a kinder, gentler form of corporatism currently runs the world? Or what about World War I, which was supposed to keep us safe for democracy? Under Citizens United, is our democracy now all that safe? Or take Vietnam, which was supposed to keep us safe from China — the landlord who now holds our mortgage?
Did any of these wars make any difference at all? Other than to kill approximately one billion people and waste trillions of dollars and destroy untold resources — which we now desperately need? Not really. And nobody had fun during any of them either.
Hitler is 123, and he is alive and well. The Führer is going strong not because a vast neo-Nazi conspiracy is about to take over the Western world, kill the Jews, expel the Muslims and make April 20 the Day of Aryan Rebirth, but because he is an all-time favorite of the neoconservative-neoliberal duopoly at home and abroad.
When you advocate bombing a faraway nation of which we know little, call its leader a new Hitler (and, by extension, condemn the failure to bomb as a new “Munich”). When you want to discredit domestic opponents of migratory population replacement or abortion, compare them to Hitler. When you want to demonize the European civilization, Christian religion, national identity, or traditional culture, Hitler is ready. Six decades after the phenomenon was defined by Leo Strauss as reductio ad Hitlerum, the practice is more widely spread than ever. If you dislike a person/policy/idea, find a Hitlerian point of contact and thus prove that the PPI in question is a priori bad, mad and worthy of criminalization.
The final corollary of the concept is that we are all potential Hitlers, and only by vigilantly guarding against deviant thoughts (“I like Americans better than Somalis”), emotions (“I enjoy the Master Singersmore than Porgy & Bess”) and practices (“I enjoy walking my German Shepherd in the Bavarian Alps”) can we protect ourselves from the lure of the inner Adolf.
There are literally thousands of offerings to illustrate the syndrome, starting with A for AHMADINEJAD…
- Newt Gingrich calls Iran’s president a new Hitler, says that he is as big a threat to global security as Adolf Hitler was in the 1930s.
- In interview (April 2009), acting Israeli prime minister Olmert said the Iranian president “speaks as Hitler did in his time …”
- U.S. Senator compares Ahmadinejad to Hitler and makes fun of his name.
- Mitt Romney likened Ahmadinejad to Hitler in a speech to Jewish university.
- Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post on “finishing Hitler’s work”: “His successors now reside in Tehran… Hitler was only slightly more direct when he announced seven months before invading Poland that, if there was another war, ‘the result will be . . . the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.’ … When Iran’s mullahs acquire their coveted nukes in the next few years, the number of Jews in Israel will just be reaching 6 million. Never again?”
One-hundred twenty-three years after Hitler’s birth, an attempt to advance towards normalization of his person and legacy is both possible and necessary. It need not and must not end up either in trivializing his grotesque record or in succumbing to the temptations of the historian’s prejudices. Perhaps a barrier will always separate us and him, but the effort is intellectually and morally legitimate.
It cannot be done for as long as he is alive and well, thanks to those who profess to abhor him. On current form the world deserves him. Many happy returns, Adi!
The Holy Triumvirate — The United States, NATO, and the European Union — or an approved segment thereof, can usually get what they want. They wanted Saddam Hussein out, and soon he was swinging from a rope. They wanted the Taliban ousted from power, and, using overwhelming force, that was achieved rather quickly. They wanted Moammar Gaddafi’s rule to come to an end, and before very long he suffered a horrible death. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was democratically elected, but this black man who didn’t know his place was sent into distant exile by the United States and France in 2004. Iraq and Libya were the two most modern, educated and secular states in the Middle East; now all four of these countries could qualify as failed states.
These are some of the examples from the past decade of how the Holy Triumvirate recognizes no higher power and believes, literally, that they can do whatever they want in the world, to whomever they want, for as long as they want, and call it whatever they want, like “humanitarian intervention”. The 19th- and 20th-century colonialist-imperialist mentality is alive and well in the West.
Next on their agenda: the removal of Bashar al-Assad of Syria. As with Gaddafi, the ground is being laid with continual news reports — from CNN to al Jazeera — of Assad’s alleged barbarity, presented as both uncompromising and unprovoked. After months of this media onslaught who can doubt that what’s happening in Syria is yet another of those cherished Arab Spring “popular uprisings” against a “brutal dictator” who must be overthrown? And that the Assad government is overwhelmingly the cause of the violence.
Assad actually appears to have a large measure of popularity, not only in Syria, but elsewhere in the Middle East. This includes not just fellow Alawites, but Syria’s two million Christians and no small number of Sunnis. Gaddafi had at least as much support in Libya and elsewhere in Africa. The difference between the two cases, at least so far, is that the Holy Triumvirate bombed and machine-gunned Libya daily for seven months, unceasingly, crushing the pro-government forces, as well as Gaddafi himself, and effecting the Triumvirate’s treasured “regime change”. Now, rampant chaos, anarchy, looting and shooting, revenge murders, tribal war, militia war, religious war, civil war, the most awful racism against the black population, loss of their cherished welfare state, and possible dismemberment of the country into several mini-states are the new daily life for the Libyan people. The capital city of Tripoli is “wallowing in four months of uncollected garbage” because the landfill is controlled by a faction that doesn’t want the trash of another faction.1 Just imagine what has happened to the country’s infrastructure. This may be what Syria has to look forward to if the Triumvirate gets its way, although the Masters of the Universe undoubtedly believe that the people of Libya should be grateful to them for their “liberation”.
As to the current violence in Syria, we must consider the numerous reports of forces providing military support to the Syrian rebels — the UK, France, the US, Turkey, Israel, Qatar, the Gulf states, and everyone’s favorite champion of freedom and democracy, Saudi Arabia; with Syria claiming to have captured some 14 French soldiers; plus individual jihadists and mercenaries from Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, et al, joining the anti-government forces, their number including al-Qaeda veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are likely behind the car bombs in an attempt to create chaos and destabilize the country. This may mark the third time the United States has been on the same side as al-Qaeda, adding to Afghanistan and Libya.
Stratfor, the private and conservative American intelligence firm with high-level connections, reported that “most of the opposition’s more serious claims have turned out to be grossly exaggerated or simply untrue.” Opposition groups including the Syrian National Council, the Free Syrian Army and the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights began disseminating “claims that regime forces besieged Homs and imposed a 72-hour deadline for Syrian defectors to surrender themselves and their weapons or face a potential massacre.” That news made international headlines. Stratfor’s investigation, however, found “no signs of a massacre,” and declared that “opposition forces have an interest in portraying an impending massacre, hoping to mimic the conditions that propelled a foreign military intervention in Libya.” Stratfor added that any suggestions of massacres are unlikely because the Syrian “regime has calibrated its crackdowns to avoid just such a scenario. Regime forces have been careful to avoid the high casualty numbers that could lead to an intervention based on humanitarian grounds.”2
Reva Bhalla, Stratfor’s Director of Analysis, reported in a December 2011 email on a meeting she attended at the Pentagon about Syria: “After a couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF [Special Operation Forces] teams (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground focused on recce [reconnaissance] missions and training opposition forces.” We know of Bhalla’s comments thanks to the 5 million Stratfor emails obtained by the Internet hacker group Anonymous in December and passed on to Wikileaks.3
Human Rights Watch has reported that both Syrian government security forces and Syria’s armed rebels have committed serious human rights abuses, including kidnapings, torture, and executions. But only the Holy Triumvirate can get away with the sanctions they love to impose. Assad’s wife is now banned from traveling to EU countries and any assets she may have there are frozen. Same for Assad’s mother, sister and sister-in-law, as well as eight of his government ministers. Assad himself received the same treatment last May.4Because the Triumvirate can.
On March 25, the US and Turkish governments announced that they were discussing sending non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition, implying quite clearly that until then they had not been engaged in such activity.5 But according to a US embassy cable, revealed by Wikileaks, since at least 2006 the United States has been funding political opposition groups in Syria as well as the London-based satellite TV channel, Barada TV, run by Syrian exiles, that beams anti-government programming into the country. The cable further stated that Syrian authorities “would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change.”
Regime change in Syria has been on the neo-conservative wish list since at least 2002 when John Bolton, Undersecretary of State under George W. Bush, came up with a project to simultaneously break up Libya and Syria. He called the two states along with Cuba “The Axis Of Evil”. On a FOX News appearance in 2011 Bolton said that the United States should have overthrown the Syrian government right after they overthrew Saddam Hussein. Amongst Syria’s crimes have been their close relations with Iran, Hezbollah (in Lebanon), the Palestinian resistance, and Russia, and their failure to conclude a peace treaty with Israel, unlike Jordan and Egypt; all this constituting evidence to the Holy Triumvirate of Syria, like Aristide, being “uppity”.
The clinical megalomania of the Holy Triumvirate can scarcely be exaggerated. And never prosecuted.
A closing word from Cui Tiankai, Chinese vice foreign minister for United States affairs:
The US has the strongest military in the world and spends more than any other country. But the US always feels unsafe or insecure about other countries. … I suggest the United States spend more time thinking about how to make other countries feel less worried about the United States.6
President Obama’s Accomplishments
Last month, Alan S. Hoffman, an American professor from Washington University in St. Louis, was forbidden by the US Treasury Department to travel to Cuba to give classes in a course on biomaterials.7
At the same time, the State Department refused to grant two Cuban diplomats in Washington, DC permission to travel to New York City to speak at The Left Forum, the largest annual gathering of the left in the United States, which this year attracted over 5,000 people.8
The State Department has also been occupied recently with preventing Cuba from being invited to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia in April.9
And that’s just the past month.
I mention all this to keep in mind the next time President Obama or one of his supporters lists US relations with Cuba as one of his accomplishments.
And I still cannot go to Cuba legally.
Another claim the Obamabots are fond of making to defend their man is that he’s abolished torture. That sounds very nice, but there’s no good reason to accept it at face value. Shortly after Obama’s inauguration, both he and Leon Panetta, the new Director of the CIA, explicitly stated that “rendition” was not being ended. As the Los Angeles Times reported: “Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.”10
The English translation of “cooperate” is “torture”. Rendition is equal to torture. There was no other reason to take prisoners to Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Somalia, Kosovo, or the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, to name some of the known torture centers frequented by the home of the brave. Kosovo and Diego Garcia — both of which house very large and secretive American military bases — if not some of the other locations, may well still be open for torture business. The same for Guantánamo. Moreover, the executive order concerning torture, issued January 22, 2009 — “Executive Order 13491 — Ensuring Lawful Interrogations” — leaves loopholes, such as being applicable only “in any armed conflict”. Thus, torture by Americans outside environments of “armed conflict”, which is where much torture in the world happens anyway, is not prohibited. And what about torture in a “counter-terrorism” environment?
One of Mr. Obama’s orders required the CIA to use only the interrogation methods outlined in a revised Army Field Manual. However, using the Army Field Manual as a guide to prisoner treatment and interrogation still allows solitary confinement, perceptual or sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, the induction of fear and hopelessness, mind-altering drugs, environmental manipulation such as temperature and perhaps noise, and possibly stress positions and sensory overload.
After Panetta was questioned by a Senate panel, the New York Times wrote that he had “left open the possibility that the agency could seek permission to use interrogation methods more aggressive than the limited menu that President Obama authorized under new rules … Mr. Panetta also said the agency would continue the Bush administration practice of ‘rendition’ — picking terrorism suspects off the street and sending them to a third country. But he said the agency would refuse to deliver a suspect into the hands of a country known for torture or other actions “that violate our human values.”11
Just as no one in the Bush and Obama administrations has been punished in any way for war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the other countries they waged illegal war against, no one has been punished for torture. And, it could be added, no American bankster has been punished for their indispensable role in the world-wide financial torture. What a marvelously forgiving land is America. This, however, does not apply to Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.
In the last days of the Bush White House, Michael Ratner, professor at Columbia Law School and former president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, pointed out:
The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it. I don’t see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable.12
I’d like at this point to remind my dear readers of the words of the “Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”, which was drafted by the United Nations in 1984, came into force in 1987, and ratified by the United States in 1994. Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
Such marvelously clear, unequivocal, and principled language, to set a single standard for a world that makes it increasingly difficult for one to feel proud of humanity. We cannot slide back.
From a document found at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan after his assassination last May: A call to kill President Obama because “Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make Biden take over the presidency. … Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis.13
So … it would appear that the man America loved to hate and fear was no more knowledgeable of how United States foreign policy works than is the average American. What difference in the War on Terror — for better or for worse — against the likes of bin Laden and his al Qaeda followers could there have been over the past three years if Joe Biden had been the president? Biden was an outspoken supporter of the war against Iraq and is every bit the pro-Israel fanatic that Obama is. In his 35 years in the US Senate Biden avidly supported every American war of aggression including the attacks on Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989, Iraq in 1991, Yugoslavia in 1999 and Afghanistan in 2001. Whatever was Osama bin Laden thinking?
And whatever was Joe Biden thinking when he recently said the following after hosting China’s presumptive next leader Xi Jinping in a visit to the United States?
America holds at least one key economic advantage over China. Because China’s authoritarian government represses its own citizens, they don’t think freely or innovate. “Why have they not become [one of] the most innovative countries in the world? Why is there a need to steal our intellectual property? Why is there a need to have a business hand over its trade secrets to have access to a market of a billion, three hundred million people? Because they’re not innovating.” Noting that China and similar countries produce many engineers and scientists but few innovators, Biden said, “It’s impossible to think different in a country where you can’t speak freely. It’s impossible to think different when you have to worry what you put on the Internet will either be confiscated or you will be arrested. It’s impossible to think different where orthodoxy reigns. That’s why we remain the most innovative country in the world.”14
Holy Cold War, Batman! This is exactly the kind of stuff we were told about the Soviet Union. For years and years. For decades. Then came Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to be put into Earth’s orbit. It was launched into an Earth orbit by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1′s success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the Space Race. The USSR’s launch of Sputnik spurred the United States to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency to regain a technological lead. Not only did the launch of Sputnik spur America to action in the space race, it also led directly to the creation of NASA. 15
- Washington Post, April 1, 2012
- Huffington Post, December 19, 2011
- See the document on WikiLeaks
- Washington Post, March 24, 2012
- Ibid., March 26, 2012
- Ibid., January 10, 2012
- Prensa Latina (Cuba), March 18, 2012
- See the video description on Cuba’s UN Ambassador at Left Forum ’12
- BBC News, “Ecuador to boycott Americas summit over Cuba exclusion“, April 3, 2012
- Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2009
- New York Times, February 6, 2009
- Associated Press, November 17, 2008
- Washington Post, March 16, 2012
- Ibid., March 1, 2012
- Wikipedia entry for Sputnik 1
On March 15, over 1,500 beekeepers and their allies marched thru the streets of Warsaw, depositing thousands of dead bees on the steps of the Ministry of Agriculture, in protest of genetically modified foods and their requisite pesticides which are killing bees, moths and other agriculturally-beneficial insects around the globe.
Later that day the Minister of Agriculture, Marek Sawicki, announced plans to ban MON810, which has becomeineffective at deterring pests in the US.
GM crops and the pesticides used with them have led to a host of problems (itemized here), including the development of new pathogens. One is associated with spontaneous abortion in cattle and another is responsible for massive methane foaming on manure lagoons which explode, killing thousands of animals in the US since 2001.
The Polish Beekeepers Association organized the protest, joining forces with International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside (ICPPC) and the Coalition for a GMO Free Poland. Targeting Monsanto’s MON810 GM corn in particular, they also called for a complete ban on all GM crops and harmful pesticides.
In 2008, the Polish Parliament banned GM feed, including both the planting and importing of GM crops. “Despite this progressive step,” reports Food Travels, “the European Commission has refused to accept regional bans on GMOs, keeping Polish farmers, producers, and activists on the offensive.”
Regardless, says the ICPPC, “None of the nine European Union countries that have already prohibited MON 810 did so by asking the permission of the EU.”
Beekeepers dressed in their traditional working uniforms and ran their hive smoke guns as they marched. Some wore yellow jackets with the misattributed quote of Albert Einstein warning that if bees were to die, humanity would soon suffer the same fate. Though he did not say it, it’s true. Most food crops rely on bees for pollination.
Others wore a variety of original costumes, sported signs and banners and carried bee-like objects to draw attention to the plight of these all-important pollinators. More pictures at Stop GMO Festival.
The ICPPC is asking Polish residents to write Minister of Agriculture Marek Sawicki, demanding that he implement an immediate moratorium on GM crops, without waiting for EU approval:
tel.: 0048 226231510; fax: 0048 226231788
The Organic Consumers Assn. collected info about other actions around the planet during the Shut Down Monsanto Days of Action last week, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Greece, Romania and, of course, the US.
On Jan. 26, 2012, the European Union and 22 member states signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced. They have now joined the US and seven other nations that signed the treaty last October.
Though initiated by the US, Japan is the official depository of the treaty.
Removal of the Three Strikes clause, in which users accused of three counts of piracy would be barred from the Internet, paved the way for the EU to adopt ACTA last month.
Related to ACTA, a chapter in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) “would have state signatories adopt even more restrictive copyright measures than ACTA,” reports the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Both ACTA and TPP were developed without public input and outside international trade groups, like the World Trade Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Leaked cables published by Wikileaks in 2009 exposed early drafts of ACTA, resulting in a firestorm of controversy. Those cables, coupled with later releases, showed that ACTA negotiations began in 2006 and were controversial even to participating states. An historical summary of the treaty’s progress through December can be found here.
ACTA Violates Magna Carta and US Constitution
Like PIPA and SOPA, two domestic internet censorship bills that prompted major websites to blacken their name or website in a Jan. 18th protest, ACTA allows accusers of copyright infringement to bypass judicial review.
Please support my work by reading the full piece at Activist Post. Thanks!
The following info was read to me by a policeman from an internal report, for obvious reasons I cannot name the officer, but as far as I know all the info is correct:
Another body of a foreign national is found at Sandringham, young girls are brought into Britian by the lure of jobs and forced into prostitution, those that run away are often murdered when caught, Ex police chielf Julie Spence under Operation Radium closed 120 brothels in the Kings Lynn general area and the captive migrants released.
The town of Spalding in Lincolnshire is dominated totally by Polish incomers, they in the main were brought in by the lure of jobs and homes advertised in polish in their own country The town has seen huge building projects to house them all. They now have their own pubs, shops and clubs and by and large send their money home. There are all polish streets and shops where no English is spoken nor understood.
Weekends are often like a battlefield. Although there are Poles that are polite and law abiding, a number of Poles get drunk and fight the hated British, the Orientals and the Russians from Boston Lincolnshire, and even between themselves. The police station at Spalding has just 2 cells and at weekends with often 40 drunken brawling prisoners all screamimg for an interpreter and a solicitor, we cannot cope, so the police station is shut and they all have to be ferried to Grantham some considerable distance away, Grantham have their own problems and dont want ours but what esle can we do?
The locals stay indoors at weekends because of the loud intimidation by large groups of Poles. Many immigrant workers drink while driving and many have no legal documentation, but for good community relations we are told to go easy on them, manpower is a constant problem we never have enough men and they know it.
John Prescott has promised a million new houses in the London Corridor, this is the agricultural land between Norfolk and London. This is not needed for our people but for the expected incomers. The police have demanded the promise for more funding and more men for this huge new landmass, and this promise has not been given. The chief Constable Julie Spence would not be browbeaten by politicians and so was replaced by yes man Richard Crompton nice guy but more intrerested in promoting equality and gayness among staff than fighting crime.
Police moral is at rock bottom, these incomers just do as they please, and this is seen as the way to keep the peace. Julie Spences initiative was aimed at clearing out all the foreign run brothels, of the women and young lads who were forced into prostitution.
The politicians then had to deal with the problems and Julie was replaced. Hiding among the polish community on fake passports are many Russians. They allegedly spy for military economic and strategic purposes, and who allegedly like some Irish migrant workers on the Lump schemes, work all year and go home for 3 weeks then back claim all their tax payments, many of these returning home will borrow up to the maximum on their credit cards, go home then come back weeks later with new identification papers.
A Russian community leader told me, ” we have wupped the poles before and if it comes to it we will do it again.” Julie Spence also clamped down on the huge betting and gambling that went on at dogfights and bare knuckle bouts and where women were auctioned off as sex slaves. This is now blossoming again since she left office. Norfolk fares no better, Kings Lynn once described as the most unfreindly town in Britain feels they are under seige.
The recent showdown between the Soviet bloc and the chinese meant the chinese all moved out, but a secret report was commissioned by senior officers on the probabilty of a mass flare up with a turf war between the Lithuanians and the Latvians, but both settled their differences when the Huge portugese communities threatened to take away jobs through their own gangmasters.
In short Norfolk is a big a tinderbox as Lincolnshire, with local people very irritated that the very government who gave these people their jobs, harrasses them because there is no more work for them. The recent stabbing of a polish man at the Notting Hill carnival has brought tit-for-tat beatings between black gangs and polish gangs. This threatens to get much bigger and uglier with black street gangs saying they will come up from the cities to teach the poles a lesson. kings Lynn Norfolk police recently had a secret investigation into corruption and bribery charges.
Norwich and Lowestoft police found wealthy migarnt bosses had police and allegedly the ex MP George Turner in their pocket to turna blind eye to certain activities. When one Kings Lynn brothel was raided they caught several migrants a policeman with an exemplary record and an elderly Evangelical church leader with a young lad.
The local MP Henry Bellingham allegedly says his hands are tied by government policy to favour incomers for work and he cannot do any more than he does, but politicians worry that parties such as the National Front and BNP are a big draw and try to sidestep them at every turn using fair means and foul. The public have seen through the racist slurs and know its government policies which are racist not the people.
So next time you come across a short tempered policeman think about how hard it is for him. Government people trafficking under the guise of multicuturalism is a miserable failure. The British people have given up hard won homes and jobs to outsiders, but Lincolnshire Cambridgeshire and and Norfolk are counties under seige, the local people want jobs not homosexual preachings. Many policemen are so sick of political correctness, the job is affecting my marriage and I may go off sick.
The Head Of The IMF Warns Of A “1930s Depression”
Are we on the verge of another Great Depression? Christian Lagarde, the head of the IMF, said this week that if dramatic action is not taken immediately we could actually see conditions “reminiscent of the 1930s depression” and that no country on earth “will be immune to the crisis”. Right now, financial panic is sweeping across Europe, but most Americans are not too concerned about it because they simply don’t understand how important the EU is. The truth is that the EU has a much larger population than the United States does. The EU has an economy that is nearly as large as the economies of the United States and China combined. The EU hasmore Fortune 500 companies that the United States does, and the banking system of Europe is substantially larger than the banking system of the United States. Anyone out there that believes that a massive financial collapse in Europe would not dramatically affect the rest of the globe is being delusional. The European debt crisis is one of the biggest stories that we have seen in a long, long time and the coming financial meltdown is going to permanently change the global economy.
So far, politicians in Europe have held 19 high-level emergency meetings in an attempt to solve this crisis.
All of their efforts have failed.
Right now, this is the situation in Europe….
-Most EU governments are drowning in toxic levels of debt
-Bond yields have risen dramatically this year and this has caused borrowing costs for most EU members to soar
-In an attempt to get debt under control, governments all over Europe are implementing brutal austerity measures and this is causing European economies to slow down substantially
-There is a tremendous lack of confidence in the European financial system at this point and this is causing a massive credit crunch
-The credit crunch is causing the money supply to drop significantly in almost every nation in the EU
-Major banks all over Europe are massively overleveraged and are on the verge of failing
This is all so similar to what we saw back during the early 1930s.
In fact, things have gotten so bad that prominent world leaders are now using apocalyptic language when describing the situation in Europe.
Just check out what the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, recently said about Europe. Speaking at a State Department conference in Washington D.C. this week, Lagarde made the following very shocking statements….
*“The world economic outlook at the moment is not particularly rosy. It is quite gloomy”
*“There is no economy in the world, whether low-income countries, emerging markets, middle-income countries or super-advanced economies that will be immune to the crisis that we see not only unfolding but escalating”
*“It is not a crisis that will be resolved by one group of countries taking action. It is going to be hopefully resolved by all countries, all regions, all categories of countries actually taking action.”
*“No country or region is immune. All must take action to boost growth. Work must start in the eurozone countries and must continue relentlessly. The risks of inaction include protectionism, isolation and other elements reminiscent of the 1930s depression.”
*“This is exactly the description of what happened in the 1930s, and what followed is not something we are looking forward to.”
But didn’t the politicians in Europe recently reach a deal which was supposed to fix all this?
Well, unfortunately the deal basically did nothing to fix the underlying financial problems that Europe is facing.
In fact, global financial markets seem entirely unimpressed by this recent deal. A recent article by Professor Peter Morici detailed some of the problems with the deal….
Investors are rejecting the euro deal, because the agreement does not effectively meet the funding needs of Italy and other Mediterranean governments, address the weak balance sheets of European commercial banks, or fix the underlying structural flaws in the euro architecture.
The €440 billion European Financial Stability Facility is providing short-term funding—guaranteed by 17 Eurozone member states as a whole—to tide over the more troubled governments.
However, those bailouts impose huge cuts in spending and tax increases. Coupled with austerity plans also adopted by France and other healthier European states, those packages are pushing Europe into a recession that could last several years.
What is even worse is that there are signs that this recent deal is already unraveling. Some EU nations have decided that they are not sure that they want to go along with the program.
The following comes from a recent article in the Telegraph….
Amid fresh warnings that Europe is triggering a 1930s-style global depression, the German chancellor faced open rebellion against the key plank of her Brussels accord. The leaders of Hungary and the Czech Republic told a joint conference in Budapest they were ready to reject the planned treaty changes and implied move towards a centralised tax system. Czech prime minister Petr Necas said he was “convinced that tax harmonisation would not mean anything good for us”.
In Poland, we are actually seeing people march in the streets to protest against this new agreement….
Poles marched under banners that read: “We want sovereignty, not the euro.” They were protesting against the Brussels deal that could see EU countries, including those outside the eurozone, face penalties for breaking tough centralised spending laws.
So not only does this new deal not address the fundamental problems that Europe is facing, there is also a tremendous amount of doubt about whether or not it will eventually be approved.
Meanwhile, the brutal austerity measures that are being implemented all over Europe are pushing many EU nations into recession.
The EU (led by Germany and France) and the IMF have been pushing financially troubled nations all over Europe to make incredibly deep budget cuts. But these very deep budget cuts have had a devastating economic impact.
In a recent article, I discussed how brutal austerity measures have already pushed the economy of Greece into a full-blown depression….
Just look at what happened to Greece. Greece was forced to raise taxes and implement brutal austerity measures. That caused the economy to slow down and tax revenues to decline and so government debt figures did not improve as much as anticipated. So Greece was forced to implement even more brutal austerity measures. Well, that caused the economy to slow down even more and tax revenues declined again. In Greece this cycle has been repeated several times and now Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic depression. 100,000 businesses have closed and a third of the population is living in poverty. But now Germany and France intend to impose the “Greek solution” on the rest of Europe.
Right now, the flow of government money is drying up all over Europe and so is the flow of money from the banks. European banks are shrinking their balance sheets and have dramatically cut back on lending in order to meet new capital requirements that are being imposed upon them.
All of this has created an environment where there is not much credit flowing in Europe at all. When there is a credit crunch of this magnitude, it causes the money supply to start to shrink. This is already happening all over Europe as a recent article in the Telegraph noted….
All key measures of the money supply in the eurozone contracted in October with drastic falls across parts of southern Europe, raising the risk of severe recession over coming months.
Right now, we are seeing the money supply in each of the “PIIGS” nations fall at a staggering rate. The following comes from the same Telegraph article referenced above….
Simon Ward from Henderson Global Investors said “narrow” M1 money – which includes cash and overnight deposits, and signals short-term spending plans – shows an alarming split between North and South.
While real M1 deposits are still holding up in the German bloc, the rate of fall over the last six months (annualised) has been 20.7pc in Greece, 16.3pc in Portugal, 11.8pc in Ireland, and 8.1pc in Spain, and 6.7pc in Italy. The pace of decline in Italy has been accelerating, partly due to capital flight. “This rate of contraction is greater than in early 2008 and implies an even deeper recession, both for Italy and the whole periphery,” said Mr Ward.
Those numbers scream “Recession, Recession, Recession“.
There may be one glimmer of hope on the horizon. The Federal Reserve has been lending huge amounts of money to the European Central Bank and the European Central Bank has been lending that money out to European banks. In turn, the European banks have been using much of that money to buy up European government bonds. It is a massive Ponzi scheme, but it has stabilized bond yields in Europe for now. This scheme was described in a recent article by Simone Foxman….
That’s because the European Central Bank may have already introduced roundabout measures that will solve some of Europe’s big problems—it’s making investing in peripheral sovereign debt a huge profit opportunity for banks.
Theoretically, financial institutions will be able coin money by borrowing ultra-cheap from the ECB and buying higher yielding sovereign debt.
Essentially, it appears the ECB might allow European banks to pledge everything but the kitchen sink in return for funds. First, the new policy allows European banks to hold far fewer assets as collateral in exchange for funding from the ECB—freeing up liquidity to the tune of €103 billion ($134 billion). More importantly, relaxing collateral restrictions could also allow European banks to use even somewhat risky sovereign assets as collateral for bond purchases.
But this Ponzi scheme cannot go on indefinitely. A lot of European banks are already starting to run out of collateral for these loans as one Australian news source recently explained….
“If anyone thinks things are getting better, they simply don’t understand how severe the problems are,” a London executive at a global bank said. “A major bank could fail within weeks.”
Others said many continental banks, including French, Italian and Spanish lenders, were close to running out of the acceptable forms of collateral, such as US Treasury bonds, that could be used to finance short-term loans.
Some have been forced to lend out their gold reserves to maintain access to US dollar funding.
So will the European Central Bank keep lending them money once they are out of collateral?
If they do, the ECB itself could potentially be in a great deal of danger.
The truth is that the ECB is already playing with fire. So far, the European Central Bank has spent over 274 billion dollars buying up European government bonds in an attempt to keep bond yields down.
How many toxic assets can the ECB buy up before they get into real trouble?
That is a very interesting question.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world is becoming increasingly concerned about the financial panic that is sweeping Europe.
For example, Australian banks have been given one week to perform a stress test that evaluates their ability to survive in the event of a European financial collapse.
Why all the urgency?
Do they know something that we don’t?
Just like back in 2008, we are seeing massive problems at some of the largest banks in the world.
On Thursday, Fitch Ratings downgraded a whole bunch of the world’s most prominent banks….
The banks included Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, as well as Europe’s Barclays, Societe Generale and BNP Paribas.
Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Switerzland’s Credit Suisse were also downgraded.
The global banking system is a giant house of cards. There is simply way too much debt, way too much leverage and way too much risk.
On average, major banks across Europe are leveraged 26 to 1.
If the value of the assets held by those banks declines by just 4 percent, they will be wiped out.
Yes, that is how serious things are.
And already we are starting to see major banks fail in Europe.
This week it was revealed that Germany’s second largest bank is going to need a bailout. The following comes from a Sky News report….
Germany’s second largest bank, Commerzbank, is reportedly in discussions with the German government about a bailout after regulators said it needed to raise more money to cope with a potential default on its loans to governments.
“Intense talks” have been going on for several days, according to sources who spoke to the news agency Reuters.
So if Germany’s second largest bank is failing, are any banks in Europe safe?
Just like we saw back during the 1930s, we are starting to see a run on banks all over Europe.
In fact, according to a recent Der Spiegel article, a run on Greek banks has been going on for a while now and is rapidly accelerating….
He means that the outflow of funds from Greek bank accounts has been accelerating rapidly. At the start of 2010, savings and time deposits held by private households in Greece totalled €237.7 billion — by the end of 2011, they had fallen by €49 billion. Since then, the decline has been gaining momentum. Savings fell by a further €5.4 billion in September and by an estimated €8.5 billion in October — the biggest monthly outflow of funds since the start of the debt crisis in late 2009.
If you can believe it, approximately 20 percent of all bank deposits in Greece have been withdrawn since the start of 2011.
It is going to take a miracle to prevent a massive financial collapse from happening in Europe in 2012.
Unfortunately, there do not appear to be any miracles for Europe on the horizon.
Source: The American Dream
Moscow is unusually warm: the temperature refuses to dip below zero degrees Centigrade, the freezing point. Instead, it is wet and dark. The sun gets up late and goes to sleep early. To make matters worse, President Medvedev decided to keep Russia on daylight savings time throughout winter. To offset this stupid decision, Christmas illumination was turned on a month before the usual time, in order to cheer up the voters. Now it lights the way for the armoured vans of the riot police sent in to pacify the cheery electorate.
The parliamentary elections were deemed in advance as a futile and vain exercise of no practical importance. “It does not matter how you vote, what matters is how they count”, pundits said. But the results were quite impressive and they point to great changes ahead. The Russians have said to communism: “Come back, all is forgiven.” They effectively voted to restore the Soviet Union, in one form or another. Perhaps this vote will not be acted upon, but now we know – the people are disappointed with capitalism, with the low place of post-Soviet Russia in the world and with the marriage of big business and government.
If communists proved the fallacy of their ideas in 70 years, the capitalists needed only twenty years to achieve this same result, quipped Maxim Kantor, a prominent modern Russian painter, writer and thinker. The twentieth anniversary of the restoration of capitalism that Russia commemorated this year was not a cause for celebration but rather for sad second thoughts. The Russians loudly regretted the course taken by their country in 1991; the failed coup of August 1991, this last ditch attempt to preserve communism, has been reassessed in a positive light, while the brave Harvard boys of yesteryear who initiated the reforms are seen as criminals. Yeltsin and Gorbachev are out, Stalin is in.
Despite the falsifications of election results(discussed below), the communists (CPRF and their splinter party the Just Russia or SR) greatly increased their share and can be considered the true winners. The ruling United Russia (ER) party suffered huge losses. A loose confederation of power-seeking individuals, it could easily fall apart. There is a distinct possibility of the communists being able to form the government, that is, if they should be asked to do so by the President.
Pro-capitalist and right-wing parties were decimated by the voters. Neoliberal Right Cause (PD), the party of choice for market believers, languished with less than one per cent of the vote. The liberal, pro-Western Apple Party (half-jokingly referred to as “the Steve Jobs party”) did not cross the electoral threshold. Many Russians think that, discounting falsifications, the communists “really” got over 50%, while the ER actually got less, perhaps much less. Given the chance, the people voted for communists, as had been predicted a few months ago by VT Tretyakov, a senior Russian journalist and chief editor, during an address to a Washington DC think tank. He correctly said that in fairly honest elections, the communists will carry the day, and the liberals will be gone, and he was right. If this change of heart does not find its expression in political action, people will feel cheated.
This turn towards communism took place with Russia busily restoring its lost legacy:
- The North Stream pipeline connected Russian gas with European consumers directly, leaving Poland (and by proxy, the US) without a point of leverage. Oil and gas pipelines are being built towards China, promising Russia a choice of customers.
- Putin’s idea of a Eurasian Union began to take shape. The Ukraine has made friendly gestures, the crisis of Belarus is over, Kazakhstan is firmly inside.
- The Russian Navy aircraft carrier went to the shores of Syria, in a rare display of power, while Qatar’s ambassador in Moscow has been sent packing, as this tiny but rich emirate is apparently leading the anti-Syrian campaign.
- Last month, the fabulous Bolshoi theatre was lovingly and expensively restored to its purple-and-gold old glory. To conservative viewers’ chagrin, Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila opera (with wonderful American singer Charles Workman) was directed in an avant-garde manner, showing that the theatre will not act as a museum piece but will produce up-to-date art.
- Sochi is about to become the most expensive and luxurious sea-and-mountain resort ever in preparation for the Winter Olympics;
- Moscow has been beautified; thirty-foot-high elaborately decorated Christmas trees have been placed at prominent locations around the city, making the darkness of its northern nights almost bearable. City parks have been granted huge budgets for improvement; skating rinks have been prepared. Even fountains that collapsed twenty years ago have been rebuilt.
- But the most important recent sign of a resurgent Russia took place this month: A holy relic, the Virgin Mary’s Sash, has been brought to Moscow from its repository at sacred Mount Athos. A staggering three million Muscovites venerated it, queuing up for twenty-four hours on average in freezing temperatures. This was Russia’s asymmetric response to America’s Black Friday shopping-mall queues.
Russia is full of problems, too. Russia lost twenty million lives in the transition to capitalism with little to show for it; its villages stand empty, a brain drain has sent the best and brightest overseas. Capital flight bleeds Russia dry; every search for a company’s owners ends at a Cyprus-registered offshore trust. Bribes and extortion are ubiquitous; infrastructure is worn down, de-industrialisation has undermined the working class; agricultural lands have been taken over by speculators. The army is demoralised, its weapons outmoded, and Russian education is as bad as anywhere.
The rich are too rich, and one per cent of Russia’s population owns much of the country’s wealth. This wealth is not considered legitimate by people: the ongoing Berezovsky vs. Abramovich court case offered legal proof that the fabulous riches of the New Russians were obtained by embezzling national wealth. What’s worse, big business is fully integrated with the government; oligarchs and government officials intermarry and live separately from hoi polloi.
People are quite unhappy with what they see as a dictatorial or even an “occupation” regime. While Putin is considered a hostile leader by the West, the Russians think he is too obliging to the West, a centrepiece of the regime installed in the 90s. They would prefer a stronger anti-imperialist position any day.
The elections may have little direct consequence: The Russian constitution was written by Boris Yeltsin after he shelled Parliament in 1993 and imposed his personal rule (to the standing ovation of the Western media). This constitution allows the president to disregard Parliament. But the election results show the changed public mood.
And if that’s not enough, a big demonstration of some ten thousand citizens flared up in the middle of Moscow – something unheard of since 1993. The demonstrators protested against massive falsifications of election results. Three hundred were arrested, among them popular and populist blogger Alexei Navalny who created the meme “Party of Thieves and Cheats” for the United Russia. The next day police dispersed another demo in the centre.
With Arab Spring in the background, the authorities are worried. Troops have been dispatched to Moscow. Though there is no immediate prospect of riots, the traditionally heavy-handed Russian authorities never use a few policemen if they can send a brigade, and so they deployed the fearsome Dzerzhinsky Special Force brigade.
Were the elections falsified? Independent observers reported many irregularities in Moscow; probably it was even worse elsewhere. It seems that the ruling ER party activists inserted many fake ballots, and probably skewed the results in their favour. A poll made by NGO Golos on the basis of a few polling places with no irregularities showed that the communists won big, while the ER almost collapsed at the polls. On the web, there are claims of massive distortions following the vote count. It is hard to extrapolate from the Moscow results to the whole country, but the Russians believe that the results were falsified. They are also tired of their Teflon rulers.
|Official Results||49%||13%||19 %||11%|
This should provide a pretext for a revolution, but present-day communist leaders are not made of stern stuff like their legendary predecessors. They do not demand a recount, and generally accept their fate equivocally. In 1996, the communists won the elections, but accepted defeat as they were afraid of Yeltsin’s hit men led by the ruthless oligarch Boris Berezovsky. They are adamant about avoiding civil war; and it is doubted whether the super-wealthy will give up their wealth and positions just because ordinary people voted this or that way. Many people believe that communist leaders are just part of the same ruling system, a kind of HM loyal opposition.
It is the right-wing opposition that is more persistent in denouncing the electoral manipulations, though no polls, independent or otherwise, indicate that their parties were successful. Moreover, this opposition is not famous for its love of democracy. Prominent Russian right-wing journalist Ms Julia Latynina has already called for the termination of “the farce of democracy”: the Russian people are too poor, she said, to be allowed the right to vote, as they are likely to vote against their betters. This opinion was published in the best-known opposition paper Novaya Gazeta (owned by oligarch Mr Lebedev, owner of the British Independent). For the Right, this is a chance to attack Putin and his regime.
The right wing is strongly anti-Putin; not so the communists who are ready to work with Putin any time. Can Putin change his spots and become Putin-2, a pro-communist president who will restore the Soviet Union and break the power of the oligarchs? He could certainly adopt some communist rhetoric and use the communist support. Judging by his recent utterances at the Valdai forum, he is likely to turn Russia leftwards, with communists or without.
But stability of his regime is not certain. Putin should act swiftly if he wants to ride the wave of popular feelings, instead of being swept away by it. Armoured vans are the last things he needs.
So, how bad will the EU credit crunch get?
Credit conditions in the eurozone continue to deteriorate while yields on French, Spanish, Belgian and Italian bonds move higher. Italy’s 10-year yield increased 19 basis points to 6.89 percent on Tuesday, just a stone’s throw from the “unsustainable” 7 percent. French debt is also under increasing pressure. The spread between France’s 10-year debt and German bund hit a new high on Tuesday, widening by 174 basis points. If yields continue to rise, European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi will be forced to either expand his bond buying program (Securities Markets Programme) or watch while defaulting sovereigns domino through the south taking most of the EU banking system along with them.
Germany will not permit the ECB to act as lender of last resort. As the Bundesbank’s president Jens Weidmann explained in an interview last week, unsterilized bond purchases (monetization) would violate Article 123 of the EU treaty.
“I cannot see how you can ensure the stability of a monetary union by violating its legal provisions.” Weidman said. “I think the prohibition of monetary financing is very important in ensuring the credibility and independence of the central bank, which allow us to deliver on our primary objective of price stability. This is a very fundamental issue. If we now overstep that mandate, we call into question our own independence.”
So, for now, the ECB’s hands are tied, but as bond prices continue to fall and credit markets freeze, German opposition will weaken and the ECB will asked to intervene.
Samsung Securities is now warning of a run on Italian banks. Here’s an excerpt from their report:
“A more immediate issue confronting investors is whether we are likely to soon witness a significant run on Italian-based banks. If the answer is yes, then this without question will be the end of the road for the eurozone and will confront the ECB and Germany with an inescapable choice of either providing unlimited support for all eurozone commitments (including deposits) or allowing the disintegration of the euro….
In the case of most countries that are starting to suffer from deposit outflow, the banks have to increasingly rely on higher interest rates to lure depositors. Is this starting to happen in Italy? The answer is yes, particularly in the case of corporate accounts….
One of the key leading indicators of a bank run is the bank’s increasing reliance on ECB’s refinancing facilities. Over the past three-to-four months, we have seen increasing reliance by Italian banks on eurosystem refinancing. Whereas in 2008 and 2009, Italian banks were average users of ECB facilities, accounting for only 3-4% of the total vs Italy’s share of 13.7% of the eurozone’s banking assets. However, since July, the share of ECB’s refinancing attributable to Italian banks rose to a historically high level of 18.8% (end-October)
….markets remain frozen…Banking refinancing markets remain largely closed. Whether one looks at OIS spreads (90bps on the euro), ECB deposits or CDS spreads between the eurozone’s senior and subordinated debt (235bps) remain at extremely elevated levels, indicating extreme reluctance of banks to lend to each other for longer than overnight or preference for depositing funds with the ECB rather than lending.” (“Samsung Securities, Prepare for the Italian bank runs”, Pragmatic Capitalism)
Samsung’s conclusions are no different than those of other analysts who’ve followed developments in the credit markets closely. Banks are depositing record amounts of money at the ECB rather than lending it out, funding is getting more difficult as US money markets reduce their lending to EU banks, credit gauges are steadily rising, and new capital requirements are forcing banks to dump risk-weighted assets on an already-saturated market. These are all signs of a deepening crisis. Here’s a clip from the Wall Street Journal:
“Worries over the fate of European nations are gumming up the intricate gears of the financial system….The rising cost of borrowing demonstrates the lack of faith investors hold in European leaders to resolve the region’s debt crisis. It also suggests that the region’s banks remain under stress, despite officials’ efforts to restore confidence. Taken as a whole, the markets show that private money is flowing only in fits and starts to select few European financial recipients.
“The funding market is not working properly,” said Giuseppe Maraffino, a European money-market strategist at Barclays Capital…
The latest sign came on Monday, when the European Central Bank reported that money going into its low-interest-rate overnight-deposit facility has been surging, effectively pulling money out of the banking system. Last week, euro-zone banks’ overnight deposits with the ECB hit €288.43 billion ($397.8 billion), the highest level since the debt crisis first erupted last year. (“Financing Markets Tighten Spigots”, Wall Street Journal)
So, how bad will the EU credit crunch get? That’s a question the Financial Times blog tries to answer on Monday in a post titled “It’s a capital ratio of two halves”. Here’s a clip from the article:
“In another sign of how bad this is looking, Commerzbank, Germany’s leading lender to central and eastern Europe, is ceasing all loan origination outside of its home country and Poland…….But assuming any adjustments to the rules will come too little to late, we could be in for €1,500bn to €2,500bn of deleveraging according to a note published by Morgan Stanley on Sunday.” (“It’s a capital ratio of two halves”, FT. Alphaville)
Well, now, if the banks are going to unload a hefty $3 trillion in assets, (in an effort to meet the new 9% capital requirements) then they’re not going to be doing a lot of lending now are they? And, if there’s no credit expansion (new loans) then there’s no growth, right? In that case, people would be well advised to pick a cozy spot outside the unemployment office now before the lines form.
Reuters blogger Felix Salmon has an excellent post (Monday) that explains the implications of the credit storm raging across the eurozone. Here’s an excerpt:
“Europe is in the middle of a textbook liquidity crisis. Banks are not lending to each other — and the ECB isn’t stepping in to solve the problem. This is a serious structural issue with the way that the European monetary system was constructed: the ECB is tasked only with guarding inflation, and not with ensuring the health of the banking system. Individual national central banks are meant to do that. But they can’t print money — only the ECB can. So when there’s a liquidity crisis, no one’s able to step in and solve it…..
There is no reasonable amount of capital that can cure a liquidity shortage. The reason why people are refusing to lend to the banks is not primarily because they fear an underlying solvency problem (although some people do), but because they fear an obvious and immediate liquidity problem. It is rational not to lend to an institution that you believe to be illiquid.
The real problem here is simply that banks are hoarding their cash and not lending to each other. Look at the way that bank debt issuance has fallen off a cliff…
And the way the banking sector works, banks have to be constantly lending to each other: in nearly every country in Europe, the amount of bank debt coming due every day is higher than the total amount of bank capital in the system. The overnight interbank market is the bloodstream of the European financial system, and the flow of blood is coming to a halt.” (” Europe’s liquidity crisis”, Felix Salmon, Reuters)
So, soaring yields on sovereign bonds are only a small part of a bigger and more complicated story. The real problem is in the credit markets, where plunging asset values and funding woes are paving the way for another full-blown financial meltdown.
Israel has awkwardly and desperately renewed its outworn war threats against Iran in the recent weeks, indicating that it’s getting prepared to launch a military strike on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities.
Last week, the Zionist regime successfully test fired a missile which is said to have the capability of carrying a nuclear warhead and reach Iran, as well as Russia and China. On November 2, TV stations around the world screened footages of a rocket-propulsion system being launched from somewhere around Israel coastal Palmachim military base. The missile’s range is claimed to be 10,000 kilometers and therefore,Iran will be easily within the reach of it, in the case that a military attack on Iran is opted for.
However, now even the most optimistic advocates of war with Iran within the fractured cabinet of Benjamin Netanyahu know that “empty vessels make the most noise” and that a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities will be practically the same as the evaporation of the Zionist entity. They are well aware of Iran’s military might and the recent advancements and progresses in Iran’s weapons industry. Although the hawkish Israeli FM Avigdor Lieberman has boasted of “keeping all the options on the table” with regards to Iran’s nuclear program, he dismissed the reports that the Israeli cabinet members have reached an agreement over launching an attack against Iran.
The deceptive and illusory claims of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he is lobbying to persuade the cabinet to authorize a military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations has even evoked the surprise and astonishment of the American media, who reacted to the war threats skeptically. In a November 2, 2011 report published just a few hours after Israel test fired its nuclear missile, CBS News wrote that the international community is used to hearing of Tel Aviv’s war threats against Iran and the recent warmongering statements of Netanyahu are nothing new and unexpected: “it remained unclear whether Israel was genuinely poised to strike or if it was saber-rattling to prod the international community into taking a tougher line on Iran. Israeli leaders have long hinted at a military option, but they always seemed mindful of the practical difficulties, the likelihood of a furious counter strike and the risk of regional mayhem.”
The words of Israeli officials, even though disproportionately aggrandized and exaggerated by the mainstream media, cut no ice anymore. The Israeli regime is too fragile and small to pose a threat to Iran’s security. Over the past 10 years, the White House, with the unreserved assistance of its client state, Israel, repeatedly threatened Iran against the possibility of a military attack. Even Barack Obama who is unquestionably a wolf in the sheep’s clothing and understands nothing of peace and cordiality had once in 2010 talked of the possibility of a nuclear strike against Iran; a reckless statement which was condemned by many politicians and pundits around the world.
It’s now clear to the international observers that Israel talks through its hat. It only runs a psychological operation againstIranto force it into giving in its nuclear rights. The irony is that it’s Israel, the only possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, which is hell bent on disrupting Iran’s nuclear program which it impetuously and irrationally claims to be aimed at military purposes.
The Israeli officials, however, frequently direct war threats against Iran with impunity and in breach of several internationally recognized treaties, conventions and charters. From one hand, any Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities can be considered a war of aggression which is “a military conflict waged without the justification of self-defense” and since the Korean War of the early 1950s, waging such a war is a crime under customary international law. It’s conventional for the state of Israel to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity; however, if it frantically makes such a decision, it will be committing a crime which the international community should categorically respond to.
On July 3, 1933, the first convention that defined aggression was signed inLondonby representatives of Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Turkey, USSR, Iran and Afghanistan. It was initiated by Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov in response to threats of use of force by the German government following Hitler’s rise to power. The government of Finland acceded to the convention on January 31, 1934. These countries decided that any kind of aggressive behavior on behalf of the members of theLeague of Nationswould be illegal and illegitimate.
On the other hand, if Israelis madly attack Iran’s nuclear facilities while no serious threat is posed against them on behalf of thePersian Gulf country, their assault can also be categorized as a “preemptive war” which is illegal without the approval of the United Nations Security Council. “The initiation of armed conflict, that is being the first to ‘break the peace’ when no ‘armed attack’ has yet occurred, is not permitted by the UN Charter.”
Israel’s war threats against Iran also violate the UN Charter and so far, the UNSC has given no decisive response to this flagrant breach of the international law. According to Article 2, Section 4 of the UN Charter which is generally considered to be ‘jus cogens’ (compelling law), all UN members are prohibited from exercising “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” The Article 51 of UN Charter stipulates that defense by a member state is justified only if, “an armed attack occurs,” against the attacking country.
Moreover, it’s crystal clear that the Israelis are not in a position to threaten Iran against a military strike over its nuclear program. Israel even does not have the credibility of asking Iran to halt its nuclear program while it possesses 300 atomic warheads. It has been repeatedly clarified by the international organizations, including the NIE 2007 report that Iran doesn’t possess nuclear weapons and also doesn’t have any intention of building such weapons. Of course it’s dismantling the nuclear arsenal of Israel which should be put on IAEA’s agenda, not Iran’s nuclear program which has been clearly demonstrated that is aimed at civilian purposes.
At any rate, there are of course wise and prudent people in the political structure of Israel to know that taking any aggressive action against Iran will be equivalent to the disappearance of the Zionist regime. Furthermore, even the closest friends of the Israeli regime know that Netanyahu’s war threats against Iran are sheer hollow propaganda, even if they keep the options “on the table” for good! There are the United States and its European cronies who support this criminal and evil state and its illegal nuclear program; however, it’s the will of the Iranian nation that will prevail at the end.
Just three days before I was supposed to go on a two-week camping trip through the Northwest, my eyes started to burn and hurt. And then my vision started to get blurry. Yikes! So I immediately got all upset and rushed off to the doctor — but also started comparing my own vision problems with those of America’s vision problems as well. I am not alone. America’s vision has also gotten pretty blurry recently.
For far too long, we Americans have sat back and placidly allowed just one percent of our number to own 99 percent of our money. And, as a friend of mine in Poland recently wrote me, “Democracy is incompatible with capitalism as long as the three richest people in a ‘democracy’ have more money than the gross national income of the world’s 48 poorest countries.”
So I went off to my optometrist, got acupunctured, bought herbal eye remedies, stuck prescription drops in my eyes, packed up my computer and went camping anyway — hoping that my vision (and my country’s vision too) would somehow miraculously clear up.
The first stop on my tour of the Northwest was Seattle and the famous Pike Place Market, where someone had told me that they sold horsemeat. According to traditional Chinese medicine, eating horsemeat is good for one’s eyes. But I couldn’t find any there. Apparently you have to go to Asia or Europe to find horsemeat to eat. All they sold in Seattle was salmon.
But that’s okay. I really didn’t want to eat horsemeat anyway. Who the freak would want to eat horsemeat? Horses are our friends!
“Here’s the story on horsemeat,” said someone I met while drinking coffee in Seattle (everyone drinks lots of coffee in Seattle, BTW). “It is illegal to slaughter horses in the United States — so they are all rounded up and shipped off to immense slaughterhouses in Canada.”
Hey, that sounds like America’s foreign policy for the last decade or so. Outsourcing slaughter. The Multi-National Coalition helped the Pentagon slaughter folks in Iraq. Israeli corporatists help American corporatists slaughter women and children in Palestine. UN “peacekeepers” help the Bush-Obama administration slaughter Afghans. And NATO is happily helping American oil companies slaughter civilians in Libya. Plus American corporatists are now keeping their fingers crossed that Israeli corporatists will soon be slaughtering Iranians for them too.
Like America outsources its slaughter of horses, the corporatist “one percent” that now owns Washington also outsources its slaughter of people.
But not all Americans think that the butchery of human beings — either here or abroad — is a swell idea. And in the city that gave us Grey’s Anatomy and the Space Needle and Starbuck’s, “Occupy Seattle” is now in full operation — right down the street from the historic 1999 WTO protests.
And then the next day I went off to visit “Occupy Spokane” too. Perhaps America is finally getting its vision back after all.
In the misty Cascade mountains lies the small town of Leavenworth — not Leavenworth, Kansas, home of the famous prison where Bush, Cheney, Obama and half of Wall Street clearly belong, but Leavenworth, Washington — a cute tourist replica of some small town in Bavaria.
When the railroads no longer stopped in Leavenworth, Washington, and the logging shut down, people there were hurting so they thought of a gimmick to get themselves through the hard times — and went Bavarian. Now Leavenworth is a regional tourist attraction with an Octoberfest and a Christmas-tree-lighting festival and everything. See? You don’t have to make war on strangers in order to survive economically these days.
But I gotta admit that the “Occupy Leavenworth” movement consisted mainly of me. Everyone else was too busy wearing lederhosen and eating bratwurst.
The “Strategic Partnership” between Berlin and Moscow is usually understood in the English-speaking world in somewhat simplified terms: Russian energy meets German technology with a lot of high-minded political rhetoric on top. In the meantime, the received wisdom goes, Germany remains firmly anchored in the Euro-Atlantic framework of political, economic and military institutions and relationships. In other words, Moscow may be Germany’s partner, “strategic” or otherwise, but Washington remains Berlin’s primary ally and its primary institutional focus is still in Brussels.
This may have been so over the years but it need not be so in the future. A foreign policy realist would argue that in the years ahead of us the German decision-making elite would be well advised to critically reconsider old assumptions and to develop an overall strategy of greater equidistance vis-à-vis Moscow and Washington. (Instead of equidistance, “more equal proximity” may be a better term.)
If German political, economic and civilizational interests are considered in realist terms, without the rhetorical ideological shackles of common values and ideals, it transpires that the Federal Republic has a more natural community of long-term geopolitical interests with Russia than with the United States.
The fundamental German-Russian compatibility is that they are traditional European nation-states pursuing limited objectives by limited means. By contrast, the leaders of the United States of both parties still subscribe to the notion of America’s exceptionalism and to the propositional creed rooted in Puritan millenarianism.
In world affairs this neurosis translates into self-appointed missions of “spreading democracy” and “humanitarian interventionism.” There is precious little to choose between the neoliberal interventionists, notably the ladies’ trio of Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, and their neoconservative counterparts, such as Richard Perle, Paul Wofowitz, or Douglas Feith. They are but two sides of the same coin.
Germany has gone along with various American idiosyncrasies for a long time, but its elites have never been fully comfortable with the ideological arsenal of American postmodernia. Let it be noted that announcing the failure of the multiculturalist experiment, as Chancellor Merkel has done earlier this year, is unimaginable for an occupant of the White House from either party.
In geopolitical terms, like Russia but unlike the U.S., Germany is a continental power; and also like Russia but unlike the U.S., Germany has limited and “rational” strategic and security objectives. Both are weary of America’s self-appointed global missions, although Russia is unsurprisingly more vocal about its misgivings. Looking back over the past decade we find numerous areas of actual discord between Berlin and Washington reflecting divergent interests and strategic philosophies:
- During the Bush years Germany was consistently lukewarm about NATO’s eastward expansion and notably unsupportive of the inclusion of Ukraine and Georgia in the Alliance, although this course was strongly advocated in Washington.
- In 2003-4 Moscow and Berlin effectively developed a common front against the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
- In the fall of 2004 Germany took a back seat during the U.S-driven financial, political and financial support for the “Orange” takeover in Ukraine.
- In 2005, having rejected the U.S.-endorsed Polish proposal for a Western energy alliance, former Chancellor Schroeder went on to initiate the Nord Stream project, regardless of Washington’s displeasure at the bypassing of its Baltic-Polish clients.
- Although reputedly more Atlanticist than her predecessor, Angela Merkel was unwilling to join the U.S.-led chorus of condemnation of Russia after Moscowt responded forcefully to Saakashvili’s aggression in South Ossetia in 2008.
- In 2009 the U.S. exerted political pressure on General Motors, which had just received a massive Federal bailout only months earlier, to cancel plans to sell Opel to a Russian-backed consortium, although the deal was supported by the German government.
- On the southeastern front, the Germans have been lukewarm about the stalled Nabucco pipeline, which has been strongly favored by the U.S., and have suggested Russia’s inclusion in it, even though it is clear that this would defeat the project’s rationale.
- At the same time Germany is not averse to the Russian South Stream project, which is anathema to Washington and a number of its chronically Russophobic East European clients.
- The United States and its European clients (notably Poland) would prefer the EU to present a single interface in its foreign and economic relations with third parties—including above all energy—while Germany wisely pursues bilateral arrangements which are also preferred by Russia.
- Last but not least, earlier this year Germany remained on the sidelines while the U.S., Britain and France intervened in Libya under the aegis of NATO.
It is noteworthy that some of these trends have gelled, or maintained momentum, under Angela Merkel’s chancellorship, even though her government has made few moves to deepen German-Russian relations from the pinnacle of the Schroeder-Steinmeier years and she is personally by no means a cultural Russophile. This indicates that the logic of interests and objectives determined by the relatively constant factors of geography, resources and political culture, operate to a considerable extent independently of the decision-makers’ personal preferences.
The likely return to Russia’s presidency of Vladimir Putin in 2012 would be beneficial to the development of various currently untapped potentialities in German-Russian relations. As a cultural Germanophile with a strong sense of history and a firm rooting in the realist approach to grand strategy, Putin would also give an impetus to the return of what I would like to call the Neo-Bismarckian Paradigm. It was under the Iron Chancellor, the towering genius of the European 19th century diplomacy, that Germany and Russia last had a genuine strategic partnership, based on the compatibility of interests and the absence of truly insurmountable obstacles. Bismarck’s incompetent successors had abandoned this paradigm in favor of an unnecessary and ultimately fatal bid for multi-spectral hegemony (a Wilhelmine brand of neoconservatism) which finally entangled Germany in the affairs of the Habsburgs in The Balkans—which, as Bismarck had rightly pointed out, were not worth the bones of a Pomeranian grenadier.
In the neo-Bismarckian framework Russia will pursue a strong, but bilaterally-based relationship with Germany and with other key European partners, such as France and Italy. It is neither in Russia’s interest, nor in the interest of Germany, to allow the apparatus of the European Union to impose itself as an interface. As the current financial crisis clearly indicates, the interests of different members and groups within the EU are too diverse, incompatible even, to allow for a single platform to interfere in the conduct of what are properly bilateral affairs.
It is almost axiomatic, for instance, that Russia cannot have the same kind of partnership with Britain as it does with Germany, and the terms of such relationships need to be determined in direct dialogue with London and Berlin, or Paris, or Rome. That is the optimal model for Russia benefiting from the German connection on its path to necessary modernization, and that is the optimal format for Germany to make its contribution. Had the Nord Stream project been subjected to a Brussels-based interface, it would not have been built.
As the global distribution of power regains its multipolar character and the United States continues to lose its briefly held position of full-specter dominance, as the European Union is in a period of chronic crisis, the traditional nation-states of Europe need to rediscover the benefits of togetherness based on spontaneously emerging, interest-based links, and not on multilateral, bureaucratically mediated institutional mechanisms.
To truly unite Europe by helping Russia modernize and deploy its full potential and by integrating it into the common European home, we need “Europe” indeed, but not necessarily in its current Brussels form, or let me be frank, not at all in that form—and certainly we don’t need interference or arbitration from Brussels when its traditional nations seek common ground on the basis of a plus-sum-game. Bismarck would understand this, I believe Vladimir Putin does, and I hope the German political and business elite will do likewise during his next mandate, to the benefit of all.