During Cold War One those of us in the American radical left were often placed in the position where we had to defend the Soviet Union because the US government was using that country as a battering ram against us. Now we sometimes have to defend Russia because it may be the last best hope of stopping TETATW (The Empire That Ate The World). Yes, during Cold War One we knew enough about Stalin, the show trials, and the gulags. But we also knew about US foreign policy.
E-mail sent to the Washington Post July 23, 2014 about the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17:
Your July 22 editorial was headed: “Russia’s barbarism. The West needs a strategy to contain the world’s newest rogue state.”
Pretty strong language. Vicious, even. Not one word of hard evidence in the editorial to back it up. Then, the next day, the Associated Press reported:
Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for ‘creating the conditions’ that led to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement. … the U.S. had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia.
Where were these words in the Post? You people are behaving like a rogue newspaper.
– William Blum
I don’t have to tell you whether the Post printed my letter. I’ve been reading the paper for 25 years – six years during Vietnam (1964-1970) and the last 19 years (1995-2014) – usually spending about three hours each day reading it very carefully. And I can say that when it comes to US foreign policy the newspaper is worse now than I can remember it ever was during those 25 years. It’s reached the point where, as one example, I don’t take at face value a word the Post has to say about Ukraine. Same with the State Department, which makes one accusation after another about Russian military actions in Eastern Ukraine without presenting any kind of satellite imagery or other visual or documentary evidence; or they present something that’s wholly inconclusive and/or unsourced or citing “social media”; what we’re left with is often no more than just an accusation. Do they have something to hide?
The State Department’s Public Affairs spokespersons making these presentations exhibit little regard or respect for the reporters asking challenging questions. It takes my thoughts back to the Vietnam era and Arthur Sylvester, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, the man most responsible for “giving, controlling and managing the war news from Vietnam”. One day in July 1965, Sylvester told American journalists that they had a patriotic duty to disseminate only information that made the United States look good. When one of the reporters exclaimed: “Surely, Arthur, you don’t expect the American press to be handmaidens of government,” Sylvester replied: “That’s exactly what I expect,” adding: “Look, if you think any American official is going to tell you the truth, then you’re stupid. Did you hear that? – stupid.”
Such frankness might be welcomed today as a breath of fresh air compared to the painful-to-observe double-talk of a State Department spokesperson.
My personal breath of fresh air in recent years has been the television station RT (formerly Russia Today). On a daily basis many progressives from around the world (myself included occasionally) are interviewed and out of their mouths come facts and analyses that are rarely heard on CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, NPR, PBS, Fox News, BBC, etc. The words of these progressives heard on RT are typically labeled by the mainstream media as “Russian propaganda”, whereas I, after a long lifetime of American propaganda, can only think: “Of course. What else are they going to call it?”
As for Russia being responsible for “creating the conditions” that led to the shooting down of Flight 17, we should keep in mind that the current series of events in Ukraine was sparked in February when a US-supported coup overthrew the democratically-elected government and replaced it with one that was more receptive to the market-fundamentalism dictates of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the European Union. Were it not for the coup there would have been no eastern rebellion to put down and no dangerous war zone for Flight 17 to be flying over in the first place.
The new regime has had another charming feature: a number of outspoken neo-Nazis in high and low positions, a circumstance embarrassing enough for the US government and mainstream media to turn it into a virtual non-event. US Senator John McCain met and posed for photos with the leader of the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party, Oleh Tyahnybok (photos easily found on the Internet). Ukraine – whose ties to Naziism go back to World War Two when their homegrown fascists supported Germany and opposed the Soviet Union – is on track to becoming the newest part of the US-NATO military encirclement of Russia and possibly the home of the region’s newest missile base, target Moscow.
It is indeed possible that Flight 17 was shot down by the pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine in the mistaken belief that it was the Ukrainian air force returning to carry out another attack. But other explanations are suggested in a series of questions posed by Russia to the the Secretary-General of the UN General Assembly, accompanied by radar information, satellite images, and other technical displays:
“Why was a military aircraft flying in a civil aviation airway at almost the same time and the same altitude as a civilian passenger aircraft? We would like to have this question answered.”
“Earlier, Ukrainian officials stated that on the day of the accident no Ukrainian military aircraft were flying in that area. As you can see, that is not true.”
“We also have a question for our American colleagues. According to a statement by American officials, the United States has satellite images which show that the missile aimed at the Malaysian aircraft was launched by the militants. But no one has seen these images.”
There is also this intriguing speculation, which ties in to the first Russian question above. A published analysis by a retired Lufthansa pilot points out that Flight 17 looked similar in its tricolor design to that of Russian President Putin’s plane, whose plane with him on board was at the same time “near” Flight 17. In aviation circles “near” would be considered to be anywhere between 150 to 200 miles. Could Putin’s plane have been the real target?
There is as well other serious and plausible questioning of the official story of Russia and/or Ukrainian anti-Kiev militias being responsible for the shootdown. Is Flight 17 going to become the next JFK Assassination, PanAm 103, or 9-11 conspiracy theory that lingers forever? Will the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the Syrian chemical weapons be joined by the Russian anti-aircraft missile? Stay tuned.
Will they EVER leave Cuba alone? No.
The latest exposed plot to overthrow the Cuban government … Oh, pardon me, I mean the latest exposed plot to bring democracy to Cuba …
Our dear friends at the Agency For International Development (USAID), having done so well with their covert sub-contractor Alan Gross, now in his fifth year in Cuban custody … and their “Cuban Twitter” project, known as ZunZuneo, exposed in 2012, aimed at increasing the flow of information amongst the supposedly information-starved Cubans, which drew in subscribers unaware that the service was paid for by the US government … and now, the latest exposure, a project which sent about a dozen Venezuelan, Costa Rican and Peruvian young people to Cuba in hopes of stirring up a rebellion; the travelers worked clandestinely, using the cover of health and civic programs, or posing as tourists, going around the island, on a mission to “identify potential social-change actors” to turn into political activists. Can you believe that? Can you believe the magnitude of naiveté? Was it a conviction that American exceptionalism would somehow work its magic? Do they think the Cuban people are a bunch of children just waiting for a wise adult to come along and show them what to think and how to behave?
One of these latest USAID contracts was signed only days after Gross was detained, thus indicating little concern for the safety of their employees/agents. As part of the preparation of these individuals, USAID informed them: “Although there is never total certainty, trust that the authorities will not try to harm you physically, only frighten you. Remember that the Cuban government prefers to avoid negative media reports abroad, so a beaten foreigner is not convenient for them.”
It’s most ironic. The US government could not say as much about most of their allies, who frequently make use of physical abuse. Indeed, the statement could not be made in regard to almost any American police force. But it’s this Cuba that doesn’t beat or torture detainees that is the enemy to be reformed and punished without mercy … 55 years and counting.
The United States and torture
Two of the things that governments tend to cover-up or lie about the most are assassinations and torture, both of which are widely looked upon as exceedingly immoral and unlawful, even uncivilized. Since the end of the Second World War the United States has attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders and has led the world in torture; not only the torture performed directly by Americans upon foreigners, but providing torture equipment, torture manuals, lists of people to be tortured, and in-person guidance and encouragement by American instructors, particularly in Latin America.
Thus it is somewhat to the credit of President Obama that at his August 1 press conference he declared “We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.”
And he actually used the word “torture” at that moment, not “enhanced interrogation”, which has been the euphemism of preference the past decade, although two minutes later the president used “extraordinary interrogation techniques”. And “tortured some folks” makes me wince. The man is clearly uncomfortable with the subject.
But all this is minor. Much more important is the fact that for several years Mr. Obama’s supporters have credited him with having put an end to the practice of torture. And they simply have no right to make that claim.
Shortly after Obama’s first 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 at the time: “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.”
The English translation of “cooperate” is “torture”. Rendition is simply outsourcing 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 United States. Kosovo and Diego Garcia – both of which house large and very secretive American military bases – if not some of the other locations, may well still be open for torture business. The same for the Guantánamo Base in Cuba.
Moreover, the Executive Order referred to, number 13491, issued January 22, 2009, “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations”, leaves a major loophole. It states repeatedly that humane treatment, including the absence of torture, is applicable only to prisoners detained in an “armed conflict”. Thus, torture by Americans outside an environment of “armed conflict” is not explicitly prohibited. But what about torture within an environment of “counter-terrorism”?
The Executive Order 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, sensory overload, sleep deprivation, the induction of fear and hopelessness, mind-altering drugs, environmental manipulation such as temperature and noise, and stress positions.
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’.”
The last sentence is of course childishly absurd. The countries chosen to receive rendition prisoners were chosen precisely because they were willing and able to torture them.
No official in the Bush and Obama administrations has been punished in any way for torture or other war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the other countries they waged illegal war against. And, it could be added, no American bankster has been punished for their indispensable role in the world-wide financial torture they inflicted upon us all beginning in 2008. What a marvelously forgiving land is America. This, however, does not apply to Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, or Chelsea 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.
I’d like at this point to once again 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.
The Convention Against Torture has been and remains the supreme law of the land. It is a cornerstone of international law and a principle on a par with the prohibition against slavery and genocide.
“Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States.” – United States Attorney General Eric Holder, July 26, 2013
John Brennan, appointed by President Obama in January 2013 to be Director of the CIA, has defended “rendition” as an “absolutely vital tool”; and stated that torture had produced “life saving” intelligence.
Obama had nominated Brennan for the CIA position in 2008, but there was such an outcry in the human-rights community over Brennan’s apparent acceptance of torture, that Brennan withdrew his nomination. Barack Obama evidently learned nothing from this and appointed the man again in 2013.
During Cold War One, a common theme in the rhetoric was that the Soviets tortured people and detained them without cause, extracted phony confessions, and did the unspeakable to detainees who were helpless against the full, heartless weight of the Communist state. As much as any other evil, torture differentiated the bad guys, the Commies, from the good guys, the American people and their government. However imperfect the US system might be – we were all taught – it had civilized standards that the enemy rejected.
Just because you have a right to do something does not make it right.
The city of Detroit in recent months has been shutting off the supply of water to city residents who have not paid their water bills. This action affects more than 40% of the customers of the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, bringing great inconvenience and threats to the health and sanitation of between 200 and 300 thousand residents. Protests have of course sprung up in the city, with “Water is a human right!” as a leading theme.
Who can argue with that? Well, neo-conservatives and other true believers in the capitalist system who maintain that if you receive the benefit of a product or service, you pay for it. What could be simpler? What are you, some kind of socialist?
For those of you who have difficulty believing that an American city could be so insensitive, allow me to remind you of some history.
On December 14, 1981 a resolution was proposed in the United Nations General Assembly which declared that “education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development are human rights”. Notice the “proper nourishment”. The resolution was approved by a vote of 135-1. The United States cast the only “No” vote.
A year later, December 18, 1982, an identical resolution was proposed in the General Assembly. It was approved by a vote of 131-1. The United States cast the only “No” vote.
The following year, December 16, 1983, the resolution was again put forth, a common practice at the United Nations. This time it was approved by a vote of 132-1. There’s no need to tell you who cast the sole “No” vote.
These votes took place under the Reagan administration.
Under the Clinton administration, in 1996, a United Nations-sponsored World Food Summit affirmed the “right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food”. The United States took issue with this, insisting that it does not recognize a “right to food”. Washington instead championed free trade as the key to ending the poverty at the root of hunger, and expressed fears that recognition of a “right to food” could lead to lawsuits from poor nations seeking aid and special trade provisions.
The situation of course did not improve under the administration of George W. Bush. In 2002, in Rome, world leaders at another UN-sponsored World Food Summit again approved a declaration that everyone had the right to “safe and nutritious food”. The United States continued to oppose the clause, again fearing it would leave them open to future legal claims by famine-stricken countries.
I’m waiting for a UN resolution affirming the right to oxygen.
- See various examples at RT.com, such as “Jen Psaki’s most embarrassing fails, most entertaining grillings”, or simply search the site for “Ukraine Jen Psaki”
- Congressional Record (House of Representatives), May 12, 1966, pp. 9977-78, reprint of an article by Morley Safer of CBS News
- “Letter dated 22 July 2014 from the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General”, released by the UN 24 July, Document No. A/68/954-S/2014/524
- “Pre-WWIII German Pilot Shocker, MH17 ‘Not Hit By Missile’”, Before It’s News, July 31 2014
- Associated Press, August 4, 2014
- Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2009
- New York Times, February 6, 2009
- Associated Press, November 17, 2008
- Associated Press, November 26, 2008
- Washington Post, November 18, 1996
- Reuters news agency, June 10, 2002
The belief that calling for and instituting sanctions against Russia is a sound policy, illustrates the economic disconnect of the Obama administration. With the fervor for starting a new cold war, the propaganda machine is working overtime to paint a picture that ignores real economic synergism. Note the conflicting reports regarding the EU. Nine EU countries ready to block economic sanctions against Russia, quotes a diplomatic source to ITAR-TASS:
“France, Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Slovenia, and EU President Italy see no reason in the current environment for the introduction of sectorial trade and economic sanctions against Russia and at the summit, will block the measure.”
“According to the source, the US sees slapping Russia with sanctions as a way to promote its own trade agenda with Europe, a side rarely explored in mainstream media. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and Europe would create the world’s largest free trade zone, but some worry it could balloon into an “economic NATO” or could end up putting corporation interest above national.”
An article, EU and the USA have adopted new sanctions against Russia reports that the European Council has agreed to extend the restrictive measures for the entities in the Russian Federation. Romanian president Traian Basescu believes the EU needs to adopt tougher sanctions against Russia.
“My point of view was that unless the European Union takes tougher actions and moves on to the third stage of these sanctions, Ukraine might no longer be ready to move towards the European Union and would end up in a situation like that in the Republic of Moldova, currently facing the breakaway tendencies of the region of Transdniester, only with a greater impact for the EU, because Ukraine is a bigger country.”
This contradiction between individual national economic interests and the quest for a technocrat administered system of trade that fosters and facilitates an internationalist foreign policy under NATO and EU rule, is the actual objective of Washington and Brussels interventionism. This arrogance and self-delusion treats economic commerce as conducted in a vacuum. As The Hill article cites Putin. “Sanctions are “driving into a corner” relations between the two countries and will damage the interests of U.S. companies and “the long-term national interests of the U.S. government and people.”
Russian warns that the US campaign will have consequences as the Alliance News writes, that Moscow Blasts US Sanctions As “Primitive,” Promises Retaliation.
“Sergei Ryabkov, a deputy Foreign Minister, told the Interfax news agency that Moscow will hit back with measures that “will be felt in Washington painfully and sharply.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry said US measures against a number of state corporations are “a primitive attempt at revenge because events in Ukraine are not developing according to Washington’s scenario,” and added that it reserves the right to retaliate.”
The preposterous strategy that international finance can force a country like Russia, with the world’s largest energy resources, into a capitulation dependent status is absurd. The minimal effect according to Russia’s Finance Ministry, Says Harsher Sanctions Would Cost Russia 0.3% of GDP, does not sound like much of a threat. Then consider the counter response of Russian Sanctions Retaliation Escalates: Dumps Intel/AMD And Now Foreign Cars.
The cavalier and condescending manner by which the Western central banks assist the New World Order’s goal of global dominance has fortified opposition with the emergence of theBRICS Development Bank. Use your common sense, when Putin Wants Measures to Protect BRICS Nations From U.S. Sanctions, much of the rest of the world is listening.
“In an interview published as a two-day BRICS summit got under way in Brazil on Tuesday, Putin said he would urge Brazil, China, India and South Africa to draw “substantive conclusions” from sanctions imposed on Russia over its actions in the Ukraine crisis, and said it was time to dilute the dominance of the U.S.-led West and the U.S. dollar by boosting the role of the BRICS on the global stage.”
The American press and media, especially is fueling the fires to demonize Putin’s Russia as a resurrected Stalinist Soviet belligerent. Absent in this narrative is an honest chronicle of NATO’s expansion to encircle the Russian Federation. At what point will Western journalists and academic scholars admit that the convergence of EU authoritarianism and American hegemony propagates an internationalist foreign policy, designed to isolate and destroy any opposition to this New World Order.
The lesson of these failed attempts for economic bullying a country, with real weapons of mass destruction, has the potential of starting a hot war. The essay, IMF and EU Capture of Ukraine, explains the circumstances and false justification of initiating “regime change“. This Ukraine flashpoint may well commence a tangible economic union among countries, who recognize that American sanctions are nothing more than a desperate attempt to prop up a decaying globalist economic structure.
EU antagonism towards the citizens of their member countries is growing expediently. Within this context, US sanctions hurt Europe more than America.
“The Association of European Businesses (AEB), a Moscow-based business lobby, said that new US sanctions against Russia have a more severe effect on European than on American business.
The AEB says it “regrets” the US sanctions, and warns that they will stunt economic growth “not only in Russia“.
“These sanctions are more focused on the partners of European businesses than on the partners of American companies,” the group said in a statement on Thursday.”
Obama’s State Department bears a heavy responsibility for promoting a civil war in Ukraine. Using sanctions to push Russia into accelerating a BRICS economic block will have far more adverse effects than can be envisioned by the lunatic proponents of “selective” Free Trade. The moneychanger’s financial system is imploding and their rescue plan requires a massive global crisis to bail out their “To Big to Fail” model. Mutually productive commerce will be among the first causalities of the prelude to World War III. Soon clamors for sanctions against American companies will begin, as the blame game diverts the real cause of this fabricated debacle.
Ask any “gun guy,” and he’ll not only have an opinion, he’ll have the opinion. Ask any “pistol-packing mama,” and she’ll not only offer an answer, she’ll offer the answer. At every shooting range, in every gun shop, at every hunting lodge, the question has been asked, answered and asked again. What is the right gun? Specifically, what is the right gun for home defense?
I set out to try to find a definitive answer to the question, and I arrived at one — and only one — inescapable conclusion: The diversity of opinion on the “perfect” gun for home/personal defense ranges wider than Michael Moore’s already overburdened waistline.
Before I offer you my own take, let’s establish a few ground rules:
There’s only one statement on which everyone ought to agree: If you need a gun, you’d bloody well better have one. I’m sure that a baseball bat seems like a good substitute; but if your home, life and/or the lives of your loved ones are on the line, you’d be better served by staying out of arms’ reach of the assailant. I don’t care if you’re Quentin “Rampage” Jackson, Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar all rolled into one. If you can stop a home invader before he gets his hands on you, you’re better off. Besides, the fact that you look like a Mixed Martial Arts champion didn’t scare him enough to keep him out of your house in the first place.
Power isn’t everything. The fact that you own a Blaser R8 chambered in .375 H&H is pretty cool. But you’re not looking to stop a charging rhino at 100 meters; you’re looking to stop a charging crackhead at less than 10 meters. Unless you live in one of those Malibu palaces Barack Obama’s Hollywood friends call home, you probably lack both the square footage and the sight lines to make any of the larger hunting calibers a good choice. Also, high-powered rifle rounds will not only go through a criminal, they’ll go through the wall behind him, the framing, the exterior stucco, the neighbor’s exterior stucco, their framing and their living room wall. Leave the elephant gun in the safe, Bwana. In fact, the power rule applies to virtually any of the larger-game hunting/sniper calibers. I own a PSL. It’s a Romanian-made designated marksman rifle built on a stretched-AK platform and chambered for the 7.62x54r round. It’s actually a fine weapon, an excellent deer rifle, and is effective at distances exceeding 800 meters in the right hands. It’s also a lousy choice for CQB. Not only is the PSL overpowered for standard home dimensions, it’s about 4 feet long. Have fun turning the corner next to the downstairs bathroom while carrying a canoe paddle. Moreover, if you miss your first shot, the recoil may make a decent follow-up shot hard to come by once the bad guy is closer to you than your muzzle brake.
Know your gun. Outside the politics, a gun is just a machine. Take it home, learn to disassemble it, clean it, oil it and maintain it. After you learn proper care and feeding of your firearm, take it to the range and learn how to shoot it. The same gun your buddy uses to dot I’s and cross T’s at 50 feet won’t just jump into your hand and begin making smiley-faces on your Shoot-n-C’s™ from the jump. Whatever weapon you settle on, you’d better know how to handle every stage of owning it. If it’s for home defense, you’re literally betting your life on it.
Be comfortable with the gun you choose. Some of my friends believe that comfort should take a backseat to effectiveness. Of course, some of my friends are speaking from live combat experience. Rangers knock down islamofascists in Waziristan a world away from your kitchen. A home defense scenario is as bad a situation as most people are likely to encounter. If you’re going to have to engage some scumbag in a firefight, give yourself as much of an advantage as possible.
Size matters, sort of. A .40 to the forehead will end any dispute. So will the aforementioned .375 H&H. But so will a .22. My wife owns a Ruger 10/22. The stock has been repainted in a color Glidden refers to as “French Lilac.” It wouldn’t be my first choice for virtually anything. But it can punch holes in paper at 100 meters, meaning it can punch holes in humans at 15 paces. Remember, you’re not trying to start a firefight; you’re trying to end one. Don’t discount the .22 just because it’s small. It won’t matter to the assailant. Small caliber firearms are lightweight, accurate and easy for even small-framed people to wield — even in French Lilac.
The Shotgun myth. Actually, the shotgun myths. Don’t get me wrong; shotguns are excellent CQB/home defense weapons. But they’re hardly the room-clearing bulldozers depicted in the movies. Contrary to popular belief, you do have to aim a shotgun, even at inside-the-house distances. Bird shot from a Winchester Defender 1300 will expand more than buckshot, but it won’t knock down a guy who’s 15 feet away from you if you aimed 3 feet to the left of him.Always aim, even with a .12 gauge. I really do recommend bird shot over buckshot and slugs. No. 6 birdshot is lethal inside 15 paces. While slugs are potent man-stoppers, they will also pass through a lot of material before coming to rest. That’s fine if you live on the Kennedy compound — not so much if you live in a subdivision. If you choose a pump-action shotgun, don’t make the ridiculous mistake of racking the slide as a warning. The assailant is already in your house. By racking the slide, all you’ve done is give away your location. He might run; but he also might take cover, draw his own weapon and wait for you to step into a killbox. Also, I can’t imagine heading to a gunfight without chambering a round first. Save the theatrics for the Stallone films.
Pistols versus rifles: Which is better? In general, both/neither. Again, it’s a matter of comfort and confidence for the individual defending his home. If I can ping some thug in the dome with my cute little NEA .22 magnum derringer, then the .22 magnum is a fine choice. If I’d rather “slice the pie” with my AR, then that’s the right choice. However, I would remind you that a properly wielded pistol is wielded at arm’s length, making the shooter’s profile only a couple of inches shorter than the same person with a standard AR. Don’t discount the AR just because it’s longer. Just remember the earlier rules: Know your surroundings.
Pistols versus pistols: Revolver or semi-automatic? Conventional wisdom holds that a revolver is a better home defense weapon than a semi-automatic because fewer moving parts means fewer chances for Murphy’s Law to appear in the middle of your house on fight night. But today’s firearms are — generally — made to high- and tight-enough standards that a well-maintained firearm in the hands of a reasonably intelligent person will work when the time comes.
A note about ammunition: Excepting shotguns, load your weapon with hollow-point rounds. The design of hollow-point rounds ensures greater expansion of the wound channel, damage to internal parts and less chance of rocketing through the target and out the other side. Kill the attacker, not the neighbor’s cat, nor the neighbors.
With all of that in mind, here are my choices:
“Tactical” shotguns. From Mossberg, Benelli, Remington and many more, the short-barreled shotgun loaded with birdshot is immensely powerful, reasonably accurate, fairly easy to maintain and comparatively inexpensive. The aftermath will be messy, but better to clean the carpet than be cleaned out of the carpet.
Pistol caliber carbines. These guns get left out of a lot of similar discussions, and I’m not sure why. Police officers across the Nation carry .40 service weapons. Why not add a little length to the gun, thereby giving it more muzzle velocity and less recoil? Besides, PCC’s are still short enough to move around in CQB without a hitch. Thanks to HK, Kel-Tec, Beretta and others, PCC’s are plentiful, inexpensive and a lot of fun to shoot.
The Taurus Judge. Load it with 410-bore shotgun shells, not the .45LC rounds. Keep in mind, 45LC and 45ACP are not the same caliber.
The AR-15. Minimal recoil, excellent accuracy and plentiful ammunition make the AR a no-brainer in nearly any situation.
Ultimately, I can offer two pieces of advice upon which everyone from the combat-tested veteran to the driven-hunting dove shooter can agree when it comes to guns and home defense:
- Have a gun.
The rest is up to you. I hope you never have to test any of this. The best way to handle a gunfight is to avoid it entirely. However, if someone else forces one upon you, choose wisely. Your life may literally depend on it.
Source: Personal Liberty Digest
Is there anyone out there who still believes that Barack Obama, when he’s speaking about American foreign policy, is capable of being anything like an honest man? In a March 26 talk in Belgium to “European youth”, the president fed his audience one falsehood, half-truth, blatant omission, or hypocrisy after another. If George W. Bush had made some of these statements, Obama supporters would not hesitate to shake their head, roll their eyes, or smirk. Here’s a sample:
– “In defending its actions, Russian leaders have further claimed Kosovo as a precedent – an example they say of the West interfering in the affairs of a smaller country, just as they’re doing now. But NATO only intervened after the people of Kosovo were systematically brutalized and killed for years.”
Most people who follow such things are convinced that the 1999 US/NATO bombing of the Serbian province of Kosovo took place only after the Serbian-forced deportation of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo was well underway; which is to say that the bombing was launched to stop this “ethnic cleansing”. In actuality, the systematic deportations of large numbers of people did not begin until a few days after the bombing began, and was clearly a reaction to it, born of Serbia’s extreme anger and powerlessness over the bombing. This is easily verified by looking at a daily newspaper for the few days before the bombing began the night of March 23/24, 1999, and the few days following. Or simply look at the New York Times of March 26, page 1, which reads:
… with the NATO bombing already begun, a deepening sense of fear took hold in Pristina [the main city of Kosovo] that the Serbs would now vent their rage against ethnic Albanian civilians in retaliation. [emphasis added]
On March 27, we find the first reference to a “forced march” or anything of that nature.
But the propaganda version is already set in marble.
– “And Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organized, not outside the boundaries of international law, but in careful cooperation with the United Nations and with Kosovo’s neighbors. None of that even came close to happening in Crimea.”
None of that even came close to happening in Kosovo either. The story is false. The referendum the president speaks of never happened. Did the mainstream media pick up on this or on the previous example? If any reader comes across such I’d appreciate being informed.
Crimea, by the way, did have a referendum. A real one.
– “Workers and engineers gave life to the Marshall Plan … As the Iron Curtain fell here in Europe, the iron fist of apartheid was unclenched, and Nelson Mandela emerged upright, proud, from prison to lead a multiracial democracy. Latin American nations rejected dictatorship and built new democracies … “
The president might have mentioned that the main beneficiary of the Marshall Plan was US corporations , that the United States played an indispensable role in Mandela being caught and imprisoned, and that virtually all the Latin American dictatorships owed their very existence to Washington. Instead, the European youth were fed the same party line that their parents were fed, as were all Americans.
– “Yes, we believe in democracy – with elections that are free and fair.”
In this talk, the main purpose of which was to lambaste the Russians for their actions concerning Ukraine, there was no mention that the government overthrown in that country with the clear support of the United States had been democratically elected.
– “Moreover, Russia has pointed to America’s decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. … But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that could make decisions about its own future.”
The US did not get UN Security Council approval for its invasion, the only approval that could legitimize the action. It occupied Iraq from one end of the country to the other for 8 years, forcing the government to privatize the oil industry and accept multinational – largely U.S.-based, oil companies’ – ownership. This endeavor was less than successful because of the violence unleashed by the invasion. The US military finally was forced to leave because the Iraqi government refused to give immunity to American soldiers for their many crimes.
Here is a brief summary of what Barack Obama is attempting to present as America’s moral superiority to the Russians:
The modern, educated, advanced nation of Iraq was reduced to a quasi failed state … the Americans, beginning in 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one dubious excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, tortured without inhibition, killed wantonly … the people of that unhappy land lost everything – their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives … More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile … The air, soil, water, blood, and genes drenched with depleted uranium … the most awful birth defects … unexploded cluster bombs lying in wait for children to pick them up … a river of blood running alongside the Euphrates and Tigris … through a country that may never be put back together again. … “It is a common refrain among war-weary Iraqis that things were better before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003,” reported the Washington Post. (May 5, 2007)
How can all these mistakes, such arrogance, hypocrisy and absurdity find their way into a single international speech by the president of the United States? Is the White House budget not sufficient to hire a decent fact checker? Someone with an intellect and a social conscience? Or does the desire to score propaganda points trump everything else? Is this another symptom of the Banana-Republicization of America?
Long live the Cold War
In 1933 US President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized the Soviet Union after some 15 years of severed relations following the Bolshevik Revolution. On a day in December of that year, a train was passing through Poland carrying the first American diplomats dispatched to Moscow. Amongst their number was a 29 year-old Foreign Service Officer, later to become famous as a diplomat and scholar, George Kennan. Though he was already deemed a government expert on Russia, the train provided Kennan’s first actual exposure to the Soviet Union. As he listened to his group’s escort, Russian Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov, reminisce about growing up in a village the train was passing close by, and his dreams of becoming a librarian, the Princeton-educated Kennan was astonished: “We suddenly realized, or at least I did, that these people we were dealing with were human beings like ourselves, that they had been born somewhere, that they had their childhood ambitions as we had. It seemed for a brief moment we could break through and embrace these people.”
It hasn’t happened yet.
One would think that the absence in Russia of communism, of socialism, of the basic threat or challenge to the capitalist system, would be sufficient to write finis to the 70-year Cold War mentality. But the United States is virtually as hostile to 21st-century Russia as it was to 20th-century Soviet Union, surrounding Moscow with military bases, missile sites, and NATO members. Why should that be? Ideology is no longer a factor. But power remains one, specifically America’s perpetual lust for world hegemony. Russia is the only nation that (a) is a military powerhouse, and (b) doesn’t believe that the United States has a god-given-American-exceptionalism right to rule the world, and says so. By these criteria, China might qualify as a poor second. But there are no others.
Washington pretends that it doesn’t understand why Moscow should be upset by Western military encroachment, but it has no such problem when roles are reversed. Secretary of State John Kerry recently stated that Russian troops poised near eastern Ukraine are “creating a climate of fear and intimidation in Ukraine” and raising questions about Russia’s next moves and its commitment to diplomacy.
NATO – ever in need of finding a raison d’être – has now issued a declaration of [cold] war, which reads in part:
“NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday [April 1, 2014] reaffirmed their commitment to enhance the Alliance’s collective defence, agreed to further support Ukraine and to suspend NATO’s practical cooperation with Russia. ‘NATO’s greatest responsibility is to protect and defend our territory and our people. And make no mistake, this is what we will do,’ NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. … Ministers directed Allied military authorities to develop additional measures to strengthen collective defence and deterrence against any threat of aggression against the Alliance, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said. ‘We will make sure we have updated military plans, enhanced exercises and appropriate deployments,’ he said. NATO has already reinforced its presence on the eastern border of the Alliance, including surveillance patrols over Poland and Romania and increased numbers of fighter aircraft allocated to the NATO air policing mission in the Baltic States. … NATO Foreign Ministers also agreed to suspend all of NATO’s practical cooperation with Russia.”
Does anyone recall what NATO said in 2003 when the United States bombed and invaded Iraq with “shock and awe”, compared to the Russians now not firing a single known shot at anyone? And neither Russia nor Ukraine is even a member of NATO. Does NATO have a word to say about the right-wing coup in Ukraine, openly supported by the United States, overthrowing the elected government? Did the hypocrisy get any worse during the Cold War? Imagine that NATO had not been created in 1949. Imagine that it has never existed. What reason could one give today for its creation? Other than to provide a multi-national cover for Washington’s interventions.
One of the main differences between now and the Cold War period is that Americans at home are (not yet) persecuted or prosecuted for supporting Russia or things Russian.
But don’t worry, folks, there won’t be a big US-Russian war. For the same reason there wasn’t one during the Cold War. The United States doesn’t pick on any country which can defend itself.
Cuba … Again … Still … Forever
Is there actually a limit? Will the United States ever stop trying to overthrow the Cuban government? Entire books have been written documenting the unrelenting ways Washington has tried to get rid of tiny Cuba’s horrid socialism – from military invasion to repeated assassination attempts to an embargo that President Clinton’s National Security Advisor called “the most pervasive sanctions ever imposed on a nation in the history of mankind”. But nothing has ever come even close to succeeding. The horrid socialism keeps on inspiring people all over the world. It’s the darnedest thing. Can providing people free or remarkably affordable health care, education, housing, food and culture be all that important?
And now it’s “Cuban Twitter” – an elaborately complex system set up by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to disguise its American origins and financing, aiming to bring about a “Cuban Spring” uprising. USAID sought to first “build a Cuban audience, mostly young people; then the plan was to push them toward dissent”, hoping the messaging network “would reach critical mass so that dissidents could organize ‘smart mobs’ – mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice – that might trigger political demonstrations or ‘renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society’.” It’s too bad it’s now been exposed, because we all know how wonderful the Egyptian, Syrian, Libyan, and other “Arab Springs” have turned out.
Here’s USAID speaking after their scheme was revealed on April 3: “Cubans were able to talk among themselves, and we are proud of that.” We are thus asked to believe that normally the poor downtrodden Cubans have no good or safe way to communicate with each other. Is the US National Security Agency working for the Cuban government now?
The Associated Press, which broke the story, asks us further to believe that the “truth” about most things important in the world is being kept from the Cuban people by the Castro regime, and that the “Cuban Twitter” would have opened people’s eyes. But what information might a Cuban citizen discover online that the government would not want him to know about? I can’t imagine. Cubans are in constant touch with relatives in the US, by mail and in person. They get US television programs from Miami and other southern cities; both CNN and Telesur (Venezuela, covering Latin America) are seen regularly on Cuban television”; international conferences on all manner of political, economic and social issues are held regularly in Cuba. I’ve spoken at more than one myself. What – it must be asked – does USAID, as well as the American media, think are the great dark secrets being kept from the Cuban people by the nasty commie government?
Those who push this line sometimes point to the serious difficulty of using the Internet in Cuba. The problem is that it’s extremely slow, making certain desired usages often impractical. From an American friend living in Havana: “It’s not a question of getting or not getting internet. I get internet here. The problem is downloading something or connecting to a link takes too long on the very slow connection that exists here, so usually I/we get ‘timed out’.” But the USAID’s “Cuban Twitter”, after all, could not have functioned at all without the Internet.
Places like universities, upscale hotels, and Internet cafés get better connections, at least some of the time; however, it’s rather expensive to use at the hotels and cafés.
In any event, this isn’t a government plot to hide dangerous information. It’s a matter of technical availability and prohibitive cost, both things at least partly in the hands of the United States and American corporations. Microsoft, for example, at one point, if not at present, barred Cuba from using its Messenger instant messaging service.
Cuba and Venezuela have jointly built a fiber optic underwater cable connection that they hope will make them less reliant on the gringos; the outcome of this has not yet been reported in much detail.
The grandly named Agency for International Development does not have an honorable history; this can perhaps be captured by a couple of examples: In 1981, the agency’s director, John Gilligan, stated: “At one time, many AID field offices were infiltrated from top to bottom with CIA people. The idea was to plant operatives in every kind of activity we had overseas, government, volunteer, religious, every kind.”
On June 21, 2012, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) issued a resolution calling for the immediate expulsion of USAID from their nine member countries, “due to the fact that we consider their presence and actions to constitute an interference which threatens the sovereignty and stability of our nations.”
USAID, the CIA, the National Endowment for Democracy (and the latter’s subsidiaries), together or singly, continue to be present at regime changes, or attempts at same, favorable to Washington, from “color revolutions” to “spring” uprisings, producing a large measure of chaos and suffering for our tired old world.
- William Blum, America’s Deadliest Export – Democracy: The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else, p.22-5
- Walter Isaacson & Evan Thomas, The Wise Men (1986), p.158
- Washington Post, March 31, 2014
- “NATO takes measures to reinforce collective defence, agrees on support for Ukraine”, NATO website, April 1, 2014
- Sandy Berger, White House press briefing, November 14, 1997, US Newswire transcript
- Associated Press, April 3 & 4, 2014
- Washington Post, April 4, 2014
- Associated Press, June 2, 2009
- George Cotter, “Spies, strings and missionaries”, The Christian Century (Chicago), March 25, 1981, p.321
We are almost 3 months away from the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. If we are lucky, Wall Street’s puppet government in Washington will not blow up the world by June 28, 2014.
I have always despised President Woodrow Wilson for getting America into World War I. I want to cure the world of reoccurring Depressions through Worldwide Debt Cancellation and Monetary Reform. As I have explained before, Depressions in the West are caused by the accumulation of Unpayable Debts. These occur because Bankers have the right to charge us interest on money they created out of nothing. We need a non-interest bearing currency like President Lincoln’s Greenbacks. And we also must end fractional reserve banking which allows a bank to lend out ten dollars for every one on deposit. Woodrow Wilson gave us the Federal Reserve bank and WW I. We have had cycles of wars and Depressions ever since.
I would like to compare 1914 to what is happening today. Let me begin by quoting something I wrote about World War I a few years ago.
Edith Cavell made a fatal mistake. She mistakenly believed she lived in a democracy. She was a British nurse working in Belgium in 1915. She saw first hand the horrors of trench warfare. She also saw a quick and easy means for England to end the war with a victory. She wrote a letter to the Nursing Mirror which was published on April 15th, 1915. She said that ‘Belgian Relief’ efforts were actually being sent to Germany which would have to sue for peace without this aid from the allies. England was quite literally feeding the German army that was killing millions of French and British soldiers. What she did not know was that similar allied war materiel was being sent to Germany via Sweden and other neutral nations so the war could continue for several more years.
Sir William Wiseman heard about her letter. He was the head of British Intelligence in North America for MI6. He was a partner at the Rothschild owned Kuhn and Loeb Investment Bank. He ordered the Germans to arrest Edith Cavell. She was subsequently shot as a spy. Her mistake was to think that she lived in a democracy where the people could vote, write letters to the editor and have a say in the life and death decisions of the nation. She did not live to see what we have seen.
Americans ought not to believe they live in a democracy. Our politicians cannot prove to us that our votes are honestly counted. Every President since 1989 has been a CIA asset. The CIA is allowed to fly heroin and cocaine into America by the plane load. And the CIA is allowed to go into Senate Intelligence Committee computers and erase documents proving the Agency guilty of torture.
The media seems all too willing to cover up every plot against the American people from the assassination of President Kennedy to the controlled demolitions of the Murrah Federal building on April 19, 1995 and World Trade Center Towers 1, 2 and 7 on September 11, 2001. They also were willing to let the previous administration tell us lies to justify the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. And now the current administration tells us lies about Crimea. Believing their propaganda could get us all killed.
The US paid the opposition $5 billion to start riots before the May elections could be held. Then they hired snipers from as far away as Israel to shoot both the protesters and the police. They installed a Jewish banker as President without elections because they were not sure the people would vote to join the European Union in May. The coup leaders passed laws making the minority Hungarian and Russian languages sort of illegal. And just as they did in Libya the Americans stole the Ukraine’s gold and looted their banks. This plan to seize the Ukraine was mentioned in print by Zbigniew Brzezinski in 2007. He assumed Russia would respond by taking back the Crimea which Khrushchev had given away in 1954.
Barack Obama and his advisers are probably even more incompetent than Woodrow Wilson and his crew. The Obama crowd has announced war game exercises for Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and the Baltics. Hopefully, Putin understands America cannot do anything militarily against a real Army. Obama’s advisers would like to crush Russia with sanctions. That will never happen. Russia has gold, oil, natural gas and other products that people all over the world want to buy. Nobody wants to buy America’s Genetically Modified Organisms. Even with retail stores dying America is still importing far more than it exports. And the Government Accounting Office said that the alleged 680 billion 2013 US budget deficit was really a trillion dollars. America by design has a permanently sick economy. America cannot survive sanctions.
Russia intends to announce the Holy Grail of energy deals in May when Putin visits China. China will buy Russian oil and natural gas with yuan. The United States has been occupying Afghanistan, funding Al Qaeda against Syria and killing people in Pakistan and Yemen with drones to prevent pipelines from distributing natural gas to Europe and to China. This restraint of trade has forced the price of natural gas and oil higher. Americans pay what they think are high rates for electricity but their natural gas prices are low. I am not familiar with the details of English utility bills but their utility bills are a lot higher than ours. And their government allows really outrageous gouging. European Union energy rules do not seem to be helping either. Barack’s forcing Russia to sell oil and natural gas to China will severely harm our allies in Great Britain and Europe. The economy of the EU cannot survive a 40% rise in their utility bills. They are near collapse anyway you say. Yes. But sanctions if not stopped now will push them over the edge sooner rather than later.
NATO wants to bring the Ukraine into their military alliance. This means if the Ukrainian coup leaders want to start World War III, we are all obligated to die. I once heard a Scotsman say that NATO stands for Not Altogether Thought Out. The Russians as part of that May Summit with China will be selling them Sukhoi SU-35 jet fighters. They can out maneuver the American F-22 and F-35 both of which are not really operational.
Prior to Putin’s visit to China in May the Chinese are expected to announce their gold holdings late in April. The last time they announced those holdings was in April of 2009. Sun Tzu in The Art of War said ‘when you are many pretend to be few.’ As I have said before, China has at least 7,000 tons of gold. They might announce a much lower number or delay the press release if they are not yet ready to reveal a gold backed yuan. They might prefer to do that in May or at least to announce something like the End of the Petrodollar which would be Phase I of the destruction of the US economy. That could take the form of an announcement that oil and natural gas would henceforth be bought and sold only in yuan, rubles and gold. That would send the dollar into a tailspin from which it will never recover.
All of this will come to a head at least a month before the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand on June 28, 2014. This time around I am hopeful that the US military which several times has had to say No to launching World War III by attacking Iran will refuse to get us and themselves killed. Why should we die because Wall Street cannot manage the economy without stealing our money by the tens of trillions, starving people to death by the hundreds of millions and killing people in their wars by the billions?
The vast gulf between corporate economic interests and political gamesmanship is vividly made clear with the calls for sanctions against Russia. Now that the Crimea referendum has resulted in a ninety-six plus desire to join the Russian Federation, the politico chess players in the West are eager to make Putin suffer. Former Soviet chess master Garry Kasparov, anti-Putin critic and activist said, “even if the West doesn’t want to be in a fight with Russia, Putin has already decided to start one.”
“I would be warning against using a chess analogy because in chess we have rules, and clearly Putin doesn’t care about rules because what he’s been doing now in Ukraine, it violates international law and international treaties Russia has signed before,” Kasparov said on CNN’s “The Lead.”
Kasparov should stick to playing his board gambit and leave the governance combat to the warhorse oligarchs. One such instigator of social unrest is the infamous and unremorseful Nazi collaborator, George Soros. The Daily Bell in the report, As Predicted, Ukraine Crisis Used to Argue for a Centralized Europe, cites that “The billionaire financier told The Daily Beast that European governments should have seized on Russia’s land grab in Crimea to breathe new life into a union that is disintegrating and stumbling towards oblivion.” Further into the article,
“It is interesting as well that Soros has a new book out on the very issues that he is now championing. Did Soros have some special, “insider” information that such a crisis was looming? This would certainly correspond to our suspicions about what we call directed history.”
This is the same clandestine manipulator who “backed the “so called” liberation thugs that engaged in street warfare as part of a western inspired scheme that used George Soros operative fronts as cover.” Such a paradox should not escape the transnational companies that bear the ultimate financial loss from a speculator who extracts ill-gotten gain from shorting the fortunes of such enterprises.
Here lies the political push back from the corporatists that want to protect their economic business with Russia. The old cold war byword, attributed to preventing global annihilation, known as MAD is now a new confrontation of MAED – mutual assured economic destruction.
Sanctions against Russia will blowback against the EU in ways that the technocrats in Brussels and the fools in Washington DC are unable to envision. The Washington Post states in the article, As talk of sanctions on Russia heats up, business groups draw cautionary line:
“What we’ve been hearing from our members is a lot of concern that there are two ways America gets hurt in a game like this. One is by American sanctions, that put them out of business, and the other is by Russian retaliation, regardless of what we do,” said William Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council. In meetings with the administration and members of Congress, “we have not been shy about telling them . . . if it is not multilateral, it is not going to work,” he said.
However, even this notion tragically lacks a sense of much needed economic consistency for any meaningful rebound in economic prosperity. The Wall Street Journal article, Ukraine Tensions Hit Global Companies, illustrates this concern with several examples.
- PepsiCo Inc., has billions of dollars at stake in Russia, its second-largest market by revenue after the U.S.
- Renault SA and other global automakers have invested heavily in Russia, a relative bright spot in an otherwise-dismal European car market.Russia is the largest market for French dairy group Danone SA, accounting for 11% of sales in 2013.
- Shares in Danish brewer Carlsberg AS, which generates more than a fifth of its sales in Russia, fell more than 5% Monday.
- Archer Daniels Midland Co., runs a crushing plant in Ukraine, alongside eight grain-handling facilities, making the country ADM’s second-biggest base in Eastern Europe, after Romania.
- Germany’s E.ON AG owns a fleet of Russian gas and coal-fired power plants across key industrial regions of Russia, and is one of Gazprom’s single largest customers.
- Italy’s Enel SpA controls Russian power company OGK5. Shares in both companies fell Monday.
- Exxon Mobil Corp, one of the biggest foreign investors in Russia, has raised its bet on the country in recent years.
Now consider the Trade Picture between the EU and Russia.
- Russia is the third trading partner of the EU and the EU is the first trading partner of Russia.
- Trade between the two economies showed steep growth rates until mid-2008 when the trend was interrupted by the economic crisis and unilateral measures adopted by Russia, which had a negative impact on EU-Russia trade. Since 2010 mutual trade has resumed its growth reaching record levels in 2012.
- EU exports to Russia are dominated by machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, medicines and agricultural products.
- EU imports from Russia are dominated by raw materials, in particular, oil (crude and refined) and gas. For these products, as well as for other important raw materials, Russia has committed in the WTO to freeze or reduce its export duties.
- The EU is the most important investor in Russia. It is estimated that up to 75% of Foreign Direct Investment stocks in Russia come from EU Member States (including Cyprus).
The economic stakes are very high and all factions will be major losers in a reciprocating sanction trade war. Transnational corporations reflect the following sentiment. “We in the business community do not want to be caught in the crossfire,” said Myron Brilliant, executive vice president of the US Chamber of Commerce.
Corporatocracy opposition to a deliberate sacrifice strategy invented by geopolitical theorists may well be the best move for stopping, this lame attempt to gain a questionable tactical or positional compensation in some other form. This chess game has no winner among nations. A loss of economic commerce only helps the vile Soros maneuvers that seek to destroy productive business.
“From the moment the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the United States has relentlessly pursued a strategy of encircling Russia, just as it has with other perceived enemies like China and Iran. It has brought 12 countries in central Europe, all of them formerly allied with Moscow, into the NATO alliance. US military power is now directly on Russia’s borders…This crisis is in part the result of a zero-sum calculation that has shaped US policy toward Moscow since the Cold War: Any loss for Russia is an American victory, and anything positive that happens to, for, or in Russia is bad for the United States. This is an approach that intensifies confrontation, rather than soothing it.”
- Stephen Kinzer, “US a full partner in Ukraine debacle”, Boston Globe
“We have removed all of our heavy weapons from the European part of Russia and put them behind the Urals” and “reduced our Armed Forces by 300,000. We have taken several other steps required by the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces Treaty in Europe (ACAF). But what have we seen in response? Eastern Europe is receiving new weapons, two new military bases are being set up in Romania and in Bulgaria, and there are two new missile launch areas — a radar in Czech republic and missile systems in Poland. And we are asking ourselves the question: what is going on? Russia is disarming unilaterally. But if we disarm unilaterally then we would like to see our partners be willing to do the same thing in Europe. On the contrary, Europe is being pumped full of new weapons systems. And of course we cannot help but be concerned.”
- Russian President Vladimir Putin, Munich Conference on Security Policy, February 2007
The Obama administration’s rationale for supporting the fascist-led coup in Ukraine collapsed on Wednesday when a “hacked” phone call between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet revealed that the snipers who fired on protestors in Maidan Square in Kiev were not aligned with President Viktor Yanukovych, but with the protest leaders themselves. The significance of the discovery cannot be overstated since the Obama team has used the killing of protestors to justify its support for the new imposter government. Now it appears that members of the new government may be implicated in the killing of innocent civilians. This new information could force Obama to withdraw his support for the coup plotters in Kiev, which would derail the administration’s plan to remove Russia from the Crimea and expand NATO into Ukraine. Here’s a short recap of the details from an article in Russia Today:
“Estonian foreign ministry has confirmed the recording of his conversation with EU foreign policy chief is authentic. Urmas Paet said that snipers who shot at protesters and police in Kiev were hired by Maidan leaders.
During the conversation, Paet stressed that “there is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition.”….
The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also issued a statement on its website, saying that the recording of the leaked telephone conversation between Paet and Ashton is “authentic.” (“Estonian Foreign Ministry confirms authenticity of leaked call on Kiev snipers“, Russia Today)
To its credit, the UK Guardian published an article reporting the basic facts, but there’s been no coverage by the New York Times, the Washington Post or any of the major TV News networks. America’s elite media are engaged in a coordinated news blackout to keep people from seeing that the Obama administration and their EU collaborators are supporting a group of far-right extremists who were directly involved in the killing of civilians in order to topple a democratically-elected government. Here’s more from the same article:
“…there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition,” Paet says…the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened.” (“Ukraine crisis: bugged call reveals conspiracy theory about Kiev snipers“, Guardian)
There won’t be an investigation because an investigation would reveal the truth, and the truth would undermine Obama’s plan to install a puppet regime in Kiev. The new government has already shown that it is more than willing to do Washington’s bidding, that is, to impose austerity measures on the working people of Ukraine, to pay off fatcat bondholders in Berlin and Brussels via more extortionist IMF loans, to extend NATO to Russia’s border in contravention of agreements made with Bush the Elder following the fall of the Berlin Wall, and to pursue the crackpot dreams of global hegemony laid out in “The Grand Chessboard” by New World Order fantasist Zbigniew Brzezinski. These are the primary objectives of the present policy which could be upended by the allegations of foul play.
The smoking gun revelations of the hacked phone call came just hours before US officials indicated they were planning to increase their military footprint in Eastern Europe. According to the World Socialist Web Site:
“Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon will boost joint training of NATO forces in Poland and step up NATO air patrols in the Baltics…US military officials said they were deploying six F-15 fighter jets and KC-135 transport planes. ….One guided-missile frigate, the USS Taylor, is still in a Black Sea port in Turkey after patrolling the region during the Sochi Olympics…
Turkish officials confirmed that they had given a US Navy warship permission to pass through the Bosphorus straits into the Black Sea, which borders Ukraine.” (“Amid Ukraine crisis, US launches military escalation in Eastern Europe”, World Socialist Web Site)
Also Russia Today reports that: “The guided missile destroyer, the USS Truxton, is heading to the Black Sea, for what the US military said is a “routine” deployment…The ship has a crew of about 300 and is part of an aircraft carrier strike group that left the US in mid-February.” (“US navy confirms missile destroyer USS Truxton approaching the Black Sea”, RT)
“Routine deployment”? So provoking a war with Russia is “routine”? Talk about understatement.
The military escalation occurs in an atmosphere of heightened tension between the two nuclear-armed powers and will certainly add to their mutual distrust. Hagel’s deployment is consistent with a plan for antagonizing Moscow that was proposed just days earlier in the Washington Post by the Obama administration’s ideological godfather, Zbigniew Brzezinski. Here’s a bit of what Brzezinski had to say in the article titled “What is to be done? Putin’s aggression in Ukraine needs a response”:
“…the West should promptly recognize the current government of Ukraine as legitimate. Uncertainty regarding its legal status could tempt Putin to repeat his Crimean charade…
“…the West should convey.. that the Ukrainian army can count on immediate and direct Western aid so as to enhance its defensive capabilities. There should be no doubt left in Putin’s mind that an attack on Ukraine would precipitate a prolonged and costly engagement, and Ukrainians should not fear that they would be left in the lurch.
Meanwhile, NATO forces, consistent with the organization’s contingency planning, should be put on alert. High readiness for some immediate airlift to Europe of U.S. airborne units would be politically and militarily meaningful. If the West wants to avoid a conflict, there should be no ambiguity in the Kremlin as to what might be precipitated by further adventurist use of force in the middle of Europe.” (“What is to be done? Putin’s aggression in Ukraine needs a response”, Washington Post)
“Adventurist”? Dr. Strangelove is calling the Kremlin adventurist when his recommendations would put NATO, the US and Moscow on hairtrigger alert increasing the chances of an error in judgment that could lead to thermonuclear war. Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?
But listen to the tone of Brzezinski’s op-ed. In just a few short paragraphs, the author–who many respect as a restrained and brilliant global strategist–refers to Putin as a thug, a Mafia gangster, Mussolini, and Hitler. I imagine if he had another paragraph to work with, he would have added Beelzebub Satan to the list.
This isn’t politics; it’s hysterics. It’s incendiary, jingoistic mumbo-jumbo intended to rouse the public and fan the flames of nationalism. It’s the same kind of self-righteous raving that precipitated the invasion of Iraq.
And what is Brzezinski saying?
Is he saying that events in the Crimea are a threat to US national security? Is he saying that the US should now feel free to apply the Monroe Doctrine everywhere across the planet, sticking our big nose wherever the president sees fit?
The trouble in the Crimea has nothing to do with the United States. We have no dog in this fight. This is about military expansion into Eurasia, this is about pipeline corridors and oil fields, this is about dismantling the Russian Federation and positioning multinational corporations and Wall Street investment banks in Asia for the new century. And, finally, this is an ego-driven crusade by an old man who wants to see his looneybin NWO global hegemony vision enacted before they cart him off on a marble slab. That’s what this is really about; the glorious new world disorder, the dystopian wetdream of thinktank patricians everywhere whose only purpose in life is to initiate wars that other-peoples-sons will have to fight.
Entering Ukraine into the corporate-western alliance is a critical part of Brzezinski’s masterplan. The basic strategy has been underway since the fall of the Berlin Wall when neoliberal carpetbaggers from the US assisted in the looting of the former Soviet state leaving Russia politically broken and economically destitute. Since then, US policy towards Russia has been overtly hostile, making every effort to encircle the oil-rich nation while positioning nuclear missile installations on its perimeter. Now Washington is using its fascist-backed coup in Ukraine to force Moscow to relinquish its grip on a region that is vital to its national security.
Here’s a brief excerpt from an interview with Stephen Cohen, professor of Russian studies and history emeritus at New York University on Monday on PBS Newshour. Cohen helps to clarify what is really going on viv a vis the US and Russia:
“What we’re watching today is the worst kind of history being made, the descent of a new Cold War divide between West and East in Europe, this time not in faraway Berlin, but right on Russia’s borders through Ukraine. That will be instability and the prospect of war for decades to come for our kids and our grandchildren. The official version is that Putin is to blame; he did this. But it simply isn’t true. This began 20 years ago when Clinton began the movement of NATO toward Russia, a movement that’s continued.
…the fundamental issue here is that, three or four years ago, Putin made absolutely clear he had two red lines…One was in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. (Putin would not allow NATO in Georgia) The other was in Ukraine. We crossed both. You got a war in Georgia in 2008, and you have got today in Ukraine because we, the United States and Europe, crossed Putin’s red line.” (PBS News Hour)
There’s no doubt who is to blame for the present conflict in Cohen’s mind. It’s Washington.
So, here we are, between a rock and a hard place: Putin cannot back down on an issue that’s crucial to national security, and Washington is more determined than ever to pull Ukraine into –what Henry Kissinger calls–”a cooperative international system.” (aka–global capitalist rule) That means there’s going to be a war.
On Thursday, Crimea MPs voted unanimously to hold a referendum on whether the region should become a part of Russia or not. The balloting will take place in 10 days although Obama has already said that he will not honor the results. Apparently, other countries need to get the green-light from Washington before they conduct their elections now. This is how ridiculous things have gotten.
In 2008, Brzezinski revealed the real motives behind US aggression in Central Asia in an article that appeared in the Huffington Post that dealt primarily with the dust up in Georgia. (where Putin deployed Russian troops to defend Russian speaking civilians in South Ossetia.) Here’s what Brzezinski had to say:
“The question the international community now confronts is how to respond to a Russia that engages in the blatant use of force with larger imperial designs in mind: to reintegrate the former Soviet space under the Kremlin’s control and to cut Western access to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia by gaining control over the Baku/Ceyhan pipeline that runs through Georgia.
In brief, the stakes are very significant. At stake is access to oil as that resource grows ever more scarce and expensive and how a major power conducts itself in our newly interdependent world, conduct that should be based on accommodation and consensus, not on brute force.
If Georgia is subverted, not only will the West be cut off from the Caspian Sea and Central Asia. We can logically anticipate that Putin, if not resisted, will use the same tactics toward the Ukraine. Putin has already made public threats against Ukraine.” (“Brzezinski: Russia’s invasion of Georgia is Reminiscent of Stalin’s attack on Finland”; Huffington Post)
Huh? It sounds a lot like Brzezinski thinks that oil should be his. Or maybe he thinks it belongs to the western oil giants; is that it?
So we’re not dealing with national security, sovereignty or spheres of influence here. What we’re really talking about is “access to oil.” Not only that, but Brzezinski is being quite blunt in his assertion that “the West” –as he calls it–has a legitimate claim to the resources on other people’s land. Where’d he come up with that one?
In another interview on Kavkacenter.com, in 2008, Brzezinski sounded the same alarm with a slightly different twist. Here’s an excerpt from the article titled ”Russia tends to destabilize Georgia”:
“Brzezinski said the United States witnessed “cases of possible threats by Russia… motivated not by some territorial disputes….but caused by intention to take control over the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline”.
“If Georgia government is destabilized, western access to Baku, Caspian Sea and further will be limited”, said Brzezinski …. he stated that Russia will try to consolidate its monopoly on these markets and will use all existing political and economic levers, including “politically motivated cessation of energy supplies” in Europe and Baltic states.
“Russia actively tends to isolate the Central Asian region from direct access to world economy, especially to energy supplies”, considers the political scientist.” (“Zbigniew Brzezinski: ”Russia tends to destabilize Georgia” kavkacenter.com)
Putin is not isolating anyone and he’s certainly not taking over anyone’s damned pipeline. He’s the president of Russia. He sells oil and makes money, that’s how the system works. It’s called capitalism. But the oil is theirs. The natural gas is theirs. The pipelines are theirs. Not ours. Get over it!
Don’t kid yourself, it’s all about oil. Oil and power. The United States imperial ambitions are thoroughly marinated in oil, access to oil, and control of oil. Without oil, there’s no empire, no dollar hegemony, no overbloated, bullyboy military throwing weaker countries against the wall and extorting tribute. Oil is the coin of the realm, the path to global domination.
Putin has audacity to think that the oil beneath Russian soil belongs to Russia. Washington wants to change his mind about that. And that’s why the situation in Ukraine is so dangerous, because the voracious thirst for oil is pushing us all towards another world war.
Unless you’ve been in an underground bunker for the last month, you’d have heard that the Ukraine has gone topsy-turvy lately.
They seem to have escaped one old Soviet Union, only be reeled in by a new Soviet in the EU. There is also the problem of organized crime syndicates who have overrun the country.
Understanding the country’s recent history and following the money is important if you want to see which way the wind is blowing in Kiev…
Stalin and Krushchev Wanted Ukraine
For most Europeans, Ukraine is a gas transport corridor for bringing expensive Russian gas to Europe and Ukraine either overcharges Gazprom for gas transit fees, or does not pay Gazprom for the gas it takes for national consumption.
This Russian-Ukrainian gas game occasionally tips into gas embargoes – hitting consumers further down the line. As a geopolitical bargaining chip, conversely, Ukraine had considerable import - and weight – during the Cold War period which tapered off in 1989-91. Relatively quickly, Russia withdrew “nearly all” of its nuclear-tipped missiles, atomic warheads and nuclear military equipment and component inventories from Ukraine, in the 1990s.
That said, Ukraine is listed by human rights and corruption watchdog NGOs as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, tied with Bangladesh, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Syria. Its postwar history following the defeat of Nazi Germany is a tragic story of Soviet megalomania, paranoia and oppression. The Nazi Germans probably killed about 15% of the total population, but about another 600,000 Western Ukrainians were arrested between 1944 and 1952, one-third executed and the remainder imprisoned in Soviet gulags or exiled to the eastern Soviet empire. Among their crimes was “non-performance” in agricultural output.
Administered by the rising political star and soon-to-be rival of Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khruschev, firstly in eastern Russian-speaking Ukraine, the kolkhoz collective-farm system was operated by chiefs selected by Khruschev. He empowered them to expel residents who “under-performed”. The kolkhoz chiefs quickly turned this into a racket protection and vendetta system for expelling their personal enemies, and the weak, the old and other “misfits”. Well over 10,000 were exiled to the eastern parts of the Soviet Union. For Khruschev, this was a highly effective policy which he recommended it for adoption across the USSR to Stalin, despite it periodically resulting in wide-area famines.
Similar to the “agro-towns” attempted by Ceaucescu of Romania, Khrushchev further destabilized Ukraine’s slowly recovering agricultural output with his scheme for population regrouping, which he later applied in Russia when he became Praesidium chief on the death of Stalin, following a classic Mafia-style power struggle with NKVD chief Beria. Beria was shot and killed with five of his associates by order of Khrushchev in Dec 1953. One of Beria’s proposed post-Stalin reform ideas was to liberate either or both East Germany and Ukraine, in exchange for cash payment by the West
Crime Syndicates want Ukraine
On the surface, mainstream media tells us today’s conflict in the Ukraine pitches the Russian-speaking half of the country in the east (where ailing president Yanukovich’s main support base is) against the more pro-Western, and alleged pro-EU, Ukrainian-speaking half in the west (where imprisoned Yulia Tymoshenko’s main support base is). More precisely, the Ukraine’s rapidly-deteriorating economic situation reflected by rapidly-rising interest rates on its sovereign debt bonds and Fitch’s recent downgrade, and its near-civil war street rebellion have reinforced its organized crime syndicates. Its organized criminals, and their enemies-and-allies in Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian and other east European organized crime syndicates, are vying for control of the State itself, to widen and deepen their lucrative activity.
The past week has seen President Yanukovych accept the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet, repeal anti-protest laws, provide an amnesty to detained protesters, and offer senior government jobs to the opposition – offers that were rejected. Moscow for its part has threatened it may hold back some or all of a promised Ukrainian bond-bailout package and a promised cut in gas prices for Ukraine until a new government is formed. The gas price cut and the loans, totalling $15bn (11 bn euros) were agreed in December, and widely seen as rewarding Yanukovich for Kiev’s rejection of an EU associate country deal for Ukraine.
Ukraine is one of six post-Soviet nations – along with Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia – to be invited to cooperate with the EU within a new ‘multilateral’ framework that is high on promises but slim on content. The framework seeks visa-free travel, better human rights, more democracy, and respect for the principles of the market economy and sustainable development – so say the EU websites, but the single most important economic content is a trade pact aimed at cutting tariffs and taxes, which are in any case decreasing on the Ukrainian side due to its membership of the WTO since 2009. Main EU exports to Ukraine include medicine, motor vehicles, mobile phones and other manufactured goods, while main EU imports were of low to mid-value: iron and steel products, vegetable oils, ferro-nickel ores, iron ores and crude oil.
Acting long before the Ukraine’s membership of the WTO, or the 2008 financial crisis – both of which spurred and favoured crime syndicate integration in east Europe, Russia and the EU – the present number of organized crime groups operating in eastern Europe is estimated at about 3,600 with each profiting from such prosaic products as household detergents, to fake medecines, human trafficking, prostiution and the Ukrainian favorites of hard drugs and firearms.Rob Wainwright, director of the EU’s crime-fighting agency, told the Financial Times in June 2013 that only concerning Europe’s black market in counterfeit foodstuffs, fake pharmaceuticals and substandard machine parts, this doubled in value to about €2bn since 2008.
Arms for Drugs and Arms for Cash
From, at latest 2002, US drug enforcement and security agencies warned the Bush administration of the Kiev-Tel Aviv-New York “Axis” of organized crime operating drugs-for-arms trades worldwide. This syndicate particularly focuses South American-source cocaine supplied by Colombia’s FARC and other Andean country crime entities, and Ukraine-source weapons and military equipment. Ukraine’s geographic role and location as a “window to the southern states” of the ex-USSR, makes it highly favoured for operating drugs-for-arms trades, today. Land-route heroin from Afghanistan, South American cocaine and Russian AK47s are the hard currencies featured by this trade.
Godfather of the AK47: Ukrainian Mikhail Kalashnikov.
Ukraine’s front-line status in the Cold War and its own arms-making industries made the country a major source for Russian licit and illicit arms exports, and Soviet-era materiel is still widely available. This ranges from the “iconic” AK47 rifle through to mines, grenades and military explosive-pyrotechnic devices, to night-sighting and communications equipment, and artillery pieces through the low-end range of 35mm-105mm, to also-iconic Soviet 72-ton T72 tanks, a highly depressed market where prices can be as low as scrap value only – about $3.50 per kilogram of weight.
Western security analysts, preferring not to have their names published, also point out that Ukraine is a “wonderland” of nuclear civil-military crossover materials and ordnance. Following the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown, then the collapse and break up of the USSR in 1989-91, they say that large amounts of unaccounted-for nuclear fuel rods, wastes and nuclear military components exist in the country. They also underline the increased technological sophistication of ex-Soviet national mafias and their Middle Eastern opposite numbers, able to produce “binary nuclear” weapons, from nuclear and non-nuclear components, transported separately to reduce detection for final re-assembly when required.
Ukraine’s now accelerating political destabilization creates a classic poker-game challenge for Vladimir Putin at this time. He can act to prevent the country “seceding to the West’, or being partitioned into its western and eastern parts.
Whether Putin clamps down or lets the country fall apart, or the domestic power struggle inside Ukraine continues with no clear winner, the transition interval will certainly feature action by organized crime to further and deepen its already-strong foothold.
What really happened in the Ukrainian crisis?
It is freezing cold in Kiev, legendary city of golden domes on the banks of Dnieper River – cradle of ancient Russian civilisation and the most charming of East European capitals. It is a comfortable and rather prosperous place, with hundreds of small and cosy restaurants, neat streets, sundry parks and that magnificent river. The girls are pretty and the men are sturdy. Kiev is more relaxed than Moscow, and easier on the wallet. Though statistics say the Ukraine is broke and its people should be as poor as Africans, in reality they aren’t doing too badly, thanks to their fiscal imprudence. The government borrowed and spent freely, heavily subsidised housing and heating, and they brazenly avoided devaluation of the national currency and the austerity program prescribed by the IMF. This living on credit can go only so far: the Ukraine was doomed to default on its debts next month or sooner, and this is one of the reasons for the present commotion.
A tug-of-war between the East and the West for the future of Ukraine lasted over a month, and has ended for all practical purposes in a resounding victory for Vladimir Putin, adding to his previous successes in Syria and Iran. The trouble began when the administration of President Yanukovich went looking for credits to reschedule its loans and avoid default. There were no offers. They turned to the EC for help; the EC, chiefly Poland and Germany, seeing that the Ukrainian administration was desperate, prepared an association agreement of unusual severity.
The EC is quite hard on its new East European members, Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria et al.: these countries had their industry and agriculture decimated, their young people working menial jobs in Western Europe, their population drop exceeded that of the WWII.
But the association agreement offered to the Ukraine was even worse. It would turn the Ukraine into an impoverished colony of the EC without giving it even the dubious advantages of membership (such as freedom of work and travel in the EC). In desperation, Yanukovich agreed to sign on the dotted line, in vain hopes of getting a large enough loan to avoid collapse. But the EC has no money to spare – it has to provide for Greece, Italy, Spain. Now Russia entered the picture. At the time, relations of the Ukraine and Russia were far from good. Russians had become snotty with their oil money, the Ukrainians blamed their troubles on Russians, but Russia was still the biggest market for Ukrainian products.
For Russia, the EC agreement meant trouble: currently the Ukraine sells its output in Russia with very little customs protection; the borders are porous; people move freely across the border, without even a passport. If the EC association agreement were signed, the EC products would flood Russia through the Ukrainian window of opportunity. So Putin spelled out the rules to Yanukovich: if you sign with the EC, Russian tariffs will rise. This would put some 400,000 Ukrainians out of work right away. Yanukovich balked and refused to sign the EC agreement at the last minute. (I predicted this in my report from Kiev full three weeks before it happened, when nobody believed it – a source of pride).
The EC, and the US standing behind it, were quite upset. Besides the loss of potential economic profit, they had another important reason: they wanted to keep Russia farther away from Europe, and they wanted to keep Russia weak. Russia is not the Soviet Union, but some of the Soviet disobedience to Western imperial designs still lingers in Moscow: be it in Syria, Egypt, Vietnam, Cuba, Angola, Venezuela or Zimbabwe, the Empire can’t have its way while the Russian bear is relatively strong. Russia without the Ukraine can’t be really powerful: it would be like the US with its Mid-western and Pacific states chopped away. The West does not want the Ukraine to prosper, or to become a stable and strong state either, so it cannot join Russia and make it stronger. A weak, poor and destabilised Ukraine in semi-colonial dependence to the West with some NATO bases is the best future for the country, as perceived by Washington or Brussels.
Angered by this last-moment-escape of Yanukovich, the West activated its supporters. For over a month, Kiev has been besieged by huge crowds bussed from all over the Ukraine, bearing a local strain of the Arab Spring in the far north. Less violent than Tahrir, their Maidan Square became a symbol of struggle for the European strategic future of the country. The Ukraine was turned into the latest battle ground between the US-led alliance and a rising Russia. Would it be a revanche for Obama’s Syria debacle, or another heavy strike at fading American hegemony?
The simple division into “pro-East” and “pro-West” has been complicated by the heterogeneity of the Ukraine. The loosely knit country of differing regions is quite similar in its makeup to the Yugoslavia of old. It is another post-Versailles hotchpotch of a country made up after the First World War of bits and pieces, and made independent after the Soviet collapse in 1991. Some parts of this “Ukraine” were incorporated by Russia 500 years ago, the Ukraine proper (a much smaller parcel of land, bearing this name) joined Russia 350 years ago, whilst the Western Ukraine (called the “Eastern Regions”) was acquired by Stalin in 1939, and the Crimea was incorporated in the Ukrainian Soviet Republic by Khrushchev in 1954.
The Ukraine is as Russian as the South-of-France is French and as Texas and California are American. Yes, some hundreds years ago, Provence was independent from Paris, – it had its own language and art; while Nice and Savoy became French rather recently. Yes, California and Texas joined the Union rather late too. Still, we understand that they are – by now – parts of those larger countries, ifs and buts notwithstanding. But if they were forced to secede, they would probably evolve a new historic narrative stressing the French ill treatment of the South in the Cathar Crusade, or dispossession of Spanish and Russian residents of California.
Accordingly, since the Ukraine’s independence, the authorities have been busy nation-building, enforcing a single official language and creating a new national myth for its 45 million inhabitants. The crowds milling about the Maidan were predominantly (though not exclusively) arrivals from Galicia, a mountainous county bordering with Poland and Hungary, 500 km (300 miles) away from Kiev, and natives of the capital refer to the Maidan gathering as a “Galician occupation”.
Like the fiery Bretons, the Galicians are fierce nationalists, bearers of a true Ukrainian spirit (whatever that means). Under Polish and Austrian rule for centuries, whilst the Jews were economically powerful, they are a strongly anti-Jewish and anti-Polish lot, and their modern identity centred around their support for Hitler during the WWII, accompanied by the ethnic cleansing of their Polish and Jewish neighbours. After the WWII, the remainder of pro-Hitler Galician SS fighters were adopted by US Intelligence, re-armed and turned into a guerrilla force against the Soviets. They added an anti-Russian line to their two ancient hatreds and kept fighting the “forest war” until 1956, and these ties between the Cold Warriors have survived the thaw.
After 1991, when the independent Ukraine was created, in the void of state-building traditions, the Galicians were lauded as ‘true Ukrainians’, as they were the only Ukrainians who ever wanted independence. Their language was used as the basis of a new national state language, their traditions became enshrined on the state level. Memorials of Galician Nazi collaborators and mass murderers Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych peppered the land, often provoking the indignation of other Ukrainians. The Galicians played an important part in the 2004 Orange Revolution as well, when the results of presidential elections were declared void and the pro-Western candidate Mr Yuschenko got the upper hand in the re-run.
However, in 2004, many Kievans also supported Yuschenko, hoping for the Western alliance and a bright new future. Now, in 2013, the city’s support for the Maidan was quite low, and the people of Kiev complained loudly about the mess created by the invading throngs: felled trees, burned benches, despoiled buildings and a lot of biological waste. Still, Kiev is home to many NGOs; city intellectuals receive generous help from the US and EC. The old comprador spirit is always strongest in the capitals.
For the East and Southeast of the Ukraine, the populous and heavily industrialised regions, the proposal of association with the EC is a no-go, with no ifs, ands or buts. They produce coal, steel, machinery, cars, missiles, tanks and aircraft. Western imports would erase Ukrainian industry right off the map, as the EC officials freely admit. Even the Poles, hardly a paragon of industrial development, had the audacity to say to the Ukraine: we’ll do the technical stuff, you’d better invest in agriculture. This is easier to say than to do: the EC has a lot of regulations that make Ukrainian products unfit for sale and consumption in Europe. Ukrainian experts estimated their expected losses for entering into association with the EC at anything from 20 to 150 billion euros.
For Galicians, the association would work fine. Their speaker at the Maidan called on the youth to ‘go where you can get money’ and do not give a damn for industry. They make their income in two ways: providing bed-and breakfast rooms for Western tourists and working in Poland and Germany as maids and menials. They hoped they would get visa-free access to Europe and make a decent income for themselves. Meanwhile, nobody offered them a visa-waiver arrangement. The Brits mull over leaving the EC, because of the Poles who flooded their country; the Ukrainians would be too much for London. Only the Americans, always generous at somebody’s else expense, demanded the EC drop its visa requirement for them.
While the Maidan was boiling, the West sent its emissaries, ministers and members of parliament to cheer the Maidan crowd, to call for President Yanukovich to resign and for a revolution to install pro-Western rule. Senator McCain went there and made a few firebrand speeches. The EC declared Yanukovich “illegitimate” because so many of his citizens demonstrated against him. But when millions of French citizens demonstrated against their president, when Occupy Wall Street was violently dispersed, nobody thought the government of France or the US president had lost legitimacy…
Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State, shared her biscuits with the demonstrators, and demanded from the oligarchs support for the “European cause” or their businesses would suffer. The Ukrainian oligarchs are very wealthy, and they prefer the Ukraine as it is, sitting on the fence between the East and the West. They are afraid that the Russian companies will strip their assets should the Ukraine join the Customs Union, and they know that they are not competitive enough to compete with the EC. Pushed now by Nuland, they were close to falling on the EC side.
Yanukovich was in big trouble. The default was rapidly approaching. He annoyed the pro-Western populace, and he irritated his own supporters, the people of the East and Southeast. The Ukraine had a real chance of collapsing into anarchy. A far-right nationalist party, Svoboda (Liberty), probably the nearest thing to the Nazi party to arise in Europe since 1945, made a bid for power. The EC politicians accused Russia of pressurising the Ukraine; Russian missiles suddenly emerged in the western-most tip of Russia, a few minutes flight from Berlin. The Russian armed forces discussed the US strategy of a “disarming first strike”. The tension was very high.
Edward Lucas, the Economist’s international editor and author of The New Cold War, is a hawk of the Churchill and Reagan variety. For him, Russia is an enemy, whether ruled by Tsar, by Stalin or by Putin. He wrote: “It is no exaggeration to say that the [Ukraine] determines the long-term future of the entire former Soviet Union. If Ukraine adopts a Euro-Atlantic orientation, then the Putin regime and its satrapies are finished… But if Ukraine falls into Russia’s grip, then the outlook is bleak and dangerous… Europe’s own security will also be endangered. NATO is already struggling to protect the Baltic states and Poland from the integrated and increasingly impressive military forces of Russia and Belarus. Add Ukraine to that alliance, and a headache turns into a nightmare.”
In this cliff-hanging situation, Putin made his pre-emptive strike. At a meeting in the Kremlin, he agreed to buy fifteen billion euros worth of Ukrainian Eurobonds and cut the natural gas price by a third. This meant there would be no default; no massive unemployment; no happy hunting ground for the neo-Nazi thugs of Svoboda; no cheap and plentiful Ukrainian prostitutes and menials for the Germans and Poles; and Ukrainian homes will be warm this Christmas. Better yet, the presidents agreed to reforge their industrial cooperation. When Russia and Ukraine formed a single country, they built spaceships; apart, they can hardly launch a naval ship. Though unification isn’t on the map yet, it would make sense for both partners. This artificially divided country can be united, and it would do a lot of good for both of their populaces, and for all people seeking freedom from US hegemony.
There are a lot of difficulties ahead: Putin and Yanukovich are not friends, Ukrainian leaders are prone to renege, the US and the EC have a lot of resources. But meanwhile, it is a victory to celebrate this Christmas tide. Such victories keep Iran safe from US bombardment, inspire the Japanese to demand removal of Okinawa base, encourage those seeking closure of Guantanamo jail, cheer up Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, frighten the NSA and CIA and allow French Catholics to march against Hollande’s child-trade laws.
What is the secret of Putin’s success? Edward Lucas said, in an interview to the pro-Western Ekho Moskvy radio: “Putin had a great year – Snowden, Syria, Ukraine. He checkmated Europe. He is a great player: he notices our weaknesses and turns them into his victories. He is good in diplomatic bluff, and in the game of Divide and Rule. He makes the Europeans think that the US is weak, and he convinced the US that Europeans are useless”.
I would offer an alternative explanation. The winds and hidden currents of history respond to those who feel their way. Putin is no less likely a roguish leader of global resistance than Princess Leia or Captain Solo were in Star Wars. Just the time for such a man is ripe.
Unlike Solo, he is not an adventurer. He is a prudent man. He does not try his luck, he waits, even procrastinates. He did not try to change regime in Tbilisi in 2008, when his troops were already on the outskirts of the city. He did not try his luck in Kiev, either. He has spent many hours in many meetings with Yanukovich whom he supposedly personally dislikes.
Like Captain Solo, Putin is a man who is ready to pay his way, full price, and such politicians are rare. “Do you know what is the proudest word you will ever hear from an Englishman’s mouth?”, asked a James Joyce character, and answered: “His proudest boast is I paid my way.” Those were Englishmen of another era, long before the likes of Blair, et al.
While McCain and Nuland, Merkel and Bildt speak of the European choice for the Ukraine, none of them is ready to pay for it. Only Russia is ready to pay her way, in the Joycean sense, whether in cash, as now, or in blood, as in WWII.
Putin is also a magnanimous man. He celebrated his Ukrainian victory and forthcoming Christmas by forgiving his personal and political enemies and setting them free: the Pussy Riot punks, Khodorkovsky the murderous oligarch, rioters… And his last press conference he carried out in Captain Solo self-deprecating mode, and this, for a man in his position, is a very good sign.
He did not expect to be bankrupted, locked out of his home or for his children to be ripped from his side. Nor did Galalae, a Romanian born professional writer who had been living in Canada since 1985, expect to become the target of multiple arrests by the Canadian authorities.
Six arrests in two years, to be exact. And now, two months after the most recent charges against him were stayed by a Canadian court, Galalae is facing yet another potential arrest.
Galalae’s saga began in 2009, when he enrolled in an online political philosophy course at Oxford University, in preparation for a Master’s course into which he had been accepted by the University of Leicester. When he found himself censored and subsequently removed from the course, he began to investigate why.
That is when Kevin Galalae uncovered that he had been targeted by a covert program of censorship and surveillance, SAC, which had been operating in Britain since 2007. SAC, he soon learned, is part of a wider counter terrorism program called CONTEST.
Dismayed that he had been caught in a net intended to ferret out terrorists, Galalae subsequently sued the UK at the European Court of Human Rights. His lawsuit was lodged in March of 2011 and in April he flew to Strasbourg, France, to commence a month-long hunger strike at the Council of Europe in order to compel European politicians to condemn SAC and to compensate all students who had been so targeted.
Called back to Canada by pleas from his wife, Cindy, Galalae found that his wife, alarmed by his activism, had taken the children and fled to her parents’ home. She had also locked him out of their mutual bank account.
When Galalae showed up at Cindy Marshall’s parents’ home, looking for his family, he was met by a plainclothes police officer who informed him that he was “trespassing.” Galalae was subsequently taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. After three days, the doctor refused to hold him any longer and the police then showed up and arrested him on charges of “harassment” for his efforts to see his two children.
It is now two years and multiple arrests later. The Oslo Times ran a comprehensive article in May of 2012, detailing many of the intervening arrests and charges against Galalae. On advice of his lawyer, David Sinnett, Galalae pled guilty to the initial harassment charge and also to a charge of taking his wife’s emails, which he had taken to use as evidence of his innocence. Galalae fought all subsequent charges, none of which have resulted in sentencing or a guilty charge. Galalae’s longest period of detention was nine months, when he was held in Quinte Detention Center from December 2012 to September of this year. All charges against him were stayed due to the Crown failing to provide disclosure.
On September 4, 2013, the very day that the criminal court judge stayed Counts 1-8 against Galalae (the remainder of the counts were stayed on September 11), Crown Attorney Elisabeth Foxton filed further papers with the court alleging a recognizance violation which had taken place in November of 2011. The alleged recognizance violation refers to failure to reside at a reported residence during prosecution for charges, all of which were subsequently stayed. Of grave concern is that while the Criminal Court insists that there are no further matters concerning Kevin Galalae on the record, the Superior Court, where his recognizance violation will be heard, insists that only the first batch of Counts were stayed and that the other counts are still pending.
But this dissonance in court records is only a portion of the bizarre paper trail in this case. Evidence reviewed by this reporter includes apparently falsified police reports, finessed psychiatric records which attempt to create a file for non-existent treatment of illusory depression and records indicating repeated police fumbling as Detective Diane McCarthy and Constable Rob Lalonde attempt to tweak records in such a clumsy manner that the only reality that emerges is the over eagerness of the Kingston police to find an excuse, any excuse, to jail Kevin Galalae.
In addition, this reporter has reviewed correspondence between Galalae and the attorneys who were pledged to represent him revealing that said attorneys were at some juncture bound by the Crown from giving disclosure to their own client. One must ask how an attorney can represent a client when constrained from discussing the evidence with him.
On November 27, Galalae will appear in Kingston Superior court concerning this two year old recognizance violation on charges which have already been adjudicated. He has appealed to the OIPRD, which is the equivalent of Internal Affairs, to review the Kingston police’s actions in his matter.
States Galalae: “The rule of law no longer exists in Canada.” He reports thinking of his children, whom he has not seen in over two years, every single day. Writes Galalae:
“To force me into submission the Canadian authorities have taken my children away and are holding them hostage until such time as I acquiesce to global autocracy. They have accomplished this with the full assistance of my wife and her family, who have sacrificed me and my children to keep their social positions. But I will never submit. I will fight until my last breath to free my children and the world from the double yoke of political oppression and economic exploitation, which is all that remains of the so-called free world, a far more pitiful state of affairs than the communist world I was born in and left behind. ”
Galalae’s book on chemical and biological depopulation initiatives, entitled “Killing Us Softly: Causes and Consequences of the Global Depopulation Policy” is scheduled for publication by Progressive Press next year.
Then-Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson devised what has proven to be a brilliant strategy in which to silence and neuter America’s churches. His bill, which created the 501c3 tax-exempt corporation status for churches back in 1954, has, over the decades, effectively muted America’s pulpits. The vast majority of churches today are thoroughly and completely intimidated by the threat of losing their tax-exempt status under the 501c3 section of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). As a result, the vast majority of pastors are unwilling to address virtually any issue from the pulpit that could be deemed as political.
Add to the fear of losing tax-exempt status the egregiously slavish interpretation of Romans 13–that Christians and churches must submit to civil government no matter what–and a very legitimate argument can be made that Mr. Johnson not only silenced and neutered America’s churches, but that he has, in effect, turned them into agents of the state. More and more, the federal government is using pastors and churches to promote its big-government agenda.
Most readers are familiar with how FEMA created a program called “Clergy Response Teams” several years ago. Under this program, tens of thousands of pastors were instructed on how to assist the federal government in the event of a “national emergency.” Pastors were encouraged to teach Bible lessons from Romans 13 in which church members were told that God instructs them to always submit to civil authority unconditionally. They were taught to encourage their congregants to turn in their firearms and to be willing to relocate to government-provided shelters if that is what the government told them to do. The last report I read noted that these Clergy Response Teams have been established in over 1,300 counties in the United States. For those readers who are even casually acquainted with history, is this straight out of the Nazi handbook, or what? Now we learn that churches are being used to help the federal government promote and sell Obamacare.
According to TheBlaze.com, “Community organizers are joining pastors across the country to educate and help parishioners sign up for Obamacare. The coordinated initiative, called ‘Health Care from the Pulpit,’ is being implemented by Enroll America, a non-profit with the goal of maximizing ‘the number of uninsured Americans who enroll in health coverage made available by the Affordable Care Act.’
“The program has already reached a number of churches across the nation. In Jacksonville, Fla, Pastor John Newman is among those who invited community organizers from the group to his church to talk about the cost of Obamacare and the enrollment process.
“During the event, Enroll America invited congregants to fill out cards with basic information about themselves or people they knew who might be in need of health care, WJXT-TV [Jacksonville, Florida] reports.
“‘Our pastor, he keeps us real informed and grounded in what’s going on in the community, and he’s always bringing stuff to help us, so I love him for that,’ said one parishioner named Michelle Fletcher.
“Enroll America knows that pastors are trusted members of the community, which is why churches are a focus for education and information on the health care law.
“Through ‘Health Care from the Pulpit,’ the organization is working with faith leaders to ensure that people hear about availability–and with a captive audience in the pews, the move makes logistical sense.
“‘Pastors are trusted messengers. They’ll be able to get the story across, they’ll be able to relate to that story and they’ll be able to ask people to enroll in health insurance,’ Enroll America organizer Anthony Penna told WJXT.
“From Oct. 25-27, the organization launched its pulpit program as part of the Get Covered America campaign. Enroll America pledged to help churches who wish to enroll congregants or provide people in the community with information and resources.
“A press release from Oct. 22 on the Get Covered America website further explains the purpose of the in-church events.
“‘The “Treat Yourself to Coverage Weekend” will also engage dozens of faith groups for the first nationwide push of “Health Care in the Pulpit,” GetCovered America’s faith engagement program,’ it reads. “Working with a diverse group of faith and lay leaders, Get Covered America will host over 50 events across the country to further engage the faith community in education about enrollment in the marketplace.”
“Other initiatives are bringing churches into the Obamacare fold as well. Dr. Michael Minor, pastor of Oak Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Hernando, Miss., was recently given a federal grant to help enroll individuals in the health care program.
“Through the $317,742 fund, Minor will work with Cover Mississippi, a cohort of advocacy groups organized by the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program. He has already put together a group of 75 to 100 ‘navigators’ (trainers) around the state to provide information and access to Obamacare. While his efforts are unaffiliated with Enroll America, they serve as another example of a church getting involved in the health care roll-out.”
Think about it: before a bill becomes law, pastors are forbidden to address it from the pulpit, because it would be “interfering in politics–a violation of the separation of church and state;” but after a bill becomes law it is now the obligation and duty of pastors to support (and promote) it, because it is now the Biblical thing to do, per Romans 13. Was Johnson a diabolical genius, or what?
By the way, I strongly urge readers to purchase the book on Romans 13 that was co-authored by me and my constitutional attorney son, entitled, “Romans 13: The True Meaning of Submission.” This book shatters the misinterpretation of Romans 13: that Christians are commanded by God to submit to the state no matter what. The Apostle Paul was not introducing a new topic in Romans 13–not at all. The subject is covered throughout the scriptures. This book needs to be read by every pastor and Christian in the country. Order Romans 13: The True Meaning of Submission here:
Or order my 4-message video series on “The True Meaning of Romans 13″(on one DVD)
In the same manner that the Nazi government co-opted the churches of Germany, the federal government in Washington, D.C., is co-opting the churches of America today. During the rise of the Third Reich, Germany’s pastors and churches were taught the same misinterpretation of Romans 13 that pastors and churches in America are now being taught. And in the same way that Hitler used Germany’s pastors and churches to promote his big-government socialist agenda, America’s pastors and churches today are being used to promote the big-government socialist agenda emanating from Washington, D.C. Mr. Bush used the churches to promote the FEMA Clergy Response Teams, and now Mr. Obama is using the churches to promote the federal government’s socialized health care system.
I remind readers that during the Hitler years, the vast majority of German pastors and churches enthusiastically embraced the Nazi agenda even to the point of flying Nazi flags and giving the Nazi salute during the worship services in Germany’s churches. But who among us remembers the names of any of these pathetic pastors? Yet, we do remember (as does history itself) the names of plucky pastors such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller who led the spiritual opposition to Hitler’s encroachment into the church.
Instead of the federal government’s draconian “Clergy Response Teams,” we need to resurrect Bonhoeffer’s band of heroes, which was known as the “Pastors’ Emergency League.” This was a group of German pastors dedicated to resisting the Nazi agenda–especially inside the church. The creed of Bonhoeffer’s Pastors’ Emergency League was:
1. To renew their allegiance to the Scriptures.
2. To resist those who attack the Scriptures.
3. To give material and financial aid to those who suffered through repressive laws or violence.
4. To repudiate the Nazi cause.
Bonhoeffer’s Pastors’ Emergency League soon became a nationwide movement called, the “Confessing Church.” In his masterful book, “Hitler’s Cross,” Erwin Lutzer summarizes the creed of the Confessing Church as being, “No human sovereign should rule over the church; it must be under the Word of God to fulfill its role.” (Page134)
Lutzer also noted that the Confessing Church soon realized that “blind obedience, even in matters that belong to the state, might be a violation of the Christian mandate.” (Ibid)
Lutzer further wrote, “Many of our Christian heroes were lawbreakers. Whether it was John Bunyan, who sat in a Bedford jail for his preaching, Richard Wurmbrand, who was beaten for teaching the Bible in Communist Romania, Christians have always insisted that there is a law higher than that of the state.” (Ibid)
And, again, to quote Lutzer: “[I]f we say that we will always obey the state, the state becomes our God.” (Ibid)
The brave Bonhoeffer rightly said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” He also said, “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the
The names of the cowardly and compliant pastors who succumbed to Hitler’s ignominious intimidation are forever lost, while the names of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller will live forever.
In fact, are not the vast majority of highly revered Hebrew and Christian heroes the ones who RESISTED the power of the state when it became tyrannical? From Abram who resisted the “kings of the nations;” to Gideon; to Samson; to Queen Esther; to the prophet Micaiah; to Daniel; to Shadrach Meshach, and Abednego; to Simon Peter, who told civil leaders, “We ought to obey God rather than men;” to William Tyndale; to John Hus; to John Wycliffe; to John Bunyan; to Savonarola; to Martin Luther; to Dietrich Bonhoeffer; and to Jonas Clark, the names history regards most fondly are the names of men who RESISTED the power of the state when it attempted to interfere with man’s duty and devotion to God.
However, what do we see today? We see pastors and churches once again becoming the pawns of evil men in government. Pastors are not so much messengers of God and watchmen on the wall as much as they are agents of the state. They are not so much shepherds who fight and give their lives for the sheep as much as they are facilitators of the wolves who seek to prey on the sheep. And in modern history, the seed of this compromise and complacency began in 1954 when Lyndon Johnson introduced the devilish 501c3 tax-exempt corporation status for churches.
I am absolutely convinced–now more than ever–that America will never experience any sort of spiritual awakening until pastors and Christians abandon the 501c3 government churches and repudiate the devilish doctrine of unlimited obedience to Caesar. Until we return the Church to its rightful owner, Jesus Christ, the tentacles of oppression and tyranny will continue to strangle our land and our liberties.
That NBC had doctored a 911 call for the purposes of making George Zimmerman look like a bigot was a shocking revelation. Yet cut-and-paste propaganda is a common media tactic, and I’m not sure anyone is victimized by it more than Pope Francis.
You’ve probably read the headlines. “Pope Francis urges global leaders to end ‘tyranny’ of money,” “Pope Francis’s stunning blow to conservatives,” “Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven,” “Pope Says Church Is ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control”; rinse, wash and repeat. Yet these headlines range from delusion to, possibly, deception. By and large, he said, she said is not what the pope said.
Let’s start with the recent big news, the Jesuit magazine interview with Pope Francis called that “stunning blow to conservatives.” The stunned (and stunted) journalist who wrote that line, The Guardian’s Andrew Brown, used a Francis “quotation” prevalent throughout the media. To wit: “It is not necessary to talk about…abortion, gay marriage and [contraception] all the time.” Now, it’s not surprising Brown didn’t provide a link to the actual interview. Because not only is his cut-and-paste job missing an ellipsis (between “and” and “all the time”), it’s an elliptical formulation that omits 58 words — and 58 miles of meaning.
After saying he hadn’t talked about abortion, marriage and contraception much, here’s what the pope actually stated: “The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time [emphasis added].” The media didn’t omit the italicized words merely for brevity’s sake. When Francis said that the teaching is “clear” and he’s a “son of the church,” he is reaffirming doctrine and his fidelity to it. He’s saying that the teachings in question are definitive, set in stone, and that he is loyal to mother Church as any good “son” is to his mother.
Ironically, the pope, whom Catholics believe is Christ’s representative on Earth, is receiving the same treatment Jesus himself did. Many liberals make their case for homosexual behavior by saying that Christ was silent on it. Of course, Jesus didn’t say anything about pedophilia, either; this doesn’t mean He would have tolerated it. Likewise, it’s as silly to think that dogma is null and void unless continually espoused as it is to assume that a law is no longer on the books just because legislators don’t talk about it constantly.
Of course, one could still find fault with Francis’s comments. While “all the time” was surely just a manner of speaking, in reality I hear far too little sermonizing at Mass about the moral teachings in question. Instead there’s much nebulous talk about “love.” And while love is wonderful, I’d point out that a good physician makes the correct diagnosis and treats what the patient has, not what he doesn’t have. There is no powerful social movement whose placards state “Down with Love!” and “Give Hate a Chance!” As far as abortion and marriage go, however, the left has sought (and largely succeeded) in changing a tried-and-true status quo, and traditionalists’ talk about these issues is simply responses commensurate with the left’s cultural-attack talk. We don’t hose people down indiscriminately; we simply try to douse as many fires as the cultural pyromaniacs light.
Having said all this, the main difference between Pope Francis and his two predecessors is one of style, emphasis and tactics, not dogma. Dogma cannot be changed.
One problem between the pope and secular world involves communication breakdown: terms and phrases have different connotations, and sometimes different meanings, to a devout Catholic than to a modernist. Consider, for example, Francis’s July remark about homosexual priests, “[W]ho am I to judge?” This was widely viewed as deviation from Catholic doctrine, but the pope averred otherwise in the Jesuit interview, explaining, “I said what the catechism says.” But what long-held Catholic doctrine did Francis’s comment reflect?
The catechism states that while homosexual behavior is gravely sinful, homosexual tendencies are not (the catechism labels them “disordered”). This is simply common sense. A person generally doesn’t ask for the feelings he has, and they often result from early childhood influences over which he has no control. His responsibility lies in whether or not he chooses to act upon those feelings.
This brings us to the rub: when the pope says “homosexual,” he thinks of a person with the tendency, but takes for granted that a priest so burdened will strive to live a celibate life. When secularists hear the word, however, they generally think of a person engaging in homosexuality. Thus, while Francis was saying he wouldn’t “judge” a person bearing the homosexual cross nobly, the secular world heard, “I won’t judge the behavior.”
This misunderstanding is easy to fathom. “Who am I to judge?” has become a code-phrase meaning, “There’s nothing wrong with homosexual acts.” But the pope is not of our culture; he’s a South American, and I suspect he didn’t understand the code-phrase and how it’s interpreted by secular Western ears.
But some “interpretations” of the pope’s words are, damnably, much farther afield. Consider the Independent’s headline: Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven.” Not surprisingly, this paper also suddenly forgot how to use the hyperlink feature in its reportage (what the pope actually wrote).
But Francis never said “You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven.”
In fact, he never used the word “Heaven” in what was a 2688-word letter even once.
What the pope said that the media is spinning was, “God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.” The Independent also quotes the pope as saying, “Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.” Perhaps the paper has a (much) different translation from the Italian, but I find that line nowhere in the letter. Anyway, the letter is actually quite good on balance. As for insight into what Francis meant, space constraints here preclude deep theological expositions, but The Telegraph’s Tim Stanley provides a decent explanation here.
Yet The Telegraph also had its Independent-of-truth moment when publishing, “Pope Francis urges global leaders to end ‘tyranny’ of money,” which, as you could guess by now, also omits a link to the pope’s actual words. The paper writes, “He [the pope] said free-market capitalism had created a ‘tyranny’…. [That is,][u]nchecked capitalism had created ‘a new, invisible, and at times virtual, tyranny’, said the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.” The reality?
Francis never used the phrase “tyranny of money” or the term “free-market capitalism.”
In fact, he never mentioned “capitalism” or the “free market” even once.
The pope’s actual theme in what in this case was a speech, was that financiers, politicians and economists should cultivate a God-centered ethics, and Francis used the word “ethics” or “ethical” eight times and “God” four times in a speech that took mere minutes to deliver. And author of The Telegraph article, Nick Squires? He used the word “ethical” just once…in passing.
He didn’t mention “God” at all.
And while he didn’t present his cut-and-paste, add-and-subtract, mix-and-match formulations as direct Francis quotations, many readers would either assume they were or, in the least, wouldn’t figure that he had “Zimmermanned” the pope. But it’s not surprising the media is reluctant to report on a God-centered ethics.
They, apparently, are sorely lacking in it themselves.
Yet there are many reasons why media distort the pope’s words. First, they’ll do anything for eyeball-grabbing headlines. Second, Catholic theology has been forged over 2000 years, is very deep, and thus doesn’t lend itself to sound-bite presentation. More significantly, it cannot be understood by sound-bite commentators with 15-second attention spans who, sadly, interpret things knee-jerk style via the prism of their own prejudices. Third and in keeping with this, liberals exist in a realm of rationalization, anyway, and thus can truly convince themselves that their feelings-derived “sense” of someone’s meaning is gospel. The fourth factor is simple.
Leftists are dishonest.
Yet even many well-meaning people don’t understand the Church. For one thing, there’s the aforementioned factor: the secular and devout Catholic worlds often speak different languages, with words and phrases holding different meanings. As for doctrine, the Church isn’t some journalist with hormone-imbalance-induced mood swings. Defined doctrine (dogma) cannot change, and new doctrines won’t be forged with reporters. What a pope says in an interview doesn’t change doctrine any more than what a president says in an interview changes American law.
But then there is a more insidious reason for the media’s papal spin. Not only do the militant secularists assume the Church will eventually “get with the times” and embrace its agenda (it feels so obviously correct, you see), but they know if they can break the Catholic Church — if they can get its imprimatur — cultural domination is theirs. And, hey, if you can’t break it, fake it. With image being “reality,” making the low-info masses believe the Church has “seen the light” may be sufficiently demoralizing.
The last significant factor is one I’d like my Christian brethren to consider very, very seriously. By creating the illusion that the Church is abandoning certain unchanging moral principles, the media can widen the rift between the Church and some traditionalist Protestants. Beware the divide-and-conquer devils among us.
Having said all this, Pope Francis certainly gives the media much grist for the mill. One issue is his gregariousness — he said he loves being around people — and he talks to anyone and everyone about anything and everything. This is dangerous for any public figure. Moreover, while the pope is orthodox, and in that sense neither liberal nor conservative, Catholic doctrine doesn’t address every issue and all its nuance. And given that Francis’s instincts are, it seems to me, somewhat modernistic, I’m not confident in his pronouncements on matters beyond doctrine (or in his sense of priority). I think his grasp of economics is especially suspect.
And while the pope’s tactic of stressing Christ’s love and salvation message to the exclusion of certain moral doctrines is well-intended, I don’t believe it will work. The militant secularists aren’t interested in conciliation or compromise, but in the complete and utter destruction of Christianity. They take no prisoners.
So say your prayers; they’re needed now more than ever. And I will say that Pope Francis may inspire me to expand my prayer life. For the first time ever I may start praying for laryngitis.
The Internet connects people instantly everyday around the globe, feeding us news and activities, creating an intangible Cyber world that we are increasingly reliant on. Born from this cyber is an entire parallel cyber existence—complete with all of its trappings.
1. Cyber Flirting
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
2. Cyber Casino
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Because of the grey line surrounding the legality of certain kinds of online casino gambling, many sites have taken advantage of the loopholes, angering owners of brick-and-mortar casinos who have moved to lobby against them. Through video link-up players can play others from different parts of the globe on a live table on a computer screen.
3. Cyber Citizen
(AP Photo/Greg Baker)
It may be interesting to note that 32 percent of people age 18-24 use social media while in the bathroom, while 52 percent of people age 25-34 use social media while at the office, according to Nielson’s 2012 The Social Media Report. After using it, however, a whopping 76 percent report feeling “satisfied,” with the rest neutral or more unsettled than before.
As online shopping for clothes, food, and movies can be brought to you without so much as leaving your driveway, the outside suddenly seems unnecessary. Now, children ages 8-18 average almost 8 hours using entertainment media including the internet on a typical day. More than 1 in 2 American adults uses the Internet with 45 percent using email, and 40 percent using a search engine, on a daily basis.
4. Cyber Immortality
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Some developers believe that by 2050, we will be able to download our brains onto supercomputers. Even sooner, as close as seven years away, there may be a fully conscious computer with superhuman intelligence. As we do more things in our virtual worlds, adding machines with emotion is coming ever closer.
5. Cyber Heist
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Things get serious when banks are getting hacked and money is flowing out from cash machines. Earlier this year in February, hackers intercepted information of prepaid debit cards from the Bank of Muscat in Oman, and cashed out some $40 million in multiple countries in 10 hours.
Source: Epoch Times
On July 1 Croatia became the 28th country to join the European Union, and on current form there will be no further enlargement for many years to come. A look at the glaring dysfunctions in Croatia’s accession, compared to the double standards Brussels imposes on Serbia and Ukraine, is indicative of the peculiar mitteleuropäisch view of what constitutes “Europe” which still dominates the political and media elite thinking in Berlin and Vienna.
After the disappointing experience with Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU in 2007 but continue to be plagued by unstable governments and all-pervasive corruption, many experts have expressed doubts about Croatia’s readiness for membership. On its entry a month ago it became the third-poorest nation in the EU, with unemployment hovering around 20 percent. Of those who work, one-third are employed in the public sector. If it joins the eurozone in three years, Croatia would also become a prime candidate for an eventual bailout.
According to Transparency International, Croatia is ranked below Rwanda, Namibia, Jordan or Cuba in its 1012 graft index. Former prime minister Ivo Sanader, who played a key role in negotiating the EU membership, was sentenced to ten years in jail last year for accepting multi-million bribes from foreign companies. Last March the European Commission expressed concern over Croatia’s low level of legal penalties in corruption cases and its effectiveness in battling human trafficking and organized crime. “Widespread political and economic corruption persist, and its courts often show an overly lax attitude toward due process,” The New York Times editorialist warned on June 28. “The fact is that the Union may well be about to repeat the mistakes of the last round of accessions,” he warned, thus jeopardizing Croatia’s own future, diminishing membership prospects for other Balkan states, and stalling further enlargement for the next decade or more.
It is no secret in Brussels that Germany wanted Croatia in for its own geopolitical reasons, however, and that was the end of the debate. There is also an economic interest. Since their products have become significantly more competitive with the elimination of the 20 percent tariff on EU goods, German manufacturers and merchants in particular stand to profit from Croatia’s entry. They cherish the prospect of over four million potential new customers who are traditionally fond of German brands.
Many Croatians remain deeply skeptical about the benefits of joining the Union. In last year’s referendum on EU membership, only 43 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots and exactly two-thirds voted in favor of the union—a mere 28 percent of Croatia’s electorate. Recent polls show that only 39 percent welcomed the accession. State-funded celebration in Zagreb notwithstanding, Croatian accession was marked by all-pervasive gloom among its people as well as across the EU. Some Croats fear that tough competition from the north will drive many struggling companies out of business. Even Greece, Bulgaria and Romania are in better financial shape than Croatia, according to World Bank statistics.
For a country facing serious demographic decline, the most serious likely consequence of EU membership will be an exodus of educated young people when work restrictions expire in two years from now. Among Croatia’s under-25s unemployment rate exceeds 50 percent. A massive brain drain has already happened to Poland after it joined the EU in 2004, and to Bulgaria and Romania after 2007.
Croatian Euroskeptics say that just getting ready for EU entry has crippled their country in the same manner as Brussels’ neoliberal ideology has damaged the “Club Med.” Croatia cannot join the eurozone immediately, but it is maintaining a fixed euro-kuna exchange rate to qualify for membership in three years’ time. This denies it an opportunity to devalue and make its exports and tourist industry more competitive. On current form, Croatia’s tourist infrastructure can hardly compete with that of Italy, Spain, or Greece.
“Croatian governments have followed obediently the EU’s austerity advice, even before the accession.” Srecko Horvat and Igor Stiks wrote in an op-ed for the Guardian. The country’s foreign debt now exceeds $60 billion, more than $13,000 for each of Croatia’s 4.4 million people. It now has virtually no industry and relies heavily on tourism, which accounts for 20 percent of GNP. All this, Horvat and Stiks say, means that “Croatia has not actually joined only the EU; in reality, it has become a fully fledged member of the EU periphery.” One of the EU’s longest external land borders at 800 miles, they add, will necessarily cut Croatia off from its immediate and natural surroundings and bring further isolation from its neighbors.
By entering the EU Croatia has lost its membership in the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), which now consists of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia. The loss of customs privileges and trade benefits in those markets will cost the country at least 220 million dollars a year in lost exports, according to the Croatian Chamber of Commerce. Other analysts say that some 4,000 people will become unemployed as a result of Croatia losing CEFTA membership, with no compensating benefits in the highly competitive EU markets.
Last but not least, EU membership creates a major problem for thousands of Croats who make their living from fishing along the country’s Adriatic coast. They will face competition from much larger and better equipped fishing vessels from other EU countries—above all Italy—which are now free to operate in Croatian waters. In addition, they will have to invest heavily into new, EU-compliant trawl nets and safety equipment. Most of their gear is not in accordance with the EU’s Common Fishing Policy (CFP), whose regulations were modeled mostly on fishing in the Atlantic Ocean. Local fishers complain that successive Croatian governments did not even try to protect their interests and that they face bankruptcy.
For better or worse, Croatia is in the EU while other aspirants, like Serbia to the east, will stay out for many years to come—or, in the case of Ukraine, are not yet even in discussions for membership. Enlargement fatigue is all-pervasive among old and new Union members alike. The fact that it is particularly strong in Germany is what really matters. (Several smaller countries share the sentiment, notably Austria and Benelux.) German preferences largely explain the unequal treatment by Brussels of other countries in the former Yugoslavia and in Europe’s “eastern neighborhood.” What is sauce for the Croatian goose is no sauce for the Serbian or Ukrainian gander. Unlike in earlier rounds of accession, the EU no longer offers a specific timetable for achieving the promise of membership made at the summit in Thessaloniki ten years ago. Rather, the process remains open-ended and indeterminate. EU Commissioner for Enlargement Štefan Füle claims that enlargement will continue, but officials in Brussels privately concede that this is not the case.
Last April Serbia had to sign a humiliating, EU-brokered deal with Kosovo’s secessionist government in order to obtain a “conditional” date for the opening of accession negotiations next January. Effectively giving up one-seventh of one’s sovereign territory for the sake of the elusive “Date” was both a crime and a mistake, but even that does not promise the government in Belgrade that it will be any closer to full EU membership a decade from now than it is today. Turkey has been a candidate since 1999, and yet it will never be allowed to join the EU. Skopje-Macedonia (FYROM) has had a candidate status for the past eight years, with the final goalpost nowhere in sight.
Even after Serbia’s capitulation last April, German lawmakers came up with a list of seven additional demands which Belgrade would need to complete in order to be given a date for the commencement of accession negotiations. They wanted the Serbian authorities “to find and prosecute the demonstrators who attacked the German embassy in Belgrade in February 2008” (a day after Berlin recognized Kosovo’s independence), which is well-nigh impossible because the German government has refused to give the Serbs any surveillance camera footage. More egregiously, the Bundestag demanded that the Serbs accept, and not deny, that “genocide” was committed in Srebrenica; to apply pressure on northern Kosovo Serbs to “actively cooperate” with EULEX and Kfor; and to display “visible readiness for legally binding normalization of relations” with Kosovo.
Brussels’ lack of straight dealing is equally glaring in the case of Ukraine, which is not even being offered the prospect of EU membership anytime soon. Kiev has been struggling since 2007 to obtain the more limited Association Agreement with the EU. At the 15th Ukraine-EU Summit in December 2011, the EU leaders and President Yanukovych announced that they had reached “a common understanding on the text of the Association Agreement,” and in March 2012 the chief negotiators of the European Union and Ukraine initialed the text of the Agreement. Stefan Füle announced at that time that the Agreement could be finally signed after the Ukrainian general election in October 2012. It did not happen. Additional demands and conditions keep emerging instead.
Topping the list is the case of Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister, who is serving a seven-year jail sentence for corruption and is facing murder charges for the 1996 killing of a political opponent. Even though the case against the richest woman in Ukraine seems strong, Brussels has taken the position that it was politically motivated. The EU has also criticized Ukrainian authorities for failing to conduct last October’s parliamentary elections “in line with international democratic standards.” With Germany again the lead skeptical voice on the EU side, the question of whether the Association Agreement will be signed at the Vilnius summit this November remains uncertain. If it is not signed, it will not be for lack of trying from the Ukrainian side.
Unequal treatment of different countries by the EU’s old core—and above all by Germany—reflects some old prejudices and cultural preferences which will not go away. Of course, no German politician will ever admit that his or her judgment is impacted by the fact that the Croats were German allies in both world wars, while the Serbs or Ukrainians were no
One variant of a well-known law of bureaucracy says that the amount of time spent discussing a budgetary decision is inversely proportional to the magnitude of the budget in question. Judging by what I witnessed on March 20 at the European Parliament—at the Committee on Budgets’ hearing on the “Financing of the Eastern Partnership”—the Brussels machine functions entirely in accordance with this adage.
The money involved is substantial: 2.8 billion euros ($3.6 billion) over 5 years. The project’s stated purpose is to promote “shared values”—democracy, human rights and the rule of law—in six former Soviet states deemed to be of “strategic importance” to the European Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, andUkraine. Promoting the principles of market economy, sustainable development, civic society and “good governance” is also among the objectives.
In their opening remarks, the officials involved in running the Eastern Partnership Program were self-congratulatory about its alleged achievements. That much was to be expected: lots of sinecures, cushy jobs and expense-padded missions can be extracted from a few billion. Nevertheless, the entire construct’s numerous problems and shortcomings could not be concealed:
- Conceptually, there is no clear consensus within the EU on what exactly it is trying to promote in its eastern neighborhood under the bombastic slogans of “shared values, collective norms and joint ownership.” What does it all mean, if anything, in the real world?
- Empirically, the program has followed, and still follows, a “top-down” approach of deciding in Brussels what are the goals, then telling the eastern “partners” what they need to do, and finally rewarding them accordingly—rather than developing genuine partnerships based on those countries’ real needs and attainable objectives.
- Managerially, in order for the funds allocated to the “Partnership” to be optimally utilized, they would require elaborate apparatuses of deployment, supervision and evaluation. On the basis of the presentations last Wednesday, it is clear that the EU has neither the institutional mechanisms nor the supervisory bodies capable of insuring that this is the case.
- Substantially, the elephant in the room was the issue of EU enlargement—or, rather, the extreme unlikelihood of further enlargement after Croatia’s accession next July. Without the realistic prospect of an eventual path to full membership, the EU lacks meaningful leverage over the political elites in the six eastern countries to make them change their ways.
Far from being addressed, these problems are bypassed by the tendency of the EU bureaucracy to close its eyes to the reality on the ground in the countries concerned—or, worse, still, to misrepresent that reality for reasons of institutional self-preservations. The result, to put it succinctly, is that billions of European taxpayers’ cash are poured into a bottomless pit of post-Soviet corruption, graft, and pork-barrel politics. “We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us,” went the old Soviet joke. Its modern-day “Eastern” equivalent should be “We pretend to reform, and they pretend that we are doing a good job.” Instead of being properly perceived as part of the problem, terminally corrupt political “elites” are treated as partners in finding solutions.
Moldova is the prime example. On per-capita basis, this backwater squeezed between Romania and Ukraine—the poorest country in Europe—has received far more money than the other five “partners,” and the EU pretends that its objectives are being met. While I was at the European Parliament, the European Commission presented its own regional report on the implementation of the Eastern Partnership. It asserted that “significant progress was made in the implementation of the Eastern Partnership” and singled out Moldova for “showing significant progress,” “stepping up efforts to implement judicial and law enforcement reform,” and “continuing to implement reforms in the areas of social assistance, health and education, energy, competition, state aid and regulatory approximation to the EU acquis.” Moldova’s government was asked to “continue to vigorously advance reforms in the justice and law enforcement systems” as well as intensify the fight against corruption.
This is surreal, on par with the Soviet Communist Party congresses exalting the great and glorious achievements of socialism in the years of terminal decline under Brezhnev. In reality, Moldova is one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, according to independent analysts, who also claim that the majority of EU assistance is being misused by local officials. The Warsaw-based EaP Institute warns that the EU is devoting considerable sums to Moldova for very little return in terms of progress in the country’s reform process: “It begs the question: Why is the EU throwing money like this at a black hole of corruption, when there is so much to do in the EU’s own member states?”
It does, indeed. Moldova has already received some €482m from the EU Eastern Partnership, which is about 110 euros ($145) for every man, woman and child in the dirt-poor country—the equivalent of an average two-weekly wage. Nobody knows for certain where it went, but we have a fair idea. Recent opinion polls say that the majority of citizens of Moldova consider their current coalition government as “totally corrupt.” According to the Transparency International 2012 report, Moldova is among the most corrupt places in Europe, with Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia topping the list. But the EU says it is doing well, because an unhealthy symbiotic relationship has been developed between the unelected and mostly unaccountable bureaucrats managing enormous funds earmarked for nebulous purposes and their foreign “clients” who gloat at the mouth-watering prospect of placing a major portion of those funds into their own pockets.
After last Wednesday’s introductory presentations, several experts and members of European Parliament (MEPs) expressed misgivings about the Eastern Partnership policy. Olaf Osica, director of the centre for eastern studies in Warsaw, declared that “in four years the policy had failed to produce any tangible political or social results.” A prominent Polish MEP and former senior government minister, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, said the entire edifice should be “completely revised”:
There are a whole multitude of projects which, as we have heard at the hearing, no one seems able to follow or understand… What we are doing is creating the illusion that the EU is helping to transform these eastern European countries when, in fact, the naked truth is that the EU is losing its eastern neighbors. What is actually needed is for the EU—and that means both the Commission and Parliament—to totally revise and revisit its Eastern Partnership policy.
All this was in stark contrast to the earlier assurances by senior officials that the current picture was “confused,” but the EU was nevertheless “doing quite well” in addressing concerns about the transparency and accountability of its funding for the six countries (Marcus Cornaro); or that the EU was determined to push ahead with closer cooperation with those countries that have “demonstrated a commitment to the reform process” (Richard Tibbels).
The lenient attitude of EU officials regarding the patchy record of their “Eastern partners” on corruption, democratisation, and the rule of law is in stark contrast with the ever-moving goal posts for a half-dozen aspiring EU members in the Western Balkans. None of them will join the EU for a decade at least, of course, and a realistic reassessment of their political and economic policies is long overdue. The EU is in a state of chronic institutional and financial crisis, and trying to get on board at this point is equal to betting on Romney last November 5. Alternatives do exist, but they call for the cold-blooded diversification of long-term strategies. Belgrade and Kiev in particular should take note.
The year is 632 A.D., and Muslim hordes have set their sights on the Mideast and North Africa — the old Christian world. And the Caliphate, as the Islamic realm is called, will not be denied. Syria and Iraq fall in 636. Palestine is next in 638. And Byzantine Egypt and North Africa, not even Arab lands, are conquered by 642 and 709, respectively. Then, just two years later, the Muslims cross the Strait of Gibraltar and enter Iberia (now Spain and Portugal). The invasion of Europe has begun.
And the new continent seems no impediment to Islam. After vanquishing much of Visigothic Iberia by 718, the Muslims cross the Pyrenees Mountains into Gaul (now France) and move northward. Now it is 732, and they are approaching Tours, a mere 126 miles from Paris. The Western world — what’s left of Christendom — could very well be on its way to extinction.
Europe is currently easy prey, comprising disunited, often belligerent kingdoms and duchies recently decimated by plague. In contrast, the Islamic world is a burgeoning civilization; so much so, in fact, that it views the Europeans as barbarians. The Muslims also command enormous battle-hardened military forces and have enjoyed almost unparalleled breadth and rapidity of conquest, while Europe no longer has standing armies. It largely relies on peasants to do its fighting, men available only when crops aren’t beckoning. Yet the Christian Europeans do have one great asset: Charles of Herstal, grandfather of Charlemagne.
Sensing the coming storm as early as 721, Charles realized he was going to need a professional, well-oiled fighting force if he was to tackle the Moorish wave washing across Christendom. So, using Catholic Church resources, he set out to train just such an army. And now, 11 years later, it will be put to the ultimate test.
With a horde of 80,000 men, the Muslims once again start moving north in 732 under the leadership of Emir Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi. And after defeating Odo the Great and sacking his Duchy of Aquitaine, there is nothing standing between Al Ghafiqi and Paris — except Charles of Herstal and his Frankish and Burgundian army. The two leaders would lock horns in October, on a battlefield between the towns of Tours and Poitier.
When the fateful day arrives, Al Ghafiqi is shocked by what lies before him. The “barbarians” have mustered a force the size of which he isn’t used to seeing in these European backwaters. He nonetheless enjoys a great advantage, outnumbering the Christians by perhaps as much as two to one and possessing heavy cavalry, while his adversaries are limited to infantry. The outcome should still be favorable. And it is.
Charles routs the Muslim forces, stopping their advance into Europe cold. He will eventually chase them back across the Pyrenees Mountains, saving Gaul — and perhaps all of Western civilization— from the sword of Islam. His miraculous 732 victory becomes known as the Battle of Tours (or Poitiers), and it wins him the moniker “Martellus.” Thus do we now know him as Charles Martel, which translates into Charles the Hammer.
Yet the Abode of Islam would not stop hammering Christendom. It is now 1095, and the Muslims are threatening Europe from the east. After seizing most of the Byzantine Empire’s territory 400 years prior, they have now, just recently, subdued Anatolia (most of modern Turkey), thus robbing the Byzantines of the majority of their remaining land. The Muslims are now poised to move west into Greece itself or perhaps north into the Balkans — Europe’s “back door.” And Byzantine emperor Alexius I in Constantinople knows that his realm is too weak to resist. What is he to do?
Alexius decides to approach the Church. Although he and current pope Urban II have been rivals, the pontiff recognizes Islamic expansion to be a clear and present danger. So he decides to address the matter at the Council of Clermont in 1095. In a rousing sermon in front of more than 650 clerics and Christian nobles, he appeals to Europeans to stop bickering amongst themselves and rally to the aid of their eastern brothers. What follows is an excerpt of his words as recorded by the Fulcher of Chartres:
Your brethren who live in the east are in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them the aid which has often been promised them. For, as the most of you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, which is called the Arm of St. George. They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impunity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ’s heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians….
And thus was born the 11th-century Hammer writ large: the Crusades.
Like Martel’s campaigns before them, the Crusades were defensive actions designed to stave off Muslim aggression. Oh, this isn’t what you learned in college, I know. It’s not what we hear from the media. It isn’t what’s portrayed by Hollywood. But it is the truth. And it was explained well by Thomas Madden, Chair of the History Department at Saint LouisUniversity. In “The Real History of the Crusades” he wrote:
The Crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have been the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general. A breed of proto-imperialists, the Crusaders introduced Western aggression to the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins.
… [But] Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War…. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece.
… [The Crusades] were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.
And that is why I defend them today. No, they weren’t perfectly executed, nor could they achieve all their objectives any more than the Cold War truly vanquished the left. Evil is always afoot. But note that the Mideast and North Africa had more Christians than did Europe at the time of the early Muslim invasions — but no one to Crusade for them. Thus, it’s easy to imagine that, were it not for our hammering medieval heroes, we could well be what the Mideast is today. And unless we shelve multiculturalism and become what those crusaders were yesterday, we may not have a tomorrow.