Dec 302013
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

christmashouse4toomany gifts

Introduction

The transformation of Christmas from a story about a migrant working-class family fleeing state persecution, in the search for a safe haven and receiving support and solidarity to the biggest capitalist commercial bonanza of the year – has far-reaching political consequences.

Taking Christ out of Christmas

The fundamental ‘change’, engineered by the capitalist class in pursuit of profits, was to take the ‘Christ Story’ out of Christmas and to convert the weeks before and after into a consumer orgy.  Aided and abetted by “secularist allies”, the capitalist class succeeded in eliminating any reference to the Christmas story, including the nativity scene and carols commemorating it, from public spaces.  The significant social message, embedded in the Christmas story, is diluted by well-meaning cultural diversity-promoters, who demand ‘equal time for ‘Hanukah’ (a Jewish narrative celebrating war, conquest and the slaughter of ‘apostate-assimilated-Hellenized’ Jews by traditionalists-fundamentalists – an event not even mentioned in the Hebrew Bible) and “Kwanzaa” (a holiday invented in the 1960’s by a cultural black nationalist preaching “self-help”).  In place of the Christmas story, we have been given anachronistic ‘Nordic tales of tree worship’ and ‘gift giving’ by an obese bearded sweat-shop owner employing stunted slave workers *(‘Hi Ho, Hi Ho! It’s off to work we go; we work all day, we get no pay! Hi Ho, Hi Ho!’).  This has become the dominant mythology driving the consumerist – profiteering of the global commercial – capitalist production chain.

Over time, it came to pass that ‘Christmas’ commercial sales became the centerpiece of capital accumulation.  New and powerful sectors of capital entered the field.  Finance capital, particularly credit card companies charging debtors usurious, interest rates over 20% per year, became central to and the principal beneficiaries of the great transformation of the Christmas story.

The new, modern, secular monetized, relativized Christmas story redefined the entire meaning of the holiday.

First, there was the language ‘excision’; the prefix was altered.  Christ-mas became Xmas. The X symbol left out what constituted the original narrative and circumstances surrounding the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Once the original class origins of the Christmas story were erased and the conflict between the absolutist state and civil society were abolished, the capitalist class inserted its own ‘props’ into the story:  the Xmas tree became the site for consumer ‘gifts’; the Xmas ‘stocking’ had to be filled with consumer goods; the Xmas day image required the “happy family” opening up boxes of consumer goods – bought on credit at 20% interest rates.

The driving force behind the phony props and imagery is a command headquarters composed of capitalist manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, market analysts, publicists, consultants, advertisers, investors, factory owners employing a vast army of low paid workers in Asian manufacturing sweatshops and huge corporate retail outlets with minimum wage salespeople. Christmas sales are the major profit maximizing occasion for the entire year:  The success or failure of commercial capitalism rides on the profits accrued between November 30 and January 7.  The entire capitalist edifice rests on the notion that “Xmas” is about large-scale buying and selling of consumer goods; it is about ensuring that class inequalities and racial divisions are temporarily blurred; that repressive police state intrusions into the privacy of family life are forgotten and that social solidarity is replaced by an orgy of individual consumerism.

‘Xmas’ is a time to celebrate massive profiteering, based on the indebtedness of the ‘masses’.  It is a time for downsized workers to buy imported goods on credit from manufacturers who had relocated to low wage regions:  Price consciousness replaces class consciousness.  Picketing US retailers, who import from Bangladesh sweatshop death traps, where workers ‘earn’ $25 a month, goes against the ‘Xmas spirit’.  ‘Buy and feel free’!  It’s a time to be jolly!

The new secular, monetized ‘Xmas’ is a consumer-driven commercial event motivated by profits, advertisement and the mindless worship of ‘the market’.  Family and neighborly relations are now tied to the cash nexus:  Who buys or receives the most expensive gifts experiences the greatest gratification.  ‘Gift giving’ is based on ‘consumer spending’; who could imagine any alternative!

Millions of atomized individuals compete to buy the most commodities that their credit/debit cards can cover.  ‘Virtue’ becomes ‘success’ in the frantic engagement with the market.  From the perspective of political power, individual consumerist consciousness means submission to ‘the market’ as well as submission to the ruling class, which dominates ‘market relations’.

The entire ‘Xmas’ period highlights the fact that market relations between wage-earning/salaried individuals and commercial/financial elites take precedence over productive (and state) relations between capital and labor.  In “the market” the struggle is between consumers over commodities, overseen by commercial capital.  In the new Xmas story the consumer is the centerpiece; the market is the mediator of all social relations. The ‘Christ story’ has been relegated to a periphery, if not totally excluded. At most, the story is reduced to a birth scene witnessed by cows, sheep and three ‘Kings’.

The conversion of Christmas into the massive Xmas-market event broadens its consumer appeal, increases sales and profits.  Potential consumers from all religions (and the non-religious) can join the consumer orgy.  It is not about values, ethics or beliefs – it’s about buying, selling, debt and accumulation. To be a successful commercial event ‘Christians’ must suppress the politics and ethics of the Christ story, which is dramatically opposed to the immersion in the marketplace.

The Politics of the Christmas Story

The protagonists of the Christmas story, Joseph and Mary, are a working class household living at a subsistence level.  Joseph, a carpenter, is partially out of work and earns a minimum wage.  They live frugally, spend their meager earnings on essentials and travel cheaply on a donkey.  To escape a repressive government they migrate in search of security, hoping to find a new home.  The pregnant Mary and her unemployed husband Joseph look for sympathy and solidarity among the poor.  They knock on doors but the landlords send them away.  Only a poor farmer offers them a place – they can share a barn with the sheep and cows.

In the face of an uncertain future and a troubled present, Mary and Joseph receive material support from local residents in Bethlehem.  Three wise men (the Magi or mathematicians from Persia) are internationalists who travel to greet the new family.  They show great concern for the new born baby Jesus by perhaps offering hiss family a scholarship so he can study mathematics and science….  The coming together of local neighborhood people and the three educated “outsiders” to celebrate the birth of Christ and offer support to the homeless family, dispossessed migrants, has been an event for wonder and celebration.

Community solidarity, the sharing of food, shelter, learning and fraternal good cheer, in the face of persecution by a criminal state and an avaricious ruling class, defines the spirit of Christmas.  The Christmas story affirms the virtues of social solidarity and not individual consumerism.  It defines a moment in which the deep bonds of humanity displace the shallow comfort of commodities.  It is the celebration of a moment in which the values and virtues of breaking bread in a fraternal community take precedence over the accumulation of wealth.

The Christmas story, the trials and travails of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus resonate with millions of American workers today:  especially those who have lost employment and been dispossessed of their homes.  The Christmas story resonates with the tens of millions of immigrants persecuted and jailed by tyrannical states.  The Christmas story resonates with the millions of people of color who are “stopped and frisked” by a militarized police.

The Christmas story does not resonate with the owners, investors and publicists of big commercial enterprises who have converted the multitude into worshipers of their little plastic cards.  Taking ‘Christ out of Christmas’ and destroying the joy and fellowship and solidarity of shared humanity embodied in the celebration of the birth of Christ is essential in order to continue to accumulate wealth.  Putting the ‘Christ story’ back into Christmas is a step toward defeating consumerist consciousness and recreating social solidarity, so necessary for ending injustice.

Dec 282013
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

imperialism

Introduction

In ancient Rome, especially during the late Republic, oligarchs resorted to mob violence to block, intimidate, assassinate or drive from power the dominant faction in the Senate.  While neither the ruling or opposing factions represented the interests of the plebeians, wage workers, small farmers or slaves, the use of the ‘mob’ against the elected Senate, the principle of representative government and the republican form of government laid the groundwork for the rise of authoritarian “Caesars” (military rulers) and the transformation of the Roman republic into an imperial state.

Demagogues, in the pay of aspiring emperors, aroused the passions of a motley array of disaffected slum dwellers, loafers and petty thieves (ladrones) with promises, pay-offs and positions in a New Order.  Professional mob organizers cultivated their ties with the oligarchs ‘above’ and with professional demonstrators ‘below’.  They voiced ‘popular grievances’ and articulated demands questioning the legitimacy of the incumbent rulers, while laying the groundwork for the rule by the few.  Usually, when the pay-master oligarchs came to power on a wave of demagogue-led mob violence, they quickly suppressed the demonstrations, paid off the demagogues with patronage jobs in the new regime or resorted to a discrete assassination for ‘street leaders’ unwilling to recognize the new order’.  The new rulers purged the old Senators into exile, expulsion and dispossession, rigged new elections and proclaimed themselves ‘saviors of the republic’.  They proceeded to drive peasants from their land, renounce social obligations and stop food subsidies for poor urban families and funds for public works.

The use of mob violence and “mass revolts” to serve the interests of oligarchical and imperial powers against democratically-elected governments has been a common strategy in recent times.

Throughout the ages, the choreographed “mass revolt” played many roles:  (1) It served to destabilize an electoral regime; (2) it provided a platform for its oligarch funders to depose an incumbent regime; (3) it disguised the fact that the oligarchic opposition had lost democratic elections; (4) it provided a political minority with a ‘fig-leaf of legitimacy’ when it was otherwise incapable of acting within a constitutional framework  and (5) it allowed for the illegitimate seizure of power in the name of a pseudo ‘majority’, namely  the “crowds in the central plaza”.

Some leftist commentators have argued two contradictory positions: On the one hand, some simply reduce the oligarchy’s power grab to an ‘inter-elite struggle’ which has nothing to do with the ‘interests of the working class’, while others maintain the ‘masses’ in the street are protesting against an “elitist regime”.  A few even argue that with popular, democratic demands, these revolts are progressive, should be supported as “terrain for class struggle”.  In other words, the ‘left’ should join the uprising and contest the oligarchs for leadership within the stage-managed revolts!

What progressives are unwilling to recognize is that the oligarchs orchestrating the mass revolt are authoritarians who completely reject democratic procedures and electoral processes. Their aim is to establish a ‘junta’, which will eliminate all democratic political and social institutions and freedoms and impose harsher, more repressive and regressive policies and institutions than those they replace.  Some leftists support the ‘masses in revolt’ simply because of their ‘militancy’, their numbers and street courage, without examining the underlying leaders, their interests and links to the elite beneficiaries of a ‘regime change’.

All the color-coded “mass revolts” in Eastern Europe and the ex-USSR featured popular leaders who exhorted the masses in the name of ‘independence and democracy’ but were pro-NATO, pro-(Western) imperialists and linked to neo-liberal elites.  Upon the fall of communism, the new oligarchs privatized and sold off the most lucrative sectors of the economy throwing millions out of work, dismantled the welfare state and handed over their military bases to NATO for the stationing of foreign troops and the placement of missiles aimed at Russia.

The entire ‘anti-Stalinist’ left in the US and Western Europe, with a few notable exceptions, celebrated these oligarch-controlled revolts in Eastern Europe and some even participated as minor accomplices in the post-revolt neo-liberal regimes.  One clear reason for the demise of “Western Marxism” arose from its inability to distinguish a genuine popular democratic revolt from a mass uprising funded and stage-managed by rival oligarchs!

One of the clearest recent example of a manipulated ‘people’s power’ revolution in the streets to replace an elected representative of  one sector of the elite with an even more brutal, authoritarian ‘president’ occurred in early 2001 in the Philippines.   The more popular and independent (but notoriously corrupt) President Joseph Estrada, who had challenged sectors of the Philippine elite and current US foreign policy (infuriating Washington by embracing Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez), was replaced through street demonstrations of middle-class matrons with soldiers in civvies by Gloria Makapagal-Arroyo.  Mrs. Makapagal-Arroyo, who had close links to the US and the Philippine military, unleashed a horrific wave of brutality dubbed the ‘death-squad democracy’.  The overthrow of Estrada was actively supported by the left, including sectors of the revolutionary left, who quickly found themselves the target of an unprecedented campaign of assassinations, disappearances, torture and imprisonment by their newly empowered ‘Madame President’.

Past and Present Mass Revolts Against Democracy:  Guatemala, Iran and Chile

The use of mobs and mass uprisings by oligarchs and empire builders has a long and notorious history.  Three of the bloodiest cases, which scarred their societies for decades, took place in Guatemala in 1954, Iran in 1953 and Chile in 1973.

Democratically-elected Jacobo Árbenz was the first Guatemalan President to initiate agrarian reform and legalize trade unions, especially among landless farm workers.  Árbenz’s reforms included the expropriation of unused, fallow land owned by the United Fruit Company, a giant US agro-business conglomerate.  The CIA used its ties to local oligarchs and right-wing generals and colonels to instigate and finance mass-protests against a phony ‘communist-takeover’ of Guatemala under President Arbenz.  The military used the manipulated mob violence and the ‘threat’ of Guatemala becoming a “Soviet satellite”, to stage a bloody coup.  The coup leaders received air support from the CIA and slaughtered thousands of Arbenz supporters and turned the countryside into ‘killing fields’.   For the next 50 years political parties, trade unions and peasant organizations were banned, an estimated 200,000 Guatemalans were murdered and millions were displaced.

In 1952 Mohammed Mossadegh was elected president of Iran on a moderate nationalist platform, after the overthrow of the brutal monarch.  Mossadegh announced the nationalization of the petroleum industry.  The CIA, with the collaboration of the local oligarchs, monarchists and demagogues organized ‘anti-communist’ street mobs to stage violent demonstrations providing the pretext for a monarchist- military coup.  The CIA-control Iranian generals brought ‘Shah Reza Pahlavi back from Switzerland and for the next 26 years Iran was a monarchist-military dictatorship, whose population was terrorized by the Savak, the murderous secret police.

The US oil companies received the richest oil concessions; the Shah joined Israel and the US in an unholy alliance against progressive nationalist dissidents and worked hand-in-hand to undermine independent Arab states.  Tens of thousands of Iranians were killed, tortured and driven into exile.  In 1979, a mass popular uprising led by Islamic movements, nationalist and socialist parties and trade unions drove out the Shah-Savak dictatorship.  The Islamists installed a radical nationalist clerical regime, which retains power to this day despite decades of a US-CIA-funded destabilization campaign which has funded both terrorist groups and dissident liberal movements.

Chile is the best-known case of CIA-financed mob violence leading to a military coup.  In 1970, the democratic socialist Dr. Salvador Allende was elected president of Chile.  Despite CIA efforts to buy votes to block Congressional approval of the electoral results and its manipulation of violent demonstrations and an assassination campaign to precipitate a military coup, Allende took office.

During Allende’s tenure as president the CIA financed a variety of “direct actions” –from paying the corrupt leaders of a copper workers union to stage strikes and the truck owners associations to refuse to transport goods to the cities, to manipulating right-wing terrorist groups like the Patria y Libertad (Fatherland and Liberty) in their assassination campaigns.  The CIA’s destabilization program was specifically designed to provoke economic instability through artificial shortages and rationing, in order to incite middle class discontent. This was made notorious by the street demonstrations of pot-banging housewives.  The CIA sought to incite a military coup through economic chaos.  Thousands of truck owners were paid not to drive their trucks leading to shortages in the cities, while right-wing terrorists blew up power stations plunging neighborhoods into darkness and shop owners who refused to join the ‘strike’ against Allende were vandalized.  On September 11, 1973, to the chants of ‘Jakarta’ (in celebration of a 1964 CIA coup in Indonesia), a junta of US-backed Chilean generals grabbed power from an elected government.  Tens of thousands of activists and government supporters were arrested, killed, tortured and forced into exile.  The dictatorship denationalized and privatized its mining, banking and manufacturing sectors, following the free market dictates of Milton Friedman-trained economists (the so-call “Chicago Boys”).  The dictatorship overturned 40 years of welfare, labor and land-reform legislation which had made Chile the most socially advanced country in Latin America.  With the generals in power, Chile became the ‘neo-liberal model’ for Latin America.  Mob violence and the so-called “middle class revolt”, led to the consolidation of oligarchic and imperial rule and a17 year reign of terror under General Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.  The whole society was brutalized and with the return of electoral politics, even former ‘leftist’ parties retained the dictatorship’s neo-liberal economic policies, its authoritarian constitution and the military high command.  The ‘revolt of the middle class’ in Chile resulted in the greatest concentration of wealth in the hands of the oligarchs in Latin America to this day!

The Contemporary Use and Abuse of “Mass Revolts””  Egypt, Ukraine, Venezuela , Thailand and Argentina

In recent years “mass revolt” has become the instrument of choice when oligarchs, generals and other empire builders seeking ‘regime change’.  By enlisting an assortment of nationalist demagogues and imperial-funded NGO ‘leaders’, they set the conditions for the overthrow of democratically elected governments and stage-managed the installment of their own “free market” regimes with dubious “democratic” credentials.

Not all the elected regimes under siege are progressive.  Many ‘democracies’, like the Ukraine, are ruled by one set of oligarchs.  In Ukraine, the elite supporting President Viktor Yanukovich,   decided that entering into a deep client-state relationship with the European Union was not in their interests, and sought to diversify their international trade partners while maintaining lucrative ties with Russia.  Their opponents, who are currently behind the street demonstrations in Kiev, advocate a client relationship with the EU, stationing of NATO troops and cutting ties with Russia.   In Thailand, the democratically-elected Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, represents a section of the economic elite with ties and support in the rural areas, especially the North-East, as well as deep trade relations with China.  The opponents are urban-based, closer to the military-monarchists and favor a straight neo-liberal agenda linked to the US against the rural patronage-populist agenda of Ms. Shinawatra.

Egypt’s democratically-elected Mohamed Morsi government pursued a moderate Islamist policy with some constraints on the military and a loosening of ties with Israel in support of the Palestinians in Gaza.  In terms of the IMF, Morsi sought compromise.  The Morsi regime was in flux when it was overthrown: not Islamist nor secular, not pro-worker but also not pro-military.  Despite all of its different pressure groups and contradictions, the Morsi regime permitted labor strikes, demonstrations, opposition parties, freedom of the press and assembly.  All of these democratic freedoms have disappeared after waves of  ‘mass street revolts’, choreographed by the military, set the conditions for the generals to take power and establish their brutal dictatorship – jailing and torturing tens of thousands and outlawing all opposition parties.

Mass demonstrations and demagogue-led direct actions also actively target democratically elected progressive governments, like Venezuela and Argentina, in addition to the actions against conservative democracies cited above.  Venezuela, under Presidents Hugo Chavez and Vicente Maduro advance an anti-imperialist, pro-socialist program.  ‘Mob revolts’ are combined with waves of assassinations, sabotage of public utilities, artificial shortages of essential commodities, vicious media slander and opposition election campaigns funded from the outside.  In 2002, Washington teamed up with its collaborator politicians, Miami and Caracas-based oligarchs and local armed gangs ,to mount a “protest movement” as the pretext for a planned business-military coup.  The generals and members of the elite seized power and deposed and arrested the democratically-elected President Chavez.   All avenues of democratic expression and representation were closed and the constitution annulled.  In response to the kidnapping of ‘their president’, over a million Venezuelans spontaneously mobilized and marched upon the Presidential palace to demand the restoration of democracy and Hugo Chavez to the presidency.  Backed by the large pro-democracy and pro-constitution sectors of the Venezuelan armed forces, the mass protests led to the coup’s defeat and the return of Chavez and democracy.  All democratic governments facing manipulated imperial-oligarchic financed mob revolts should study the example of Venezuela’s defeat of the US-oligarch-generals’ coup.  The best defense for democracy is found in the organization, mobilization and political education of the electoral majority.  It is not enough to participate in free elections; an educated and politicized majority must also know how to defend their democracy in the streets as well as at the ballot box.

The lessons of the 2002 coup-debacle were very slowly absorbed by the Venezuelan oligarchy and their US patrons who continued to destabilize the economy in an attempt to undermine democracy and seize power.  Between December 2002 and February 2003, corrupt senior oil executives of the nominally ‘public’ oil company PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela) organized a ‘bosses’ lockout stopping production, export and local distribution of oil and refined petroleum produces.  Corrupt trade union officials, linked to the US National Endowment for Democracy, mobilized oil workers and other employees to support the lock-out, in their attempt to paralyze the economy.  The government responded by mobilizing the other half of the oil workers who, together with a significant minority of middle management, engineers and technologists, called on the entire Venezuelan working class to take the oil fields and installations from the ‘bosses’.  To counter the acute shortage of gasoline, President Chavez secured supplies from neighboring countries and overseas allies.  The lockout was defeated.  Several thousand supporters of the executive power grab were fired and replaced by pro-democracy managers and workers.

Having failed to overthrow the democratic government via “mass revolts”, the oligarchs turned toward a plebiscite on Chavez rule and later called for a nation-wide electoral boycott, both of which were defeated.   These defeats served to strengthen Venezuela’s democratic institutions and decreased the presence of opposition legislators in the Congress.  The repeated failures of the elite to grab power led to a new multi-pronged strategy using:  (1) US-funded NGO’s to exploit local grievances and mobilize  residents around community issues; (2) clandestine thugs to sabotage  utilities, especially power, assassinate peasant recipients of land reform titles, as well as prominent officials and activists; (3) mass electoral campaign marches and (4) economic destabilization via financial speculation, illegal foreign exchange trading , price gouging and hoarding of basic consumer commodities.  The purpose of these measures is to incite mass discontent, using their control of the mass media to provoke another ‘mass revolt’ to set the stage for another US-backed ‘power grab’.  Violent street protests by middle class students from the elite Central University were organized by oligarch-financed demagogues.  ‘Demonstrations’ included sectors of the middle class and urban poor angered by the artificial shortages and power outages.  The sources of popular discontent were rapidly and effectively addressed at the top by energetic government measures:  Business owners engaged in hoarding and price gouging were jailed; prices of essential staples were reduced; hoarded goods were seized from warehouses and distributed to the poor; the import of essential goods were increased and saboteurs were pursued.  The Government’s effective intervention resonated with the mass of the working class, the lower-middle class and the rural and urban poor and restored their support.  Government supporters took to the streets and lined up at the ballot box to defeat the campaign of destabilization.  The government won a resounding electoral mandate allowing it to move decisively against the oligarchs and their backers in Washington.

The Venezuelan experience shows how energetic government counter-measures can restore support and deepen progressive social changes for the majority.  This is because forceful progressive government intervention against anti-democratic oligarchs, combined with the organization, political education and mobilization of the majority of voters can decisively defeat these stage-managed mass revolts.

Argentina is an example of a weakened democratic regime trying to straddle the fence between the oligarchs and the workers, between the combined force of the agro-business and mining elites and working and middle class constituencies dependent on social policies.  The elected-Kirchner-Fernandez government has faced “mass revolts” in the a series of street demonstrations whipped up by conservative agricultural exporters over taxes; the Buenos Aires upper-middle class angered at ‘crime, disorder and insecurity’,  a nationwide strike by police officials over ‘salaries’ who ‘looked the other way’ while gangs of ‘lumpen’ street thugs pillaged and destroyed stores.  Taken altogether, these waves of mob action in Argentina appear to be part of a politically-directed destabilization campaign by the authoritarian Right who have instigated or, at least, exploited these events.  Apart from calling on the military to restore order and conceding to the ‘salary’ demands of the striking police, the Fernandez government has been unable or unwilling to mobilize the democratic electorate in defense of democracy.  The democratic regime remains in power but it is under siege and vulnerable to attack by domestic and imperial opponents.

Conclusion

Mass revolts are two-edged swords:  They can be a positive force when they occur against military dictatorships like Pinochet or Mubarak, against authoritarian absolutist monarchies like Saudi Arabia, a colonial-racist state like Israel, and imperial occupations like against the US in Afghanistan.  But they have to be directed and controlled by popular local leaders seeking to restore democratic majority rule.

History, from ancient times to the present, teaches us that not all ‘mass revolts’ achieve, or are even motivated by, democratic objectives.  Many have served oligarchs seeking to overthrow democratic governments, totalitarian leaders seeking to install fascist and pro-imperial regimes, demagogues and authoritarians seeking to weaken shaky democratic regimes and militarists seeking to start wars for imperial ambitions.

Today, “mass revolts” against democracy have become standard operational procedure for Western European and US rulers who seek to circumvent democratic procedures and install pro-imperial clients.  The practice of democracy is denigrated while the mob is extolled in the imperial Western media.  This is why armed Islamist terrorists and mercenaries are called “rebels” in Syria and the mobs in the streets of Kiev (Ukraine) attempting to forcibly depose a democratically-elected government are labeled “pro-Western democrats”.

The ideology informing  the “mass revolts” varies from “anti-communist” and “anti-authoritarian” in democratic Venezuela, to “pro-democracy” in Libya (even as tribal bands and mercenaries slaughter whole communities), Egypt and the Ukraine.

Imperial strategists have systematized, codified and made operational “mass revolts” in favor of oligarchic rule.  International experts, consultants, demagogues and NGO officials have carved out lucrative careers as they travel to ‘hot spots’ and organize ‘mass revolts’ dragging the target countries into deeper ‘colonization’ via European or US-centered ‘integration’.  Most local leaders and demagogues accept the double agenda: ‘protest today and submit to new masters tomorrow’.  The masses in the street are fooled and then sacrificed.  They believe in a ‘New Dawn’ of Western consumerism, higher paid jobs and greater personal freedom . . . only to be disillusioned when their new rulers fill the jails with opponents and many former protestors, raise prices, cut salaries, privatize state companies, sell off the most lucrative firms to foreigners and double the unemployment rate.

When the oligarchs ‘stage-manage’ mass revolts and takeover the regime, the big losers include the democratic electorate and most of the protestors.  Leftists and progressives, in the West or in exile, who had mindlessly supported the ‘mass revolts’ will publish their scholarly essays on ‘the revolution (sic) betrayed” without admitting to their own betrayal of democratic principles.

If and when  the Ukraine enters into the European Union, the exuberant street demonstrators will join the millions of jobless workers in Greece, Portugal and Spain, as well as millions of pensioners brutalized by “austerity programs” imposed by their new rulers, the ‘Troika’ in Brussels.  If these former demonstrators take to the streets once more, in disillusionment at their leaders’ “betrayal”, they can enjoy their ‘victory’ under the batons of “NATO and European Union-trained police” while the Western mass media will have moved elsewhere in support of ‘democracy’.

Dec 272013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

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How did a political crisis turn into disrespect for rule of law and beginning of the major collapse of AKP? The answer is simple; laws were used for individuals who should have just been part of the transformation. Over the last decade many bills have been passed or laws were decreed to protect or enable the Prime Minister of his relatives. His son Bilal’s wealth has always been a matter of criticism by opposition, especially how he became so rich over a decade becoming a major shipowner in Turkey was raising curiosity. The most recent graft probe started out with ministers’ sons, some claimed it is yet the beginning and a warning for Prime Minister Erdogan that his son and himself are on the target. Upon this, four ministers who were involved in corruption allegations were forced to resign by Prime Minister Erdogan, and when two of them played hard, they were expelled at the major cabinet reshuffle when ten ministers have been replaced.

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The former cabinet consisted of a conservative-nationalist mentality of hardliners that have resulted in harsh suppression of any opposition since appointment, April 26th. The current cabinet now is called “war cabinet” as it consists mainly of loyalist hawks that seem to follow orders to the end without questioning. Among them, the most important one is the new interior minister, who ordered the inhumane treatment of protesters and gave orders to raze Gezi Park, to not let anyone come out of it (alive), upon which police shot thousands of gas canisters onto sleeping people and burnt down people’s tents at 5 am during a morning raid with excessive force against peaceful sit-in (sleep-in?).

Today, the same minister had his first day in his office and his first deed was to remove the prosecutor in charge of the corruption probe, making him unable to investigate any further. Moreover, newly appointed police chiefs and policemen refuse to carry out orders of investigation into corruption probe led by prosecutor Muammer Akkas. He distributed a press release himself in front of the justice hall, where he explained that the judiciary is under pressure through the hand of police by government. Corruption probe and prosecutors investigating into government ministers’ bribery are accused of “plotting a judiciary coup” by the governing AKP. The removed prosecutor invites all people of law to defend jurisprudence and rule of law.

The removed interior ministers handed over their chairs to their successors with similar speeches, which ended saying “wish you lots of luck and may God be on your side” which sounded as if they meant that the newly appointed ministers would need this sympathy a lot. Among the leaving ministers, Erdogan Bayraktar –former urbanization minister who called on the Prime Minister Erdogan to resign– read out his press statement from a document put in front of him, during which he read out his gratitude for Prime Minister Erdogan for all the support and all he has done for the leaving minister; the level of pressure he was talking about during his resignation was confirmed in this sheet of document in my opinion.

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One other leaving minister is the father of Baris Güler –in whose bedroom was found six steel safes and millions of dollars and euros in shoe boxes- the former interior minister Muammer Güler. Leaving minister’s last deed was to reply a questionnaire about use of chemical weapons during OccupyGezi protests against unarmed civilians. His answer stated that when it was needed the police added chemicals to water cannons to be used against protestors. These chemicals included OC (Oleoresin of Capsicum) chemical gas solution, synthetic fire extinguishing chemicals, food coloring chemicals. However, the answer did not mention what the need was to spray chemicals on peaceful protestors or their effects when shot at humans combined with water, as many people were left with burn-marks in the aftermath.

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As deputies continue to resign from AKP, internal opposition is becoming louder and louder against Erdogan. The most harshly criticizing AKP deputies Ertuğrul Günay (Izmir), Erdal Kalkan (Izmir) and Haluk Özdalga (Ankara) have been sent to disciplinary body to be expelled from the party, upon which Kalkan has already resigned saying “the people are not idiots, they see what’s going on”. With the latest expulsion and resignations, AKP currently has no representatives from Izmir, ending the rhetoric stating that it is the only party to have representatives from all 81 cities of Turkey.

Among the “to be expelled” deputies, Özdalga is the one who called onto the president Gül to intervene with the crisis and end it within his constitutional responsibilities. As the constitution states, president of the republic reserves the right to strip prime minister of his duties and responsibilities if the government is believed to have lost its legitimacy or support in the eyes of the people, or he can be the mediator for even a more peaceful solution to political crises.

The near future does not hold a bright end to this process. On the one hand there is a mobilized but disunited mass of people who have been disregarded by AKP for over a decade and had to unleash their cry for respect to human rights in Gezi Park six months ago; on the other hand AKP’s long term ally the religious group Gülen Movement supporters, who are very well organized within the security forces, and hold a big majority especially among police and riot police forces; and lastly there are the Erdogan supporters, AKP youth branches, public-supported police troops. While millions of people want to finally see a government free from corruption and respect to international law and human rights, there are still other millions who wish to see similar dictatorial attitudes targeting someone else than themselves within the country. Finally, there are the ones who would die to see continuation of current practices until all non-AKP supporters are eliminated from the country and their existence ended.

The last remarks carry a bit of concern. 27th of December is the anniversary of Roboski Massacre in Turkey, when air force jets air-raided a village and killed dozens of people and those who have given the orders were never found, no one got punished except for the ones whose relatives were bombarded. On the anniversary, it would be expectable to see a commemoration protest to take place in Taksim square and it would be expectable to see a big police presence (even in the form of undercover police agents). However, the Taksim Solidarity platform has called out a major protest against corruption, destruction and violence to be held in Taksim Square on the night of December 27th. As the new police chief is very eager to show his “skills” and how we might remember his practices throughout last week in Kadiköy after he was appointed, it is not illogical to expect police to unleash all terror and violence on peaceful protestors once again to turn Taksim into a battlefield. After all, those who have given orders to raze the area are now giving top commands to keep everyone’s mouth shut, all journalists turned to dark walls and everything under shadow. No vision, no sound, no reaction.

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OccupyGezi protests had received harsh police treatment with excessive use of force in June 2013.

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

 

Dec 262013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan

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As the corruption and bribery issues dominate Turkish daily agenda and graft probe turns into a political crisis, AKP is facing more than just a governmental obstacle before elections. The Gülen movement has started an all out attack against Erdogan’s legacy, and so far has caused several MPs and ministers from the governing AKP. Today has witnessed an early start with three ministers resigning one after another, third one being a rather calm person who has sided with Erdogan for a long time, Erdogan Bayraktar the former minister of environment and urbanization.

First two ministers said they would resign in order to better fight with global conspiracies against Turkey’s and AKP’s great success and economic development, coming in the shape of a graft probe and arrest of their sons as well as confiscation of the “found millions” in shoe boxes. Third minister Bayraktar’s final statement focused on the treatment of ministers in the cabinet. He said that he is not fine with the pressure he has been receiving from PM Erdogan, that he does not like the way he was handed over an envelope in which there was a resignation letter and a press release both to be signed and distributed to media. Bayraktar’s final statement came live on government-friendly NTV where he said “the Prime Minister himself has his signature and approval on all controversial topics that I was accused of, it is actually him who should resign to clear this mess.” Those being his last words as minister, he resigned not only from cabinet but also from parliament, leaving him out of the immunity-umbrella.

The social communities formed during and after OccupyGezi protests called for a “clean government” meeting to call for Erdogan to resign after Bayraktar’s call. Across Turkey for several cities calls have been made and people waited for the time to come. When clocks struck 20:00, Kadiköy on the Asian side of Istanbul was filled by thousands of people demanding resignation of the government. Originally, one would think that the police would be on the side of the people for once after being treated so bad by PM Erdogan (over a thousand policemen were fired and replaced as retaliation for arresting ministers’ sons over corruption and bribes).

With the new police forces’ changes, since morning the police has been resisting against the orders from prosecutors to bring Prime Minister Erdogan’s son to be questioned over his involvement in the corruption and bribery issues, and moreover it is claimed that special forces are now guarding Bilal Erdogan in his house against any kind of arrest warrant that might be issued by any prosecutor or judge.

This shows that the policemen can take initiative and do not have to follow immoral orders; that they can resist against any order and do not have to put the blame on being the “foot servants of the commanders”. Just as they have resisted against prosecutor’s orders, they could have easily disobeyed the orders and respect human rights and international law, and treat protestors as human beings. However, in Kadiköy all the brutality of Gezi Park has been brought back in the form of water cannons, tear gas, baton, kicks, punches and hatred against civilians.

The new cabinet has been appointed by Prime Minister Erdogan in the meantime with the change of 10 ministers at once. After his speech yesterday likening the current atmosphere to a new Independence War of Turkey, it can be said that he has chosen the people who form up a war cabinet, including the most controversial and infamous figures as new ministers. In the eyes of protesting millions, the new ministers are responsible for so many scandals of past years, and many deaths (especially during OccupyGezi) unfortunately. It is unfortunate to see mainstream media sleeping over this and reverting back to penguin documentaries. Yet, rule of law has long been forgotten in this country; as Prime Minister has put it himself “this government will do whatever it takes to fulfill the wishes of 50% of voters”. It is an ironic and scary comparison that Hitler received about 50% of votes when his dirty plans were obvious and a huge part of a nation was drunk with the charisma of power that they did not even realize they were being victims of an upcoming slaughter.

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Dec 232013
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan

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Turkish political culture may have never known a very clear, ethical or sophisticated atmosphere, yet it has never ceased to be entertaining. That is, if you are not among those who suffer the consequences of all the political turmoil and scandals that govern the daily lives of even the most ordinary citizens… The most recent entertainment in the political scene in the country has been a huge scandal involving AKP ministers, their sons, mayors, government officials, bureaucrats, businesspeople, investors and brokers. A bribery and corruption scandal has revealed that all the people listed above have been interconnected in what appears to be the biggest corruption in history, with the numbers to far topping around $100 billion.

Between the OccupyGezi protests and the graft probe, millions of people were resentful towards the police-state tactics and gulag-like structures that are dominating the streets, creating new enemies within the society to legitimize certain actions and police presence. Among all this, seeing these publicly frowned-upon figures being detained gave a kind of revealing feeling to many people, quickly followed by the shock of seeing shoe boxes full of millions of euros, dollars, and lire, as well as money-counting machines in the homes of the people affected by the probe.

Even as the fanatical supporters of AKP chose not to believe the scandal and define it as a set-up, an international conspiracy, a combined play by Israel and the Gulenist movement that is operating in Turkey, the scandal continued to get bigger and more obvious. As detentions stemming from the were made, the penguin media of Turkey again continued with its glorification of the “silence is golden” attitude, and many mainstream newspapers – being owned by pro-government businesspeople or people in the government – wrote about the “conspiracies,” pointing fingers at critical media for revealing the bribes and scandal.

As a broadcast ban was issued by the state, millions of people were getting their news from social-media accounts by the journalists who work for serious newspapers, as well as several new whistleblower news portals. Interestingly enough, a censorship movement began to extend the broadcast ban to all media platforms, and thus the media institutions that do not follow the directives of the government were blocked from access. Already a week earlier the Prime Minister had accused (whistleblower) journalists of “treason to the fatherland,” and this week there was a court decision at their doorstep to shut them up, in contempt of citizens’ right to acquire information – which in this case would benefit the citizens dearly, as they will be the ones to pay back all the corrupted amounts in the years to come!

When several news portals did not stop publishing news about the detentions, court cases of ministers’ sons, and arrests being made, DDoS attacks on their servers were organized, resulting in illegal blockage of access to news sources. Fortunately the Twitter accounts of the journalists were still up and all the news was being shared – as well as news about the censorship itself – in real time.

While the majority of the hashtags on the trending-topics list were about the graft probe and the shaming of those who are being accused, at certain times it was possible to see manipulation of hashtags, as pro-government hashtags kept coming up and dropping into the lists all night. The majority of pro-AKP tweets focus on how this is a dirty plot to frame ministers, businesspeople, important people in Turkey in a “disgusting play” just at the time when “Turkey is about to start a space program!” This unrealistic defense of corruption began as a way of holding onto power, yet it also reveals a very important truth…

Many people, including the ministers, keep asking why this probe has been unleashed just now. That is the question occupying many minds. Of course if there is to be an operation, there needs to be a time of preparation. However, if this probe is going as deep as the last whole decade, it means that a lot of the material in the dossiers have been present for a long time without any action being taken. Either the partners in corruption have been having a fight and one side is trying to win over the other, or this has turned into an internal coup within an unholy alliance where the ultimate war of two camps will leave us all in mud for a long time.

Lastly, it might be worth mentioning that the police chiefs, directors, and managers that have been fired are now replaced by people who have an even tougher attitude. If any Gezi Park protester is glad to see that the former chief of police is now gone, it might be bad news that the new chief has dreams about the park beyond a shopping mall. Alas, at the end of the day it is not international law or human rights standards that govern this quest for justice, but the urge to destroy a former ally or to avenge a big wound. Hopefully the people will question those whom they elect and vote for, and take more time to think about whom to vote for in the next elections.

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/


Dec 212013
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Introduction

empire

Following the Vietnam War, US imperial intervention passed through several phases:  In the immediate aftermath, the US government faced a humiliating military defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese liberation forces and was under pressure from an American public sick and tired of war.Imperial military interventions, domestic espionage against opponents and usual practice of fomenting coups d’état (regime change)  declined.

Slowly, under President Gerald Ford and, especially President ‘Jimmy’ Carter, an imperial revival emerged in the form of clandestine support for armed surrogates in Southern Africa – Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau— and neo-liberal military dictatorships in Latin America.  The first large-scale imperial intervention was launched during the second half of the Carter Presidency .It involved massive support for the Islamist uprising against the secular government of Afghanistan and a mercenary jihadist invasion sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the US (1979).  This was followed by direct US invasions in Grenada (1983) under President Reagan; Panama (1989) and Iraq (1991) under President Bush Sr. and Yugoslavia (1995 and 1999) under President Clinton.

In the beginning, the imperial revival involved low cost wars of brief duration with few casualties.  As a result there were very few voices of dissent, far diminished from the massive anti-war, anti-imperial movements of the early 1970’s.  The restoration of direct US imperial interventions, unhindered by Congressional and popular opposition, was gradual in the period 1973-1990.  It started to accelerate in the 1990’s and then really took off after September 11, 2001.

The imperial military and ideological apparatus for direct intervention was firmly in place by 2000.  It led to a prolonged series of wars in multiple geographical locations, involving long-term, large-scale commitments of economic resources, and military personnel and was completely unhampered by congressional or large-scale public opposition – at least in the beginning.  The ‘objectives’ of these serial wars were defined by their principal Zionist and militarist architects as the following: (1) destroying regimes and states (as well as their military, police and civil governing bureaucracies) which had opposed Israel’s annexation of Palestine; (2) deposing regimes which promoted independent nationalist policies, opposing or threatening the Gulf puppet monarchist regimes and supporting anti-imperialist, secular or nationalist-Islamic movements around the world.  Blinded by their imperial hubris (or naked racism) neither the Zionists nor the civilian militarists within the US Administrations  anticipated prolonged national resistance from the targeted countries, the regrouping of armed opposition and the spread of violent attacks (including terrorism) to the imperial countries.  Having utterly destroyed the Afghan and Iraqi state structures, as well as the regime in power, and having devastated the economy as well as any central military or police capacity, the imperial state was faced with endless armed civilian ethno-religious and tribal resistance (including suicide bombings), mounting US troop casualties and spiraling costs to the domestic economy without any “exit strategy”.  The imperial powers were unable to set up a stable and loyal client regime, backed by a unified state apparatus with a monopoly of force and violence, after having deliberately shredded these structures (police, bureaucracy, civil service, etc) during the invasion and early occupation.  The creation of this “political vacuum” was never a problem for the Zionists embedded in the US Administrations since  their ultimate goal was to devastate Israel’s enemies .  As a result of the US invasions, the regional power of Israel was greatly enhanced without the loss of a single Israeli soldier or shekel.  The Zionists within the Bush Administration successfully blamed the ensuing problems of the occupation, especially the growing armed resistance, on their ‘militarist’ colleagues and the Pentagon ‘Brass’. ‘Mission Accomplished’, the Bush Administration Zionists left the government , moving on to lucrative careers in the private financial sector.

Under President Obama, a new ‘cast’ of embedded Zionists have emerged to target Iran and prepare the US for a new war on Israel’s behalf.  However, by the end of the first decade of the 21st century, when Barak Obama was elected president, the political, economic and military situation had changed.  The contrast in circumstances  between the  earlyBush (Jr.) years and the current administration is striking.

The 20-year period (1980-2000) before the launching of the ‘serial war’ agenda was characterized by short, inexpensive, low-casualty wars in Grenada, Panama and Yugoslavia, and a proxy war in Afghanistan. Israeli invasions and attacks against Lebanon, the occupied West Bank and Syria .One major US war of short duration and limited casualties against Iraq (the First Gulf War).  The First Gulf War succeeded in weakening the government of Saddam Hussein, fragmenting the country via ‘no fly zones’,  establishing a Kurdish client ‘state’ in the north  while ‘policing’ was left to the remnants of the Iraqi state – all without having to occupy the country.

Meanwhile, the US economy was relatively stable and trade deficits were manageable.  The real economic crisis was still to come. Military expenditures appeared under control.  US public opinion, initially hostile to the First Gulf War was “pacified” by its short duration and the withdrawal of US troops.   Iraq remained under aerial surveillance with frequent US bombing and missile strikes whenever the government attempted to regain control of the north.  During this period, Israel was forced to fight its own wars and maintain an expensive occupation of southern Lebanon – losing its own soldiers.

By the second decade of the 21st century everything had changed.  The US was bogged down in a prolonged thirteen year war and occupation in Afghanistan with little hope for a stable client regime in Kabul.  The seven-year war against Iraq (Second Gulf War) with the massive occupation, armed civilian insurgency and the resurgence of ethno-religious conflict resulted in casualties and a crippling growth in US military expenditures.  Budget and trade deficits expanded exponentially while the US share of the world market declined. China displaced the US as the principle trading partner in Latin America, Asia and Africa.  A series of new ‘low intensity’ wars were launched in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan which show no prospect of ending the drain on the military and the US Treasury.

The vast majority of the US public has experienced a decline in living standards and now believes the cost of overseas wars are a significant factor contributing to their relative impoverishment and insecurity.  The multi-trillion-dollar bailout of the Wall Street banks during the economic crash of 2008-09 has eroded public support for the financial elite as well as the militarist-Zionist elite, which continue to push for more imperial wars.

The capacity of the US imperial elite to launch new wars on Israel’s behalf has been greatly undermined since the economic crash of 2008-09.  The gap between the rulers and ruled has widened.  Domestic economic issues, not the threat of external terrorists, have become the central concern.  The public sees the Middle East as a region of unending costly wars – with no benefit to the domestic economy.  Asia has become the center of trade, growth, investment and a major source of US jobs.  While Washington continues to ignore the citizens’ views, accumulated grievances are beginning to have an impact.

A Pew Research report, released in late 2013, confirms the wide gap between elite and public opinion.  The Pew Foundation is an establishment polling operation, which presents its questions in a way that avoids the larger political questions.  Nevertheless, the responses presented in the report are significant:  By a vast margin (52% to 38%) the public agree that the US “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own”.  This represents a major increase in public opposition to armed US imperialist intervention and the 52% response in 2013 contrasts sharply with 30% polled 2002.  A companion poll of elite policy advisors,  members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), highlights the gap between the US public and the ruling class.   The elite are described by the Pew Report as having a ‘decidedly internationalist (imperialist-interventionist) outlook’.  The American public clearly distinguishes between ‘trade’ and ‘globalization’ (imperialism.):  81% of the public favor ‘trade’ as a source of job creation while 73% oppose ‘globalization’ which they see as  US companies relocating jobs overseas to low wage regions.  The US public rejects imperial economic expansion and wars for the harm done to the domestic economy, middle and working class income and job security.  The members of the Council on Foreign Relations, in contrast, are overwhelmingly in favor of ‘globalization’ (and imperial interventions).  While 81% of the public believe the principle goal of US foreign policy should be the protection of American jobs, only 29% of the CFR rate US jobs as a priority.

The elite is conscious of the growing gap in interests, values and priorities between the public and the imperial state; they know that endless costly wars have led to a mass rejection of new imperial wars and a growing demand for domestic job programs.

This gap between the imperial policy elite and the majority of the public is one of the leading factors now influencing US foreign policy.  Together with the general discredit of the Congress (only 9% favorable), the public’s rejection of President Obama’s militarist foreign policy has seriously weakened the empire’s capacity to begin new large-scale ground wars at multiple sites.

Meanwhile, Israel (Washington’s foreign patron), the Gulf State clients and European and Japanese allies have been pushing the US to intervene and confront ‘their adversaries’. To this end, Israel and the Zionist Power Configuration within the US government have been undermining peace negotiations between the US and Iran.  Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies, as well as Turkey are urging the US to attack Syria.  The French had successfully pushed the US into a war against the Gaddafi government in Libya and have their sights on their former colony in Syria.  The US has given only limited backing to the French military intervention in Mali and the Central African Republic.

The US public is aware that none of Washington’s ‘militarist’ patrons, clients and allies has paid such a high price in terms of blood and treasure as the US in the recent wars.  The Saudi, Israeli and French “publics” have not experienced the socio-economic dislocations confronting the US public.  For these ‘allied’ regimes, the cheapest way to resolve their own regional conflicts and promote their own ambitions is to convince, coerce or pressure the US to “exercise its global leadership”.

Washington’s imperial policymakers, by background, history, ideology and past experience, are sensitive to these appeals – especially those from the Israelis.  But they also recognize the growing “intervention fatigue” among the American public, the CFR’s euphemism  for  rising anti-imperialist feelings among the American  majority, which is saying ‘no’ to further imperial military interventions.

Faced with choice of acting as an unfettered imperial power with global interests  and facing rising domestic discontent, Washington has been forced to revise its foreign policy and strategies.  It is adopting a more nuanced approach, one less vulnerable to external pressures and manipulations.

Imperial Foreign Policy in a Time of Domestic Constraints and External Pressures

US empire builders, with increasingly limited military options and declining domestic support, have begun to (1) prioritize their choice of places of engagement, (2) diversify their diplomatic, political and economic instruments of coercion and (3) limit large-scale, long-term military intervention to regions where US strategic interests are involved.  Washington is not shedding its militarist polices by any means, but it is looking for ways to avoid costly long-term wars which further undermine the domestic economy and intensify domestic political opposition.

In order to decipher US imperial policy in this new context, it is useful to first (1) identify the regions of conflict, (2) estimate the significance of these countries and conflicts to the empire and, (3) analyze the particular interventions and their impact on US empire building.  Our purpose is to show how the interplay between domestic and external countervailing pressures affects imperial policy.

Conflicts which Engage US Empire Builders

There are at least eleven major or minor conflicts today engaging US empire builders to a greater or lesser extent.  A major premise of our approach is that US empire builders are more selective in their aggression, more conscious of the economic consequences, less reckless in their commitments and have a greater concern for domestic political impact.  Current conflicts of interest to Washington include those taking place in the Ukraine, Thailand, Honduras, China-Japan-South Korea, Iran-Gulf States/Israel, Syria, Venezuela, Palestine-Israel, Libya, Afghanistan and Egypt.

These conflicts can be classified according to whether they involve major or minor US interests and whether they involve major or minor allies or adversaries.  Among the conflicts where the US has strategic interests and which involve major actors, one would have to include the territorial and maritime dispute between Japan, South Korea and China.  On the surface the dispute appears to be over economically insignificant pile of rocks claimed by the Japanese as the Senkaku Islands and by the Chinese as the Diaoyu Islands.  In essence, the conflict involves the US plan to militarily encircle China by provoking its Japanese and Korean allies to confront the Chinese over the islands.  Washington’s treaties with Japan will be used to come to the ‘aid’ of its most important ally in the region.  The US support of Japan’s expansionist claims is part of a strategic shift in US policy from military commitments in the Middle East to military and economic pacts in Asia, which exclude and provoke China.

The Obama Regime has announced its ‘Pivot to Asia’ in an attempt to deal with its largest economic competitor.  China, the second biggest economy in the world, has displaced the US as the principle trading partner in Latin America and Asia.  It is advancing rapidly as the principal investor in developing Africa’s natural resources.  In response, the US has (1) openly backed Japan’s claims, (2) defied China’s strategic interests in the East China Sea by flying B52 bombers within China’s Air Defense Identification Zone and (3) encouraged South Korea to expand its ‘air defense’ zones to overlap with those of the Chinese.  History teaches us that inflexible assertions of dominance by established imperial powers against rising dynamic economies will lead to conflicts, and even disastrous wars.

Imperial advisers believe that US naval and air superiority and Chinese dependence on foreign trade give the US a strategic advantage in any armed confrontation.  Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” is clearly designed to encircle and degrade China’s capacity to outcompete and displace the US from world markets.  Washington’s militarists, however, fail to take account of China’s strategic levers – especially the over two trillion dollars of US Treasury notes (debt) held by China, which, if dumped on the market, would lead to a major devaluation of the US currency, panic on Wall Street and a deeper economic depression.  China could respond to US military threats by (1) seizing the assets of the 500 biggest US MNCs located in the country which would crash the stock market and (2) cutting off the source for major supply chains, further disrupting the US and world economy.

Imperialist ambitions and resentment over the loss of markets, status, and supremacy is pushing Washington to raise the stakes and confront China.  Opposing the militarists, Washington’s economic realists believe the US is too exposed and too dependent on credit, overseas earnings and financial revenues to engage in new military interventions in Asia, especially after the disastrous consequences of wars in the Middle East.  Current US policy reflects an ongoing struggle between the militarist imperialists and the defenders of imperial economic interests.  For the market-oriented policy advisers, it makes no sense to confront China, when mutual gains from rising trade and economic inter-dependence have proven far superior to any marginal territorial gains offshore.  These conflicting outlooks find expression in the alternating bellicose and conciliatory rhetoric of Vice President Biden during his December visit to Japan, China and South Korea.

The second area involving major actors and interests is the Persian Gulf, especially Israel-Iran-Saudi Arabia and the US.  Having gone through costly and disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and fully aware that US intelligence agencies have found no evidence of an Iran nuclear weapons program,  the Obama Administration is eager to reach an agreement with Iran.  Nevertheless, US strategists are pursuing an agreement that would (1) weaken Iran’s defense capability, (2) undermine Iranian support for popular revolts among Shiite populations living in the Gulf Monarchies, (3) isolate President Bashar Assad in Syria and (4) facilitate a long-term US presence in Afghanistan by destroying Al Qaeda operations throughout the region.  In addition a US – Iran agreement would lift the harsh economic sanctions  and (1) allow US oil companies to exploit Iran’s richest oil fields, (2) lower the cost of energy and (3) reduce US trade deficits.

A major stumbling block to any US-Iran agreement is from the well-entrenched Zionist strategists and advisers among policy-makers, especially in the Executive Branch, including such Department heads and Secretaries as Treasury Undersecretary (for ‘Terrorism’) David Cohen, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, US Trade Representative Michael Froman, ‘Special Adviser for the Persian Gulf’ Dennis Ross among others.  An even greater obstacle to the agreement comes from the Zionist-controlled US Congress, which acts more on behalf of Israel’s regional ambitions than for US interests.  Israel’s megalomaniacal rulers seek military, political and economic supremacy throughout the Middle East (from Sinai to the Gulf) and have so far successfully used the US military to destroy and weaken its adversaries at no cost to Israeli soldiers or economy.

Israel has taken a direct hand in setting the terms, which the US will demand from Iran.  According to the Financial Times (12/8/13, p. 4),  “A team of senior Israeli officials led by Yossi Cohen, national security adviser, is due to visit Washington … to begin detailed discussions with the Obama Administration to use its influence in shaping  the negotiating agenda.”

Secretary of State John Kerry has already caved in to Israeli pressure stating, “We will be stepping up on enforcement (of existing sanctions) through the Treasury Department,” (FT 12/18/13, p. 4).  Israel and its top Zionist agent within the Obama Administration, Dennis Ross, are pushing for a joint Israeli-US “working group” to discuss tightening sanctions on Iran and punishing any government or business which tries to do business with Iran during the “interim agreement”, a position pursued by David Cohen and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (FT 12/ 13/13).  Israel is behind the US demand that Iran convert its Arak Facilities from a heavy water into a light-water reactor and reduce its centrifuges by 95% from 19,000 to 1,000.

In other words, Israel dictates terms to the US negotiators that will effectively sabotage any possible agreement and put the US on a course toward another war for Israel.  Surprisingly, Israel’s hardliners and its agents within the US Administration have an important and unlikely ally – Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javid Zarif, the chief negotiator in Geneva, who has downplayed Iran’s military capabilities and exaggerated US military capabilities and seems quite willing to dismantle Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.  In justifying his far-reaching concessions and meager returns, Foreign Minister Zarif publicly declared that ‘the US could destroy the country’s (Iran’s) defense system with one bomb!” (FT, 12/10/13, p. 2)   Zarif, in effect, is preparing to sell out Iran’s nuclear industry, in advance, without any objective consideration of Iran’s military power or recognition of US strategic weaknesses.

Saudi Arabia’s rulers influence US policy through their contracts with the military – industrial complex – amounting to over $20 billion dollar arms purchase in 2013.  In addition, the Saudi Monarch has allowed the construction of US military bases on its territory and maintains close ties with Wall Street investment houses.  Saudi opposition to any US – Iran rapprochement arises from Riyadh’s fear of Iranian influence over its oppressed Shia minority and Tehran’s critique of the absolutist monarchy.

The positive gains, in terms of US strategic military and economic interests from an agreement with the liberal Iranian regime, are offset by the negative pressures from Saudi and Israeli-Zionists interests.  As a result, Washington’s policy oscillates between peaceful, diplomatic overtures to Iran and bellicose threats to appease Israel and Saudi Arabia.  Washington is desperate to avoid being dragged into another “war for Israel”, in order to secure its hegemony in the Persian Gulf region and avoid a major domestic political and economic crisis.  The Obama Administration has yet to exhibit the high degree of statesmanship necessary to restrain and neutralize the deeply embedded Zionist Power Configuration, within its ranks and in the Congress, which places Israeli interests over those of the US.

Regional Conflicts:  Minor Interests and Major Actors

The Ukraine – European Union (EU) – Russian conflict involves minor US economic interests but potentially major military interests.  The US supports the EU’s policy of incorporating the Ukraine into its economic and trade system.  The EU will be the major beneficiary in the plunder of Ukraine’s economy, penetrating its market and reaping mega financial returns.  The US is content to watch the EU play the major role in stoking Ukrainian civil unrest.  If and when Ukraine joins the EU, it will become another client regime subject to the dictates of the bankers and bureaucrats in Brussels, just like Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy).  The US is mainly interested in bringing the Ukraine into NATO as part of its policy of surrounding Russia.

Syria, like Libya, Mali, Central African Republic and Egypt, are of secondary interest for the US.  Washington has let the European Union, especially France, England and their allies, lead and direct military operations directly and through proxies.  The Obama Administration already faced intense “intervention fatigue” – widespread popular opposition to war – when it joined the EU in bombing Tripoli to rubble, but it refused to commit ground forces and left Libya a broken country without a viable economy, stable society or functioning state!  So much for ‘humanitarian intervention’!  Intervention in Syria has faced even greater domestic opposition from Congress and the US public – except for the Israeli and Saudi lobbies.  Obama was clearly not willing to act as ‘Al Qaeda’s Air Force’ by bombing Damascus and facilitating a jihadist takeover.  It chose diplomatic solution and accepted the Russian proposal to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons.  It appears to support a Geneva-based negotiated solution.  Another war, this time with Syria, would inflame US domestic discontent and further erode the economy, with no positive gain for US imperialism.  In fact, US military victory over Damascus would expand the territory of operation for Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant.  It was US public opinion that overcame the massive pro-Israel media barrage and pressure from the 52 Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations that had been actively pushing the Obama Administration into a ‘Syrian Quagmire’!

French President Francoise Hollande is the new face of imperial militarism and interventionism in Africa with its massive bombing in Libya and invasion and occupation in Mali and the Central African Republic.  The US is content to play a ‘supporting role’ to France.  It has no strategic involvement in Africa apart from its proxy wars in Somalia.

With public opinion strongly against any more major direct military intervention Washington has turned to military proxies for conflicts in ‘strategic’ and marginal countries and regions.  Even where significant imperial interests may be involved, Washington increasingly relies on local elites to act on its behalf in conflicts in countries as diverse as Yemen, Thailand, Honduras, Venezuela, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Egypt.  Sending drones and dispatching teams of Special Forces in clandestine operations have been the US Administration’s intervention of choice in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.  In Afghanistan, Special Forces combine with the US military, NATO troops and local client military proxies, as well as drones.

In Honduras, the US-backed military coup, which unleashed death squads with the killing of over 200 dissident activists in a two year period was followed by a fraudulent election which reclaimed ‘power’ for a US client regime.  In Venezuela, the US continues to finance opposition parties who support violent street mobs, the sabotage of public services like electricity, while relying on local business elites to hoard basic goods and inflate prices.  So far, these efforts to undermine the Venezuelan government have failed.

Conclusion

US Empire builders have relied on a wider variety of interventions than their predecessor under President George W. Bush.  They are much less prone to launch large-scale ground operations and more likely to turn to local client elites. They have shown a far greater sense of priorities in selecting targets for direct intervention.

Washington relies more on its imperial European allies, especially the French, to take the lead in Africa, without relinquishing its key interest in maintaining Egypt tightly under  US-Israeli control.   There is a shift in priority toward the Far East, especially the countries bordering China, like Japan and South Korea, as part of the long-term US strategy to encircle and limit China’s economic expansion.  The US ‘Pivot to Asia’, under the Obama Administration, is characterized by alternating economic negotiations with growing military encirclement.

Controlling the Persian Gulf and undermining Iran continues to be a high priority for US Empire builders, but the costly and disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq under George W. Bush and its adverse domestic fallout, has led Washington to rely less on military confrontation with Tehran and more on economic sanctions, military encirclement and now diplomatic negotiations to secure collaboration from the new Rouhani regime.

The principle strategic weakness in US empire building policy lies in the absence of domestic support.  There is a growing demand for better paying jobs to reverse the decline of US living standards and greater protection for social services and livelihoods.  The second strategic weakness is found in the incapacity of the US to create a viable economic “co-prosperity sphere”, which would win allies in Asia and Latin America.  The so-called “Pivot to Asia” is overly and overtly reliant on military(mostly naval) power, which functions in times of ‘territorial conflicts’ with China, but does not create stable, structural links with local productive elites – who rely on China for trade.

In the end the most serious obstacle to effectively adapting US foreign policy to the current realities is the influential Israel-linked-Zionist Power Configuration embedded in the Congress, the Administration and the mass media.  Zionists are deeply committed to pushing the US into more wars for Israel.  Nevertheless the shift to negotiations with Iran, the refusal to bomb Syria and the reluctance to get involved in the Ukraine are all indications that Washington is less inclined to launch more large-scale military intervention and more receptive to the public opinion constraints on the exercise of imperial power.

Dec 192013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

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Dec 182013
 

El análisis de James Petras, 99GetSmart

Tras 70 años de monopolio estatal en Pemex, las inmensas torres petroleras en el Golfo de México pasarán a manos de transnacionales

Tras 70 años de monopolio estatal en Pemex, las inmensas torres petroleras en el Golfo de México pasarán a manos de transnacionales

“El gobierno concientemente desgastó la empresa estatal a partir de la desinversión y la sobre deuda de la empresa”, dijo el sociólogo norteamericano James Petras en CX36 (*) al analizar la entrega de México de su recurso estratégico, al romper el monopolio de la estatal Pemex en la explotación petrolera. Además analizó el abstencionismo en las elecciones chilenas y el futuro político de ese país tras el triunfo de Michelle Bachelet; la violación por parte de Estados Unidos del acuerdo con Irán y las palabras del Papa respondiendo a la derecha de la Iglesia que lo acusó de marxista. A continuación transcribimos íntegramente el análisis de James Petras de este lunes 16 de diciembre, que Usted puede escuchar/descargar: http://content.bitsontherun.com/players/rNRu8rPw-hndKM9yc.html

 Efrain Chury Iribarne: Estamos en contacto con James Petras, buenos días, bienvenido. ¿Cómo está?

James Petras: Estamos muy bien. Congelados, con medio metro de nieve y temperaturas bajo cero.

EChI: Está frío en serio. Si le parece comenzamos con lo que sucede en México, donde se extranjeriza lo que tanto sacrificio había costado.

JP: Un gran estudioso, el profesor John Saxe-Fernández (1), demuestra cómo en los últimos 20 años varios gobiernos neoliberales, poco a poco empezaron a privatizar con diferentes contratos. Más allá de eso, el gobierno concientemente desgastó la empresa estatal a partir de la desinversión y la sobre deuda de la empresa, en razón de que el gobierno no permite nuevas inversiones ni nuevas tecnologías para aumentar la producción y la exploración petrolera. Fue una política conciente porque el gobierno no cobraba impuesto a los ricos, únicamente retiraba los ingresos de la empresa. Entonces, sin inversiones, la empresa pública se empezó a deteriorar y a dar negativos resultados en su actividad. Y utilizan eso como excusa para sacar la Ley que aprobaron, entregando la empresa nacional a capitales transnacionales.

Si el gobierno fuera realmente conciente de la necesidad de fortalecer la producción, hubiera permitido a la empresa retener mayor parte de las ganancias y reinvertirlo. Y podría haber aumentado en forma más rápida lo que ahora busca, a partir de los privados.

Al final de cuentas, la privatización va a costar al Tesoro mexicano miles de millones de dólares de ingreso y encima perderá el control sobre el recurso que utiliza para financiar el Presupuesto. Por tanto, el Presupuesto va a bajar, la producción de ingresos va a salir del país y el país queda vulnerable a decisiones de las multinacionales. Si ellos deciden invertir lo hacen y si deciden no invertir no invierten. Todas las decisiones quedarán en manos de los gerentes de las grandes compañías en los Estados Unidos.

Entonces pierden ingresos, pierden soberanía y pierden el control sobre un recurso estratégico.  Es una pérdida total para el conjunto de la Economía mexicana como para los pueblos que viven en ese país.

EChI: Ayer fuer el balotaje chileno. ¿Cómo analiza esta instancia electoral que estuvo marcada por la indiferencia del pueblo chileno?

JP: Es cierto. El 58% de los ciudadanos chilenos no votaron (2) y esto,  tiene varias explicaciones.

Por un lado, el hecho de que votar en Chile significa continuar el statu quo. ¿Y qué es el statu quo en Chile? Chile tiene las peores desigualdades en toda América Latina, donde el 1% de los más ricos controlan el 31% de los ingresos. En Estados Unidos, que no es exactamente una sociedad igualitaria, el 1% controla el 21% y en Alemania el 1% controla el 12%. En otras palabras, en Chile las desigualdades son casi tres veces más que en Alemania. Un gerente en Chile gana cien veces más que un trabajador en la empresa. Por esta razón podríamos decir que en Chile existe una gran indiferencia de los sectores populares sobre los resultados.

Pero hay que tomar en cuenta también que algunos sectores no votaron por la derecha, porque ya aceptaron la derrota. Y que algunos sectores pro Bachelet no votaron porque también pensaron que la victoria estaba garantizada.

Entonces, la abstención es un voto o bien concientemente rechazando el sistema, o en otro sector porque es indiferente sobre el resultado dado.

Ahora, en conjunto, hay muchas expectativas, porque al ganar las elecciones Michelle Bachelet dijo que iba a haber cambios a fondo, habló de una nueva Constitución, Educación, leyes laborales y tributarias. Pero es dudoso el cambio constitucional porque necesita los 2/3 de los votos en el Parlamento y la oposición obviamente no va a aceptar cambios en una Constitución, en la que supuestamente van a realizar cambios de fondo. Más allá de eso, la derecha a través de algunos voceros, dijeron que si Bachelet empieza a avanzar en un programa con una nueva Asamblea Constituyente y una nueva Constitución, buscamos otro Pinochet. En otras palabras, la derecha amenaza a Bachelet y a la Nueva Mayoría –el agrupamiento que ganó las elecciones- con otro golpe de Estado. Se trata de una amenaza un poco vacía porque en estos momentos no hay condiciones ni políticas ni económicas para un golpe, pero en todo caso es un  aviso de que la derecha dictatorial aún circula entre sectores chilenos. Al final de cuentas,  los movimientos populares, el movimiento sindical, podrían conseguir algunas concesiones si actúan con alguna militancia, precisamente en los primeros días del gobierno.No deben dar al gobierno una ‘luna de miel’ porque el gobierno se consolidaría olvidando las promesas electorales.

De todos modos  la derrota de la derecha es positiva, la abstención es un aviso que el gobierno debe tomar en cuenta, porque no consiguieron la mayoría entre muchos ciudadanos. Y entre otras cosas, deben descartar la política anterior de socialistas y democristianos, y abrir nuevo camino. Tengo mis dudas, creo que Bachelet va a cambiar lo mínimo posible manteniendo su mayoría, pero no va a hacer ningún cambio a fondo.

EChI: ¿En qué otros temas está trabajando que quiera comentarnos?

JP: En primer lugar,  lo más importante, es que Estados Unidos violó el acuerdo con Irán.Porque apenas a días de ese acuerdo anunciaron nuevas sanciones contra decenas de empresas que comercializan con Irán.

Ellos dicen que no son nuevas sanciones, pero son viejas sanciones aplicadas a nuevos socios de Irán.O sea técnicamente se puede decir que no son nueva sanciones, pero sin embargo sí son sanciones contra nuevos interlocutores y socios de Irán. Eso va en contra la idea de entrar en negociaciones sin aplicar medidas de fuerza contra Irán.

Los técnicos que negocian este acuerdo dicen que Estados Unidos no es confiable.Pues en un momento mientras se negociaba tuvieron que parar las negociaciones y poner en cuestión el acuerdo temporal, porque Estados Unidos ponía en peligro la posibilidad de una salida negociada. Los autores de las sanciones contra los nuevos socios son  precisamente (el subsecretario de Inteligencia Financiera y Terrorismo del Tesoro norteamericano) David  Cohen y (el secretario del Tesoro) Jack Lew; los sionistas que dominan la política de sanciones de los Estados Unidos.

Entonces cuando dicen Estados Unidos rompen el acuerdo, debemos tener claro que los sionistas dentro de Estados Unidos son los autores intelectuales de las nuevas medidas para deteriorar las negociaciones.

Finalmente, quiero mencionar una cosa que puede parecer secundaria, pero  sigue siendo importante. Los sectores conservadores en la Iglesia, obispos y cardenales criticaron al Papa, reflejando algunas opiniones de la ultraderecha, juzgándolo de ser marxista. El Papa respondido que no es marxista pero dijo que los marxistas pueden ser buenas personas y que comparte muchas de las propuestas de reformas sociales y económicas  que hacen los marxistas. Dijo el Papa: No me molesta que me acusen de marxista porque algunas cosas que proponen son buenas.

Esto indica que el Papa no entra en la onda del anticomunismo. Es una respuesta honesta y consecuente con sus creencias de que la Iglesia tiene que tomar partido en las luchas populares en esta coyuntura.

EChI: Bien Petras, agradecemos muchísimo el esclarecernos todos estos temas. Será hasta el lunes.

JP: Bueno, hasta el lunes, un abrazo.

(*) Escuche en vivo los lunes a las 11:30 horas (hora local) la audición de James Petras por CX36, Radio Centenario desde Montevideo (Uruguay) para todo el mundo a través de www.radio36.com.uy

Notas de Redacción

(1) John Saxe Fernández es Catedrático de la Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales de la UNAM. Miembro del Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones de México. Articulista del diario La Jornada y de Cubadebate.

Ver sobre este tema: http://jsaxef.blogspot.com/

www.cubadebate.cu/categoria/autores/john-saxe-fernandez/

(2) Elecciones en Chile: con un 58%, la abstención volvió a ser la gran protagonista

http://www.infobae.com/2013/12/16/1531138-elecciones-chile-un-58-la-abstencion-volvio-ser-la-gran-protagonista

(3) Nuevas sanciones de EE UU empujan a Irán a suspender el diálogo nuclear

http://www.larioja.com/v/20131214/mundo/nuevas-sanciones-empujan-iran-20131214.html

Dec 172013
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan

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In an atmosphere where people on the streets feel an absolute presence of police on every corner, daily life in Istanbul already has its tense moments. When there is no intervention into protests, very Machiavellian tactics are being played. At Ege University in Izmir just a few days ago, some students reported on the social media that far-Right supporters came to the Faculty of Arts and that riot police followed them shortly after. Not long after, when other students began reacting to the far-Right slogans, riot police started an “intervention” which resulted in gas raids and water-cannon attacks against students who reacted to the far Right. At the end of the day there were arrests of faculty members, and more people protesting against the arrests. Although it does not receive as much coverage anymore, police brutality and harassment still continues in Turkey whenever there is even a small protest of a few dozen people. I would like to draw attention to a few recent incidents. Every day it is a university campus or again the infamous “interventions” on Taksim Square.

A day passed, and this time it was Bogazici University in Istanbul. The most beautiful campus on Earth could also be regarded as the most democratic atmosphere in Turkey, with its traditional tolerance and peaceful attitude. I remember Prime Minister Erdogan’s visit to the Bogazici University campus 2010, when thousands of riot police turned the campus into a hell, and this time for the first time in its history students were shot with water cannon at a protest meeting when leaving the campus. Riot police announced that “This is an illegal gathering, you do not have permission to walk this way.”

As the weekend came, with the pause between university working days, the new venue of police intervention happened to be a more familiar area –Taksim Square. Members of Besiktas’s Çarşı fan club – who played a major role in the OccupyGezi protests in June – were present at Kasimpasaspor Recep Tayyip Erdogan Stadium in the vicinity of Taksim for the Kasimpasa-Besiktas game. When Besiktas fans started marching to the venue, riot police and two water cannons followed them. After the game, they marched back to Besiktas escorted by police, who led peacefully up to a certain point when the police presence became too unbearable and provoking.

Another intervention took place in Gezi Park as the football game was being played. Since it was 15th December, the six-month anniversary of the death of half a dozen OccupyGezi protesters, about 20 people, including opposition members of Parliament, wanted to hold a commemoration ceremony in the park. But police announced “This is a highly sensitive spot where people are not allowed to gather without permission, so disperse the crowd or we will have to intervene.”

Although the park is officially open for public use, it is practically impossible. These kinds of protests, although originally they attract only a few dozen or hundred people, due to the police’s harsh treatment of protesters and interventions with excessive use of force they quickly grow into thousands. Police-state tactics revolve around every aspect of civilian life in a tense atmosphere where there is no strong political alternative to embrace the resentful people who are deeply hurt by the single-party rule (regime) of the last decade.

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://radicaldemocrat.blog.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Dec 162013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

* THE CRIMINALIZATION OF EVERYDAY LIFE

By Chase Madar, MotherJones

Militarized police are now a fact of life nationwide.

Militarized police are now a fact of life nationwide.

From the workplace to our private lives, American society is starting to resemble a police state.

If all you’ve got is a hammer, then everything starts to look like a nail. And if police and prosecutors are your only tool, sooner or later everything and everyone will be treated as criminal. This is increasingly the American way of life, a path that involves “solving” social problems (and even some non-problems) by throwing cops at them, with generally disastrous results. Wall-to-wall criminal law encroaches ever more on everyday life as police power is applied in ways that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.

By now, the militarization of the police has advanced to the point where “the War on Crime” and “the War on Drugs” are no longer metaphors but bland understatements. There is the proliferation of heavily armed SWAT teams, even in small towns; the use of shock-and-awe tactics to bust small-time bookies; the no-knock raids to recover trace amounts of drugs that often result in the killing of family dogs, if not family members; and in communities where drug treatment programs once were key, the waging of a drug version of counterinsurgency war. (All of this is ably reported on journalist Radley Balko’s blog and in his book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop.) But American over-policing involves far more than the widely reported up-armoring of your local precinct. It’s also the way police power has entered the DNA of social policy, turning just about every sphere of American life into a police matter.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline

It starts in our schools, where discipline is increasingly outsourced to police personnel. What not long ago would have been seen as normal childhood misbehavior—doodling on a desk, farting in class, a kindergartener’s tantrum—can leave a kid in handcuffs, removed from school, or even booked at the local precinct. Such “criminals” can be as young as seven-year-old Wilson Reyes, a New Yorker who was handcuffed and interrogated under suspicion of stealing five dollars from a classmate. (Turned out he didn’t do it.) […]

READ @ http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_66267.shtml—————————————————————–

* HOW COPS BECAME SOLDIERS: AN INTERVIEW WITH POLICE MILITARIZATION EXPERT RADLEY BALKO

By Michael Arria, VICE

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What happened to friendly neighborhood cops? The drug and terror wars happened. Via Oregon DOT/Flickr

In 2007, journalist Radley Balko told a House subcommittee that one criminologist detected a 1,500% increase in the use of SWAT teams over the last two decades. That’s reflective of a larger trend, fueled by the wars on drugs and terror, of police forces becoming heavily militarized.

Balko, an investigative reporter for the Huffington Post and author of the definitive report on paramilitary policing in the United States, has a forthcoming book on the topic, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police ForcesHe was kind enough to answer some questions about how our police turned into soldiers as well as the challenges of large-scale reform.

Motherboard: When did the shift towards militarized police forces begin in America? Is it as simple as saying it began with the War on Drugs or can we detect gradual signs of change when we look back at previous policies?

There’s certainly a lot of overlap between the war on drugs and police militarization. But if we go back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were two trends developing simultaneously. The first was the development and spread of SWAT teams. Darryl Gates started the first SWAT team in L.A. in 1969. By 1975, there were 500 of them across the country. They were largely a reaction to riots, violent protest groups like the Black Panthers and Symbionese Liberation Army, and a couple mass shooting incidents, like the Texas clock tower massacre in 1966.

At the same time, Nixon was declaring an “all-out war on drugs.” He was pushing policies like the no-knock raid, dehumanizing drug users and dealers, and sending federal agents to storm private homes on raids that were really more about headlines and photo-ops than diminishing the supply of illicit drugs.

But for the first decade or so after Gates invented them, SWAT teams were largely only used in emergency situations. There usually needed to be an immediate, deadly threat to send the SWAT guys. It wasn’t until the early 1980s under Reagan that the two trends converged, and we started to see SWAT teams used on an almost daily basis — mostly to serve drug warrants. […]

READ @ http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/police-militarization-an-interview-with-radley-balko

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* THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU OUTLAW PEACEFUL PROTEST

By Jerome Roos, RoarMag

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The banning of peaceful protest from Egypt to Spain is increasingly leaving citizens with no other way to express their opposition but through violence.

When the conservative government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy proposed a new law that would effectively ban protests near state buildings and impose hefty fines of up to 600,000 euros and even jail time on those trying to organize “unlawful” demonstrations via social media, they probably thought they were being clever. Now that the massive street protests that rocked Spain through 2011-’12 appear to have subsided, those in power probably expected the people to just take their Orwellian Citizens’ Security Law and suck it up.

But the people will have none of it. Instead of being cowered into submission, the decentralized coordinating platform of Spain’s powerful social movements immediately coalesced back into action, organizing a major demonstration in front of Congress last night. What happened next may well be a sign of what lies ahead for governments the world over as they seek to slam shut all doors — both institutional and non-institutional — to legitimate opposition and democratic participation. Thousands of protesters descended upon Congress and, as the cops tried to break up the demonstration, attacked them with bricks and bottles and smashed up their police cars.

Last night’s clashes in Madrid are only the latest in a long line of actions and reactions, uprisings and crackdowns, rebellions and repressions. All around the world, a nefarious process is afoot. In many of the countries that experienced dramatic social mobilizations from 2011 onward, terrified elites are now drawing up laws banning the type of street demonstrations that kick-started the Age of the Protester, desperately trying to institutionalize their Thermidorian counter-revolution now that the movements appear to be on the retreat. But everywhere these type of anti-protest legislations are being passed, the attempted closure is only drawing people back into the streets.

In Egypt, when the revolutionary movement suddenly resurfaced last month, the military-controlled government moved swiftly to implement a new law that would effectively ban all unauthorized gatherings of over 10 people. The day after the law was passed activists took to the streets of Cairo to denounce it and the regime responded by attacking and arresting the protesters, subjecting them to torture and sexual assault before dumping a number of them in the desert. Still, activists in Cairo warned that “we will not protest at the whim and convenience of a counter-revolutionary regime,” declaring that “the January 25 Revolution has returned to the streets.” […]

READ @ http://roarmag.org/2013/12/spain-egypt-law-ban-protest/

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* THE 6,000 PAGE REPORT ON CIA TORTURE HAS NOW BEEN SUPPRESSED FOR 1 YEAR

By Conor, Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

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It cost $40 million to produce, documents serious wrongdoing, and doesn’t threaten national security. Team Obama won’t release it.

One year ago today, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to adopt a 6,000-page report on the CIA rendition, detention, and interrogation program that led to torture. Its contents include details on each prisoner in CIA custody, the conditions of their confinement, whether they were tortured, the intelligence they provided, and the degree to which the CIA lied about its behavior to overseers. Senator Dianne Feinstein declared it one of the most significant oversight efforts in American history, noting that it contains “startling details” and raises “critical questions.” But all these months later, the report is still being suppressed.

The Obama Administration has no valid reason to suppress the report. Its contents do not threaten national security, as evidenced by the fact that numerous figures who normally defer to the national-security state want it released with minor redactions. The most prominent of all is Vice President Joe Biden.

Another is Senator John McCain.

“What I have learned confirms for me what I have always believed and insisted to be true—that the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners is not only wrong in principle and a stain on our country’s conscience, but also an ineffective and unreliable means of gathering intelligence,” he said in a statement. “… It is therefore my hope that this Committee will take whatever steps necessary to finalize and declassify this report, so that all Americans can see the record for themselves, which I believe will finally close this painful chapter for our country.” […]

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READ @ http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/12/the-6-000-page-report-on-cia-torture-has-now-been-suppressed-for-1-year/282318/