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.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to supervise construction of a five-story underground facility for an Israel Defense Forces complex, oddly named “Site 911,” at an Israeli Air Force base near Tel Aviv.
Expected to take more than two years to build, at a cost of up to $100 million, the facility is to have classrooms on Level 1, an auditorium on Level 3, a laboratory, shock-resistant doors, protection from nonionizing radiation and very tight security. Clearances will be required for all construction workers, guards will be at the fence and barriers will separate it from the rest of the base.
Only U.S. construction firms are being allowed to bid on the contract and proposals are due Dec. 3, according to the latest Corps of Engineers notice.
Site 911 is the latest in a long history of military construction projects the United States has undertaken for the IDF under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. The 1998 Wye River Memorandum between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has led to about $500 million in U.S. construction of military facilities for the Israelis, most of them initially in an undeveloped part of the Negev Desert. It was done to ensure there were bases to which IDF forces stationed in the West Bank could be redeployed.
As recorded in the Corps’ European District magazine, called Engineering in Europe, three bases were built to support 20,000 troops, and eventually the Israeli air force moved into the same area, creating Nevatim air base. A new runway, 2.5 miles long, was built there by the Corps along with about 100 new buildings and 10 miles of roads.
Over the years, the Corps has built underground hangers for Israeli fighter-bombers, facilities for handling nuclear weapons (though Israel does not admit having such weapons), command centers, training bases, intelligence facilities and simulators, according to Corps publications.
Within the past two years the Corps, which has three offices in Israel, completed a $30 million set of hangars at Nevatim, which the magazine describes as a “former small desert outpost that has grown to be one of the largest and most modern air bases in the country.” It has also supervised a $20 million project to build maintenance shops, hangars and headquarters to support Israel’s large Eitan unmanned aerial vehicle.
Site 911, which will be built at another base, appears to be one of the largest projects. Each of the first three underground floors is to be roughly 41,000 square feet, according to the Corps notice. The lower two floors are much smaller and hold equipment.
Security concerns are so great that non-Israeli employees hired by the builder can come only from “the U.S., Canada, Western Europe countries, Poland, Moldavia, Thailand, Philippines, Venezuela, Romania and China,” according to the Corps notice. “The employment of Palestinians is also forbidden,” it says.
Among other security rules: The site “shall have one gate only for both entering and exiting the site” and “no exit or entrance to the site shall be allowed during work hours except for supply trucks.” Guards will be Israeli citizens with experience in the Israeli air force. Also, “the collection of information of any type whatsoever related to base activities is prohibited.”
The well-known Israeli architectural firm listed on the plans, Ada Karmi-Melamede Architects, has paid attention to the aesthetics of the site design as well as the sensibilities of future employees. The site, for example, will be decorated with rocks chosen by the architect but purchased by the contractor. Three picnic tables are planned, according to the solicitation.
The Corps offered a lengthy description of the mezuzas the contractor is to provide “for each door or opening exclusive of toilets or shower rooms” in the Site 911 building. A mezuza (also spelled mezuzah) is a parchment which has been inscribed with Hebrew verses from the Torah, placed in a case and attached to a door frame of a Jewish family’s house as a sign of faith. Some interpret Jewish law as requiring — as in this case — that a mezuza be attached to every door in a house.
These mezuzas, notes the Corps, “shall be written in inerasable ink, on . . . uncoated leather parchment” and be handwritten by a scribe “holding a written authorization according to Jewish law.” The writing may be “Ashkenazik or Sepharadik” but “not a mixture” and “must be uniform.”
Also, “The Mezuzahs shall be proof-read by a computer at an authorized institution for Mezuzah inspection, as well as manually proof-read for the form of the letters by a proof-reader authorized by the Chief Rabbinate.” The mezuza shall be supplied with an aluminum housing with holes so it can be connected to the door frame or opening. Finally, “All Mezuzahs for the facility shall be affixed by the Base’s Rabbi or his appointed representative and not by the contractor staff.”
What’s the purpose of Site 911? I asked the Pentagon on Tuesday, and the Corps on Wednesday said that only an Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman could provide an answer.
This may be a trend-starter. The Corps is also seeking a contractor for another secret construction project in Israel in the $100 million range to awarded next summer. This one will involve “a complex facility with site development challenges” requiring services that include “electrical, communication, mechanical/
HVAC [heating, ventilation, air conditioning] and plumbing.” The U.S. contractor must have a U.S. secret or equivalent Israeli security clearance for the project, which is expected to take almost 21/2 years to complete.
That sounds like a secure command center.
The purpose of Site 911 is far less clear.
Source: Walter Pincus | TheWashingtonPost
It is now pretty much a matter of record that, after World War II, refugees from Europe landed in Palestine and started a massive terrorist blitzkrieg campaign, massacring thousands of Christians and Muslims in their wake. In a vast display of ethnic cleansing similar to what had previously happened in Europe, approximately 500 local towns were destroyed, 15,000 residents of Palestine were killed and 750,000 more were expelled. Local residents of this area (the ones who actually survived, that is) started referring to this premeditated slaughter as “al Nakba” — The Catastrophe.
And a second “Nakba” is apparently now in the works.
According to University of Chicago political science professor John Mearsheimer, “Given the right circumstances – say a war involving Israel that is accompanied by serious Palestinian unrest – Israeli leaders might conclude that they can expel massive numbers of Palestinians from Greater Israel and depend on the lobby to protect them from international criticism and especially from sanctions. We should not underestimate Israel’s willingness to employ such a horrific strategy if the opportunity presents itself.” http://www.silviacattori.net/
Are the land-grabbing neo-cons and faux-Jewish corporatists who now run Israel actually contemplating the instigation of an actual Second Nakba? Holy yikes! Are they seriously actually thinking about starting a second wide-ranging slaughter and ethnic cleansing on the scale of the first Nakba? Perhaps under the cover of a war on Iran? Good grief.
Both strategically and morally, that whole idea sucks eggs.
But then I got an e-mail from a Palestinian friend of mine who lives on the West Bank and he said that his village had just been brutally invaded by a needlessly-large number of highly-armed Israeli neo-con occupation forces.
“During the invasion last night,” wrote my friend, “one of the soldiers stole 1000 Nis (200€) from a moneybox of the youngest brother of my neighbor Mosab. Mosab’s brother had been saving this money for months, little by little from his work as a vegetable farmer and salesman. A laptop was also stolen from the house.
“Throughout the operation the soldiers fired sound grenades, a type of riot control weapon that produces a flash and a loud bang. The sound is sufficient to make the most weathered and well-prepared person flinch in fear and when this weapon is used inside a village at night, it will not only serve to keep people awake but also to bring about memories of past atrocities that the village of Ni’lin has had to live through.
“Many villagers came out of their houses to protest the brutality of the Israeli army and were met with tear gas and more sound bombs. The tear gas was fired straight at civilian houses which caused dozens children to suffer from tear gas inhalation. Live ammunition was also used by the Israeli soldiers as a scare tactic.”
And, right at this very moment, this type of malicious military activity is going on constantly all over the West Bank. Constantly. Night and day. Occupation armies and armed settlers constantly swoop down upon Palestinian citizens night and day. No one is safe. And there are all-too-many instances where the occupation armies shoot Palestinian children, shop-keepers and farmers, steal Palestinian goods, defecate in Palestinian homes and piss in their water supplies. To say the least.
Sure, maybe some day another full-scale blitzkrieg-style Nakba invasion of armed soldiers, settlers and thugs may suddenly descend en mass upon occupied Palestine and expel every single Christian and Muslim Palestinian in “Greater Isreal” to the other side of the Jordan River, into Lebanon and Syria, or over into Egypt. And this would be dramatic as hell and make the front pages of all the newspapers. Sure.
But in the meantime, another “Second Nakba” has actually already begun: The Nakba by a Thousand Cuts.
According to Mearsheimer, “There are now about 480,000 settlers in the Occupied Territories and a huge infrastructure of connector and bypass roads… Between 1993 and 2000, Israel confiscated 40,000 acres of Palestinian land, constructed 250 miles of connector and bypass roads, doubled the number of settlers, and built 30 new settlements…. [And since then,] the Israeli prime minister has not only refused to stop building the 2500 housing units that were under construction in the West Bank, but just to make it clear to Obama who was boss, in late June 2009, he authorized the building of 300 new homes in the West Bank. Netanyahu refused to even countenance any limits on settlement building in East Jerusalem, which is supposed to be the capital of a Palestinian state.”
I could write more about this death by a thousand cuts but what good would it do. The Second Nakba has already begun. And nobody seems to care — except for its victims. History is repeating itself here. This is so much like Germany in 1933 when corporatists started establishing prisons-for-profit and nobody cared what happened to the Jews. And it’s also like South Africa in 1962 when corporatists took control of establishing Bantustans and nobody cared what happened to the Blacks.
And will this also be like America in a few more years, after corporatists have also seized absolute power here — and nobody will care what happens to us either?
Here’s another example of a forced population displacement that nobody cared about, one that was overseen by Britain and the United States (not by Nazis), involved 13 million Europeans and cost approximately 500,000 to 2,000,000 lives, including the lives of 7,000 children under the age of five:
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Between 1945 and 1950, Europe witnessed the largest episode of forced migration, and perhaps the single greatest movement of population, in human history. Between 12 million and 14 million German-speaking civilians—the overwhelming majority of whom were women, old people, and children under 16—were forcibly ejected from their places of birth in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and what are today the western districts of Poland.
“As The New York Times noted in December 1945, the number of people the Allies proposed to transfer in just a few months was about the same as the total number of all the immigrants admitted to the United States since the beginning of the 20th century. They were deposited among the ruins of Allied-occupied Germany to fend for themselves as best they could. The number who died as a result of starvation, disease, beatings, or outright execution is unknown, but conservative estimates suggest that at least 500,000 people lost their lives in the course of the operation.” http://chronicle.com/article/
Are we having fun yet?
I was recently thinking about all the wars that America has been in over time, and then started listing them. Let’s see. There’s been America’s various wars on the Middle East, that Korean “police action”, World War I, World War II, the American Civil War, Vietnam, the Central American Wars, the Cold War and also various covert wars where other countries did the fighting but Washington supplied the cash — such as the violent and tragic fall of democratic governments in the Congo and Iran.
But when we consider the Big Picture, did any of these wars ever even make even the slightest difference — other than to make innumerable American citizens poorer and/or deader?
Even World War II, which was supposed to keep us safe from corporatism? But did it? Now that a kinder, gentler form of corporatism currently runs the world? Or what about World War I, which was supposed to keep us safe for democracy? Under Citizens United, is our democracy now all that safe? Or take Vietnam, which was supposed to keep us safe from China — the landlord who now holds our mortgage?
Did any of these wars make any difference at all? Other than to kill approximately one billion people and waste trillions of dollars and destroy untold resources — which we now desperately need? Not really. And nobody had fun during any of them either.
The Holy Triumvirate — The United States, NATO, and the European Union — or an approved segment thereof, can usually get what they want. They wanted Saddam Hussein out, and soon he was swinging from a rope. They wanted the Taliban ousted from power, and, using overwhelming force, that was achieved rather quickly. They wanted Moammar Gaddafi’s rule to come to an end, and before very long he suffered a horrible death. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was democratically elected, but this black man who didn’t know his place was sent into distant exile by the United States and France in 2004. Iraq and Libya were the two most modern, educated and secular states in the Middle East; now all four of these countries could qualify as failed states.
These are some of the examples from the past decade of how the Holy Triumvirate recognizes no higher power and believes, literally, that they can do whatever they want in the world, to whomever they want, for as long as they want, and call it whatever they want, like “humanitarian intervention”. The 19th- and 20th-century colonialist-imperialist mentality is alive and well in the West.
Next on their agenda: the removal of Bashar al-Assad of Syria. As with Gaddafi, the ground is being laid with continual news reports — from CNN to al Jazeera — of Assad’s alleged barbarity, presented as both uncompromising and unprovoked. After months of this media onslaught who can doubt that what’s happening in Syria is yet another of those cherished Arab Spring “popular uprisings” against a “brutal dictator” who must be overthrown? And that the Assad government is overwhelmingly the cause of the violence.
Assad actually appears to have a large measure of popularity, not only in Syria, but elsewhere in the Middle East. This includes not just fellow Alawites, but Syria’s two million Christians and no small number of Sunnis. Gaddafi had at least as much support in Libya and elsewhere in Africa. The difference between the two cases, at least so far, is that the Holy Triumvirate bombed and machine-gunned Libya daily for seven months, unceasingly, crushing the pro-government forces, as well as Gaddafi himself, and effecting the Triumvirate’s treasured “regime change”. Now, rampant chaos, anarchy, looting and shooting, revenge murders, tribal war, militia war, religious war, civil war, the most awful racism against the black population, loss of their cherished welfare state, and possible dismemberment of the country into several mini-states are the new daily life for the Libyan people. The capital city of Tripoli is “wallowing in four months of uncollected garbage” because the landfill is controlled by a faction that doesn’t want the trash of another faction.1 Just imagine what has happened to the country’s infrastructure. This may be what Syria has to look forward to if the Triumvirate gets its way, although the Masters of the Universe undoubtedly believe that the people of Libya should be grateful to them for their “liberation”.
As to the current violence in Syria, we must consider the numerous reports of forces providing military support to the Syrian rebels — the UK, France, the US, Turkey, Israel, Qatar, the Gulf states, and everyone’s favorite champion of freedom and democracy, Saudi Arabia; with Syria claiming to have captured some 14 French soldiers; plus individual jihadists and mercenaries from Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, et al, joining the anti-government forces, their number including al-Qaeda veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are likely behind the car bombs in an attempt to create chaos and destabilize the country. This may mark the third time the United States has been on the same side as al-Qaeda, adding to Afghanistan and Libya.
Stratfor, the private and conservative American intelligence firm with high-level connections, reported that “most of the opposition’s more serious claims have turned out to be grossly exaggerated or simply untrue.” Opposition groups including the Syrian National Council, the Free Syrian Army and the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights began disseminating “claims that regime forces besieged Homs and imposed a 72-hour deadline for Syrian defectors to surrender themselves and their weapons or face a potential massacre.” That news made international headlines. Stratfor’s investigation, however, found “no signs of a massacre,” and declared that “opposition forces have an interest in portraying an impending massacre, hoping to mimic the conditions that propelled a foreign military intervention in Libya.” Stratfor added that any suggestions of massacres are unlikely because the Syrian “regime has calibrated its crackdowns to avoid just such a scenario. Regime forces have been careful to avoid the high casualty numbers that could lead to an intervention based on humanitarian grounds.”2
Reva Bhalla, Stratfor’s Director of Analysis, reported in a December 2011 email on a meeting she attended at the Pentagon about Syria: “After a couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF [Special Operation Forces] teams (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground focused on recce [reconnaissance] missions and training opposition forces.” We know of Bhalla’s comments thanks to the 5 million Stratfor emails obtained by the Internet hacker group Anonymous in December and passed on to Wikileaks.3
Human Rights Watch has reported that both Syrian government security forces and Syria’s armed rebels have committed serious human rights abuses, including kidnapings, torture, and executions. But only the Holy Triumvirate can get away with the sanctions they love to impose. Assad’s wife is now banned from traveling to EU countries and any assets she may have there are frozen. Same for Assad’s mother, sister and sister-in-law, as well as eight of his government ministers. Assad himself received the same treatment last May.4Because the Triumvirate can.
On March 25, the US and Turkish governments announced that they were discussing sending non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition, implying quite clearly that until then they had not been engaged in such activity.5 But according to a US embassy cable, revealed by Wikileaks, since at least 2006 the United States has been funding political opposition groups in Syria as well as the London-based satellite TV channel, Barada TV, run by Syrian exiles, that beams anti-government programming into the country. The cable further stated that Syrian authorities “would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change.”
Regime change in Syria has been on the neo-conservative wish list since at least 2002 when John Bolton, Undersecretary of State under George W. Bush, came up with a project to simultaneously break up Libya and Syria. He called the two states along with Cuba “The Axis Of Evil”. On a FOX News appearance in 2011 Bolton said that the United States should have overthrown the Syrian government right after they overthrew Saddam Hussein. Amongst Syria’s crimes have been their close relations with Iran, Hezbollah (in Lebanon), the Palestinian resistance, and Russia, and their failure to conclude a peace treaty with Israel, unlike Jordan and Egypt; all this constituting evidence to the Holy Triumvirate of Syria, like Aristide, being “uppity”.
The clinical megalomania of the Holy Triumvirate can scarcely be exaggerated. And never prosecuted.
A closing word from Cui Tiankai, Chinese vice foreign minister for United States affairs:
The US has the strongest military in the world and spends more than any other country. But the US always feels unsafe or insecure about other countries. … I suggest the United States spend more time thinking about how to make other countries feel less worried about the United States.6
President Obama’s Accomplishments
Last month, Alan S. Hoffman, an American professor from Washington University in St. Louis, was forbidden by the US Treasury Department to travel to Cuba to give classes in a course on biomaterials.7
At the same time, the State Department refused to grant two Cuban diplomats in Washington, DC permission to travel to New York City to speak at The Left Forum, the largest annual gathering of the left in the United States, which this year attracted over 5,000 people.8
The State Department has also been occupied recently with preventing Cuba from being invited to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia in April.9
And that’s just the past month.
I mention all this to keep in mind the next time President Obama or one of his supporters lists US relations with Cuba as one of his accomplishments.
And I still cannot go to Cuba legally.
Another claim the Obamabots are fond of making to defend their man is that he’s abolished torture. That sounds very nice, but there’s no good reason to accept it at face value. Shortly after Obama’s inauguration, both he and Leon Panetta, the new Director of the CIA, explicitly stated that “rendition” was not being ended. As the Los Angeles Times reported: “Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.”10
The English translation of “cooperate” is “torture”. Rendition is equal to torture. There was no other reason to take prisoners to Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Somalia, Kosovo, or the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, to name some of the known torture centers frequented by the home of the brave. Kosovo and Diego Garcia — both of which house very large and secretive American military bases — if not some of the other locations, may well still be open for torture business. The same for Guantánamo. Moreover, the executive order concerning torture, issued January 22, 2009 — “Executive Order 13491 — Ensuring Lawful Interrogations” — leaves loopholes, such as being applicable only “in any armed conflict”. Thus, torture by Americans outside environments of “armed conflict”, which is where much torture in the world happens anyway, is not prohibited. And what about torture in a “counter-terrorism” environment?
One of Mr. Obama’s orders required the CIA to use only the interrogation methods outlined in a revised Army Field Manual. However, using the Army Field Manual as a guide to prisoner treatment and interrogation still allows solitary confinement, perceptual or sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, the induction of fear and hopelessness, mind-altering drugs, environmental manipulation such as temperature and perhaps noise, and possibly stress positions and sensory overload.
After Panetta was questioned by a Senate panel, the New York Times wrote that he had “left open the possibility that the agency could seek permission to use interrogation methods more aggressive than the limited menu that President Obama authorized under new rules … Mr. Panetta also said the agency would continue the Bush administration practice of ‘rendition’ — picking terrorism suspects off the street and sending them to a third country. But he said the agency would refuse to deliver a suspect into the hands of a country known for torture or other actions “that violate our human values.”11
Just as no one in the Bush and Obama administrations has been punished in any way for war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the other countries they waged illegal war against, no one has been punished for torture. And, it could be added, no American bankster has been punished for their indispensable role in the world-wide financial torture. What a marvelously forgiving land is America. This, however, does not apply to Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.
In the last days of the Bush White House, Michael Ratner, professor at Columbia Law School and former president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, pointed out:
The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it. I don’t see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable.12
I’d like at this point to remind my dear readers of the words of the “Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”, which was drafted by the United Nations in 1984, came into force in 1987, and ratified by the United States in 1994. Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
Such marvelously clear, unequivocal, and principled language, to set a single standard for a world that makes it increasingly difficult for one to feel proud of humanity. We cannot slide back.
From a document found at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan after his assassination last May: A call to kill President Obama because “Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make Biden take over the presidency. … Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis.13
So … it would appear that the man America loved to hate and fear was no more knowledgeable of how United States foreign policy works than is the average American. What difference in the War on Terror — for better or for worse — against the likes of bin Laden and his al Qaeda followers could there have been over the past three years if Joe Biden had been the president? Biden was an outspoken supporter of the war against Iraq and is every bit the pro-Israel fanatic that Obama is. In his 35 years in the US Senate Biden avidly supported every American war of aggression including the attacks on Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989, Iraq in 1991, Yugoslavia in 1999 and Afghanistan in 2001. Whatever was Osama bin Laden thinking?
And whatever was Joe Biden thinking when he recently said the following after hosting China’s presumptive next leader Xi Jinping in a visit to the United States?
America holds at least one key economic advantage over China. Because China’s authoritarian government represses its own citizens, they don’t think freely or innovate. “Why have they not become [one of] the most innovative countries in the world? Why is there a need to steal our intellectual property? Why is there a need to have a business hand over its trade secrets to have access to a market of a billion, three hundred million people? Because they’re not innovating.” Noting that China and similar countries produce many engineers and scientists but few innovators, Biden said, “It’s impossible to think different in a country where you can’t speak freely. It’s impossible to think different when you have to worry what you put on the Internet will either be confiscated or you will be arrested. It’s impossible to think different where orthodoxy reigns. That’s why we remain the most innovative country in the world.”14
Holy Cold War, Batman! This is exactly the kind of stuff we were told about the Soviet Union. For years and years. For decades. Then came Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to be put into Earth’s orbit. It was launched into an Earth orbit by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1′s success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the Space Race. The USSR’s launch of Sputnik spurred the United States to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency to regain a technological lead. Not only did the launch of Sputnik spur America to action in the space race, it also led directly to the creation of NASA. 15
- Washington Post, April 1, 2012
- Huffington Post, December 19, 2011
- See the document on WikiLeaks
- Washington Post, March 24, 2012
- Ibid., March 26, 2012
- Ibid., January 10, 2012
- Prensa Latina (Cuba), March 18, 2012
- See the video description on Cuba’s UN Ambassador at Left Forum ’12
- BBC News, “Ecuador to boycott Americas summit over Cuba exclusion“, April 3, 2012
- Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2009
- New York Times, February 6, 2009
- Associated Press, November 17, 2008
- Washington Post, March 16, 2012
- Ibid., March 1, 2012
- Wikipedia entry for Sputnik 1
On March 15, over 1,500 beekeepers and their allies marched thru the streets of Warsaw, depositing thousands of dead bees on the steps of the Ministry of Agriculture, in protest of genetically modified foods and their requisite pesticides which are killing bees, moths and other agriculturally-beneficial insects around the globe.
Later that day the Minister of Agriculture, Marek Sawicki, announced plans to ban MON810, which has becomeineffective at deterring pests in the US.
GM crops and the pesticides used with them have led to a host of problems (itemized here), including the development of new pathogens. One is associated with spontaneous abortion in cattle and another is responsible for massive methane foaming on manure lagoons which explode, killing thousands of animals in the US since 2001.
The Polish Beekeepers Association organized the protest, joining forces with International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside (ICPPC) and the Coalition for a GMO Free Poland. Targeting Monsanto’s MON810 GM corn in particular, they also called for a complete ban on all GM crops and harmful pesticides.
In 2008, the Polish Parliament banned GM feed, including both the planting and importing of GM crops. “Despite this progressive step,” reports Food Travels, “the European Commission has refused to accept regional bans on GMOs, keeping Polish farmers, producers, and activists on the offensive.”
Regardless, says the ICPPC, “None of the nine European Union countries that have already prohibited MON 810 did so by asking the permission of the EU.”
Beekeepers dressed in their traditional working uniforms and ran their hive smoke guns as they marched. Some wore yellow jackets with the misattributed quote of Albert Einstein warning that if bees were to die, humanity would soon suffer the same fate. Though he did not say it, it’s true. Most food crops rely on bees for pollination.
Others wore a variety of original costumes, sported signs and banners and carried bee-like objects to draw attention to the plight of these all-important pollinators. More pictures at Stop GMO Festival.
The ICPPC is asking Polish residents to write Minister of Agriculture Marek Sawicki, demanding that he implement an immediate moratorium on GM crops, without waiting for EU approval:
tel.: 0048 226231510; fax: 0048 226231788
The Organic Consumers Assn. collected info about other actions around the planet during the Shut Down Monsanto Days of Action last week, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Greece, Romania and, of course, the US.
“Defense lawyers say Manning was clearly a troubled young soldier whom the Army should never have deployed to Iraq or given access to classified material while he was stationed there … They say he was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay soldier at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces.” (Associated Press, February 3)
It’s unfortunate and disturbing that Bradley Manning’s attorneys have chosen to consistently base his legal defense upon the premise that personal problems and shortcomings are what motivated the young man to turn over hundreds of thousands of classified government files to Wikileaks. They should not be presenting him that way any more than Bradley should be tried as a criminal or traitor. He should be hailed as a national hero. Yes, even when the lawyers are talking to the military mind. May as well try to penetrate that mind and find the freest and best person living there. Bradley also wears a military uniform.
Here are Manning’s own words from an online chat: “If you had free reign over classified networks … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC … what would you do? … God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. … I want people to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”
Is the world to believe that these are the words of a disturbed and irrational person? Do not the Nuremberg Tribunal and the Geneva Conventions speak of a higher duty than blind loyalty to one’s government, a duty to report the war crimes of that government?
Below is a listing of some of the things revealed in the State Department cables and Defense Department files and videos. For exposing such embarrassing and less-than-honorable behavior, Bradley Manning of the United States Army and Julian Assange of Wikileaks may spend most of their remaining days in a modern dungeon, much of it while undergoing that particular form of torture known as “solitary confinement”. Indeed, it has been suggested that the mistreatment of Manning has been for the purpose of making him testify against and implicating Assange. Dozens of members of the American media and public officials have called for Julian Assange’s execution or assassination. Under the new National Defense Authorization Act, Assange could well be kidnaped or assassinated. What century are we living in? What world?
It was after seeing American war crimes such as those depicted in the video “Collateral Murder” and documented in the “Iraq War Logs,” made public by Manning and Wikileaks, that the Iraqis refused to exempt US forces from prosecution for future crimes. The video depicts an American helicopter indiscriminately murdering several non-combatants in addition to two Reuters journalists, and the wounding of two little children, while the helicopter pilots cheer the attacks in a Baghdad suburb like it was the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.
The insistence of the Iraqi government on legal jurisdiction over American soldiers for violations of Iraqi law — something the United States rarely, if ever, accepts in any of the many countries where its military is stationed — forced the Obama administration to pull the remaining American troops from the country.
If Manning had committed war crimes in Iraq instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today, as are the many hundreds/thousands of American soldiers guilty of truly loathsome crimes in cities like Haditha, Fallujah, and other places whose names will live in infamy in the land of ancient Mesopotamia.
Besides playing a role in writing finis to the awful Iraq war, the Wikileaks disclosures helped to spark the Arab Spring, beginning in Tunisia.
When people in Tunisia read or heard of US Embassy cables revealing the extensive corruption and decadence of the extended ruling family there — one long and detailed cable being titled: “CORRUPTION IN TUNISIA: WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE” — how Washington’s support of Tunisian President Ben Ali was not really strong, and that the US would not support the regime in the event of a popular uprising, they took to the streets.
Here is a sample of some of the other Wikileaks revelations that make the people of the world wiser:
- In 2009 Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano became the new head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which plays the leading role in the investigation of whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons or is working only on peaceful civilian nuclear energy projects. A US embassy cable of October 2009 said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded the [American] ambassador on several occasions that … he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”
- Russia refuted US claims that Iran has missiles that could target Europe.
- The British government’s official inquiry into how it got involved in the Iraq War was deeply compromised by the government’s pledge to protect the Bush administration in the course of the inquiry.
- A discussion between Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and American Gen. David H. Petraeus in which Saleh indicated he would cover up the US role in missile strikes against al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh told Petraeus.
- The US embassy in Madrid has had serious points of friction with the Spanish government and civil society: a) trying to get the criminal case dropped against three US soldiers accused of killing a Spanish television cameraman in Baghdad during a 2003 unprovoked US tank shelling of the hotel where he and other journalists were staying; b )torture cases brought by a Spanish NGO against six senior Bush administration officials, including former attorney general Alberto Gonzales; c) a Spanish government investigation into the torture of Spanish subjects held at Guantánamo; d) a probe by a Spanish court into the use of Spanish bases and airfields for American extraordinary rendition (= torture) flights; e )continual criticism of the Iraq war by Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, who eventually withdrew Spanish troops.
- State Department officials at the United Nations, as well as US diplomats in various embassies, were assigned to gather as much of the following information as possible about UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, permanent security council representatives, senior UN staff, and foreign diplomats: e-mail and website addresses, internet user names and passwords, personal encryption keys, credit card numbers, frequent flyer account numbers, work schedules, and biometric data. US diplomats at the embassy in Asunción, Paraguay were asked to obtain dates, times and telephone numbers of calls received and placed by foreign diplomats from China, Iran and the Latin American leftist states of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. US diplomats in Romania, Hungary and Slovenia were instructed to provide biometric information on “current and emerging leaders and advisers” as well as information about “corruption” and information about leaders’ health and “vulnerability”. The UN directive also specifically asked for “biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats”. A similar cable to embassies in the Great Lakes region of Africa said biometric data included DNA, as well as iris scans and fingerprints.
- A special “Iran observer” in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku reported on a dispute that played out during a meeting of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. An enraged Revolutionary Guard Chief of Staff, Mohammed Ali Jafari, allegedly got into a heated argument with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and slapped him in the face because the generally conservative president had, surprisingly, advocated freedom of the press.
- The State Department, virtually alone in the Western Hemisphere, did not unequivocally condemn a June 28, 2009 military coup in Honduras, even though an embassy cable declared: “there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch”. US support of the coup government has been unwavering ever since.
- The leadership of the Swedish Social Democratic Party — neutral, pacifist, and liberal Sweden, so the long-standing myth goes — visited the US embassy in Stockholm and asked for advice on how best to sell the war in Afghanistan to a skeptical Swedish public, asking if the US could arrange for a member of the Afghan government to come visit Sweden and talk up NATO’s humanitarian efforts on behalf of Afghan children, and so forth. [For some years now Sweden has been, in all but name, a member of NATO and the persecutor of Julian Assange, the latter to please a certain Western power.]
- The US pushed to influence Swedish wiretapping laws so communication passing through the Scandinavian country could be intercepted. The American interest was clear: Eighty per cent of all the internet traffic from Russia travels through Sweden.
- President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy told US embassy officials in Brussels in January 2010 that no one in Europe believed in Afghanistan anymore. He said Europe was going along in deference to the United States and that there must be results in 2010, or “Afghanistan is over for Europe.”
- Iraqi officials saw Saudi Arabia, not Iran, as the biggest threat to the integrity and cohesion of their fledgling democratic state. The Iraqi leaders were keen to assure their American patrons that they could easily “manage” the Iranians, who wanted stability; but that the Saudis wanted a “weak and fractured” Iraq, and were even “fomenting terrorism that would destabilize the government”. The Saudi King, moreover, wanted a US military strike on Iran.
- Saudi Arabia in 2007 threatened to pull out of a Texas oil refinery investment unless the US government intervened to stop Saudi Aramco from being sued in US courts for alleged oil price fixing. The deputy Saudi oil minister said that he wanted the US to grant Saudi Arabia sovereign immunity from lawsuits
- Saudi donors were the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
- Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, hired investigators to unearth evidence of corruption against the Nigerian attorney general in order to persuade him to drop legal action over a controversial 1996 drug trial involving children with meningitis.
- Oil giant Shell claimed to have “inserted staff” and fully infiltrated Nigeria’s government.
- The Obama administration renewed military ties with Indonesia in spite of serious concerns expressed by American diplomats about the Indonesian military’s activities in the province of West Papua, expressing fears that the Indonesian government’s neglect, rampant corruption and human rights abuses were stoking unrest in the region.
- US officials collaborated with Lebanon’s defense minister to spy on, and allow Israel to potentially attack, Hezbollah in the weeks that preceded a violent May 2008 military confrontation in Beirut.
- Gabon president Omar Bongo allegedly pocketed millions in embezzled funds from central African states, channeling some of it to French political parties in support of Nicolas Sarkozy.
- Cables from the US embassy in Caracas in 2006 asked the US Secretary of State to warn President Hugo Chávez against a Venezuelan military intervention to defend the Cuban revolution in the eventuality of an American invasion after Castro’s death.
- The United States was concerned that the leftist Latin American television network, Telesur, headquartered in Venezuela, would collaborate with al Jazeera of Qatar, whose coverage of the Iraq War had gotten under the skin of the Bush administration.
- The Vatican told the United States it wanted to undermine the influence of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in Latin America because of concerns about the deterioration of Catholic power there. It feared that Chávez was seriously damaging relations between the Catholic church and the state by identifying the church hierarchy in Venezuela as part of the privileged class.
- The Holy See welcomed President Obama’s new outreach to Cuba and hoped for further steps soon, perhaps to include prison visits for the wives of the Cuban Five. Better US-Cuba ties would deprive Hugo Chávez of one of his favorite screeds and could help restrain him in the region.
- The wonderful world of diplomats: In 2010, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the question of visas for two wives of members of the “Cuban Five”. “Brown requested that the wives (who have previously been refused visas to visit the U.S.) be granted visas so that they could visit their husbands in prison. … Our subsequent queries to Number 10 indicate that Brown made this request as a result of a commitment that he had made to UK trade unionists, who form part of the Labour Party’s core constituency. Now that the request has been made, Brown does not intend to pursue this matter further. There is no USG action required.”
- UK Officials concealed from Parliament how the US was allowed to bring cluster bombs onto British soil in defiance of a treaty banning the housing of such weapons.
- A cable was sent by an official at the US Interests Section in Havana in July 2006, during the runup to the Non-Aligned Movement conference. He noted that he was actively looking for “human interest stories and other news that shatters the myth of Cuban medical prowess”. [Presumably to be used to weaken support for Cuba amongst the member nations at the conference.]
- Most of the men sent to Guantánamo prison were innocent people or low-level operatives; many of the innocent individuals were sold to the US for bounty.
- DynCorp, a powerful American defense contracting firm that claims almost $2 billion per year in revenue from US tax dollars, threw a “boy-play” party for Afghan police recruits. (Yes, it’s what you think.)
- Even though the Bush and Obama Administrations repeatedly maintained publicly that there was no official count of civilian casualties, the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs showed that this claim was untrue.
- Known Egyptian torturers received training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
- The United States put great pressure on the Haitian government to not go ahead with various projects, with no regard for the welfare of the Haitian people. A 2005 cable stressed continued US insistence that all efforts must be made to keep former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom the United States had overthrown the previous year, from returning to Haiti or influencing the political process. In 2006, Washington’s target was President René Préval for his agreeing to a deal with Venezuela to join Caracas’s Caribbean oil alliance, PetroCaribe, under which Haiti would buy oil from Venezuela, paying only 60 percent up front with the remainder payable over twenty-five years at 1 percent interest. And in 2009, the State Department backed American corporate opposition to an increase in the minimum wage for Haitian workers, the poorest paid in the Western Hemisphere.
- The United States used threats, spying, and more to try to get its way at the crucial 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen.
- Mahmoud Abbas, president of The Palestinian National Authority, and head of the Fatah movement, turned to Israel for help in attacking Hamas in Gaza in 2007.
- The British government trained a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organisations as a “government death squad”.
- A US military order directed American forces not to investigate cases of torture of detainees by Iraqis.
- The US was involved in the Australian government’s 2006 campaign to oust Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
- A 2009 US cable said that police brutality in Egypt against common criminals was routine and pervasive, the police using force to extract confessions from criminals on a daily basis.
- US diplomats pressured the German government to stifle the prosecution of CIA operatives who abducted and tortured Khalid El-Masri, a German citizen. [El-Masri was kidnaped by the CIA while on vacation in Macedonia on December 31, 2003. He was flown to a torture center in Afghanistan, where he was beaten, starved, and sodomized. The US government released him on a hilltop in Albania five months later without money or the means to go home.]
- 2005 cable re “widespread severe torture” by India, the widely-renowned “world’s largest democracy”: The International Committee of the Red Cross reported: “The continued ill-treatment of detainees, despite longstanding ICRC-GOI [Government of India] dialogue, have led the ICRC to conclude that New Delhi condones torture.” Washington was briefed on this matter by the ICRC years ago. What did the United States, one of the world’s leading practitioners and teachers of torture in the past century, do about it? American leaders, including the present ones, continued to speak warmly of “the world’s largest democracy”; as if torture and one of the worst rates of poverty and child malnutrition in the world do not contradict the very idea of democracy.
- The United States overturned a ban on training the Indonesian Kopassus army special forces — despite the Kopassus’s long history of arbitrary detention, torture and murder — after the Indonesian President threatened to derail President Obama’s trip to the country in November 2010.
- Since at least 2006 the United States has been funding political opposition groups in Syria, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country.
On Jan. 26, 2012, the European Union and 22 member states signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced. They have now joined the US and seven other nations that signed the treaty last October.
Though initiated by the US, Japan is the official depository of the treaty.
Removal of the Three Strikes clause, in which users accused of three counts of piracy would be barred from the Internet, paved the way for the EU to adopt ACTA last month.
Related to ACTA, a chapter in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) “would have state signatories adopt even more restrictive copyright measures than ACTA,” reports the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Both ACTA and TPP were developed without public input and outside international trade groups, like the World Trade Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Leaked cables published by Wikileaks in 2009 exposed early drafts of ACTA, resulting in a firestorm of controversy. Those cables, coupled with later releases, showed that ACTA negotiations began in 2006 and were controversial even to participating states. An historical summary of the treaty’s progress through December can be found here.
ACTA Violates Magna Carta and US Constitution
Like PIPA and SOPA, two domestic internet censorship bills that prompted major websites to blacken their name or website in a Jan. 18th protest, ACTA allows accusers of copyright infringement to bypass judicial review.
Please support my work by reading the full piece at Activist Post. Thanks!
Dominique de Kevelioc de Bailleul: Twenty-two months of hysteria of an impending European financial collapse, starting with Greece in March of 2010, will finally come to an end in 2012, according to the founder of Trends Research Institute, Gerald Celente.
Hysteria of the horrid possibility of a European meltdown and the dire implications for the world economy a collapse will end, as the event finally turn into unequivocal reality by April 1, with accusations of ‘fear mongering’ by a significant portion of the mob quickly dropped in favor of the next predictable reaction to the crisis: outrage against those who allowed the collapse.
“I would say, since I’ve been doing this work, over 30 years ago, I’ve never been more concerned than I am right now,” Celente told ABC, Australia.
In Celente’s latest forecast, titled, The First Great War of the 21st Century—Prepare, Survive, Prevail, he paints a bleak picture for 2012, predicting a worsening of class warfare that already wages within more than a dozen countries, from Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and Qatar to the UK, Greece and Italy, which will eventually spread to eastern Europe/central Asia and more intensely in the United States.
But, what the world has seen so far is only a economic and social symptom of central bankers’ stop-gap remedies, haphazardly applied to the global financial crisis since its beginning in the U.S. and the fall of Bear Stearns in 2008.
After dozens of trillions of dollars thrown at a global solvency crisis with nothing but further deterioration to show for the money spent, some wonder if the world is about to slide still further into depression.
According to Celente, when the European Union falters from too much supply of debt coming due ($7.3 trillion from G-7 nations, see zerohedge.com) against the backdrop of sliding demand for more debt, the European domino will topple other dominoes, widening the global depression to include the world’s larger economies.
“If you live in Greece, you’re in a depression; if you live in Spain, you’re in a depression; if you live in Portugal or Ireland, you’re in a depression,” Celente said. “If you live in Lithuania, you’re running to the bank to get your money out of the bank as the bank runs go on. It’s a depression. Hungary, there’s a depression, and much of Eastern Europe, Romania, Bulgaria. And there are a lot of depressions going on [already].”
And as far as a Chinese riding in on a white horse to save the day, Celente said, it’s “highly unlikely. China has 1.3 billion people with a million problems . . . If the Europeans and Americans don’t buy a lot of crap, then the Chinese can make it and sell it to them.”
He continued to explain that China will then likely slow its imports of materials from countries which have been supplying mined product during the commodities boom, leading to a vicious spiral of increased unemployment and declining economic activity—a scenario strongly intimated by Dow Theory Letters author Richard Russell in his latest letter to investors (excerpts posted on King World News). Russell, too, expects a steepening U.S. depression, with 25 percent unemployment in the America as his target at the bottom of the depression.
“This whole thing is connected,” Celente explained. “China isn’t going to have the money to throw around to losers anymore than loan shark would give a gambler who can’t pay his old debts back and has a bad gambling habit another loan to gamble . . . They [Chinese] have their own problems to deal with.”
How bad will the next leg down in the world economy likely to be? Could Russell be right? Celente believes a comparison with the 1930s is a good one. He continued, “ . . . you can even listen to Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, or I like to fondly call it, the International Mafia Federation—the loan sharks of last resort—even she’s saying what we’ve been saying now for three years about the parallels between the Crash of 1929, the Great Depression, currency wars, trade wars, world war.
“The Panic of ’08; you have the Great Recessions—Great Depressions going on. Oh, by the way, real estate prices in the United States, they’re at a steeper decline than they were during the Great Depression. Foreclosures continue to mount. It’s taking people over 40 weeks, who lose jobs to find another job, and then finding one at a fraction of what they lost the old one at.”
And as history demonstrates, when horrible economics overwhelm a society, political leaders search for a means of generating national jingoism to redirect the angry mob. That search for political safety usually turns to war.
“So then you look at the trade wars that they’re now talking about,” Celente said. “And, as I said, when you add them up, you have the beginnings of a great war going on already. Oh, and now, and now, they’re talking about, hey, we did such a great job in Iraq and Afghanistan, why don’t we bomb Iran? Have you heard the presidential candidates of the United States, with the exception of Ron Paul, that all want to go to war against Iran? So you can see where it’s going.
“You have psychopaths that have caused a lot of these problems that are giving the answers to how to solve them by adding more violence and criminality on top of old violence and criminality.”
Celente said the kickoff to a global meltdown and a call to war could “spiral out of control” some time “by the first quarter of 2012” as the European crisis worsens to the point of a crack up. “There’s no way to bail out the European nations,” Celente said forcefully.
And the build up to social unrest, calamity and possible civil war can be seen a mile away, said Celente, who segued into another one of the trends he sees for 2012: Safe Havens (escaping the United States).
“They just passed a law in the United states, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA),” he said. “It now gives the president the right to identify a person like me and call me a terrorist and that I’m against the government. And the military can come and break down my doors—the military—and arrest me, charge me with nothing, give me no trial, no rights of habeas corpus, no jury, no judge, and they can kill me if they so choose, torture me; they can send me to any country around the world.”
Celente advises preparing now for a quick route out of the United States if a bank holiday (a prediction of his) is called. The ramifications of a dollar devaluation aren’t clear, but an enacted NDAA, FEMA camp readiness and scheduled TSA checkpoint expansion plans suggest the U.S. may enter a crisis on par with the lead up to the U.S. Civil War of 1861-5. Also see BER article,Gerald Celente Forecast 2012, FEMA Prepares for Dollar Collapse
Source: Beacon Equity Research
2011 will be remembered as the year the US, Britain, France and Israel went into Imperial Overdrive in North Africa and the Middle East. Will 2012 be remembered as the year those same Western Allies unleashed World War III?
It is not news anymore to say that the West will soon attack Iran, maybe Syria. They have been threatening to do that for years now, certainly ever since the failed Israeli invasion into Southern Lebanon in mid-2006, when they were routed by Hezbollah.
So what is different today? For starters, general circumstances have changed dramatically in the Region. Genuine popular dissent inside key Muslim countries has been used by the Western Allies to train, fund and arm local criminal and terrorist organizations, dubbed “freedom fighters”, as their proxies.
Country after country has fallen victim to the CIA’s, MI6’s and Mossad’s “dirty tricks departments”, and other Western-style terrorist organizations. Results range from moderate “regime change” in Tunisia and Algeria; via horrendous “violence by our boys” in Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain; all the way to outright military attack, civil war and political assassination. Such as the one in Libya, where Hillary Clinton boisterously laughed when she learned Muammar Gaddafi had been murdered live on TV by “her thugs”.
The whole region has been set on fire. Not that other regions of the world are not on fire too; however the pyrotechnics used by the Global Power Elite vary in nature in each geography. For example, Europe, the US and Britain are being set alight using financial terrorism resembling a neutron bomb, which kills people off while leaving assets and banks standing.
Now in Iran the stage seems set for a final show-down. It has taken so long only because Israeli, British and US planners are not stupid; they know that messing with Iran is not like messing with Iraq or Pakistan or Afghanistan or Libya. Messing with Iran will bring Western Allies very dangerously close to messing with Russia and China. If I were in their shoes, I would not do that. Unless…
Unless World War III is what they are looking for. Now, why would they do that? Perhaps, because they have realized that there is just no peaceful way of achieving their dream of World Government. Perhaps because they have understood that the financial quicksand they have backed themselves into is so devastating that it cannot be cleaned up with purely financial, monetary and “legal” measures, in which case…
Nothing beats a good war! Perhaps, because wildcard Israel is so very much in control (or should I say, out of control) that they are imposing the “Sampson Option” not only on themselves, but also on their controlled Western Allies and the whole planet if need be. “After me, the Flood!”
Things in the Strait of Hormuz are extremely dangerous and volatile. After being systematically threatened with unilateral military attack, invasion, and even nuclear strikes, now the Iranians are showing their muscle too. On 24th December, Iran began a 10-day spate of military maneuvers in the strait that has all but put the US, UK and Israel on red alert. A US aircraft carrier force is now in the area and their helicopters have flown dangerously close to Iranian forces. Any spark could set off a conflagration.
Meanwhile, Syria is falling into meltdown. Meanwhile, Israel is preparing “Cast Lead II” over and inside Gaza. Meanwhile, Hezbollah is ready to strike Israel with tens of thousands of very deadly short-range “Katyushka” rockets.
A key sign of impending war is an article just published in the January/February 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, the official journal of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). It carried the ominous title of Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option, by Matthew Kroenig. This man was, until last July, special advisor to the Pentagon for “Defense Strategy on Iran” – Newspeak for “let’s beat the hell out of Iran”.
The CFR is the key Global Power Elite think-tank, founded in 1919 together with its London sister organization, the Royal Institute of International Affairs (also known as Chatham House). Its more than 4500 members are deeply embedded into the uppermost echelons of public and private power in the US, controlling banking, industry, media, academia, the military and government.
Key government posts are always controlled by one of their lot, irrespective of whether the Democrats or Republicans are in power. The CFR is integrated into an intricate network of similar organizations that includes the Trilateral Commission, Brookings Institution, American Enterprise Group, Project for a New American Century, Bilderberg and others. They all operate in streamlined coordination, consistency, synchronization and – most important – with a common purpose.
In his article, Mr Kroenig, assesses how “American pundits and policymakers have been debating whether the United States should attack Iran and attempt to eliminate its nuclear facilities,” concluding that, “The only thing worse than military action against Iran would be an Iran armed with nuclear weapons.”
He warns against “skeptics of military action (who) fail to appreciate the true danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to US interests in the Middle East and beyond.”
This reflects Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s recent remarks when addressing the Brookings Institution’s pro-Israel “Saban Forum” bringing together US and Israeli military strategists that repeated the usual Baby Bush “all options are on the table” threats.
Mr. Kroenig talks of the “dangers of deterrence” and gives the Obama Administration unequivocal advice: “The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States.”
As these pyromaniacs get ready to ignite the regional and global powder keg, one key question looms ever larger: what will Russia do?
Source: Adrian Salbuchi for RT
“Echoing Angela Merkels call for a more united Europe, European Central Bank president Jean Claude Trichet calls for further fiscal and monetary consolidation of EMU countries.
Talking about the current EMU crisis, which he characterizes as “the gravest crisis since World War I” , he calls for further financial consolidation which, he hopes, would stabilize the economies of the members of EMU.” Source
A lot has been said about the Euro’s problems, most from a purely economic standpoint. It is clear that the imbalances that the Euro created in Europe are not sustainable.
Germany and its satellites (Netherlands, Finland, Austria) are much more competitive than Club Med. Because of the Euro the latter group of nations cannot devalue their currencies resulting in trade deficits and net capital out flow to the North.
Therefore the Euro’s existence depends on a permanent bail out mechanism for the South which not sustainable.
But economics are of lesser import here. The Euro was not created to build wealth but as a step toward a World Currency. To rule the world, one must first rule Europe. Clearly, the Euro is the central bankers’ pet project.
The current crisis is not at all unexpected. The Eurocrats couldn’t get their coveted Federation in 1992, at the time of the Maastricht Treaty so they had to settle for the Euro.
They reasoned the ‘right major crises’ would pop up at some point, making clear that monetary union without fiscal union is impossible. They expect the nation states of Europe to surrender fiscal sovereignty to save the Euro
In a recent article, an insider journalist, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, exposed this process:
“Certain architects of EMU calculated that the single currency would itself become the catalyst for a quantum leap in integration that could not be achieved otherwise….. This was the Monnet Method of fait accompli and facts on the ground. These great manipulators of Europe’s destiny may yet succeed, but so far the crisis is not been remotely beneficial.”
He ends his intriguing report with the point that, “I think it is fair to say events are unfolding more or less as we expected.”
WILL THE EURO FAIL?
If you look at the economic data, IT SHOULD. But if you realize the world is run by a few bankers who want World Government, with a World Currency the answer is ‘no’.
However, over the last two years, the Eurocrats have suffered badly. The popular resistance, both in the North and the South, is dramatic. Recently, the German Supreme Court allowed Merkel to go ahead with what had been done, but clearly reprimanded her for the lack of democratic legitimacy and the breach of the Maastricht Treaty, which does not allow fiscal or bond cooperation.
What happens if Greece leaves the Euro? Could they ever allow Romania, Bulgaria, and all these other second-rate nations in if even Greece couldn’t deal with the Euro’s dynamics? How would they ever sell World Currency if they cannot even make the Euro work?
Their biggest problem is that they lack all legitimacy. In 2005, France and the Netherlands rejected their ‘European Constitution’ by a resounding 60-40 margin. They pushed ahead with Lisbon anyway, but this was a disaster.
They need the popular vote. The Protocols make clear they need to say: ‘you wanted this, you voted for it’. Without this legitimacy, they face revolt at any time. They can’t push ahead if the underlying treaties and laws were never accepted by the populace.
So when Papandreou calls a referendum and ‘the markets’ and Merkozy are in total shock, what does this show? It just exposes the quicksand under their feet
They know this, but they are losing. They are losing the battle for the mind and they are pushing ahead because they have no other way.
WORLD GOVERNMENT AT STAKE
This whole European mess represents massive crisis for mankind. If the Euro fails, a death blow will be landed on their NWO project. It will take them decades to recover and resume the march to World Government. But they don’t have this time, because people are waking up.
True, the Occupiers are still largely clueless, but in Europe, where austerity is already biting badly, people are being forced to look for answers. There is talk of debt repudiation; there is the Icelandic example and there is of course interest free currency. In Germany dozens of regional currencies are flowering: they report 100% per annum growth.
It is now more important then ever to start talking solutions. We must keep in mind that this credit crunch is a total fabrication that could be solved over night.
Interest free currency is the main solution. Debt free Government currencies are a quick fix, but far from ideal. Much better isPublic Banking, which is interest free credit provided by state-owned banks. But eventually the Illuminati (Masonic Jewish) monopoly of currencies must end.
With the Oceans on the brink of collapse after Deep Horizon and Fukushima, with the Credit Crunch, with (HAARP induced) earthquakes everywhere and wars and rumors of wars its fair to say the NWO is preparing for their endgame.
But seeing their weakness in Europe, the result is not a foregone conclusion.
The challenge is to provide real alternatives. It is not enough to expose them. They expect a fight, but they expect to succeed,because they don’t think we can create the right solutions.
Jacques Attali, another insider: ‘Most of these new contestants will propose no system of substitution… Except for a handful who will propose a return to theocracy.’
So we know what to do. Let’s get going.
When the freedom of speech of one group is being threatened, it is a threat to all of us. Just because you may not be a Christian, don’t think that what you are about to read is not a problem for you as well. The truth is that any individual or group that does not “fit in” with the new “politically-correct” global system that is emerging is going to be persecuted sooner or later. In our society today, it has become quite fashionable to bash Christians. In fact, I am quite certain that some of the comments that get left after this article will say really horrible things about Christians. But after “Big Brother” is done with the Christians, are you sure that they will not come after you next? When I speak of “Big Brother”, I am not just speaking of the government. In today’s world, giant corporations and the mainstream media also play instrumental roles in the totalitarian police state prison grid that is being constructed all around us. The elite control the government, they run nearly all of the major corporations and they own most of the major media outlets. Anyone that does not “conform” to their system is a threat. As time goes by, the persecution of those that attempt to “rebel” against their system is only going to become more intense.
So if you are not a Christian, do not applaud when the system cracks down on Bible-believing Christians.
You never know, you might be next.
The following are 18 examples of how Christians are being specifically targeted by “Big Brother”….
#1 Home Bible studies are now banned in the city of San Juan Capistrano, California. According to city officials, regular gatherings “of more than three people” in private homes are simply not allowed. One couple that has held home Bible studies for years has already been fined twice and is being threatened with even more fines.
#2 Paypal has initiated “formal investigations” of a large number of Christian websites and organizations. Apparently, many of these investigations have been launched due to concerns that these websites and organizations do not hold to a “politically-correct” view of sexuality.
According to WorldNetDaily, Paypal has targeted include Americans For Truth, Last Days Watchman and a host of other Christian organizations including “Abiding Truth Ministries, New Generation Ministries, Noua Dreapta of Romania, Truth in Action Ministries, Dove World Outreach, Faith Word Baptist Church, Family Research Institute and American Society for the Defense of Traditional Family”.
#3 In Wichita, Kansas last year, a Christian minister was handcuffed and hauled off to jail by police for sharing the gospel and handing out tracts to Muslims on a public sidewalk. Apparently freedom of speech does not apply on the public sidewalks of America any longer.
#4 In the UK, police recently threatened a cafe owner with arrest for silently playing a Bible DVD on a small television on the back wall of his cafe. The following is an excerpt from a Daily Mail article about this incident….
Mr Murray, 31, was left shocked after he was questioned for nearly an hour by the officers, who arrived unannounced at the premises.
He said he had turned off the Bible DVD after an ‘aggressive inquisition’ during which he thought he was going to be arrested and ‘frog-marched out of the cafe like a criminal’.
#5 Last year, a high school student in Southern California was suspended for two days because he had private conversations with his classmates during which he discussed Christianity. He was also banned from bringing his Bible to school ever again.
#6 Big cable networks regularly feature “comedians” that love to mock Christians. For example, HBO “comedian” Bill Maher recently stated that “there’s a term for people who hate charity and love killing: Christian“.
If that had been said about another minority group, it would have made front page headlines for weeks.
#7 Down in Texas, the Department of Veteran Affairs actually tried to ban prayers that include the words “God” or “Jesus” during funeral services for veterans.
#8 In North Carolina last year, a pastor was dismissed from his chaplain duties for praying in the name of Jesus.
#9 An unclassified Department of Homeland Security report published a couple years ago entitled “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” claims that a belief in Bible prophecy “could motivate extremist individuals and groups to stockpile food, ammunition and weapons.” The report goes on to state that such people are potentially dangerous.
#10 Back on February 20, 2009, the State of Missouri issued a report entitled “MIAC Strategic Report: The Modern Militia Movement“. That report warned that the following types of people may be potential terrorists….
*those that are against illegal immigration
*those that consider “the New World Order” to be a threat
*those that have a negative view of the United Nations
#11 All over the nation, “child protection agencies” are ripping an inordinate number of children out of Christian homes. In many of these cases the parents believe in homeschooling their children or they do not believe in having their children vaccinated.
#12 On June 18, 2010 two Christians decided that they would peacefully pass out copies of the gospel of John on a public sidewalk outside a public Islamic festival in Dearborn, Michigan and within three minutes 8 police officers surrounded them and placed them under arrest.
#13 A Christian consultant was recently fired by Bank of America and by Cisco because they discovered a book that he had written that expressed Christian viewpoints about social issues.
#14 A while back, a federal judge actually ruled that the University of Californiacan deny course credit to applicants from Christian high schools that use textbooks that teach that it was God who created the earth.
#15 Back in 2009, one 8 year old boy in Massachusetts was sent home from school and was forced to undergo a psychological evaluation because he drew a picture of Jesus on the cross.
#16 The Obama administration has announced that there is a whole host of laws that it will not be enforcing, but one thing that the Obama administration has chosen to do is to aggressively pursue lawsuits against anti-abortion protesters.
#17 During a Congressional hearing earlier this year, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee warned that “Christian militants” might try to “bring down the country” and that such groups need to be investigated.
The good news is that there still is at least a limited amount of religious freedom in America. It may soon be gone, but at least we are in better shape than most of the globe.
Almost 70 percent of the population of the world now lives in countries where religious activities are highly restricted.
The sad truth is that the entire planet is moving away from freedom of religion.
That is a right that we are supposed to be guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, but it should be obvious to everyone that our right to religious freedom is rapidly dying.
If you are not religious, don’t think that you should not be fighting for religious freedom along with the rest of us.
Once they take some of our rights away, it will be much easier for them to take all the rest of our rights away.
United we stand, or divided we will fall.
Source: The American Dream
Analysis of Breivik’s Ideas: The massacre was essentially a publicity stunt…
After the tears have dried and the cries of outrage fallen silent, we may begin to recognise that the cinematic qualities of the Utoya Massacre were drawn from trashy horror flicks. It is a recurring theme within the Friday the 13th Screams at Elm Street genre that a serial killer must stalk a peaceful summer camp and murder innocent youths. Friday the 22nd’s killer effectively brought the celluloid violence to life, further crystallizing the phenomenon of Man’s nightmares intruding onto reality. This trend towards violence began innocently enough with grim dime novels and gore spattered cinema, but it then began to deaden the minds of our children with “first-person shooter” video games of increasing realism. Nowadays those same children have grown into soldiers directing unmanned drone attacks upon far-away lands, and at least one of them has visited a nightmare upon this peaceful island summer camp.
Shooting people who can’t shoot back is a vile act, the mark of a mass murderer, a paid executioner, or a NATO soldier. For two hours the killer professionally, confidently, and coolly stalked the unarmed youths, executing them one by one in absolute safety; for one hundred days the killer’s ex-classmates, now in NATO Air Force, professionally, confidently, and coolly stalked unarmed Libyans from the absolute safety of distant compounds. Breivik hated Muslims, hated Socialists, no doubt he hated Qaddafi, a Muslim Socialist; but his deed better than a thousand Qaddafi-dispatched terrorists should remind the people of Europe that wars abroad will bring war home, too. There are too many licences to kill being produced.
Why did he do it? We can answer the question: the massacre was essentially a publicity stunt to attract worldwide attention to the killer’s opus magnum, a 1500-page compendium entitled “2083”. Breivik’s screed is no great work of human spirit; it is rather a copy-paste hodgepodge of Neocon ravings against Islam and Communism. In any case it does merit a look, if only because so many people were killed in order to make us read it. If this Breivik was a Herostratus, let us see why he burned down the temples of so many lives. Moreover, we must pinpoint where he went wrong.
2083 reveals that a new, vicious strain of political virus has emerged from the genetic engineering labs within the think tanks of the Neocons. The Masters of Discourse have long referred to traditional conservatives as “Nazis” because they oppose unrestricted immigration. They have made much hay of the fact that Nazis once considered Jews to be corrupt, once opposed the weaknesses of homosexuality, and once admired spirituality of the Muslims. The bad guy was supposed to be racist, love Adolf Hitler, hate Jews and gays. He did not have to hate Commies because Communism was a similar totalitarian ideology according to Karl Popper and George Bush. The new strain passed through these filters.
The long labours of Jewish ideologists within the Neocon movement have borne fruit, and now it is the Jews who are considered to be above suspicion, the homosexuals who are considered strong, and conservative Muslims who are held to be alien to the new conservatism. Today we are witnessing the rapid spread of many well-financed political parties and activist groups that connect far-right ideas with sympathy to Jews, tolerance of gays, and a rabid hate of Islam. The writer of 2083, too, is pro-Jew, pro-gay, violently anti-Muslim and anti-Communist. His nearest analogue is Pim Fortuyn, the assassinated Dutch far-right Judeophile and gay politician. Breivik marched with the English Defence League (EDL), a British group set apart by its strongly pro-Jewish, anti-Muslim militancy.
Breivik’s 2083 is heavily influenced by far-right Neocon Jewish writing. As is often the case with copy-paste compilations, it is difficult to assign an accurate lineage to the conglomeration of words and those of compiled authors. However, if 2083 is ever published, the copyrights of David Horowitz and Bat Yeor, Daniel Pipes and Andrew Bostom should be given pride of place. These are the writers who inspired Breivik to commit mass murder.
Gilad Atzmon reports that just a few hours before the attack Joseph Klein published an article entitled “The Quislings of Norway” (here) with additional incitement to murder. Klein wrote: “The infamous Norwegian Vidkun Quisling, who assisted Nazi Germany as it conquered his own country, must be applauding in his grave… Norway is effectively under the occupation of anti-Semitic leftists and radical Muslims, and appears willing to help enable the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel.”
These are fighting words, and Breitvik heeded them as he loaded his guns. The content of 2083 reflects his admiration of his Neocon sources. Quotes from David Horowitz’s Frontpage articles contaminate hundreds of pages with his vitriol. Bernard Lewis has his own place of honour. The notorious Bat Yeor, an Egyptian Jewish woman living in Switzerland who coined the term “Eurabia” (an alleged conspiracy to subjugate Europe to Arabs) and did much to promote and grew rich off the fear of Islam, corresponded with the killer. She “kindly” advised him and sent him her unpublished texts. She is the only person named in his Declaration of European Independence, and her advice the newly independent Europeans should follow, according to Breivik. Bat Yeor provided “inestimable service” to his project, and is quoted extensively throughout.
Robert Spencer, a sidekick of Jihad Watch’s David Horowitz, is another great love of the killer, and so is American Zionist Andrew Bostom, self-proclaimed expert on “Islamic anti-Semitism”. Daniel Pipes is presented with his thesis that “The Palestinian phenomenon was created with the intention to justify Jihad.” Serge Trifkovic, an anti-Muslim Serb, Melanie Phillips, the British far-right Zionist who is friendly with the BNP leader Griffits, and Stephen Schwartz are all quoted, along with numerous other activists and scholars who earn their bread by demonizing Islam. (Funnily, these guys repeatedly condemned me for my “anti-Semitism”).
Politically, the killer’s sympathies lie squarely with the United States and Israel: “The creators of Eurabia have conducted a successful propaganda campaign against these two countries in the European media. This fabrication was made easier by pre-existing currents of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism in parts of Europe.” Economically, he likes Milton Friedman and Hayek; he would get rid of taxes and welfare state.
Breivik hates the Palestinian people, and rails against the “Palestinian terrorist jihad”. Like every good Zionist he brings up the Mufti and the Holocaust whenever possible: “Muhammad Amin al-Husayni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Arab nationalist leader, a leading force behind the establishment of the Arab League and a spiritual father of the PLO, was a close collaborator with Nazi Germany and personally met with Adolf Hitler. In a radio broadcast from Berlin he called upon Muslims to kill Jews wherever they could find them… he had visited incognito the gas chambers of Auschwitz.” Among the first things the newly independent Europeans should do, Breivik declares, is to stop all support of the Palestinians.
For Breivik, as for all his Jewish teachers, Adolf Hitler represents ultimate evil. For this reason, he recommends that his readers avoid historically ominous words like “race”. 2083 is largely an attempt to categorize the other reasons to hate Muslims besides “race”. In the end, he did demonstrate to the world that he is not racist: he killed with an even hand, blue-eyed Norwegians as easily as brown-eyed guests. Breivik even hates David Duke – for being anti-Jewish. His hatred of Islam is not limited to the borders of Norway, or even of Europe – like all proper Neocons he hates Muslims wherever they are to be found.
Breivik spends many pages describing the evils committed by Turkey, including the massacres of the Armenians, Greeks and Kurds. There is a long chapter on the modern history of Lebanon where Israeli hand has been excised, and the wars are presented as a struggle between Christians and Muslims. His favourite historical hero is Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian prince better known as Count Dracula.
His logic is as primitive as it is faulty: “If all ethnical groups and all cultures are equal, why is it black Africans, Afro-Caribbean blacks, Pakistanis, Indians, Chinese, and Eastern Europeans want to abandon their own lands en masse to live in the lands of the West?”
The most obvious explanation: “because the West has robbed them blind,” does not occur to Breivik.
He continues his fallacious dialog: “If we’re all truly equal, why does the rest of the world want to live the Western lifestyle, a lifestyle created in the main by white people? Just why exactly, do they want to be part of capitalism, run businesses, work for the white man’s industries, claim the white man’s welfare and buy and use goods created by the creativity and ingenuity of Western – white – people?”
The fallacies are opaque to Breivik. His Neocon informers have not equipped him to understand that the hated immigrants had once worked in their own successful industries in their own countries. He has forgotten the colour revolutions, the actions of the IMF, and all the other signs of busy Neocon activism.
By no means can Breivik be characterised as a Christian fundamentalist; nor is he a Christian Zionist. His feelings towards Christianity are lukewarm at best, little more than a cultural solidarity. He hasn’t decided whether to call himself Christian. He is still “struggling with this myself. Some of the criticism of Christianity…is legitimate.” Like many Jewish activists, he approves of “the Second Vatican Council from the 1960s …for reaching out to Jews”, an interpretation that at one time was universally resisted by conservatives everywhere.
Breivik’s theological liberalism, however, evaporates when he considers Islam. Though his arguments are valid for immigration policies around the world, he will only speak out against Muslim immigrants. He does not call upon his country to stop tormenting the Muslim states even though this is the main reason for Muslim immigration. He cannot even consider the connection.
In any case, the immigration dispute is practically over in Europe. The understanding that immigration carries huge social costs slowly percolated through every strata of European society, and the tide has turned. Just a few years ago immigration was often viewed as a magic wand that would save the citizens from repetitive, boring chores; people do not see it this way anymore. These immigrants were not slaves, nor were they robots; they quickly became enfranchised, though not integrated. If they work they push the natives into the ranks of the unemployed or working poor; if they do not work, they overload the welfare budgets. The realization dawned slowly, but the about-face is final. Today, a Norwegian does not have to shoot his fellow citizens in order to express disagreement with immigration: this has become the mainstream attitude.
Counterpunch writer Vijay Prashad wrote: “the [murdered] Labour youth had among them children of migrants from Sri Lanka and North Africa. Their Norway was not Breivik’s Norway.” Exactly. That is why Breivik hated them: he did not want their new, international Norway to displace the Norway of his youth. Prashad condemns European conservatives who “cannot fathom that human beings are able to live convivial lives with those who are different”, but the history of Sri Lanka is not the best example of peaceful conviviality. If the people of Sri Lanka want to “live convivial lives with those who are different” they might have tried that back home – no need for the long flight to Norway. Prashad may call Merkel and Sarkozy “Nazis” for refusing to let in more immigration, and yet even he must sense that the Utoya Massacre is a strong signal that many people have had enough immigration and want it stopped.
In point of fact, immigration into Norway has slowed to a trickle. In a wild swing away from its own liberal policies, the government of Norway – like many West European governments – has changed the rules to make immigration almost impossible. In a famous case, a young girl from the Caucasus lived for some ten years in Norway, completed her university studies, wrote a novel in Norwegian – and ended up being deported as an illegal alien. Multiculturalism is a failed slogan of the past, and Breivik is as out-of-date as Prashad.
On June 14 I was the keynote speaker at a press briefing in Kiev organized by The American Institute in Ukraine on the problem of Pridnestrovie (Transnistria). The Russian and Ukrainian majority of that self-proclaimed republic straddling the eastern bank of the Dniestr declared secession from Moldova after a brief but bloody conflict in 1991 and proclaimed the “Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic” (PMR). It has not been recognized by any state, however, and the issue has remained unresolved for the past two decades. It is a complex post-Soviet “frozen conflict” par excellence. The diplomatic quadrille still played around it is quaintly reminiscent of the geopolitical games that preceded the advent of postmodern diplomacy.
My remarks at the AIU event were thematically a follow-up on my previous presentation in Ukraine’s capital, exactly a year ago. This time I focused on a set of proposals which Ukraine should consider in devising its own long-term settlement plan within the current “5+2” negotiating framework. The overall solution, I suggested, should be based on the Åland Islands’ model of extensive and internationally guaranteed self-rule. These Baltic islands inhabited by Swedes are under Finland’s nominal sovereignty but enjoy international guarantees of their special status. The guarantees originated with the League of Nations ninety years ago and were reiterated by the United Nations after the Second World War.
When Finland was offered membership of the EU the Ålands were entitled to a separate vote of their own on whether they wanted to join the Union. Likewise, I suggested, all Moldovan international treaties should be separately approved by Pridnestrovie; if not ratified by the entity’s Assembly—e.g., on an eventual NATO membership for Moldova—such treaties could apply to the rest of Moldova, but they would not be applicable to Pridnestrovie. The entity’s full autonomy should be anchored in a UN Security Council resolution, it should be guaranteed by the powers currently facilitating the negotiating process, and enshrined in a new Moldovan Constitution. The entity’s capital city, Tiraspol, should have the right to veto any subsequent attempt to change the division of authority between Pridnestrovie and the Moldovan government in Kishinev. Legislative powers should bedivided between Kishinev and Tiraspol and not delegated to Pridnestrovie by Moldova.
Having presented my views and outlined possible solutions in as much detail as could be done in half an hour, I was surprised to see a news report of the event by the Interfax news agency—the regional equivalent of the Associated Press—which was released some two hours later. It was at significant odds with both the tone and substance of my remarks.
“It is in the interests of Ukraine to maintain an open[-ended] status quo position,” the report correctly quoted me as saying, yet omitted the key second half of the same sentence: “… but in practice an enduring settlement is needed, and the decision-makers in Kiev should take a proactive role in reaching it.”
The omission was significant. Advising President Viktor Yanukovich and his government to stick to the status quo—which the report has me doing—is not nearly the same as (1) saying that the status quo may be desirable from Ukraine’s point of view but that is not feasible because all parties need a long-term solution; and (2) adding that the quest for such a long-term solution demands Ukraine’s hands-on diplomatic engagement. In view of my proposals concerning such engagement, it is obvious that the “status quo” part of the sentence merely described what is rather than advised what should be.
More erroneously still, the news item asserted that “Trifkovic said that Ukraine should encourage Moldova’s position, which foresees equidistance from both Russia and the West.” In fact I said the opposite, that “Ukraine should encourage Moldova’s eventual move towards equidistance from both Russia and the West.” Moldova is currently ruled by an unpopular pro-Romanian coalition which is likely to lose elections due later this month. Its position is that Transnistria is an integral part of Moldova and should be reintegrated, plain and simple. For Ukraine to support the position of that government now, on the grounds that it “foresees equidistance from both Russia and the West”—which it emphatically does not—would be ridiculous. Uttering such nonsense is some light years away from supporting (as I did) Moldova’s shift to pragmatic non-alignment, which is desirable and likely when a new government is formed after the election.
The host of the event, AIU President Anthony Salvia, was also misquoted in the same news item. In his introductory remarks he said that an important contribution to settling the conflict would be the replacement of Igor Smirnov as Pridnestrovian president. “He has brought the country that he has ruled for twenty years to a dead end,” Salvia said, and should be replaced by someone better equipped to give his land the international legitimacy it badly needs so that a solution may be found. Yet the news item misquoted him as saying that “the best way to solve this situation would be the replacement of Igor Smirnov.” The self-evident difference between a necessary condition and thesufficient prerequisite to the solution in Pridnestrovie has eluded the subeditors entrusted with the story.
The flawed Interfax news report was promptly (and by the look of it, eagerly) carried in verbatim translation by dozens of newspapers, radio and TV stations and websites in Romania and by the pro-Romanian media in Moldova itself. “Ukraine should maintain the status quo, says U.S. expert,” their headlines declared, as well as “Americans in Kiev say: Solution to Transnistria—Smirnov’s resignation!” The Interfax story turned out to be an unexpected and welcome gift to the promoters of a Greater Romania, one of the most destabilizing and anachronistic “projects” actively pursued anywhere in Europe. The whole thing was surreal, on par with the Albanians gleefully quoting Sergei Lavrov for “saying” that Kosovo should be internationally recognized.
The trouble with many journalists of our time, East and West, is that they lack the education and natural skills of their peers from earlier generations. The latter were expected to have a nose for a story and an ear for its nuances, just as a pianist was and still is expected to have an ear not only for the music but also for the composer’s intent.
The issue of possible mistranslation notwithstanding, the discrepancy between the overall tenor of Mr. Salvia’s and my remarks and the resulting report should have been spotted at a senior editorial level. That it was not spotted should be a cause of concern to the upholders of journalistic standards in the former Soviet lands. The alternative to maintaining those standards is an ever-tighter stranglehold of the CNN and its ilk on what the global village is allowed to know and how its denizens should think about what they think they know.
By Paul Jay…
The Cold War is alive and well in terms of trying to contain Russia’s energy power. Russia is the largest producer of energy”
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. Kevin Hall of McClatchy Newspapers reports that on April 20 the big Italian oil company Eni put off its deal with Gazprom, the big Russian oil company, connected to its president, Vladimir Putin, put off a deal that would have given Gazprom a big stake in Libyan oil. That’s been an objective of US foreign policy for at least three years. Kevin went through WikiLeaks documents and found the following cable. At the time, Silvio Berlusconi was about to become Italy’s prime minister, and the embassy urged headquarters to twist his arm, writes Kevin. Then he quotes the cable. Post, meaning the embassy, would like to push the new Berlusconi government to force Eni to act less as a stalking horse for Gazprom interests. The confidential cable said, quoting, Eni, which is 30 percent owned by the government of Italy, seems to be working in support of Gazprom’s efforts to dominate Europe’s energy supply and against US-supported US efforts to diversify energy supply. Now joining us in the studio to talk about the new scramble for oil and controlling Europe’s energy supplies is Kevin Hall. Thanks for joining us.
KEVIN HALL, NAT’L ECONOMICS CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Thanks for having me.
JAY: So elaborate a bit. This context [incompr.] certainly are factors that go into the Libyan conflict that we’re following now.
HALL: Well, it underscores the kind of global hunt/scramble for oil. The famous book The Prize by Daniel Yergin, the oil historian, kind of laid that out. And this is kind of the latest extension of that. The Libyan situation ties to development of oil in the Caspian region and places I can’t even pronounce, coupled with Libya, coupled with Europe and Russia. What happened specifically [snip] in Libya, rather, is Gazprom was going to partner in Libya with Eni, which is the largest player. The Italians are the largest player in Libya, which had been a former Italian colony.
JAY: And were getting along quite well with Gaddafi.
HALL: And were getting along quite well with Gaddafi. And that story–we know how that one goes. The reverse of that is that Eni in exchange was going to get access to a project that the Russians were trying to do in the Caspian region called South Stream. South Stream competed with a project that the US has been pushing for the better part of a decade called the Nabucco project. It was going to take natural gas from the eastern border of Turkey, bypass Russia, and provide supplies to Europe through that route, I think through Bulgaria, Romania, basically bypassing Russia. And what all these documents show, there was about–.
JAY: So these are pipeline wars.
HALL: Pipelines, yeah. And, well, all these documents show–and there’s about 1,800 documents that mentioned Gazprom–is that the Cold War is alive and well in terms of trying to contain Russia’s energy power. Russia is the largest producer of energy–not the largest exporter, but may have more oil and natural gas produced in Russia than anywhere in the world. Most of that goes to Europe. And so the scramble for this development in the Caspian region, in Azerbaijan and places like that, is tied to whether that stuff goes through Russia or around Russia, and the US has worked real hard to make sure it goes around Russia, so that the Europeans aren’t dependent on one source. We’ve seen how the Russians have used oil and natural gas against the Ukraine, against Georgia, against Belarus. So they’ve certainly shown their willingness to use oil as a weapon in their own strategic interest, you know, looking at it from their point of view. And the Libya example was just one [crosstalk] small example [crosstalk]
JAY: Of course, US policies always seem–its dominance in the Middle East and oil also is a very big strategic piece of its strategic puzzle, not just this question of oil supplies for the United States. But let’s jump back to the Libya context, because there’s another piece of background which you write about in your article, which is Eni, the Italian company, was also finding a way to invest in Iranian oil, which was also putting it at odds with US foreign policy.
HALL: Right. Eni have been in Iran long before the current Islamic government, back in the time of the Shah, and lost a lot of money when the change came. Remember that whole unsavory incident in the ’70s with the embassy and everything? In that, what Eni was trying to do at around 2006, 2007 time frame was take Iranian oil out, produced jointly with Iran, and they were going to–they found a kind of way to suspend reality: as the US was trying to put pressure on Iran because of its nukes program, they were trying to sell this on the open market. And then they would–it wouldn’t be counted as a–it’d be valued in present-day dollars, but it’d be treated as the debt that Iran owes Italy. So it kind of means suspending all time and space and, you know, not valued in former currency but current rates.
JAY: In order to find ways around possible sanctions.
HALL: Right, and it did not sit well with the US government.
JAY: So you’ve got the Italian oil companies already at odds with the US over Iran. The Italian oil company is going to, through its deals with Gazprom, allow the Russians to take a big stake in Libyan oil. And then you have the French. As we head towards the Libyan war, the French Total have a small piece of the Libyan oil game, but I suppose they would like a bigger piece of it. And then you wind up having a French-American push to overthrow Gaddafi and essentially shove Gazprom out. I mean, I guess we’re not saying one and one necessarily equals two, but it sure–it makes one think about it.
HALL: Yeah, it’s not necessarily causation, but there’s–you might suggest there’s correlation. And clearly this shows the degree to which oil is kind of the back story to so much that happens. As a matter of fact, we went through 251,000 documents–or we have 250,000 documents that we’ve been pouring through. Of those, a full 10 percent of them, a full 10 percent of those documents, reference in some way, shape, or form oil. And I think that tells you how much part of, you know, the global security question, stability, prosperity–you know, take your choice, oil is fundamental.
JAY: And fundamental to most countries’ foreign policies,–
JAY: –including this one.
HALL: Front and center.
JAY: Well, we’ll do more. As you keep going through WikiLeaks, we’ll do more, ’cause this oil story continues into Latin America and other places.
HALL: Yeah, [crosstalk] lot more.
JAY: And we’ll do more of this. But those who had said it’s not all about oil, they ain’t reading WikiLeaks.
HALL: It is all about oil.
JAY: Thanks for joining us. And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
End of Transcript
In a dramatic series of events since late 2010, a new and intensified phase of public protest has erupted across both wealthy and poor regions of the world. Right across Europe, harsh programs of financial austerity have led to escalating protests and mass public campaigns; in the Middle East and North Africa, a revolutionary wave of civil unrest is gripping the international media; and less reported are countless smaller anti-government demonstrations taking place across diverse continents. As commentators struggle to keep up with the rapid unfolding of these events, it is worthwhile to reflect on the basic connections between these varied struggles, and to pose a simple question: are we witnessing the birth of a truly international public voice calling for wealth redistribution and wholesale political reform?
The pan-European protests were sparked by government plans to cut public spending, slash welfare benefits and freeze pay in response to economic recession and the debt crisis. With European Union finance ministers agreeing rules that would punish countries that fail to bring their debts under control, a new austerity drive swept across the 16-nation eurozone as governments struggled to trim their huge budget deficits. Both the German and UK coalition governments approved their biggest austerity plans since World War II; Italy and Spain joined Europe’s austerity club with massive cuts to public services; France announced its controversial plans to cut spending and raise its retirement and pension ages; while the most debt-stricken countries in the EU – Portugal, Greece and the Irish Republic – committed to draconian austerity packages to please international investors, not to mention the ongoing budget cuts in various other EU countries such as Hungary, Latvia, Romania and the Netherlands.
What’s most striking about the public outcry that followed is not only the vast scale of civic protests, but the sense that a majority of European people believe that government austerity measures are unnecessary and deeply unjust. On 29th September 2010, the European Trades Union Confederation (ETUC) organised coordinated demonstrations in European cities, with hundreds of thousands of union members across the region amassing under the banner ‘No to Austerity’. Countless new campaign groups and social movements have also highlighted the distorted priorities of governments who cut public spending as opposed to targeting the excesses of big corporations, bankers and international investors. This included the voices ofleading economists such as Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and Christopher Pissarides who argued that austerity measures go in exactly the wrong direction, and are more likely to result in lower economic growth, worsening unemployment and protracted recession. In the words of Attac, the French campaign group who stood by the anti-austerity protesters across Europe: “The radical austerity policies now demanded by the EU are a solution in the interest of the wealthy and the financial actors alone. EU governments intend to implement austerity policies everywhere. …Their policies can only deepen social inequalities and the present crisis, while making the economic situation in Greece and the rest of the EU even worse.”
Out of the scores of anti-cuts groups still springing up at a local and national level across Europe, one that has captured the public imagination more than most is UK Uncut. In late October 2010, a group of London-based young activists thought up an ingenious way of highlighting an alternative to the British governments harsh austerity measures. Rather than simply protesting against public spending cuts, they focused upon the tax-avoidance strategies of rich individuals and big corporations. In a series of direct action protests organised spontaneously through the internet, the informal group has mobilised local protests and temporarily closed down more than a hundred stores in towns and cities across the country. The message of an alternative to austerity measures was brilliantly straight-forward: if the government clamped down on corporate tax avoidance, it would greatly reduce the need for public spending cuts. As the fastest-growing protest movement in the UK, its focus is now shifting to the greed and reckless practices of high street banks. And it’s now emerged that similar protests are being organised in North America under the banner US Uncut, with more than 30 demonstrations planned for 26 February – the date of UK Uncut’s second “day of action” against the banks.
No to Austerity and Ideology
Common to all the protests in Europe is a recognition of the pro-market ideology that is driving government policies to the detriment of the public good. Since the world stock market crash of 2008, it is increasingly evident that a number of governments are using the economic crisis as an excuse to re-shape the economy in the interests of business. In the UK, for example, George Monbiot recently wrote an article in the Guardian showing how the Chancellor of the Exchequer plans to allow money that has passed through tax havens to remain untaxed when it reaches the UK, accompanied by a rapid reduction in the official rate of corporation tax – the lowest rate of any major Western economy. At the same time, the British government is slashing social benefits and public-sector jobs, cutting budgets for government departments, transferring the onus for creating new jobs onto the private sector, and incrementally privatising the National Health Service and state education (with an attempt to privatise thousands of hectares of England’s national forests being recently defeated in Parliament). There is no shortage of commentary in the UK pointing out that such policies are ideologically-driven, opportunistic while the country is on the brink of bankruptcy, and even wider in scope than Margaret Thatcher’s swingeing program to cut government presence in the economy during the 1980s.
Meanwhile, Greece’s 110 bn euro rescue package was agreed on the back of a huge austerity drive, civil service and pension cuts, the easing of restrictions on private-sector layoffs, and a large privatisation and structural adjustment programme that is geared more to saving European banks than protecting the livelihoods of the Greek public. The Irish Republic is suffering a comparable fate in return for a joint EU-IMF bailout package worth 85 bn euros. Alongside the harshest tax hikes and budget cuts in the nation’s history, the terms of the bailout stipulate that Ireland must get its budget deficit to 3 percent of GDP by 2015 – promising further budget cuts year-on-year regardless of the effect on jobs, welfare rights or the living standards of the majority. Portugal, Spain and possibly Belgium are all lined up for similar treatment. The message is clear: it is not the nation’s people that must be bailed out but the financial plutocrats who hold the nation’s debt, even if this spells the destruction of the entire post-war European social welfare system.
As many analysts are now pointing out, these savage austerity packages being unleashed across Europe mirror the fate that many developing nations have faced for decades. Scores of indebted countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia have long endured the savage IMF structural adjustment programmes that Ireland, Greece and other EU countries are now suffering. A recent briefing by the Jubilee Debt Campaign (JDC) explains the similarities and differences between the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, and responses to the debt crisis in the Global South by international financial institutions since the late 1970s. Zambia, for example, made extreme cuts in government spending throughout the 1980s and 1990s under pressure from the IMF, yet the cuts failed to prevent the country’s debt from doubling while its economy plunged into recession.
A similar logic was applied to Asian countries following the financial crisis in 1998; foreign private lenders were bailed out, government spending was severely cut back, public companies were further privatised, yet the economy still continued to decline. According to JDC, a common theme is that the public face the costs, not private lenders. And not only is private debt paid for by the public, but the cut-backs in public spending by no means guarantees a reduction in national debt. In effect, ordinary people are forced to pay for the reckless behaviour and mistakes of the financial sector – a reality that is now shared and understood by citizens in both the Global North and South.
Growing gap between rich and poor
A major difference for people in the South is that there is often no guaranteed state provisions or social safety nets that exist for them in the first place. Even in those developing countries still experiencing economic prosperity, most notably in the globalisation “success stories” of India and China, rapid GDP growth is being matched by deepening inequalities and social insecurity. As we know from the World Bank’s global poverty statistics, at least 80 percent of the 1.1 billion people who live in India somehow manage to survive on less than $2 a day. In China, still 36 percent of its population survives on less than $2 a day, while the rural-urban income gap has continued to widen alongside increases in inequality of health and education outcomes. As what some call “the greatest migration in world history” continues across China, rural migrant workers arriving in industrial areas often find themselves trapped in abysmal working and living conditions, many without basic health and safety protections.
This definite growth in inequality and the lack of economic opportunity and social security that underpins it has long been a recurring theme across the world. A recent UNCTAD reportrevealed that there are now twice as many low-income countries than there were 30-40 years ago, and twice as many poor people living in them. Even more indicative of this worrying trend in global inequality is the evidence that a new ‘bottom billion‘ of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries – a dramatic change from just two decades ago when the majority of the poor lived in low-income nations. A growing gulf between the rich and poor is also continuing in many high-income countries, not least in the United States where the top 20 percent of wealthy individuals own about 85 percent of the wealth, while the bottom 40 percent own very near 0 percent. As the Economist magazine is keen to point out in a special report, there is an ongoing rise in the share of income going to the very top – the highest 1 percent of earners – who constitute a global power elite or ‘superclass’ in many countries. At the other end of the scale, evidence suggests that the number of people living in relative poverty could possibly be 4 billion and rising.
This is the context in which we can better understand the sudden eruption of civil unrest across North Africa and the Middle East. Whilst much of the mainstream media focussed on the repression of public freedoms, corruption and a lack of democracy as the main cause of popular insurrection, common underlying factors also include the growing levels of inequality, ongoing hikes in the price of basic food and energy, and poor access to housing and welfare services. Whilst Mubarak left office in Egypt with a reported $70 bn dollars of stolen public money, citizens remain saddled with $30 bn of debts despite a poverty rate of 1 in 4 and a recurring food crisis. Tunisia, a regional poster child for the success of pro-market reforms, is in a similar predicament with crippling graduate unemployment rates of up to 46 percent, despite strong GDP growth. This underlying pattern of protest against social and economic deprivation alongside political repression is being repeated across Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Syria, Iran, Morocco, Oman, and a number of other countries in the region. All have been spearheaded by the countries’ youth, fuelled by social media and television, yet broadly supported by the middle class. In an unprecedented outpouring of goodwill and solidarity, these millions of people on the streets are claiming their democratic right to a fairer share of the vast wealth that their rulers have hoarded for decades.
The pan-Arab protests clearly have much in common with those reacting to austerity across Europe, as well as the millions who have mobilised in support of debt cancellation and an end to ‘economic adjustment’ in the South. In every country, the widespread outcomes of debt, austerity, poverty and inequality are the product of political choices – the consequences of a disastrous neoliberal approach to managing a nation and its finances. What we may be witnessing in the popular responses to these hardships is an emerging global consensus in favour of a fundamental reordering of government priorities. In the space of barely a few months, the rapid growth of anti-austerity demonstrations across Europe and massive anti-government protests all over the Middle East indicate the potential for public opinion to take on an international dimension. Given the determination of policymakers across the globe to continue with business as usual, the strengthening of a world public opinion in favour of a more equitable distribution of resources may constitute the first step toward meaningful reforms.
As this increasingly global call for justice unfolds across several continents, an underlying demand being voiced by protesters in different countries is the urgent need for redistribution. Calls for an end to austerity measures, more progressive taxation and the cancellation of debt in the developing world all reflect the need to redistribute wealth and political power downward. An implicit understanding common to all these demands is that governments are better able to secure basic human needs for their citizens through the provision of more effective welfare and social services. The question that remains is whether the need for redistribution can be recognised at the international level where the unequal distribution of power and resources manifests in extreme differences in living standards between the richest and poorest nations. If the case for international sharing captures the public imagination as quickly as the calls for distributive justice in individual countries, the elimination of global poverty could finally become a realistic possibility.