Nov 072016
 

By James Petras99GetSmart

bloody_us_empire30

Seven is a winning throw of the dice. But in our civil society, seven now signifies the multi-thong scourge, the whip used by the Western world as its instrument of punishment and, in response; seven signifies Nemesis and her sisters, the inescapable agents of the West’s downfall.

The seven scourges of the Western world are used against the people of Asia, Africa, Latin and North America. These whips are constructed, wielded and unleashed especially by the US and the UK.

The seven sisters of Nemesis, the Erinyes, are the Furies who pursue the injustices committed by the Western world against Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe. Those holding the scourge detest and fear Nemesis and the Furies, but are incapable of destroying them. Try as they might, their whip is in corrupt and feeble hands and, of course, it can only follow their orders: Otherwise, it just twitches and remains immobile, while Nemesis pursues the scourgers of humanity.

The Seven-Tailed Scourge of the Western World

The ‘whip’ wielded by the Western world, is used to punish disobedient, ‘rebellious’ people, movements and states. Their multiple lashes have bloodied countless generations and buried millions.

The seven scourges against humanity are unrepentant in their promotion of ‘Western values’ – visible to the terrified world on the red raw backs of oppressed people, their wounds flayed open by the faceless drones proclaiming their gifts of freedom and democracy.

Let us go forward now and describe the pillars holding up the Western empire, the seven-tailed scourge of humanity.

1. Mexico: The Cartel, the Narco-State, US Bankers and Death Squads

Over the last two decades, over a quarter million Mexicans have been murdered by the joint forces of the drug cartels, the Mexican State and its death squads, presided over by the US state and backed by its rapacious financial sector. Cartels and complicit Mexican officials prosper because US banks launder their narco-dollars by the billions. On their part, US corporations grow even richer by relocating their plants to Mexico where terrorized workers can be exploited for 1/5 the cost. Amidst the terror and exploitation, over 11 million Mexican workers and family members have fled to the US running from their local scourges, only to confront the US scourge of deportation. Over 2 million have been imprisoned and expelled under Obama.

2. Honduras and Guatemala: Imperial Wars, Drug Gangs and Narco-Oligarchs

Destitution and state terror are direct products of US–installed regimes in Honduras and Guatemala. Guatemala’s indigenous majority was ravaged by US and Israeli-trained military battalions and death squads. In their wake, scores of narco-gangs, sponsored by local oligarchs and their own private death squads, have emerged. The Honduran people attempted to elect an enlightened liberal President, and were ‘rewarded’ for their peaceful democratic election with a military coup orchestrated by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. They further underscore the lesson of ‘Western values’: Scores of human rights activists and peasant leaders have been murdered and the scourges continue unabated.

3. Colombia: Nobel Prize for Death Squad President

For the past fifteen years, (2001-2016), the Clinton-Bush-Obama regimes launched the seven-billion-dollar ‘Plan Colombia’ terror campaign against the Colombian people. This scourge was so powerful that over two and a half million peasants, Indigenous peoples, and Afro-Colombians have been driven from their homes and villages while, tens of thousands of peasants, trade unionists, human rights activists and civic leaders have been killed. The notorious narco-President Alvaro Uribe and his Vice President Santos worked with the death squads and the Colombian military under the instruction of over one thousand US military advisers and contract mercenaries as they imposed a scorched earth policy – to consolidate a ‘reign of Western values’.

In Colombia, the three-tailed scourge of narco-presidents, death squads and the military decimated rural communities throughout that large and populous nation. They finally induced the FARC guerrillas to submit to a ‘peace’ agreement, which perpetuated the oligarchy. The US remains free to exploit Colombia for its military bases against the rest of Latin America, while foreign corporations exploit its mineral riches. For his part in promoting the ‘peace of the dead’, Colombian President Santos received the Nobel ‘Peace’ Prize.

4. Saudi Arabia: A Household Name Among the Middle East Scourges

No country in the Middle East has financed, organized and directed terrorism in the Middle East, South Asia, North and East Africa, the former Soviet Union and even North America, than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It currently scourges the tiny nation of Yemen. Using its ISIS mercenaries, backed by jets, missiles, and logistical support from the UK and the USA, the Saudi despots has invaded maimed and murdered tens of thousands of Yemenis, while hundreds of thousands face starvation in a Saudi-imposed blockade.

The Saudi billionaire regime bankrolled thousands of terrorists in Syria and Iraq, giving billions of dollars of business to US and UK arms manufacturers. Saudi monarchs and their extended clans form a parasitic rentier regime unique in the world. They rely on the skills and labor of imported professionals, workers, household servants, mercenary solders, financial managers and even their praetorian guards. They confine their women behind the veil and closed doors, under the absolute rule of male relatives. They chop off the hands, feet and heads of foreign workers and their own citizens for minor offenses, including ‘blasphemy’, criticism of the king or resisting an employer’s abuse. Saudi Arabia, which is totally dependent on Washington’s protection, has become a scourge especially against Muslim people throughout the Middle East and beyond.

5. Israel: The Scourge of Palestine and Free People Near and Far

The Israeli State is the head commanding the tentacles of a far-reaching Zionist Power Configuration operating in the US, Canada, England, France and, to a less degree, in satellite states and institutions. Israel was established on the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of millions of Palestinians from their homes and villages since 1948. For almost 50 years, 600,000 ‘Israeli’ Jews (immigrants given automatic ‘citizenship’ and stolen property based solely on their ‘ethno-religious’ identity) have illegally moved into what remained of historical Palestine, building exclusive ‘Jews-only’ colonial towns on land ripped from its original inhabitants. The Palestinians are herded into apartheid militarized enclaves and squalid camps. Israel invaded and devastated large parts of Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. They have bombed other nations, like Jordan and Iraq, with impunity. The Israeli state uses a virtual fifth column of loyalist organizations and billionaire financiers in the US and EU who ultimately dictate Middle East policy to the ‘elected’ Western politicians. Presidents and Prime Ministers, Cabinet members and legislators must publicly bow to the increasing demands of the overseas Zionist power structure. This has undermined the will and interests of national electorates and democratic procedures. All public discourse on this vital issue has been censored because critics of Israel’s influence are subjected to unremitting campaigns of overt coercion, threats, jailing on trumped up charges, vilification and job loss – within their own countries in the ‘democratic’ West. Meanwhile, Israel has sold its much-vaunted expertise in surveillance, torture and counter-insurgency to its fellow scourgers in Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico and even Afghanistan.

6. Egypt: Modern Scourges of an Ancient People

For decades, Egyptian military dictators have served the Anglo-American Empire and Israel’s ruling colonists in the Middle East, North and East Africa. Generals-turned-‘Presidents’ Hosni Mubarak and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi specialized in murdering, torturing and jailing thousands of Egyptian trade unionists, dissident activists, peasant leaders and the restless urban poor. These violently installed Egyptian rulers are expected to collaborate with Israel and trap millions of desperate Palestinians in the world’s largest open air prison: Gaza. Cairo actively collaborates with the US and Israel in subverting the people and institutions of Gaza, Libya, Somalia and Sudan – guaranteeing that none will be functioning, independent modern states. Egypt’s first and only elected president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by General Sisi and sentenced to twenty years in a military torture dungeon (a virtual death sentence for a 65 year old) by a kangaroo court under the direction of Washington and Tel Aviv. Egypt, once the epicenter for civil democratic expression — ‘the Arab Spring’ — has become the a major staging area for US-backed jihadi terrorists entering Syria.

7. ISIS, NUSRA Front, Ukraine and Syria: Puppets, Kleptocrats, Fascists and Terrorists

In this very modern Western world, where democratic values are sold to the cheapest buyer, the US, the UK and the EU shop for mercenaries and puppet regimes in order to scourge their critics and adversaries.

The West, led by the Grand Scourger Hillary Clinton, bombed Libya and destroyed its entire modern state apparatus. They opened the floodgates to thousands of mercenaries and terrorist-thugs of all colors and stripes to feed off the carcass of what Mouammar Gaddafi and the modern Libyan state had built over the past 40 years. These criminals, draped in the banners of ‘humanitarian intervention’ or ‘mission civilisatice’, ran amok, killing and ravaging tens of thousands of Libyan citizens and contract workers of sub-Saharan African origin. The tens of thousands of Africans desperately fleeing each year into the Mediterranean are the result of this Western rampage against the Libyan state. The jihadis have moved on… by those who forgot to distinguish between terrorists who support our ‘democratic values’ and those who would attack the West. The West can’t be blamed: Mercenaries change sides so often.

The ethnic cleansing scourges of the past returned to the Ukraine: as (neo) fascists took power in Kiev, storming the Parliament and forcing the President to flee. Nazi-era banners decorated the streets of Kiev under the approving gaze of the US State Department. Neo-Nazi thugs massacred scores of unarmed ethnic Russian citizens in the port city of Odessa when they set fire to the main trade union hall where the trapped men, women and youths were burned alive or bludgeoned while fleeing the flames. The US State Department had spent a $5 billion dollars to replace an elected government with a pliant regime in Kiev while large parts of the country fell into civil war. The ethnic Russian populations of the industrialized Donbas region resisted and were invaded by an ethnically cleansed and neo-fascist putschist Ukrainian army – under US-EU supervision. The war has cost tens of thousands of lives, a million refugees fled to Russia and a divided failing state now festers in the heart of Europe. Kleptocrats and Fascists in Kiev oversee an utterly bankrupt economy. The destitute citizens abandon the towns and cities; some fleeing to Poland to pick potatoes as their serf ancestors did a century ago.

Syria has been ravaged by an immense army of mercenary scourges, financed and supplied by the US, EU, Turkey and, of course, Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda had merely to change its battle flags to NUSRA and receive the US benediction as ‘moderate pro-Western democrats’ resisting a Baathist dictatorship in Damascus. In the course of their ‘democratic’ mission they destroyed the ancient, critical cultural and economic center of Aleppo – scourging the Christians and non-jihadi Muslims and other ancient minorities. Over two million Syrians have died or fled the fiery scourge of Anglo-American and Saudi-Turkish terror.

The Seven Sisters: Nemesis and the Furies Confront the Western World

The scourges are falling on hard times: East and West, North and South they face their inescapable Nemesis. Their exposed injustices, crimes and grotesque failures herald their inevitable downfall. The seven furies are even emerging in unusual places:

1. The economic and trade power of China challenges the West throughout world, expanding even into the heartland of the empire. The West’s fear over China’s peaceful economic expansion has led Western political leaders to revive protectionist policies, claiming that barriers against Chinese investors must be raised to prevent takeovers by Beijing. From July 2015 to September 2016, the West blocked nearly $40 billion in productive Chinese investment. This comes after decades of preaching the virtues of foreign investment and the universal benefits of ‘globalization’. Suddenly Western leaders claim that Chinese investment is a ‘threat to national security’ and ‘profits Chinese businesses over Western-owned enterprises.’

Meanwhile, far from this Sino-phobic hysteria, the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America actively seek greater economic ties with China to the detriment of US-EU multinationals. Once servile Asian countries, like the Philippines, have declared unfettered US access to frontline imperial military bases in doubt, as they sign favorable multi-billion trade and investment agreements with China. Western imperial ideology about investment and globalization has boomeranged and met its Nemesis.

2. The Russian Furies: Vladimir Putin

During the 1990s, the US plundered Russia at will. Washington imposed a unipolar world, celebrated as the New World Order. They bombed and devastated former Russian allies like Yugoslavia and Iraq, setting up ethnically cleansed rump states like Kosovo for their huge military bases. Meanwhile, Washington reduced Russia, under the inebriate Yeltsin regime, to a backwater vassal stripped of its resources, its institutions, scientists, and research centers. In the absence of war, the Russian economy declined by 50% and life expectancy fell below that of Bangladesh. The US celebrated this ‘victory of democracy’ over a helpless, deteriorating state by welcoming the most obscene new gangster oligarchs and pillagers and laundering their bloodstained loot.

The door slammed shut on the pillage with the election of Vladimir Putin and the demise of the Yeltsin gangster-government. Russia was transformed. Putin reversed Russia’s demise: the economy recovered, living standards rose abruptly, employment in all sectors increased, and cultural, educational and scientific centers were restored. Vladimir Putin was elected and re-elected by overwhelming majorities of the Russian electorate despite huge sums of Western money going to his opponents. Russia systematically recovered many strategic sectors of the economy illegally seized by Western-backed Israeli-Russian oligarchs Even more important, Putin restored Russian statecraft and diplomacy – formulating a strategy for an independent, democratic foreign policy and restoring Russia’s defense capability. The loss of this critical vassal state under its dipsomaniacal Boris Yeltsin shook the US EU-NATO alliance to its very core.

In the beginning President Putin did not oppose the US-NATO military invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It went along with the economic sanctions imposed on Iran. It even maintained its cooperation despite a US-sponsored attack by the government of Georgia against South Ossetia killing scores of Russian peacekeepers. In the wake of those destabilizing disasters, what finally led the Russian government to reverse its complicity with the West was the horrific US-financed invasion of Syria where Russian jihadis from the Caucasus were playing an important role as mercenaries, threatening to return and undermine the stability of Russia. This was quickly followed by the US-sponsored putsch in Ukraine, fomenting a civil war on Russia’s frontiers, threatening is vital naval base in Crimea and repressing millions of ethnic Russian-Ukrainian citizens in the industrialized Donbas region. These blatant aggression finally pushed Putin to challenge the expansionist policies of Washington and the EU.

Putin backed a plebiscite in Crimea and won when its citizens voted overwhelmingly to re-join and preserve the Russian bases. Putin has backed the rebel defense of the Donbas against a NATO-neo-fascist Kiev invasion.

Putin accepted a request for aid from the Syrian government as it battled mercenaries and jihadis to preserve its national integrity. The Russians sent arms, troops and air support for the Syrian Arab Army, rolling back the Western and Saudi armed terrorists.

In response to the Washington-EU economic sanctions against Russia over the Crimean plebiscite, Putin signed multi-billion-dollar trade and investment agreements and joint defense pacts with China – mitigating the impact of the sanctions.

Wherever Washington seeks to seize and control territory and regimes in Eurasia, it now faces the Putin nemesis. In Russia and overseas, in the Middle East and the Caucuses, in the Persian Gulf and Asia, the US meets stalemates at best, and roll-back at worst.

The CIA-stooge Yeltsin and his cronies were evicted from the Kremlin to the indignation of Washington and the EU. Many of the kleptocrats, politicos, thugs and swindlers fled to their new homes in Langley, on Wall Street, in Washington or set up talk-shops at Harvard. Even the gruesome Chechens had their ‘color-coded’ support center (the CIA-American Committee for Peace in Chechnya) based in Boston. Never in modern history has a country so rapidly transformed from degraded vassalage to a dynamic global power as Russia. Never has the US seen its grand imperial design so successfully challenged in so many places at the same time.

The Putin Nemesis has become the inescapable agent of the downfall of the US Empire.

3. The Islamic Republic of Iran became a Muslim-nationalist alternative to the US-Israeli dominated Muslim dictatorships and monarchies in the Middle East. The Iranian Revolutions inspired citizens throughout Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq and Yemen. As a result of its growing influence, Iran was punished by the US and EU with crippling economic sanctions pushed especially by Tel Aviv and its Western agents. Fearful that the Iran’s example would destabilize its control, the US invaded Lebanon, promoted the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon and has backed the terrorist campaign to dismember Syria. The results have been dismal for Washington: Iran continues to support the powerful Hezbollah, a major political and military power in Lebanon. The Saudi’s war against Yemen is largely an ethno-religious campaign to destroy Yeminis who favor independence over Saudi-US control and have Iran’s support. Iraq’s Shia resistance forces are leading the attack against the Saudi-funded ISIS terrorists, with Iranian commanders playing a significant role.

Hezbollah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon, drove out the Israeli occupation forces and raised the cost of another invasion by Tel Aviv.

Against all the impotent, corrupt Arab puppets in the Middle East, only Iran has supported the Palestinians. It is the only force capable of retaliating against an Israeli sneak attack – which is why it is demonized.

Iran is the Nemesis against US plans to conquer and dismember Syria. It has provided arms and volunteers on the battlefield against terrorist mercenaries.

Iran effectively negotiated a partial lifting of Western sanctions, overcoming Israeli intransigence and securing billion-dollar trade agreements with Germany, Russia and China. It holds the prospects for productive trade and diplomatic deals in the near future – to the howling consternation of its enemies in Washington, Riyadh, London and Tel Aviv.

For all the efforts by the tentacles of Israel’s fifth column, Iran has survived and emerged as the Nemesis of Anglo-American and Israeli ambitions in the Middle East.

4. Venezuela became the leading proponent for an independent foreign policy in Latin America. For almost twenty years, US tried repeatedly to overthrow the government in Caracas. They failed. By ballot or by bullet, despite slapping economic sanctions on Venezuela, the US suffered humiliating defeats and failed coups and aborted uprisings. Venezuela remains Washington’s principal Nemesis, thwarting its efforts to make ‘free trade’ pacts and deepen military alliances in Latin America.

5. Upon taking office in June 2016, the Philippines new president Rodrigo Duterte assumed the lead role of Washington’s most colorful ‘Nemesis’ in Southeast Asia. Under his widely popular presidency, he pivoted to China, promising to sharply reduce joint Philippine-US military exercises in the South China Sea directed against Beijing and, in return, he secured the co-operation of several hundred leading Philippine entrepreneurs in winning an initial $13 billion dollar public-private Chinese investment package for critical infrastructure and trade development..

President Duterte has frequently denounced Washington’s interference in his domestic war on drug traffickers – citing the US hypocrisy in its criticism of his human rights record. He has personally held President Obama responsible for meddling in Philippine affairs. Drawing on the history of the bloody US colonial war against the Philippine people in 1898, he holds the US responsible for inciting ethno-religious conflicts in the southern island of Mindanao – Duterte’s home region.

President Duterte’s declaration of independence from Washington (“I am no one’s ‘tuta’ [puppy dog]”)and his foreign policy priority of ‘pivoting’ from US military domination to regional economic co-operation with Beijing has turned the Philippines into Washington’s prime Nemesis in Southeast Asia.

6. The resistance of the Yemeni people, mainly ethnic Houthi freedom fighters, against the onslaught of bombing and missile strikes by the Saudi-US-UK air force, has aroused widespread solidarity throughout the Middle East.

Despite the ongoing massacre of over 10,000 Yeminis, mostly civilians, the Saudi ‘alliance’ has failed to impose a puppet regime. US links with the Saudi dictatorship have undermined its claims of humanitarian concerns for the people of Yemen. The embattled Houthi rebels have secured the support of Iran, Iraq and the majority of people in the Persian Gulf countries. As the war continues, the Saudi’s increasingly rely on military trainers, fighter bombers and logistical experts from the US, UK and NATO to pick the targets and maintain the starvation blockade. Sooner or later the courageous and tenacious resistance of the free people of Yemen against the Saudi overlords will inspire a domestic Saudi uprising against its grotesque and decrepit theocratic-monarchist state. The fall of the Royal House of Saud will bury a major scourge in the Middle East. In a word, the battle for Yemen has become the Nemesis of US-Saudi domination.

7. Everywhere in the Western world the ruling classes and their media outlets fear and loath ‘populists’ – leaders, movements, electorates – who reject their austerity programs designed to deepen inequalities and further enrich the elite. Throughout the European Union and in North and South America, workers and middle class majorities are on the march to oust the ‘free market’ regimes and restore the ‘populist’ welfare state, with its emphasis on social services, living wages and humane working conditions.

From the UK to France, Poland to Portugal, China to North America, Mexico to Argentina, the Nemesis and Furies of populist rollbacks threaten to dislodge the scourge held by the bankers, conglomerates and billionaires. Scattered populists may hold diverse ideologies; some may be nationalists, leftists, workers, farmers, petit bourgeois and public employees, indebted students, ecologists or protectionists. All are both united and divided by disparate interests and beliefs. And all are preparing for the inevitable downfall of the empire of the free market and wars.

Conclusion

Today the world’s greatest global conflicts have lined up the Imperial West and its frontline scourging allies against the Furies and Nemesis emerging on all continents. These are the inescapable agents of the Empire’s downfall.

The scourges of the West have been free to plunder the wealth of subject peoples and launch wars, which ravage both ancient and modern states and cultures while slaughtering and dispossessing scores of millions. The West derives its lifeblood through its seven-tailed scourge. Western elites rule through a chain of scourging puppet states with their bloody accomplices, from narco-murderers, Islamists terrorists, death squads to ordinary ‘piecework’ torturers.

Without resorting too much to the wisdom of the ancient Greek myths, we have come to believe that states, regimes, movements and people finally will emerge to act as the inescapable agents of the justice leading to the downfall of the Western empire. Modern Nemesis and Furies have a dual existence: While bringing down the old order they seek to create alternatives.

The ‘scourgers’ are by their nature specialists in wanton crimes against humanity. Nemesis and her sisters challenge and oust the latter as they construct their own new centers of wealth and power. China, Russia and Iran have gone beyond the role of Nemesis to the West – they are poised to build a new civilization on its ruins.

It remains an open question whether they can avoid becoming the new scourge against the people and nations who have risen in revolt.

James Petras is author of  The End of the Republic and the Delusion of EmpireExtractive Imperialism in the Americas: Capitalism’s New Frontier (with Henry Veltmeyer), and The Politics of Empire: The US, Israel and the Middle EastRead other articles by James, or visit James’s website.

Nov 022014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

open-up-democracys-coming

Introduction

The principal reason why Washington engages in military wars, sanctions and clandestine operations to secure power abroad is because its chosen clients cannot and do not win free and open elections.

A brief survey of recent election outcomes testify to the electoral unattractiveness of Washington backed clients. The majority of  democratic electorates rejects candidates and parties which back the US global agenda: neo-liberal economic policies; a highly militarized foreign policy; Israeli colonization and annexation of Palestine; the concentration of wealth in the financial sector; the military escalation against China and Russia. While the US policy attempts to re-impose the pillage and dominance of the 1990’s via recycled client regimes the democratic electorates want to move on toward less bellicose, more inclusive governments, which restore labor and welfare rights.

The US seeks to impose the unipolar world, of the Bush Sr. and Clinton era, failing to recognize the vast changes in the world economy, including the rise of China and Russia as world powers, the emergence of the BRIC and other regional organizations and above all the growth of popular democratic consciousness.

Failing to convince electorates by reason or manipulation, Washington has opted to intervene by force, and to finance organizations to subvert the democratic electoral process. The frequent resort to bullets and economic coercion when ballots fail to produce the “appropriate outcome testifies to the profoundly reactionary nature of US foreign policy. Reactionary in the double sense of ends and means. Progmatically, the imperial centered socio-economic policies deepen inequalities and depress living standards. The means to achieve power, the instruments of policy, include wars, intervention, covert operations, are more akin to extremists, quasi-fascist, far right regimes.

Free Elections and the Rejection of US Clients

US backed electoral parties and candidates have suffered defeats throughout most of the world, despite generous financial backing and international mass media propaganda campaigns. What is striking about the negative voting outcomes is the fact that the vast majority of adversaries are neither anti-capitalist nor ‘socialist’. What is equally striking is that all of the US clients are rightist or far-rightist parties and leaders. In other words the polarization is usually between center-left and rightist parties; the choice is between reform or reaction, between an independent or satellite foreign policy.

Washington and Latin America:  Masters of Defeats

Over the past decade, Washington has backed losing neo-liberal candidates throughout Latin America and then sought to subvert the democratic outcome.

Bolivia

Since 2005, Evo Morales the center left leader favoring social reforms and an independent foreign policy has won three Presidential elections against Washington backed rightist parties, each time by a greater margin. In 2008, he ousted the US ambassador for intervening, expelled the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2008, USAID in 2013 and the Military Mission after foiling an aborted coup in Santa Cruz.

Venezuela

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and its predecessor have won every Presidential and Congressional election (over a dozen) except one over the past 15 years despite US multi-million dollar funding of neo-liberal opposition parties. Unable to defeat the Chavez led radical-reform government, Washington backed a violent coup (2002), a boss’s lockout (2002/3), and decade’s long paramilitary attacks of pro-democracy leaders and activists.

Ecuador

The US has opposed the center-left government of President Correa for ousting it from the military base in Manta, renegotiating and repudiating some of its foreign debt and backing regional pacts which exclude the US. As a result Washington backed an abortive police led coup in 2010 that was quickly defeated.

Honduras

During democratically elected President Manual Zelaya’s tenure in office, a center-left President, Honduras sought to pursue closer relations with Venezuela in order to receive greater economic aid and to shed its reputation as a US dominated “banana republic”. Washington unable to defeat him at the ballot box, responded by supporting a military coup (2009) which ousted Zelaya and returned Honduras to the US fold. Since the coup Honduras has experienced more killings of popular leaders -200- than any country in Latin America.

Brazil

The center-left Workers Party has won four straight elections against US backed neo-liberal candidates beginning in 2002 and continuing through the 2014 elections. The US propaganda machine, including NSA’s spying on President Rousseff and the strategic state petrol company, Petrobras, and the international financial press went all out to discredit the reformist center-left government. To no avail! The voters preferred an ‘inclusive’ social liberal regime pursuing an independent foreign policy to an opposition embedded in the discredited socially regressive neo-liberal politics of the Cardoso regime (1994-2002). In the run-up to the 2014 elections Brazilian and US financial speculators attempted to strike fear in the electorate by betting against the currency (real) and driving the stock market into a precipitous fall. To no avail. Rousseff won with 52% of the vote.

Argentina

In Argentina a massive popular revolt overthrew the US backed neo-liberal regime of De la Rua in 2001. Subsequently, the electorate elected the center-left Kirchner government over the rightist, US backed  Menem candidacy in 2003. Kirchner pursued a reformist agenda imposing a moratorium on the debt and combining high economic growth with large scale social expenditures and an independent foreign policy. US opposition escalated with the election of his wife Cristina Fernandez. Financial elites, Wall Street, the US judiciary and Treasury intervened to destabilize the government, after failing to defeat Fernandez’s re-election. Extra-parliamentary financial pressures were matched by political and economic support for rightist politicians in preparation for the 2015 elections.

Earlier, in 1976, the US backed the military coup and political terror that led to the murder of 30,000 activists and militants. In 2014 the US backed a “financial coup” as a federal judge sided with vulture funds, sowing financial terror in international markets against a democratically elected government.

Paraguay

President Fernando Lugo was a moderate former Bishop who pursued a watered-down center-left agenda. Nevertheless, he raised issues that conflicted with Washington’s extremist agenda, including Paraguay’s membership in regional organizations that excluded the US (MERCOSUR). He appealed to the landless rural workers and he retained ties to other Latin American center-left regimes. He was deposed by Congress in 2012 in a highly dubious ‘institutional coup’, quickly supported by the White House and replaced by a straight-line neo-liberal, Federico Franco with tight links to Washington and hostile to Venezuela.

Globalizing US Threats to Democracy

US subversion of democracy when center-left political formations compete for power is not confined to Latin America – it has gone ‘global’.

Ukraine

The most egregious example is the Ukraine, where the US spent over $6 billion in over a decade and a half. Washington financed, organized, and promoted pro NATO shock troops to seize power against an elected regime (President Yevtushenko) which tried to balance ties between the West and Russia. In February 2014, an armed uprising and mob action led to the overthrow of the elected government and the imposition of a puppet regime totally beholden to the US. The violent putschists met resistance from a large swathe of pro-democracy activists in the Eastern region. The Kiev junta led by oligarch Petro Poroshenko dispatched air and ground troops to repress the popular resistance with the unanimous backing of the US and EU. When the rightist regime in Kiev moved to impose its rule over the Crimea and to break its military base treaty with Russia, the Crimean citizens voted, by a large margin (85%), to separate and merge with Russia.

In both the Ukraine and Crimea, US policy was directed toward imposing by force, the subordination of democracy to NATO’s drive to encircle Russia and undermine its democratically elected government.

Russia

Following the election of Vladimir Putin to the Presidency, the US organized and financed a large number of opposition “think tanks”, and NGO’s, to destabilize the government. Large scale demonstrations by well-funded NGO’s were given wide play by all the Western mass media.

Failing to secure an electoral majority and after suffering electoral defeats in the executive and legislative elections, Washington and the EU, using the pretext of Russian “intervention” in the Ukraine, launched a full scale economic war on Russia. Economic sanctions were enforced in the hopes of provoking economic collapse and a popular upheaval. Nothing of the sort occurred. Putin gained greater popularity and stature in Russia and consolidated its ties with China and the other BRIC countries.

In sum in the Ukraine, Crimea and Russia, facing independent elected governments, Washington resorted to a mob uprising, military encirclement and an escalation of economic sanctions.

Iran

Iran has periodic elections in which pro and anti-western parties compete. Iran has drawn the wrath of Washington because of its support for Palestinian liberation from the Israeli yoke; its opposition to the Gulf absolutist states; and its ties to Syria, Lebanon (Hezbollah) and post- Saddam Hussain Iraq. As a result, the US has imposed economic sanctions to cripple its economy and finances and has funded pro-Western neo-liberal opposition NGO’s and political factions. Unable to defeat the Islamist power elite electorally, it chooses to destabilize via sanctions in order to disrupt its economy and assassinations of scientists and cyber warfare.

Egypt

Washington backed the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship for over three decades. Following the popular uprising in 2011, which overthrew the regime, Washington retained and strengthened its ties to the Mubarak police, military and intelligence apparatus. While promoting an alliance between the military and the newly elected President Mohammed Morsi, Washington funded NGO’s, who acted to subvert the government through mass demonstrations. The military, under the leadership of US client General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, seized power, outlawed the Moslem Brotherhood and abolished democratic freedoms.

Washington quickly renewed military and economic aid to the Sisi dictatorship and stregthened its ties with the authoritarian regime. In line with US and Israeli policy, General Sisi tightened the blockade of Gaza, allied with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf despots, strengthened its ties with the IMF and implemented a regressive neo-liberal program by eliminating fuel and food subsidies and lowering taxes on big business. The US backed coup and restoration of dictatorship was the only way Washington could secure a loyal client relationship in North Africa.

Libya

The US and NATO and Gulf allies launched a war (2011) against the independent, nationalist Libyan government, as the only way to oust the popular, welfare government of Colonel Gadhafi. Unable to defeat him via internal subversion, unable to destabilize the economy, Washington and its NATO partners launched hundreds of bombing missions accompanied by arms transfers to local Islamic satraps, tribal, clan and other violent authoritarian groups. The subsequent ‘electoral process” lacking the most basic political guarantees, fraught by corruption, violence and chaos, led to several competing power centers. Washington’s decision to undermine democratic procedures led to a violent Hobbesian world, replacing a popular welfare regime with chaos and terrorism.

Palestine

Washington has pursued a policy of backing Israeli seizures and colonization of Palestinian territory, savage bombings and the mass destruction of Gaza. Israel determined to destroy the democratically elected Hamas government has received unconditional US backing. The Israeli colonial regime has imposed racist, armed colonies throughout the West Bank, financed by the US government, private investors and US Zionist donors. Faced with the choice between a democratically elected nationalist regime, Hamas, and a brutal militarist regime, Israel, US policymakers have never failed to back Israel in its quest to destroy the Palestinian mini-state.

Lebanon

The US, along with Saudi Arabia and Israel, has opposed the freely elected Hezbollah led coalition government formed in 2011. The US backed the Israeli invasion in 2006, which was defeated by the Hezbollah militias. Washington backed the rightwing Hariri led coalition (2008 – 2011) which was marginalized in 2011. It sought to destabilize the society by backing Sunni extremists especially in Northern Lebanon. Lacking popular electoral support to convert Lebanon into a US client state, Washington relies on Israeli military incursions and Syrian based terrorists to destabilize Lebanon’s democratically elected government.

Syria

Syria’s Bashar Assad regime has been the target of US, EU, Saudi and Israeli enmity because of its support for Palestine, its ties with Iraq, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah. Its opposition to the Gulf despotism and its refusal to become a US client state (like Jordan and Egypt) has been another source of NATO hostility. Under pressure from its internal democratic opposition and its external allies, Russia and Iran, the Bashar Assad regime convoked a conference of non-violent opposition parties, leaders and groups to find an electoral solution to the ongoing conflict. Washington and its NATO allies rejected a democratic electoral road to reconciliation. They and their Turkish and Gulf allies financed and armed thousands of Islamic extremists who invaded the country. Over a million refugees and 200,000 dead Syrians were a direct result of Washington’s decision to pursue “regime change” via armed conflict.

China

China has become the world’s largest economy. It has become a leading investment and trading country in the world. It has replaced the US and the EU in Asian, African and Latin American markets. Faced with peaceful economic competition and offers of mutually beneficial free trade agreements, Washington has chosen to pursue a policy of military encirclement, internal destabilization and Pan Pacific integration agreements that excludes China. The US has expanded military deployments and bases in Japan, Australia and the Philippines. It has heightened naval and air force surveillance just beyond China’s limits. It has fanned rival maritime claims of China’s neighbors, encroaching on vital Chinese waterways.

The US has supported violent Uighur separatists, Tibetan terrorists and protests in Hong Kong in order to fragment and discredit China’s rule over its sovereign territory. Fomenting separation via violent means results in harsh repression, which in turn can alienate a domestic constituency and provide grist for the Western media mills. The key to the US countering China’s economic ascent is political: fomenting domestic divisions and weakening central authority. The democratization which Chinese citizens favor has little resonance with US financed ‘democracy’ charades in Hong Kong or separatist violence in the provinces.

Washington’s effort to exclude China from major trade and investment agreements in Asia and elsewhere has been a laughable failure. The principle US “partners”, Japan and Australia are heavily dependent on the Chinese market. Washington’s (free trade) allies in Latin America, name Colombia, Peru, Chile and Mexico are eager to increase trade with China. India and Russia are signing off on multi-billion dollar trade and investment deals with China! Washington’s policy of economic exclusion miscarried in the first month!

In sum, Washington’s decision to pursue confrontation over conciliation and partnership; military encirclement over co-operation; exclusion over inclusion, goes counter to a democratic foreign policy designed to promote democracy in China and elsewhere. An authoritarian choice in pursuit of unachievable Asian supremacy is not a virtue; it is a sign of weakness and decay.

Conclusion

In our global survey of US policy toward democracy, center-left governments and free elections we find overwhelming evidence of systematic US hostility and opposition. The political essence of the “war on terrorism” is Washington’s world-wide long-term pernicious assault on independent governments, especially center-left democratic regimes engaged in serious efforts to reduce poverty and inequality.

Washington’s methods of choice range from financing rightist political parties via USAID and NGO’s, to supporting violent military coups; from backing street mobs engaged in destabilization campaigns to air and ground invasions. Washington’s animus to democratic processes is not confined to any region, religious, ethnic or racial group. The US has bombed black Africans in Libya; organized coups in Latin America against Indians and Christians in Bolivia; supported wars against Muslims in Iraq, Palestine and Syria; financed neo-fascist “battalions”and armed assaults against Orthodox Christians in the Eastern Ukraine; denounced atheists in China and Russia.

Washington subsidizes and backs elections only when neo-liberal client regimes win. It consistently destabilizes center-left governments which oppose US imperial policies.

None of the targets of US aggression are strictly speaking anti-capitalist. Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina are capitalist regimes which attempt to regulate, tax and reduce disparities of wealth via moderate welfare reforms.

Throughout the world, Washington always supports extremist political groups engaged in violent and unconstitutional activity that have victimized democratic leaders and supporters. The  coup regime in Honduras has murdered hundreds of rank and file democratic activists, farm workers, and poor peasants.

The US armed Islamic jihadist and ex-pat allies in Libya have fallen out with their NATO mentors and are at war among themselves, engaging in mutual bloodletting.

Throughout the Middle East, South Asia, North Africa, Central America and the Caucuses wherever US intervention has taken place, extreme right-wing groups have served, at least for a time, as Washington and Brussels principal allies.

Pro EU-NATO allies in the Ukraine include a strong contingent of neo-Nazis, paramilitary thugs and “mainstream” military forces given to bombing civilian neighborhoods with cluster bombs.

In Venezuela, Washington bankrolls terrorist paramilitary forces and political extremists who murdered a socialist congressional leader and dozens of leftists.

In Mexico the US has advised, finances and backs rightist regimes whose military, paramilitary and nacro-terrorist forces recently murdered and burned alive 43 teachers’ college students and are deeply implicated in the killing of 100,000 “other” Mexicans, in less than a decade.

Over the past eleven years the US has pumped over $6 billion dollars in military aid to Colombia, funding its seven military bases and several thousand special operations forces and doubling the size of the Colombian military. As a result thousands of civil society and human rights activists, journalists, trade union leaders and peasants, have been murdered. Over 3 million small land -holders have been dispossessed.

The mass media cover-up the US option for right wing extremism by describing ruling mass murderers as “center-right regimes” or as “moderates”: linguistic perversions and grotesque euphemisms, are as bizarre as the barbarous activities, perpetrated by the White House.

In the drive for world power, no crime is left undone; no democracy that opposes it is tolerated. Countries as small and marginal as Honduran or Somalia or as great and powerful as Russia and China cannot escape the wrath and covert destabilization efforts of the White House.

The quest for world domination is driven by the subjective belief in the “triumph of the will”. Global supremacy depends entirely on force and violence: ravaging country after country, from carpet bombing of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya to proxy wars in Somalia, Yemen, Ukraine to mass killings in Colombia, Mexico and Syria.

Yet there are limits to the spread of the “killing fields”. Democratic processes are defended by robust citizens’ movements in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. The spread of imperial backed terrorist seizures of power are stymied by emergence of global powers, China in in the Far East and Russia in Crimea and eastern Ukraine have taken bold steps to limit US imperial expansion.

In the United Nations, the President of the United States and his delegate Samantha Powers rant and rave, in a fit of pure insanity, against Russia as “the greatest world terrorist state” for resisting military encirclement and the violent annexation of the Ukraine.

Extremism, authoritarianism and political insanity know no frontiers. The massive growth of the secret political police, the National Security Agency, the shredding of constitutional guarantees, the conversion of electoral processes into elite controlled multi-billion dollar charades, the growing impunity of police involved in civilian murders, speaks to an emerging totalitarian police – state inside the US as a counterpart to the violent pursuit of world power.

Citizens’ movements, consequential center-left parties and governments, organized workers, in Latin America, Asia and Europe have demonstrated that authoritarian extremist proxies of Washington can be defeated. That disastrous neo-liberal policies can be reverted. That welfare states, reductions in poverty, unemployment and inequalities can be legislated despite imperial efforts to the contrary.

The vast majority of the Americans, here and now, are strongly opposed to Wall Street, big business and the financial sector. The Presidency and the Congress are despised by three quarters of the American public. Overseas wars are rejected. The US public, for its own reasons and interests, shares with the pro-democracy movement’s world-wide, a common enmity toward Washington’s quest for world power. Here and now in the United States of America we must learn and build our own powerful democratic political instruments.

We must through the force of reason contain and defeat “the reason of force”: the political insanity that informs Washington’s ‘will to power’. We must degrade the empire to rebuild the republic. We must turn from intervening against democracy abroad to building a democratic welfare republic at home.

Jan 232014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Ariel Sharon, the war criminals, dies without being proscuted for his war crimes, January 11, 2014 pic.gif

Introduction

Ariel Sharon was a serial mass murderer, engaged in massacres of unarmed victims in four countries, of all ages and conditions.  He was a “hero” for hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews who settled on land and in houses seized from Palestinians in the West Bank.  He was praised by Western leaders at his funeral for his violent, lifelong opposition to Arab nationalist movements throughout the Middle East.  That he was a fanatical upholder of Jewish supremacist policies and practices did not go unnoticed by wealthy Zionist donors in the US.  During his tenure as a senior official in numerous Israeli regimes, they contributed hundreds of millions of dollars for Greater Israel and extracted nearly a $100 billion more from the US Treasury.  Israeli leaders praise of Sharon as a valiant, brilliant and legendary military leader is echoed in the US mass media and repeated by most Western leaders.  He was, in the view of his US adulators, a powerful leader who defied world public opinion in his defense of Israel, who seized Palestinian and Syrian territory and who was willing to strike an independent policy even against Israel’s main benefactors in Europe and North America.

This essay does not simply recount Sharon’s lifelong criminal record.  The story we will relate has more to do with (1)the crimes that continue to live after him; (2) the political and military context which allowed him to butcher non-Jewish populations with impunity; (3)the psychological core of Sharonist impudence and arrogance which is so deeply etched in the political psyche of all of Israel’s contemporary leaders.

This paper will critically address several issues regarding the Sharon cult (in Israel and abroad) which presents him as a fearless and successful military leader; a formidable world political statesman, who successfully imposed Israel’s will throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Genocide at the Service of Nationhood

Sharon’s record as a serial genocider is beyond dispute.  As early as the ‘founding years’ of Israel in 1947 – 1948 Sharon was commander of the murderous Alexandroni and then the Golani Brigade which murdered, uprooted and terrorized thousands of lifelong Palestinian residents.  He later was the commander of Unit 101, an Orwellian Death Squad, which reduced villages to rubble, blowing up homes, where mostly women and children were hiding.  In October 1953, Sharon assaulted the Jordanian village of Qibya blowing up forty-five houses and killing sixty-nine civilians, the vast majority women and children.  In the early 1950’s Sharon ruled over Palestinian settlements with an iron fist, murdering dissidents, arresting and torturing protestors on a mass scale.  On October 29, 1956 Israeli, British and French troops invaded Egypt to seize the Suez Canal and recolonize the country.  Colonel Sharon led the 202th Paratroop Brigade which seized the Mitla Pass and covered himself with gore – murdering all the Egyptian military and civilian prisoners.  The Israeli military advance was stopped cold despite its military alliance and supply from Britain and France.  President Eisenhower told the Israelis and their French and English allies to end their aggression and proceeded to cut off all military and economic aid to Israel; shut off IMF funding for England and France’s post WW II bankrupt economies.  US Zionists using their leverage in the Democratic party especially over Lyndon Johnson, House Minority Leader, to block Eisenhower’s economic sanctions and to support Israel’s invasion.  Eisenhower rejected Zionist pressure and went to the UN Security Council where his armistice and withdrawal proposal was vetoed by France and Britain.   Eisenhower then called a special session of the General Assembly where he triumphed by a 12 to 1 margin.  France, Britain and Israel were defeated and forced to retreat.  No other President before or since Eisenhower ever took a forthright stand against Israeli colonial wars and territorial seizures.

During the Egyptian invasion, Sharon’s military leadership was severely questioned by his Israeli superiors.  His troops suffered the highest casualties of any unit because of his order to attack heavily fortified Egyptian emplacements when Israeli air power could have done more with less.

During the so-called Six Day War (June 5 -10, 1967), Israel’s sneak attack on Jordan, Syria and Egypt, resulted in the seizure and occupation of vast areas and the conquest of millions of Palestinians.  Sharon’s military achievements included the wholesale massacre of Egyptian prisoners of war.. President Lyndon Johnson, totally under the thumb of his Zionist fundraisers, not only supported Israel’s war of aggression but acquiesced in Israel’s bombing of the US intelligence ship the Liberty and the killing and maiming of over 200 US sailors.  In the 1973 Yom Kipper War, Sharon and the Israeli high command were on the verge of military defeat by the Egyptian and Syrian armed forced intent on liberating occupied territories, until Kissinger airlifted 22,395 tons of weapons to Israel, including scores of fighter planes, helicopters and transport planes to turn the tide.

From the Yon Kipper debacle onward, Israel never lacked for US military and political backing and diplomatic protection in its military invasions, colonial settlements and air assaults on Arab countries and inhabitants.

Upward Advance:  Master of Massacres and Mediocrity

Sharon’s political career was aided by his leading role in massacring Palestinians in Lebanon and in the Occupied Territories.  In Lebanon, Sharon slaughtered  2000 children and women at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp.  He certainly did not rise to political power for his mediocre performance during the Suez crises and Yon Kippur war.  In fact, when Sharon faced well-trained and well-armed military forces, as was the case during the Hezbollah war in 2006, he was even less than a mediocre commander.  Only against civilians and poorly trained irregulars did he “succeed”.  Only where he could murder and dispossess hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians and settle Israeli Jews was he glorified as the “King of the Jews” by the Israeli settler population.

World leaders praise Sharon because of his power and usefulness in smashing nationalist Arab-dissent.  Sharon’s ascent to the Pantheon of world statesman was greased by the western mass media, who to no small extent, sup at the table of his main Zionist benefactors.  Sharon’s “legendary history” is media manufactured to fit the requirements of his western Zionist power brokers.

The Context of Sharon’s and Israeli Ascendancy

Israel cannot and does not wield power on the bases of its military capability or performance – it operates on borrowed power.  When the US was ruled by a President who rejected Zionist influenced Congressional pressure and used available economic and political leverage, Israel retreated, surrendered captured territory and abided by UN sanctions.  In other words, Israel’s war aims and its bellicose behavior, is dependent on the power of the Zionist power configuration in the US to turn Washington in its favor.

The Israeli leaders and most, especially Sharon, learned the lesson of the Eisenhower experience.  The key to regional power lies in the capacity of American Zionists to control Washington’s decision-makers.  In the blunt language of Sharon, in reply to Shimon Peres on Koi Yisrael radio (October 3, 2001) “Every time we do something, you (Peres) tell me, Americans will do this and that.  I want to tell you something very clear.  Don’t worry about American pressure on Israel.  We the Jewish people control America and the Americans know it”.

In this, his comment on the relations of power between Israel and the United States, Sharon is also providing an insight into his own importance and influence.  Sharon the “legendary military leader” is a complete artifact of the real power that the Zionists wield in the US on behalf of Israel.

Sharon is, in a sense, a “cardboard general” who has lost or nearly lost the most important battles in his career – beginning with Suez in 1956, Yom Kippur in 1973 and Lebanon in 2006.  Israel has prospered economically and become a major military power largely through over $130 billion dollar transfers from the US Treasury over the past half century; plus tens of billions in favorable trade concessions; plus ‘imports’ of highly trained professionals from the US and Russia (educated by the tax payers of those countries); and more recently billions more in “venture capital” by overseas speculators.  In other words, Israel is an artifact of the ‘power of extraction and transfer’ by its overseas acolytes embedded in the US political and economic power structure.

Without the influence and material privileges which have accumulated over four decades, Sharon would have ended his mediocre military career as a crabby second rate politician, barking “blood libels” at his adversaries in the Knesset.

But as circumstances dictated Sharon was not an insignificant figure.  His brutal colonial policies reflected the Israel-Jewish political tradition and shaped what has become a dangerous ethno-supremacist ideology, which unfortunately has traversed across borders and entered into the consciousness of many Zionists.

It was one thing to joke, as many of us did in our university days, about the ghetto expression “Is it good for Jews?.  It is another for leaders in positions of power to apply this ethnocentric criteria to American foreign policy, personnel recruitment and professional appointments.  That is the real legacy of Ariel Sharon:  the legacy of an Israel -centered world built on ideology of ethno-religious supremacy which displays superiority and disdain for non-Jews.  For the ethnic supremacists like Sharon, most Americans exist to pay tribute and fight wars for Israel and to keep a tight lip about it.

A Final Word on the Sharon Legacy

Let it be said, here and now, that Sharon’s presumption to speak for “the Jewish people” confused his rabid electoral supporters in Israel and blind adherents among US Zionist leaders, with a growing number of Jews and ex-Jews who detested him and scorn his legacy.  His boast that “Jews control America” has dangerous implications, especially in the context of growing popular malaise in these United States.  Sharon’s claim that Americans knowingly submit to a foreign tyranny, is very provocative especially if and when Americans begin to wake up— and it will be the majority of Jews, who neither abide by Sharon’s legacy nor share his naked contempt for non-Jews, who will pay a painful price.

The Sharon legacy lives on, among his epigones at the prestigious universities and with the billionaires who bankroll the Democratic Party.   Sharon’s Israel First legacy lives on with the government officials who betray the trust of the American people and prostrate themselves before his present-day disciples (Klansmen with yarmulkes), the Avigdor Lieberman’s, Naftali Bennett’s and Netanyahu’s who execute the Sharon legacy of dispossession and assassination of unarmed Palestinian people. Ariel Sharon is dead but his crimes will not be buried.  They live on in the policies of the Netanyahu regime but also in the collective memory of humanity in its struggle for freedom and self-determination.

Jan 102014
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

americacowers

“At last the world knows America as the savior of the world!” – President Woodrow Wilson, Paris Peace Conference, 1919

The horrors reported each day from Syria and Iraq are enough to make one cry; in particular, the atrocities carried out by the al-Qaeda types: floggings; beheadings; playing soccer with the heads; cutting open dead bodies to remove organs just for mockery; suicide bombers, car bombs, the ground littered with human body parts; countless young children traumatized for life; the imposition of sharia law, including bans on music … What century are we living in? What millennium? What world?

People occasionally write to me that my unwavering antagonism toward American foreign policy is misplaced; that as awful as Washington’s Museum of Horrors is, al-Qaeda is worse and the world needs the United States to combat the awful jihadists.

“Let me tell you about the very rich,” F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote. “They are different from you and me.”

And let me tell you about American leaders. In power, they don’t think the way you and I do. They don’t feel the way you and I do. They have supported “awful jihadists” and their moral equivalents for decades. Let’s begin in 1979 in Afghanistan, where the Moujahedeen (“holy warriors”) were in battle against a secular, progressive government supported by the Soviet Union; a “favorite tactic” of the Moujahedeen was “to torture victims [often Russians] by first cutting off their nose, ears, and genitals, then removing one slice of skin after another”, producing “a slow, very painful death”. 1

With America’s massive and indispensable military backing in the 1980s, Afghanistan’s last secular government (bringing women into the 20th century) was overthrown, and out of the victorious Moujahedeen arose al Qaeda.

During this same period the United States was supporting the infamous Khmer Rouge of Cambodia; yes, the same charming lads of Pol Pot and The Killing Fields. 2

President Carter’s National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was a leading force behind the US support of both the Moujahedeen and the Khmer Rouge. What does that tell you about that American leader? Or Jimmy Carter – an inspiration out of office, but a rather different person in the White House? Or Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama, who chose Brzezinski as one of his advisers?

Another proud example of the United States fighting the awful jihadists is Kosovo, an overwhelmingly Muslim province of Serbia. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began an armed conflict with Belgrade in the early 1990s to split Kosovo from Serbia. The KLA was considered a terrorist organization by the US, the UK and France for years, with numerous reports of the KLA having contact with al-Qaeda, getting arms from them, having its militants trained in al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan, and even having members of al-Qaeda in KLA ranks fighting against Serbia. 3 But Washington’s imperialists, more concerned about dealing a blow to Serbia, “the last communist government in Europe”, supported the KLA.

The KLA have been known for their torture and trafficking in women, heroin, and human body parts (sic). 4 The United States has naturally been pushing for Kosovo’s membership in NATO and the European Union.

More recently the US has supported awful jihadists in Libya and Syria, with awful consequences.

It would, moreover, be difficult to name a single brutal dictatorship of the second half of the 20th Century that was not supported by the United States; not only supported, but often put into power and kept in power against the wishes of the population. And in recent years as well, Washington has supported very repressive governments, such as Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Indonesia, Egypt, Colombia, Qatar, and Israel.

Not exactly the grand savior our sad old world is yearning for. (Oh, did I mention that Washington’s policies create a never-ending supply of terrorists?)

And what do American leaders think of their own record? Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was probably speaking for the whole private club when she wrote that in the pursuit of its national security the United States no longer needed to be guided by “notions of international law and norms” or “institutions like the United Nations” because America was “on the right side of history.” 5

If you’ve never done anything you wouldn’t want the government to know about, you should re-examine your life choices.

“The idea is to build an antiterrorist global environment,” a senior American defense official said in 2003, “so that in 20 to 30 years, terrorism will be like slave-trading, completely discredited.” 6

One must wonder: When will the dropping of bombs on innocent civilians by the United States, and invading and occupying their country become completely discredited? When will the use of depleted uranium, cluster bombs, CIA torture renditions, and round-the-world, round-the-clock surveillance become things that even men like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, and John Brennan will be too embarrassed to defend?

Last month, a former National Security Agency official told the Washington Post that the Agency’s workers are polishing up their résumés and asking that they be cleared – removing any material linked to classified programs – so they can be sent out to potential employers. He noted that one employee who processes the résumés said, “I’ve never seen so many résumés that people want to have cleared in my life.” 7

Morale is “bad overall”, said another former official. “The news – the Snowden disclosures – it questions the integrity of the NSA workforce,” he said. “It’s become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, ‘Why are you spying on Grandma?’ And we aren’t. People are feeling bad, beaten down.” 8

President Obama was recently moved to declare that he would be proposing “some self-restraint on the NSA” and “some reforms that can give people more confidence.” He also said “In some ways, the technology and the budgets and the capacity [at NSA] have outstripped the constraints. And we’ve got to rebuild those in the same way that we’re having to do on a whole series of capacities … [such as] drone operations.” 9

Well, dear readers and comrades, we shall see. But if you’re looking for a glimmer of hope to begin a new year, you may as well try grabbing onto these little offerings. When the American Empire crumbles, abroad and at home, as one day it must, Edward Snowden’s courageous actions may well be seen as one of the key steps along that road. I’ve long maintained that only the American people have the power to stop The Imperial Machine – the monster that eats the world’s environment, screws up its economies, and spews violence on every continent. And for that to happen the American people have to lose their deep-seated, quasi-religious belief in “American Exceptionalism”. For many, what they’ve been forced to learn the past six months has undoubtedly worn deep holes into the protective armor that has surrounded their hearts and minds since childhood.

A surprising and exhilarating example of one of these holes in the armor is the New Year’s day editorial in the New York Times that is now well known. Entitled “Edward Snowden, Whistle-blower” – itself a legitimation of his actions – its key part says: “Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service.”

The president has been moved to appoint a committee to study NSA abuses. This of course is a standard bureaucratic maneuver to keep critics at bay. But the committee – Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies – did come up with a few unexpected recommendations in its report presented December 13, the most interesting of which perhaps are these two:

“Governments should not use surveillance to steal industry secrets to advantage their domestic industry.”

“Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial systems.” 10

The first recommendation refers to a practice, though certainly despicable, that is something the United States has been doing, and lying about, for decades. 11 Just this past September, James Clapper, Director of US National Intelligence, declared: “What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies.” 12

Clapper is the same gentleman who told Congress in March that the NSA does not intentionally collect any kind of data on millions of Americans; and, when subsequently challenged on this remark, declared: “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying ‘no’.” 13

The second recommendation had not been revealed before, in a Snowden document or from any other source.

“That was a strangely specific recommendation for something nobody was talking about,” observed the director of a government transparency group. 14

ABC News reported that “A spokesperson for the NSA declined to comment on the issue of bank account hacking, and a representative for U.S. Cyber Command did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.” 15

Manipulating bank records is about as petty and dishonorable as a superpower can behave, and could conceivably, eventually, lead to the end of the NSA as we’ve all come to know and love it. On the other hand, the Agency no doubt holds some very embarrassing information about anyone in a position to do them harm.

The bombing of Flight 103 – Case closed?

When the 25th anniversary of the 1988 bombing of PanAm Flight 103 occurred on December 21 I was fully expecting the usual repetitions of the false accusation against Libya and Moammar Gaddafi as being responsible for the act which took the lives of 270 people over and in Lockerbie, Scotland. But much to my surprise, mingled with such, there were a rash of comments skeptical of the official British-US version, made by various people in Scotland and elsewhere, including by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and Libya.

In a joint statement the three governments said they were determined to unearth the truth behind the attack. “We want all those responsible for this brutal act of terrorism brought to justice, and to understand why it was committed”, they declared. 16

Remarkable. In 1991, the United States indicted a Libyan named Adelbaset al-Megrahi. He was eventually found guilty of being the sole perpetrator of the crime, kept in prison for many years, and finally released in 2009 when he had terminal cancer, allegedly for humanitarian reasons, although an acute smell of oil could be detected. And now they speak of bringing to justice “those responsible for this brutal act of terrorism”.

The 1988 crime was actually organized by Iran in retaliation for the American shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in July of the same year, which took the lives of 290 people. It was carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), a 1968 breakaway from a component of the Palestine Liberation Organization, with some help from Syria. And this version was very widely accepted in the Western world, in government and media circles. Until the US buildup to the Gulf War came along in 1990 and the support of Iran and Syria was needed. Then, suddenly, we were told that it was Libya behind the crime.

If the US and UK now wish to return to Iran, and perhaps Syria, as the culprits, they will have a lot of explaining to do about their previous lie. But these two governments always have a lot of explaining to do. They’re good at it. And the great bulk of their indoctrinated citizens, with little resistance, will accept the new/old party line, and their mainstream media will effortlessly switch back to the old/new official version, since Iran and Syria are at the top of the current list of Bad Guys. (The PFLP-GC has been quiescent for some time and may scarcely exist.)

If you’re confused by all this, I suggest that you start by reading my detailed article on the history of this case, written in 2001 but still very informative and relevant. You may be rather surprised.

The UK, US and Libyan governments have now announced that they will co-operate to reveal “the full facts” of the Lockerbie bombing. And Robert Mueller, the former head of the FBI, said he believes more people will be charged. This could be very interesting.

Notes

  1. Washington Post May 11, 1979; New York Times, April 13 1979
  2. William Blum, “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower” (2005), chapter 10
  3. RT TV (Russia Today, Moscow), May 4, 2012
  4. Associated Press, December 14, 2010
  5. Foreign Affairs (Council on Foreign Relations), January/February 2000 issue
  6. New York Times, January 17, 2003
  7. Washington Post, December 7, 2013
  8. Washington Post, December 18, 2013
  9. Washington Post, December 7, 2013
  10. “Liberty and Security in a Changing World”, p.221
  11. See Anti-Empire Report, #118, June 26, 2013, second part
  12. Statement by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper on Allegations of Economic Espionage, September 8, 2013
  13. NBC News, June 9, 2013
  14. Kel McLanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, speaking toABC News Radio, December 23, 2013
  15. ABC News Radio, December 23, 2013
  16. Reuters news agency, December 22, 2013

 

Jul 092013
 

El análisis del sociólogo norteamericano, Prof. James Petras

“la posición de los militares es que están firmes en apoyar el acuerdo con Israel contra los palestinos, seguir apoyando a EE.UU. en Siria. No hay que olvidar que los militares reciben 1.5 mil millones de dólares cada año de EE.UU. y eso influye mucho. EE.UU. tiene oficiales y militares de inteligencia en todos los niveles del gobierno egipcio. Entonces, los militares están completamente entregados a EE.UU. que son uno de los principales actores en cualquier arreglo pos Mursi”

anti-us-protests-egypt-july-2013-2

Diego: Bueno, no es habitual un jueves tener contacto con James Petras, pero obviamente que las circunstancias lo ameritaban. Le damos los buenos días. ¿Petras, qué tal? Le damos la bienvenida nuevamente a los micrófonos de Radio Centenario…

Petras: Buenos días, compañero Martínez.

Diego: Obviamente que el tema Egipto se roba todas las miradas, sabemos que el tema Evo Morales también es muy importante a esta hora luego de la última charla que mantuvimos el lunes.

Pero queríamos arrancar por el tema Egipto, qué es lo que está pasando, si podemos darle a la gente algún elemento más de análisis para comprender la actual situación luego de que fue revocado el presidente Mursi y asumió ya incluso, pocas horas después, Adli Mansour.

¿Quiénes son los actores que están jugando y cuáles son los intereses que están en juego?

Petras: Es muy complicado porque hay varias fuerzas en juego aquí en Egipto, no debemos confundirnos por el simple hecho de que hay millones de personas en las calles reclamando su renuncia.

Entre todas las fuerzas debemos distinguir a los militares que son una casta que han dominado al país por los últimos 60 años y que no tienen ninguna tinta democrática, siempre mandan a partir de decretos ejecutivos, actuando  y así nombraran al supuesto presidente transitorio. En todo caso la oposición incluía apoyantes de la ex dictadura de Mubarak que están muy presentes. Tenemos a los liberales, el-Baradei que ganó el Premio Nobel, tenemos izquierdistas, estudiantes liberales y tenemos sectores socialistas.

Ahora, entre todas las fuerzas, los que ahora mandan son los militares y han cerrado los medios de comunicación que son de la oposición. Han nombrado al presidente, han fijado el tránsito hacia el nuevo gobierno, han fijado nombrar la comisión que va a hacer las enmiendas de la Constitución.

El Adli Mansour, el juez que nombraron, es una persona sin ningún respaldo popular, sin experiencia política, es una figurita que va a hacer lo que a los militares se les dé la gana.

Y más allá de eso, debemos entender que los militares en Egipto forman una casta. Es decir, tienen sus propias casas, sus country clubs, sus hospitales, sus escuelas, los altos militares reciben consultas de empresas privadas, tienen inversiones e influencia de las empresas públicas. En otras palabras, forman un Estado dentro del Estado. Debemos decir que una de las cosas que los militares están haciendo es defender todos estos privilegios.

Ahora, entre las masas populares que mencioné es muy complejo el panorama porque no hay una tendencia que domine. Los musulmanes todavía pueden influir sobre un 30% del electorado por lo menos, es un apoyo sólido y ellos están excluidos ahora. Eso me parece una señal de que todo no marcha bien. El ex presidente y sus seguidores están encarcelados actualmente.

¿Y cómo pensar en una transición en esta situación? Los países en Europa están divididos, Francia, Inglaterra apoyaron el golpe. Alemania, por lo menos el canciller llamó en cuestión diciendo que están violando la democracia y puede perjudicar la posibilidad de un proceso democrático.

Los EE.UU. tiene un papel aquí importante, pero está en una situación compleja también, porque ellos apoyaban a Mursi y querían que Mursi trabajara con los liberales y los militares. Ahora, Mursi tenía su propia agenda, quería fortalecer al grupo musulmán al costo de los otros socios que Washington promovía.

Ahora, en este momento, Washington está presionando con una coalición de islámicos, liberales y militares. Ese es el proyecto al que está refiriendo Obama cuando llama rápidamente a convocar nuevas elecciones.

En todo caso, la situación no ha terminado, yo no sé todavía la respuesta de los millones de musulmanes que todavía no han tomado posición. Pero las calles están llenas de soldados y carros blindados.

Diego: ¿Se puede decir que Mursi respondía a los mismos intereses que va a defender el ejército pero que era un socio errático en cuanto a quiénes elegía como aliados?

Petras: Sí, y también quería poner a su propia gente, más simpáticos con la religión. Eso complicaba las cosas porque los militares no confían en los nombrados por Mursi, querían tener su propia autonomía, su propio control porque ellos controlan gran parte de la economía, como industrias militares.

Y una cosa más, Washington apoyaba a Mursi porque Mursi firmó el acuerdo con Israel de bloquear a Gaza, Mursi apoyaba la invasión de Siria, Mursi apoyó las fuerzas de OTAN contra Libia. En otras palabras, en la política externa Mursi era un aliado del imperialismo. Lo que falló con Mursi era su incapacidad de controlar el descontento interno.

Y para el imperialismo los regímenes proimperiales son descartables cuando pierden control. Lo que vale para el imperialismo es defender la integridad del Estado, el aparato estatal. Si cae Mursi, mientras tengan influencia en el estado siempre pueden hacer un recambio.

En este caso, cuando Mursi perdió el apoyo o por lo menos parecía que estaba temblando y las masas se están movilizando en la lucha extraparlamentaria, yo creo que al final de cuentas Washington decía que era descartable y buscaron recambio.

Diego: Hace no mucho fueron las elecciones en Egipto. ¿Cuál es el escenario que se le presenta ahora a quienes quieren establecer un nuevo régimen? ¿El de una nueva convocatoria a elecciones, el de un régimen sustitutivo con el ejército teniendo algún ministro adepto? ¿Cuál puede ser la salida política a la actual  conducción de Egipto después de haber fracasado lo que habían impuesto que eran las elecciones abiertas?

Petras: Bueno, para mí hay 2 opciones. La primera es que los militares manden por un par de años o más, prolongan el mando militar supuestamente buscando diferentes pretextos de formar comisiones, limitar la participación de los musulmanes, desmovilizar a la gente de la calle, fortalecer su posición para cuando, decidan negociar con los políticos civiles, estén muy fuertes para imponer el orden que ellos buscan. Esta es la opción más militarista.

La segunda opción, con presiones de EE.UU., es que los militares son parte de un gran negocio, donde los militares han garantizado la jerarquía y su posición privilegiada mientras permiten a los sectores más derechistas en la oposición civil formular la nueva Constitución y reagrupar fuerzas en una coalición, cortando sectores de musulmanes y también excluyendo sectores más izquierdistas, particularmente a los jóvenes que piden cambios socio-económicos.

El gran problema es que el nuevo gobierno que pueden formar va a encontrar los mismos problemas, estos militares corruptos van a quedarse con gran parte de la economía. Las medidas liberales van a provocar grandes protestas otra vez, por ejemplo, Mursi estaba tratando de terminar las subvenciones para conseguir un préstamo del FMI. Todos los descontentos socio-económicos no van a cambiar por un recambio entre seculares, liberales y otras fuerzas. En este contexto vamos a ver un tercer período de descontento. Primero contra Mubarak, segundo contra Mursi y tercero contra esta alianza liberal – militar que es la propuesta de EE.UU.

Diego: Para pasar en limpio, no cambia en absoluto la posición de Egipto en la región, es decir, van a seguir apoyando a los terroristas sirios…

Petras: Obviamente es la posición de los militares y los militares están firmes en apoyar el acuerdo con Israel contra los palestinos, seguir apoyando a EE.UU. en Siria. No hay que olvidar que los militares reciben 1.5 mil millones de dólares cada año de EE.UU. y eso influye mucho. EE.UU. tiene oficiales y militares de inteligencia en todos los niveles del gobierno egipcio. Entonces, los militares están completamente entregados a EE.UU. que son uno de los principales actores en cualquier arreglo pos Mursi.

Diego: ¿Qué se puede esperar en los próximos días, revueltas populares, varios muertos como ha habido hasta ahora…?

Petras: No, yo creo que la oposición ahora queda dividida y van a hacer desmovilizar. Primero, todas las calles están copadas por los militares con fusiles y carros blindados.

Segundo, los derechistas que forman parte de las movilizaciones se van a casa.

Tercero, los liberales están ahora negociando con los militares a ver si consiguen algunas concesiones. Queda la izquierda, los jóvenes y ellos están también con ilusiones de que los militares pueden actuar en favor de sus intereses y van con muchas ilusiones.

Entonces, yo creo que las movilizaciones van a parar o van a dejar de estar en espera de lo que las cúpulas van a negociar.

Diego: Bien, Petras, le propongo cambiar de tema y hacer alguna referencia a lo que ha ocurrido con Evo Morales. ¿Qué reflexión se puede hacer con esto que ha ocurrido con la negación por parte de varios países europeos a que transite por espacio aéreo el presidente de Bolivia y las repercusiones que están teniendo hasta ahora todos estos hechos?

Petras: Bueno, en primera instancia es un hecho criminal. Y fijate si el avión no tiene lugar para aterrizar donde conseguir combustible para seguir el vuelo, sería asesinato. Si no puede bajar en Francia, ni en Portugal, España, Italia, eso es un atentado físico contra Evo Morales que tuvo que bajar de emergencia en Austria.

Segundo, obviamente, como todo el mundo reconoce, era la policía secreta y el presidente Obama que se mezcla este asunto. No simplemente buscando a Snowden, no sé si ese era el pretexto verdadero o simplemente un acto de intimidación a Evo diciendo: si vos decidís ofrecer asilo, es un ejemplo de cómo te vamos a castigar. Es una señal de intimidación, nosotros controlamos las vías aéreas y vamos a tomar represalias, no sólo contra Bolivia, toda América Latina queda bajo el garrote norteamericano.

Y las respuestas en América Latina, típicamente de Venezuela positivo, crítico, pero más o menos potable la respuesta de Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Pero la demora de Brasil, la demora de Uruguay, no son buenas señales, es una respuesta bastante débil en vez de unificar y hacer una fuerte denuncia…

Diego: Sí, Uruguay esperó hasta el otro día…

Petras: Llamarlos a las embajadas para protestar y llamarlos para devolver a las embajadas, hacer protesta fuerte porque ese es el tratamiento de un país como un servil del imperialismo y todavía la respuesta en los grandes países como Argentina y Brasil es bastante débil.Yo creo que Evo debe ser defendido en todos los sentidos. Es una expresión del imperialismo del gran garrote y refleja lo que hemos dicho, que los servicios secretos de Washington y su manera de manejar la política externa es simplemente colonialista, utiliza la fuerza, la intimidación y es una cosa que no debemos tolerar.

Si no podemos viajar por avión, si un presidente no tenía la seguridad, estamos tratando con terroristas, es como un acto de pirateo, tiene que bajar el avión, no tiene un lugar para bajar, están entrando, hacen búsquedas acusando de apoyar delincuentes, todo es una forma de la peor época del imperialismo.

Diego: Obviamente habrá que esperar también qué va a pasar con esta reunión que se va a realizar en Cochabamba, pero cómo queda parada Europa y esos países que negaron el acceso a Evo Morales…

Petras: Aparecen como fáciles, aparecen como lacayos. Portugal actuó como una colonia, España también, no tienen ninguna independencia, quedan muy desprestigiados. Francia, por lo menos, reconoce que sale la imagen de un país como peón de Washington y después Hollande inventó la excusa de que era un error, que alguien se equivocó, etc. Porque realmente es una cosa muy vergonzosa que países que pretenden ser independientes actúan de esta forma con instrumentos puros y duros de la política externa de EE.UU. en un caso que tiene que ver con el espionaje.

Lo que están haciendo estos países, a pesar que EE.UU. está haciendo espionaje contra ellos y el mensajero de esta denuncia está tratado como delincuente. Y los otros países mal aceptados por espionaje vuelven a hacer el trabajo sucio para Washington, es difícil pensar en servilismo mayor que este estilo de Europa.

Diego: Petras, le queremos agradecer muchísimo como siempre, obviamente que necesitábamos en este momento la palabra suya, el lunes posiblemente haya más elementos para ampliar esta información y el análisis que usted ha realizado. Muchísimas gracias por este contacto y le mando un abrazo muy grande…

Petras: Muchas gracias a vosotros, ojalá que el presidente de Uruguay tome una posición más fuerte que hasta ahora.

Jul 052013
 

Posted by Gürkan Özturan, 99GetSmart

General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi announces Morsi's removal

General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi announces Morsi’s removal

News predicting a possible military intervention in Egypt did not sound realistic a couple of days ago. As world media reported the massive protests, without events turning into violence, the situation in Egypt had seemed tense but hopeful. President Morsi had declared he would not give in to protesters and would actually defend “democracy” against all pressure.

Like many leaders in the same part of the world, he confused democracy with the share of voter support behind him and defended his stand based on the legitimacy of his presence in the presidency. However faulty it is to assume, unfortunately many people behind him viewed the situation as just because he had received the greatest number of votes, and accordingly he was allowed to abuse all liberties for self-promotion. This was the general attitude that millions of people have been protesting in the streets recently.

However, the military had issued a warning two days ago stating that unless Morsi established common ground to negotiate more sharing of power, they would have to intervene. The word “intervention” is cynical in this case, as what has in fact happened turns out to be a military coup. As the world watched in a “worrisome” mood, Morsi was pushed out of his position, and then came the declarations, reactions etc.

While I believe that the civilian people of Egypt, having mobilized such an immense protest on the streets, are capable of taking care of their problems in a democratic manner, the military’s involvement in this situation complicates a lot of things. First of all, it must be pointed out that no army can bring or sustain democratic principles, as has always been obvious in the history of mankind. All “liberating” armies have proven to be the next oppressors. Secondly, what has happened in Egypt seems to be a case of the military taking the initiative from the people and speaking in their name after taking Morsi down. However important the military declarations may be, the underlying psychology of any army cannot be perceived from in front of the cameras, especially because their power does not stem from the legitimate support of the people (no matter how big a group might call for the resignation of a ruler).

There have been mixed reactions throughout the world to Morsi’s ouster. Some people cheered because an Islamist ruler was forced out of power. Others resented seeing an Islamist lose power. But what actually happened was that an elected leader was forced out by the hand of a military commander who does not have the legitimate support of the people. It is hard to understand how anyone, especially those who have been supporting the protests globally – in Gezi Park, in Brazil, in Greece over ERT, in Bulgaria over DANS – can now cheer for the military coup in Egypt. Was it not democracy they were seeking, after all? If so, democracy is – or better, should be – an umbrella stretching out above all, including one’s most hated rivals. Any authoritarian ruler deserves to be protested and harshly criticized, yet it all needs to take place in a civil manner, using all the tools of a democratic society, and never through violence, shows of force, and the shadow of rifles and tanks.

I would like to believe that Egyptian society will wake up to a new day and realize that toppling a pharaoh only to erect a new one is useless and not an improvement; hopefully Egyptians will realize that the widely celebrated military coup of today is not the solution to their deeply rooted problems and not promising for the future of their people, country, and region.

MORE STORIES by Gürkan Özturan @ http://radicaldemocrat.blog.com

Jan 052012
 

 

* OCCUPY LIVESTREAM OPERATORS WILL BE HOMELESS AFTER THEY GET OUT OF JAIL

By Adam Martin, The Atlantic Wire

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Thursday update: A little after 10 p.m. on Wednesday, the six volunteers with the Occupy Wall Street live stream aggregator Globalrevolution.tv got out of jail in Brooklyn after they were arrested Tuesday for defying a city notice to vacate their building. A video of them immediately after their release showed them in good spirits, smoking cigarettes and eating cookies after about 30 or so hours in jail. After a lengthy tirade about corruption in law enforcement and a racially imbalanced jail population, Vlad Teichberg, one of the project’s key organizers, said, “it’s really good to be out.”

Original: Some of the six people arrested on Tuesday for violating a New York City order to vacate a building where the Global Revolution live stream is produced actually live there and won’t be able to return once they’re released from jail, which is expected sometime Wednesday afternoon.* One of the live stream’s key organizers, Vlad Teichberg, is a resident of 13 Thames St., the Bushwick, Brooklyn space that had recently served as the headquarters of Occupy Wall Street live feed aggregator Globalrevolution.tv. He and five other residents-cum-volunteers are still in police custody after they were hauled in for trespassing, obstructing governmental administration, and resisting arrest, Global Revolution organizer Nigel Parry told The Atlantic Wire on Wednesday.

The space at 13 Thames St., in Brooklyn is “kind of like a punk house, art space type thing,” Parry said. “Global Rev. has only just been moved there. But everyone who was arrested there has been there for quite a while … Vlad and some others had been living there for a year or two.” Tuesday’s raid wasn’t the first time the cops have visited the space. In April, 2010, police stopped by, reportedly entering without a warrant, as people at 13 Thames made plans for an anarchist film festival. The cops “accused the occupants of being illegal squatters and demanded identification.” Two who were at the space and showed their identifications turned out to have warrants and were arrested, The New York Times reported. In a November 2011 feature, the Greenpoint Gazette reported on the 40 or so creative types who work out of the space, recording albums, doing art, and practicing music. On Wednesday, Parry cited a rumor that the notice to vacate with which police served the space on Tuesday came from a year-old sprinkler violation. We’ve reached out to the New York Buildings Department to get the exact nature of the violation and will update this post when we hear back from them.

Meanwhile, Global Revolution and others on Twitter are taking issue with the charges reportedly filed against the six Global Revolution organizers that they resisted arrest. Global Revolution posted this video Tuesday night of the arrests going down. It does look fairly peaceful, for the most part: […]

UPDATE: OUT OF JAIL (VIDEO) @ http://yfrog.com/nlfe5z

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/01/occupy-livestream-operators-will-be-homeless-after-they-get-out-jail/46989/

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* PROTECT RIGHT TO PROTEST WHILE KEEPING CITY SAFE

Source: Chicago Sun-Times Editorial

There’s this to keep in mind about protesters: They’re often right. Over the course of American history, people have taken to the streets in favor of women’s suffrage and civil rights and against the Vietnam War.

There’s also this to keep in mind: They’re often wrong. In cities worldwide, G-8 protesters have showered police with rocks and firebombs, set fires, smashed windows and torched cars. In Seattle, World Trade Organization protesters in 1999 caused more than $2 million in damage.

This May, tens of thousands of people are expected to converge on Chicago to protest overlapping meetings among members of NATO and the Group of Eight — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Chicago, still scarred by the memory of clashes outside the 1968 Democratic Convention, could see its largest demonstrations in years.

As we said on New Year’s Day, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s challenge is to balance the right to protest with the need to protect the city, and so we see the justification in a number of new rules he’s pushing, though not all. Unfortunately, we now learn, the mayor’s intent is that the proposed new rules would be imposed permanently, rather than expire when the summits are over.

Calling the upcoming summits a “unique event with a unique attention to the city,” Emanuel is proposing, among other measures, to close parks and beaches until 6 a.m. instead of 4 a.m..; impose sweeping parade restrictions and higher fees for those events; and empower Police Supt. Garry McCarthy to “deputize law enforcement personnel” and forge cooperative agreements with a host of state, federal and local law enforcement agencies.

Except for closing the beaches longer at night, as we’ve said, these look to us like reasonable enough temporary measures. But where’s the great need to regulate public protests — considerably more than is done already — once the two big shows leave town?

While we’re at it, we should point out that Emanuel has yet to address one of the most fundamental rights of free speech during the upcoming summits — the right to shout where the shouting will actually be heard. At political conventions across the country in recent years, officials have so strictly limited where and when protestors can wave their signs and shout and chant — sometimes blocks away from the conventions — as to all but silence them.

Emanuel’s job, still as yet undone and overdone, is to draw up a clear set of rules that provide for public safety without squelching lawful dissent.

READ @ http://www.suntimes.com/opinions/9792450-474/editorial-protect-right-to-protest-while-keeping-city-safe.html

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* NY CITY COUNCIL PASSES RESOLUTION DECLARING THAT CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE

Source: Progressive Caucus of The New York City Council

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 4, 2012

CONTACT: Mary Tek, Coordinator

212-341-9509 / nyccprogresscaucus@gmail.com

City Council Passes Resolution Declaring that Corporations Are Not People

NEW YORK, NY — The Progressive Caucus of the City Council commends today’s passage of a resolution opposing the United States Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which gave corporations the same First Amendment rights as people. Progressive Caucus Members Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito and Steve Levin sponsored this resolution, with the entirety of the Progressive Caucus as co-sponsors. We thank Speaker Christine Quinn for her leadership on this important issue.

As our support of this resolution demonstrates, restoring confidence in government and strengthening democratic participation is a core principle of the Progressive Caucus. We believe that corporations should not share the same rights as people, that unlimited and unreported corporate donations meant to sway the electoral process should not be considered freedom of speech, and that the government should regulate the raising and spending of money by corporations intended to influence elections. We cannot allow corporate money to manipulate our democracy.

As Justice John Paul Stevens recognized in his dissent in the Citizens United decision, “corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help facilitate and structure the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”

The Progressive Caucus supports this sentiment and urges Congress to take action to protect our democracy against corporate control and return the election process to the people.

READ @ http://nycprogressives.com/2012/01/04/ny-city-council-passes-resolution-declaring-that-corporations-are-not-people/

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* DAHLIA WASFI EPIC SPEECH (VIDEO)

Source: youtube.com

WARNING: VERY GRAPHIC IMAGES

This video is mandatory viewing to all supporters of the war(s).

Narration used in the video is DAHLIA WASFI. Her website is http://www.liberatethis.com/

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCOqF8gZeh8

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* WAVE OF BOMBINGS LEAVES SCORES DEAD IN IRAQ

Source: Aljazeera

A suicide bomber targeting Shia pilgrims has killed at least 46 people and wounded at least 80 others in southern Iraq, Qusay al-Abadi, head of the provincial council in Nassiriya, told Reuters news agency.Local security sources said on Thursday the attack occurred at a police checkpoint in al-Badha area west of Nassiriya, 300km southeast of Baghdad, as pilgrims were walking to the shrine city of Karbala for Arbaeen commemorations.

This came hours after explosions in several mainly Shia Muslim neighbourhoods of eastern Baghdad killed at least 24 people and wounded a further 66, according to Iraqi officials.

Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, Baghdad military spokesman, said the aim of the attacks is “to create sedition among the Iraqi people”. He said it was too early to say who was behind the bombings.

Thursday’s attacks were the worst since a series of explosions across the Iraqi capital on December 22 killed 60 people.

Three bombs, one planted on a parked motorcycle and another two, also roadside devices, killed at least nine people and wounded 35 others in the impoverished Sadr City district in northeastern Baghdad, sources said.

“There was a group of day labourers gathered, waiting to be hired for work. Someone brought his small motorcycle and parked it nearby. A few minutes later it blew up, killed some people, wounded others and burned some cars,” a police officer at the scene, declining to be named, said.

“Political leaders fight each other for power, and we pay the price,” Ahmed Khalaf, a labourer near the site of attacks, said, alluding to the political tension between Sunni and Shia leaders.

Two bomb attacks in Kadhimiyah, another predominantly Shia district in Baghdad’s north, killed another 15 people and wounded 31, an interior ministry official said. […]

READ @ http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/01/2012155465176859.html

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UOqzah1po_I

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* Y2012 – THE YEAR OF THE COWARD

By Mark Sashine, OpEdNews

Obama is afraid of the people of the US. It is inconceivable that he was once a community organizer. He is so afraid of the people that this fear fills the void around him.

::::::::

Y2012 is   the year of the Dragon. That’s for   the whole world except for the US. In the US it is the designated   the   Year of a   Coward.    President Obama signed the   Defense Bill with   ” reservations’ (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57350607/obama-signs-defense-bill-with-reservations/ ).

The final moving part in the mechanism of dismantling of the USA’s already dysfunctional democracy has been installed. Now it is simply the matter of tuning and testing.

Obama was still our President before signing   the Bill but after that he is nothing but a puppet.

The saddest part of it is that he seems to have begun liking it.  This is very typical for cowards in power.  Being afraid of everything,  they prefer others to do the dirty job for them and at the final moment, “reluctantly and with reservations, to give the final approval.

I would guess Obama will go pray and then consider that his conscience is clean.   He could not do otherwise; he   had no choice. That’s what he will say in his prayer.   To us he will not say anything. He is not   responsible to the people anymore.  From now on desperation is his path.

This desperation is so obvious that even our TV- operators seem to feel it and show him in full swing very reluctantly, trying not to show his eyes. The more rancid, cowardly nonsense he delivers (obviously,  following the instructions), the sadder his eyes become and even his   natural cool demeanor is there no more.  Nobody can deceive thyself and Obama knows what he had become. Now he learns to like his new transformed self.

Jean- Paul Sartre   said, “A traitor betrays because he was a traitor all along.”   Same with cowardice.   I am not saying that Obama was a born coward. But cowardice   was offered to him as  a path early in life and he took it   most likely because he was inclined to do so. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=143637

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* DEMOCRATIC PARTY PRIORITIES

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Much of the reaction to the article I wrote last Saturday regarding progressives, the Obama presidency and Ron Paul (as well as reaction to this essay by Matt Stoller and even this tweet from Katrina vanden Heuvel) relied on exactly the sort of blatant distortions that I began that article by anticipating and renouncing: that I was endorsing Paul as the best presidential candidate, that I was urging progressives to sacrifice reproductive rights in order to vote for him over Obama, that I “pretend[ed] that the differences between Obama and Paul on economics [and other domestic issues] are marginal”; that Paul’s bad positions negate the argument I made; that Ron Paul is my “hero,” etc. etc. So self-evidently petty and slimy are those kinds of distortions that (other than to note their falsehoods for the record) they warrant no discussion; indeed, as I wrote: “So potent is this poison that no inoculation against it exists” and would thus “proceed to make a couple of important points about both candidacies even knowing in advance how wildly they will be distorted.”

That said, it’s hard to believe that these distortions are anything but deliberate — deterrence-driven punishment for the ultimate Election Year crime of partisan heresy: i.e., suggesting that someone is uniquely advocating important ideas even though they lack a “D” after their name – given that (a) I expressly renounced in advance the beliefs now being attributed to me and, more important (b) the point I was actually making was clear and not all that complex. Here’s Political Science Professor Corey Robin explaining it:

Our problem—and again by “our” I mean a left that’s social democratic (or welfare state liberal or economically progressive or whatever the hell you want to call it) and anti-imperial—is that we don’t really have a vigorous national spokesperson for the issues of war and peace, an end to empire, a challenge to Israel, and so forth, that Paul has in fact been articulating. . . . But he is talking about these issues, often in surprisingly blunt and challenging terms. Would that we had someone on our side who could make the case against an American empire, or American supremacy, in such a pungent way.

This, it’s clear, is why people like Glenn Greenwald say that Paul’s voice needs to be heard.  Not, Greenwald makes clear, because he supports Paul, but because it is a terrible comment—a shanda for the left—that we don’t have anyone on our side of comparable visibility launching an attack on American imperialism and warfare. (Recalling what I said in the context of the death of Christopher Hitchens, I suspect this has something to do with our normalization and acceptance of war as a way of life.) . . . [Paul] reveals what’s not being said, or not being said enough, on our side.

One can agree or disagree with it, of course, but there’s simply no way to fail to understand that point (or, worse, to distort it into something it isn’t) absent a desire not to understand it. The probability that Ron Paul will win the GOP nomination or ever be President is, in my view, non-existent. Whether one should support his candidacy for President or whether he would make a good President is completely irrelevant to the argument I (and Stoller) made; the point is exactly what Robin describes there. And that’s just obvious (for an excellent examination of Paul’s debate-enhancing benefits, see this video clip of a discussion about Paul from Glenn Loury and John McWhorter).

The one addition I would make to Robin’s summary of my position is that the problem isn’t merely that there is nobody else with a national platform besides Paul making these arguments on issues that are vital, not secondary. The problem is worse than that: it’s that the national standard-bearer of progressives, of Democrats — Barack Obama — is largely on the opposite side of these questions. More important, his actions are the antithesis of them. Given that the presidential campaign will dominate political discourse for the next year and shape how Americans understand politics generally, it’s impossible for these views to be aired by confining oneself to cheerleading for the Obama 2012 campaign because the President is an opponent of those views. Thus, the only way these views will get an airing is by finding some other tactic, some other means, for having them heard.

The chances that any of these issues will be debated in an Obama/Romney presidential contest are exactly zero. On all of these issues — Endless War, empire, steadfast devotion to the Israeli government, due-process-free assassinations, multiple-nation drone assaults, escalating confrontation with Iran, the secretive, unchecked Surveillance and National Security States, the sadistic and racist Drug War, the full-scale capture of the political process by bankers and oligarchs — Romney is fully supportive of President Obama’s actions (except to the extent he argues they don’t go far enough: and those critiques will almost certainly be modulated once the primary is over, resulting in ever greater convergence between the two). As National Journal‘s Michael Hirsh put it yesterday: “In truth, Obama and Romney are far closer in mindset and philosophy than anyone is willing to acknowledge just now.” He adds:

Obama, despite his image, has sought to placate business and left Wall Street largely intact, and he is taking a far tougher line on foreign policy–one that reflects a traditional GOP “realpolitik” view and a dramatic ratcheting up of covert war– than is generally acknowledged, even when it comes to China.

Romney, increasingly desperate to win over his base against the onslaught of “Not-Romneys,” has allowed his rhetoric to grow more inflamed on the trail, including commitments to a balanced-budget amendment and partially voucherizing Medicare as well as eliminating Obamacare. But based on his history, if he gets the nomination he is unlikely to follow through fully on these overheated pre-primary pledges and do many things dramatically differently, either on the economy or foreign policy. The problems of slow growth, chronic deficits and an overextended military will inevitably lend themselves to similar solutions from either an Obama or a Romney administration.

Matt Taibbi put it even more bluntly:

The 2012 presidential race officially begins today with the caucuses in Iowa, and we all know what that means . . .

Nothing. . . .

The reason 2012 feels so empty now is that voters on both sides of the aisle are not just tired of this state of affairs, they are disgusted by it. They want a chance to choose their own leaders and they want full control over policy, not just a partial say. There are a few challenges to this state of affairs within the electoral process – as much as I disagree with Paul about many things, I do think his campaign is a real outlet for these complaints – but everyone knows that in the end, once the primaries are finished, we’re going to be left with one 1%-approved stooge taking on another.

Most likely, it’ll be Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama, meaning the voters’ choices in the midst of a massive global economic crisis brought on in large part by corruption in the financial services industry will be a private equity parasite who has been a lifelong champion of the Gordon Gekko Greed-is-Good ethos (Romney), versus a paper progressive who in 2008 took, by himself, more money from Wall Street than any two previous presidential candidates, and in the four years since has showered Wall Street with bailouts while failing to push even one successful corruption prosecution (Obama).

There are obvious, even significant differences between Obama and someone like Mitt Romney, particularly on social issues, but no matter how Obama markets himself this time around, a choice between these two will not in any way represent a choice between “change” and the status quo. This is a choice between two different versions of the status quo, and everyone knows it.

For those who are extremely dissatisfied with the status quo in American political life and are seeking ways to change it, supporting one of the two major-party candidates in the 2012 presidential campaign as the principal form of activism offers no solution. That’s not an endorsement for resignation, apathy, non-voting, voting for a third party, or anything else. It’s just a simple statement of fact: on many issues that progressives themselves have long claimed are of critical, overarching importance (not all, but many), there will be virtually no debate in the election because there are virtually no differences between the two candidates and the two parties on those questions. In the face of that fact, there are two choices: (1) simply accept it (and thus bolster it) on the basis that the only political priority that matters is keeping the Democratic Party and Barack Obama empowered; or (2) searching for ways to change the terms of the debate so that critical views that are now excluded by bipartisan consensus instead end up being heard. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/01/05/democratic_party_priorities/singleton/

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* EGYPTS SALAFI SURGE

These guys make the Muslim Brotherhood look like latte liberals.

By Sarah A. Topol, Foreign Policy

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MANSOURA, Egypt — It’s the morning of the third and final round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections and Ammar Fayed, an activist for the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, is nervous as hell.

The 28-year-old marketing manager, who sits on the executive board of the youth branch of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in the governorate of Dakahlia, sports a tiny FJP pin on the lapel of his gray blazer and a thumb stained blue from voting. He explains the situation: Thirty-six seats are up for grabs in this province in the fertile Nile Delta. The conservative region is in the Brotherhood’s heartland — it should have been a cakewalk.

There’s just one problem, Fayed admits: “We made a fundamental miscalculation.”

The Brotherhood has found itself outflanked on the right by the Salafi al-Nour Party, which has challenged the movement’s religious credentials and gained a surprising degree of traction in the process. The Salafis appear poised to claim between 25 and 30 percent of the vote, though the Brotherhood could still win an outright majority and will certainly become the largest party in the new parliament.

Who could have predicted that the Salafis — adherents to a fundamentalist version of Islam that until Egypt’s revolution eschewed politics as un-Islamic — would morph into an electoral powerhouse? Even the Brotherhood, whose vote-counting abilities would impress the likes of Karl Rove, never saw it coming, and the Salafis’ success threatens to upend the movement’s carefully laid plans for dominating Egypt’s post-revolutionary political scene.

After decades of trying to convince Egypt’s liberals, leftists, and other activists of their seriousness in solving the country’s titanic economic problems, the Brothers suddenly find themselves forced to talk about how and when they will implement Islamic law. Not only do their efforts to bolster the movement’s religious credentials promise to cause tensions with the other parliamentary blocs, but conflicts with the al-Nour Party will also provide useful fodder for Egypt’s calculating military rulers, who could exploit the rivalry to keep themselves in power and above scrutiny.

The Brotherhood can’t afford to ignore the Salafis’ rise. Nour is “directly attacking our core,” Fayed complains, “saying the Brotherhood is a party like any other, that it is playing politics instead of being a guardian of Islam.”

The two Islamist factions are already trading barbs over the most divisive issue: legislating Islamic law. To get the Salafis’ perspective, I met Ibrahim AbdulRahman, the bushy-bearded Nour spokesman in Dakahlia governorate. He names the place: an upscale coffee shop in the center of the city of Mansoura.

It was a difficult interview: The Salafis don’t seem particularly keen on explaining themselves to foreign reporters. AbdulRahman slumped in his chair and spent most of his time averting any attempt at a genuine conversation, at first denying Nour was a religious party and feigning confusion as to why Christians weren’t running on its ticket, despite public statements by its leaders that their party would never support a Christian president.

After about 20 minutes of useless chatter, AbdulRahman finally stuck the knife into his competitors. “I would say that Salafis and the Nour Party are more aware of the religious sciences and know religion more than the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

The parties’ disagreement over how quickly to implement sharia law, AbdulRahman explained, is at the center of their conflict. “For the Nour Party, one of the primary major goals is to implement sharia at the nearest possible opportunity,” he said. […]

READ @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/01/04/egypt_s_salafi_surge?page=full

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* ITALY’S POLITICIANS REVEALED BY P.M. AS HIGHEST PAID IN EUROPE

Italy’s new prime minister, Mario Monti, has made public the details of the jaw-dropping salaries and perks enjoyed by the country’s lawmakers—as Italians suffer cuts.

By Barbie Latza Nadeau, Daily Beast

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Italian prime minister Mario Monti., AFP / Getty Images

Italy’s new prime minister, Mario Monti, has one of the least enviable jobs in the entire European Union, and it’s about to get even worse. After Silvio Berlusconi’s sensational resignation last November, the former European Union commissioner was tasked with wrangling control of Italy’s economic debacle and solving the country’s $2.6 trillion debt crisis that threatens to bring down the euro zone and its single currency. Now he’s facing an angry Parliament whose members resent the fact that he just outed their best-kept secret: that they earn far more money in salaries and benefits than any other elected lawmakers in the European Union—even as ordinary Italians are bearing the brunt of the austerity measures now on the table.

Including perks and expenses, the average Italian lawmaker’s gross pay tops $20,700 each month—with the highest earners exceeding $26,000 a month—more than some Italians make in an entire year, according to a survey commissioned by Monti’s new government. Italian legislators earn $2,600 more than French lawmakers, Europe’s second-highest earners, and nearly $5,200 more than their German counterparts earn each month. Their pay is nearly quadruple the government salaries of the Spanish parliamentarians, who earn just $6,000 a month and considerably higher than their British counterparts, who gross $8,400 each month, including perks. Many Italian lawmakers also legally collect income from other sources, including private businesses, consultancies, and legal and medical practices—salaries that are often tax free because of the lawmakers’ parliamentary status. The confirmation of Italy’s excessive government expenditures comes as everyday Italians take multiple hits, from a new property tax on primary residences to a hefty augmentation of fuel prices at the pumps (gas now tops $8 a gallon). Further cuts and the impending liberalization of many of Italy’s job sectors have caused unease among private citizens whose employment can now be easily terminated and whose futures seem increasingly uncertain.

Now it’s up to Monti, who has waived his own salary for the two jobs he currently holds—prime minister and economy minister—to let the air out of Italy’s bloated public sector, which has played such an obvious role in keeping the country dormant and debt-ridden for decades. Lawmakers’ benefit packages are an obvious place to start. It’s an issue that has been hotly debated in Italy for months, starting with the popular Facebook page called “Spider Truman” that reveals secrets from inside Italy’s Parliament. A recent provocative posting summed up the situation: “Anna, 74-year-old retiree, $550 a month; Domenico Scilipoti, 54-year-old parliamentarian, $18,920 a month—This is Italy.”

Monti’s report, a survey he commissioned soon after he became prime minister, confirms that Italian lawmakers travel free by air, rail, road, and sea within Italy, yet they can still file for up to $1,700 in receipt-free travel expenses as part of their monthly earnings. They are each given a tax-free housing allowance to live in Rome—even if they already own private houses in the capital. They are given $5,000 every month in secretarial and research support costs on top of their salaries, even if they use the parliamentary staff or choose not to employ their own staff. They enjoy subsidized dining in a gourmet cafeteria where they eat T-bone steaks and grilled swordfish for just a few dollars per plate, not to mention enjoying the services of hairdressers, barbers, and manicurists. There is even an expensive private restroom and other services in Parliament for Vladimir Luxuria, Italy’s transgender lawmaker who is not welcome in either the men’s or ladies’ bathrooms in the Parliament building. Police escorts are provided for parliamentarians’ families, even when they are on personal business. Parliamentarians need only serve one term to enjoy the benefit of a full state pension, while ordinary Italians have to work for years to earn their meager private-sector pensions. There are also parliamentary discounts offered by many of Rome’s designer boutiques, and there is a subsidized phone service on offer from Italy’s cellphone providers. The list is virtually endless, from free access to tony beaches and free movie and opera tickets on request. […]

READ @ http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/01/04/italy-s-politicians-revealed-by-pm-as-highest-paid-in-europe.html

Dec 312011
 

* BEST CHICAGO ART OF 2011: GALLERIES AND EXHIBITIONS THAT PUT THE CITY ON THE MAP (PHOTOS)

By Abraham Ritchie, HuffPo

h/t Jagoff Publishing @ http://thejagoff.com/

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Western Exhibitions’ “Heads on Poles” exhibit. Photo courtesy ArtSlant Chicago.

As 2011 winds to an end, we reached out to some of Chicago’s experts in style, music, art and more to share some of their favorite places, people and things of the year. Already this week, Pete Zimmerman of CHIRP Radio and The Steve Dahl Show rounded up his favorite Chicago bands, albums and songs of 2011. Thursday, Refinery 29’s Chicago Editor Shani Silver shared the local shops and designers she admired this year, while the crew at Chicago Theater Beat revealed their picks for the city’s best plays of the year.

Below, ArtSlant Chicago Editor Abraham Ritchie shares his picks for the top contemporary art exhibits, galleries and other highlights from the year in contemporary art.

2011 was a solid year for art in Chicago, with quality art appearing in all areas of the city consistently throughout the year. The galleries in the 119 North Peoria Street building, threewalls, Western Exhibitions and Golden Age, were consistently strong all year and deserve a special nod, as they will get below. Steps away from Peoria Street, 65GRAND had excellent exhibitions particularly in painting and, unexpectedly, the monochrome. Though we had to bid goodbye as some of our favorite galleries closed this year: Golden Age, Walsh Gallery and Noble and Superior Projects, the city’s continued artistic and intellectual vitality assures us new visions are already emerging. Promising galleries like Ebersmoore, Chicago Urban Art Society and Alderman Exhibitions have taken part in the annual migration to bigger and better spaces. Going into 2012, there are many reasons to be optimistic. […]

READ @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/29/best-chicago-art-of-2011-_n_1175382.html?ref=chica

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* THE MOST INTERESTING DOCUMENTARIES OF THE YEAR (VIDEOS)

Source: Mother Jones

Gerrymandering

Though gerrymandering is nearly as old as the Republic—its namesake was early 19th century Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry (pronounced “Gary,” if you please)—it’s never really been a hot-button issue for voters. Gerrymandering seeks to change that with an entertaining yet outraged look at the odd practice of letting politicians pick their voters. Just consider the case of Barack Obama, who got a major career boost when he helped redraw the boundaries of his mostly black Illinois state Senate district so it represented white liberals.

A bipartisan cast of talking heads, including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Howard Dean, make the case for reform. But Gerrymandering walks the boundary between documentary and political ad: Just as I received a review DVD at work, I also received a copy at home—mailed to me and other Golden State voters by the backers of a redistricting reform proposition. —Dave Gilson

The Stinking Ship

One night in August 2006, a tanker chartered by Trafigura, a British oil trader, anchored off the Ivory Coast and illegally unloaded 500 tons of toxic waste into Abidjan’s landfills. The pungent, blistering sludge killed 16 and hospitalized more than 100,000. Director Bagassi Koura’s short documentary skillfully chronicles how Trafigura dodged environmental regulations to save a mere $300,000, only to spend millions trying to cover up its responsibility.

What makes The Stinking Ship so heartbreaking are the stories of the people still living with the effects of the “Ivorian Chernobyl,” which has yet to be fully cleaned up. A community leader laments, “When it rains or it’s windy, frankly we can’t live in the village. The stench reaches far beyond it. We are walking dead.” —Titania Kumeh

POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Morgan Spurlock downed a month of McDonald’s for our fast-food sins in his notorious 2004 film Super Size Me. Now he’s aiming to show us how ad-soaked our lives have become by financing an entire doc about the ubiquity of product placement using—what else?—product placement. The title is no joke; Spurlock pitches POM the naming rights on camera. From then on, he is shown imbibing only the pomegranate beverage, while other drink brands are visibly blurred out. He flies exclusively on JetBlue, wears Merrell shoes (giving a pair to Ralph Nader), and drives Mini Coopers. His contracts obligate him to interview anti-commercialization advocate Susan Linn at a Sheetz gas station, and to stay at a Hyatt when he travels to São Paolo to cover the city’s outdoor ad ban.

While amusing as a meta-commercial packaged as an inquiry into artistic integrity, the film inevitably feels like a stunt. The slyest touch may be that amid the hawking and well-worn revelations about advertising, the biggest sell is for the amiable Spurlock as the genre’s reigning goofball tour guide. All that’s missing is the obligatory survey question: Are you more or less likely to purchase this brand in the future? —Robert Abele

[…]

COMPLETE LIST w/ VIDEOS @ http://motherjones.com/media/2011/12/best-documentary-films-of-year

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* THE BOOK OF JOBS

By Joseph E. Stiglitz, Vanity Fair

Forget monetary policy. Re-examining the cause of the Great Depression—the revolution in agriculture that threw millions out of work—the author argues that the U.S. is now facing and must manage a similar shift in the “real” economy, from industry to service, or risk a tragic replay of 80 years ago.

It has now been almost five years since the bursting of the housing bubble, and four years since the onset of the recession. There are 6.6 million fewer jobs in the United States than there were four years ago. Some 23 million Americans who would like to work full-time cannot get a job. Almost half of those who are unemployed have been unemployed long-term. Wages are falling—the real income of a typical American household is now below the level it was in 1997.

We knew the crisis was serious back in 2008. And we thought we knew who the “bad guys” were—the nation’s big banks, which through cynical lending and reckless gambling had brought the U.S. to the brink of ruin. The Bush and Obama administrations justified a bailout on the grounds that only if the banks were handed money without limit—and without conditions—could the economy recover. We did this not because we loved the banks but because (we were told) we couldn’t do without the lending that they made possible. Many, especially in the financial sector, argued that strong, resolute, and generous action to save not just the banks but the bankers, their shareholders, and their creditors would return the economy to where it had been before the crisis. In the meantime, a short-term stimulus, moderate in size, would suffice to tide the economy over until the banks could be restored to health.

The banks got their bailout. Some of the money went to bonuses. Little of it went to lending. And the economy didn’t really recover—output is barely greater than it was before the crisis, and the job situation is bleak. The diagnosis of our condition and the prescription that followed from it were incorrect. First, it was wrong to think that the bankers would mend their ways—that they would start to lend, if only they were treated nicely enough. We were told, in effect: “Don’t put conditions on the banks to require them to restructure the mortgages or to behave more honestly in their foreclosures. Don’t force them to use the money to lend. Such conditions will upset our delicate markets.” In the end, bank managers looked out for themselves and did what they are accustomed to doing.

Even when we fully repair the banking system, we’ll still be in deep trouble—because we were already in deep trouble. That seeming golden age of 2007 was far from a paradise. Yes, America had many things about which it could be proud. Companies in the information-technology field were at the leading edge of a revolution. But incomes for most working Americans still hadn’t returned to their levels prior to the previous recession. The American standard of living was sustained only by rising debt—debt so large that the U.S. savings rate had dropped to near zero. And “zero” doesn’t really tell the story. Because the rich have always been able to save a significant percentage of their income, putting them in the positive column, an average rate of close to zero means that everyone else must be in negative numbers. (Here’s the reality: in the years leading up to the recession, according to research done by my Columbia University colleague Bruce Greenwald, the bottom 80 percent of the American population had been spending around 110 percent of its income.) What made this level of indebtedness possible was the housing bubble, which Alan Greenspan and then Ben Bernanke, chairmen of the Federal Reserve Board, helped to engineer through low interest rates and nonregulation—not even using the regulatory tools they had. As we now know, this enabled banks to lend and households to borrow on the basis of assets whose value was determined in part by mass delusion. […]

READ @ http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/01/stiglitz-depression-201201

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* INFILTRATING CONGRESS

By David Swanson, War Is A Crime

I cannot stress sufficiently that we will best move Congress toward peace and justice by keeping it at arm’s length and pressuring it without self-censorship, compromise, or entanglement with one or the other of its two branches: the Democratic or Republican. We are engaged in a long-term campaign to undo a plutocratic war state. Moving that campaign forward in the general culture is more important than which criminal enterprise has a majority of seats: the Democratic or Republican.

But it will be advantageous to us to have as many individuals with some nerve and a core of human decency occupying seats in Congress — perhaps as many as three or four of them if we are lucky. While only a mass movement will move the mass of corporate shills on Capitol Hill, it cannot hurt to have a few people there who are seriously on our side, people who understand where we are coming from without being taught, people who can communicate in front of a camera, people who are willing to step out alone and lead, and people capable of organizing others to join them.

Most elections pair up lesser and greater evils, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. But some handful of elections, especially primaries, include actually good candidates. I understand the presidential obsession. We’ve given presidents royal powers, so it matters that we show resistance to each would-be king by backing someone who would conceivably give those powers back, such as Rocky Anderson or Jill Stein. And I understand local action. But most localities don’t offer anything, and most general elections have already been decided by the gerrymanderers. If you must focus on elections, why not look to the few places that could make a real difference?

The best voice the peace movement has had in elected Washington in recent years has been Congressman Dennis Kucinich. He’s pushed the rest of the House of Misrepresentatives to places it had no desire to go. If we lose his voice in Washington, we will be taking a serious step backward. The point is not that we need elected officials to tell us what we want. The point is that only the very rarest of elected officials ever listen to what we want. Kucinich is one of them. The Ohio legislature has combined Kucinich’s district with Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s. These two Democratic incumbents will compete in one primary. That Kaptur is not the worst member of Congress we’ve ever seen, that she has in fact been remarkably good on occasion, does not alter the pressing need to keep a voice for peace in official Washington. […]

READ @ http://warisacrime.org/content/infiltrating-congress

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* TYRANNY IS A BIPARTISAN DISEASE

By Washington’s Blog

Extremists on Both the Right and the Left Like Tyranny

Lou Rockwell notes:

The most definitive study on fascism written in [the first half of the 20th century] was As We Go Marching by John T. Flynn. Flynn was a journalist and scholar of a liberal spirit who had written a number of best-selling books in the 1920s. He could probably be put in the progressive camp in the 1920s.

***

In reviewing the history of the rise of fascism, Flynn wrote:

One of the most baffling phenomena of fascism is the almost incredible collaboration between men of the extreme Right and the extreme Left in its creation.

***

If you think about it, right-wing statism is of a different color, cast, and tone from left-wing statism. Each is designed to appeal to a different set of voters with different interests and values.

These divisions, however, are not strict, and we’ve already seen how a left-wing socialist program can adapt itself and become a right-wing fascist program with very little substantive change other than its marketing program [or vice versa].

How Can Supposed “Right” and “Left” Wing People Both Be for Tyranny?

The short answer, of course, is that tyrannical interests may wear different masks, but it is just a dog-and-pony show meant to distract us into artificial “teams”.

George W. Bush cracked down on constitutional liberties such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and due process.

Obama has done the same … and has cracked down even harder.

Both Bush and Obama are waging brutal, unnecessary and insanely expensive wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Indeed, these wars were planned before either Bush or Obama. Both Democratic and Republican leaders are servants to the military-industrial complex, and they both accept the wholly-debunked myth that war is good for the economy (and see this).

Both Bush and Obama have both allowed crony capitalism to flourish. How can this be, when they are from such different sides of the aisle?

Because “fascism” (on the right), Soviet style “socialism” (on the left) and crony capitalism (a more modern, Western term) are all the exact same thing economically. They are all about an unholy alliance between a handful of corrupt, banana republic style government leaders and giant companies run amok.

Tyranny is a bipartisan disease. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/12/tyranny-is-a-bipartisan-disease.html

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* We Request to Inform You that You Inform Us We Killed Another Drone Target

By Marcy Wheeler, Emptywheel

I want to follow-up on Jim’s latest drone post–and go back to Greg Miller’s article on drones–to look at the the approval process. A lot of readers of Miller’s article noted this passage, revealing that JSOC continues to avoid the kind of (minimal) oversight that CIA gets.

There is no comparable requirement in Title 10, and the Senate Armed Services Committee can go days before learning the details of JSOC strikes.

But read the whole passage in context.

Within 24 hours of every CIA drone strike, a classified fax machine lights up in the secure spaces of the Senate Intelligence Committee, spitting out a report on the location, target and result.

The outdated procedure reflects the agency’s effort to comply with Title 50 requirements that Congress be provided with timely, written notification of covert action overseas. There is no comparable requirement in Title 10, and the Senate Armed Services Committee can go days before learning the details of JSOC strikes.

Neither panel is in position to compare the CIA and JSOC kill lists or even arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the rules by which each is assembled.

The senior administration official said the gap is inadvertent. “It’s certainly not something where the goal is to evade oversight,” the official said. A senior Senate aide involved in reviewing military drone strikes said that the blind spot reflects a failure by Congress to adapt but that “we will eventually catch up.”

The disclosure of these operations is generally limited to relevant committees in the House and Senate and sometimes only to their leaders. Those briefed must abide by restrictions that prevent them from discussing what they have learned with those who lack the requisite security clearances. The vast majority of lawmakers receives scant information about the administration’s drone program.

In addition to the long-standing problem of JSOC avoiding oversight (and, implicitly, that this notice apparently comes after the fact, when CIA sends a fax over, which is a little late for the Intelligence Committees to weigh in, IMO), Miller lays out the following:

  • No one–not the intelligence committees or even the Gang of Four–gets enough insight into the drone programs to understand how JSOC’s practices differ from CIA’s (this is consistent with what the Gang of Four said about Anwar al-Awlaki’s killing, given that they said they never saw the kill lists)
  • As is typical, the intelligence committee overseers can’t share information from briefings with their colleagues not read into the program (this is how the Bush Administration gutted intelligence committee oversight of the torture and illegal wiretap programs)

But don’t worry, a senior Administration official says, this time, this secrecy is not designed specifically to avoid oversight.

Apparently, this SAO’s interlocutors don’t agree, because the WSJ’s Adam Entous and Siobhan Gorman have a similar story out today, just three days after Miller’s, quoting “current and former administration, military and congressional officials” complaining about oversight gaps.

While few U.S. lawmakers question the effectiveness of the targeted killing campaigns, some top lawmakers complain about what they see as excessive White House secrecy about how targets are chosen and how the administration justified the killings, particularly of American citizens.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, has been publicly and privately pressing the Justice Department to let his committee review the secret memorandum prepared by Justice Department lawyers that endorsed the legality of killing U.S. citizens abroad.

Similar qualms have come from members of the House and Senate armed services committees, who have also sought more information in particular about the CIA’s drone program (they have some oversight over the drones run by the Defense Department).

We’ve seen this movie already. The refusal to release OLC opinions to DOJ’s oversight committee(s); the use of committee jurisdictional oddities to avoid oversight; the appeal to secrecy. All of this comes directly from the Bush script on hiding illegal programs from Congress.

And yet all of the people presumably bitching–folks like Pat Leahy, Carl Levin, John McCain, Buck McKeon, and Adam Smith presumably–just passed language leaving the Administration’s authority to use deadly force while pretending to try to detain American citizens with a drone intact.

Hey Congress! With Bush you were usually most successful forcing more transparency by refusing to pass legislation until you got that transparency. Maybe you should have tried that here?

In any case, Obama’s anonymous leakers poo poo the entire notion of functional Congressional oversight. […]

READ @ http://www.emptywheel.net/2011/12/30/we-request-to-inform-you-that-you-inform-us-we-killed-another-drone-target/

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* ENSHRINING THE LIES OF THE U.S. 1%

By Paul Rosenberg, Aljazeera

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The US has yet to come to terms with its biggest pack of lies of the last decade, the pack of lies on which the Iraq War was based, which left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, and the entire nation shattered. [GALLO/GETTY]

Last week, in an act of profound deception, the American “fact-checking” organisation, PolitiFact, chose a true statement as its “Lie of the Year”. The pseudo-lie?  “[House] Republicans voted to end Medicare”, as part of the GOP’s “Ryan Plan” last April. The reality? As the Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid wrote at the time, in a preview of the votethat Democrats would then cite to justify their claims:The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the healthcare bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a programme that directly pays those bills. Mr Ryan and other conservatives say this is necessary because of the programme’s soaring costs.

There is a potential lie-of-the-year in that paragraph. It’s just not the one that PolitiFact thinks it found.

The real lie is the claim that Ryan’s plan “is necessary because of the programme’s soaring costs”. In fact, the problem isn’t Medicare per se, it’s the entire cost structure of American medicine as a whole, which is roughly twice the per capita cost of healthcare spending in other advanced countries – even those that have 50 per cent more people aged 65+ than the US has.

The reason for that cost structure is non-competitive private oligopolies – insurance companies, drug companies, hospital chains, etc., – in sharp contrast to other countries with their government-run systems of various different kinds. There’s another name for these oligopolies -they are the cash cows of the one per cent. Paul Ryan is their man, and PolitiFact is part of their protection system.

Indeed, as Thomas Ferguson and Robert Johnson explained just over a year ago, in their paper “A World Upside Down? Deficit Fantasies in the Great Recession”, all of the US long-term federal debt is due to just three oligopoly sectors: the military-industrial complex (the backbone of empire, with bases all around the world and almost half the world’s military spending), the medical-industrial complex (with twice the per capita costs of other systems), and the financial sector (which has recently cost trillions of dollars in lost wealth and economic activity).

All three of these are enormous cash cows for the onr per cent, and equally enormous cost-centres for the 99 per cent. Without the costs imposed by lack of competition, regulation and accountability in these sectors, the US would have no long-term debt problem. We would be paying it down, rather than running it up. […]

READ @ http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/12/2011122994027989871.html

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* PAYBACK FOR PAID REVOLUTION? EGYPTIAN POLICE RAID U.S. NGOs

Source: RT 

h/t SnakeArbusto

Police in Cairo have today raided 17 civil society organizations as the country’s military rulers seek to find out exactly who has been funding the Egyptian revolution.

­As several of the pro-democracy and human rights groups were at the forefront of the revolution that swept through the country last January, Egyptian authorities have become increasingly interested in the foreign funding many of these groups receive.

At least three of the human rights groups targeted in Thursday’s operation, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Freedom House, and the International Republican Institute (IRI), are based in the US.

“Security forces who said they were from the public prosecutor are raiding our offices as we speak. They are grabbing all the papers and laptops as well,” said one person working at NDI, who gave her name as Rawda, told Reuters.

The Washington-based IRI, which has served as an election monitor in Egypt’s ongoing parliamentary elections, reacted harshly to the raids.

“IRI has been working with Egyptians since 2005; it is ironic that even during the Mubarak era IRI was not subjected to such aggressive action,” a statement by the group read, Al Arabiya reports.

­US reaction

The campaign has drawn immediate response from the United States. The State Department has characterized the raids as “inconsistent with the bilateral cooperation” that the two countries have had over years and urged Egyptian authorities to immediately halt their “harassment” of NGOs.

It has also made it clear that America could review its US $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt. The spokeswoman for the State Department, Victoria Nuland, has indicated that these payments may not be sanctioned by the Congress if Egyptian government does not reverse the situation.

“We do have a number of new reporting and transparency requirements on funding to Egypt that we have to make to Congress,” Nuland said. “The Egyptian government is well aware of that and it certainly needs to be aware of that in the context of how quickly this issue gets resolved.”

Meanwhile, 28 Egyptian rights groups came up with a joint statement on Friday accusing the country’s ruling military council of using “Hosni Mubarak-era repressive tools” in waging an “unprecedented campaign” against pro-democracy organizations, AP reports. The statement says the attacks herald a wider clampdown to target leaders of the uprising and are aimed at “liquidating” those behind the revolution.

READ and VIDEOS @ http://rt.com/news/egypt-police-raid-ngo-953/

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* WTO CONSISTENTLY RULES AGAINST THE PUBLIC INTEREST

By Karl Rusnak, Economy In Crisis

The World Trade Organization (WTO) was allegedly intended to benefit all of its members by increasing economic activity, but the reality has been quite different. The WTO has been a boon to multinational corporations, but has worked against the best interest of average citizens, particularly in the United States. According to Public Citizen, the WTO has ruled against the U.S. in 100 percent of the cases where a complaint was brought against a U.S. public interest law.

A major example of this occurred earlier this year when the WTO ruled against the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTC) of 2009, saying that it violated WTO rules. The law was intended to help combat teenage smoking by banning flavored cigarettes. There is considerable evidence that flavored cigarettes were targeted at younger potential smokers, which contributed to many young people developing lifelong addictions. It is no secret that cigarette smoking is a health hazard, and this measure was clearly intended as a public health measure, not a trade related measure.

Despite this fact, Indonesia filed a complaint with the WTO alleging that FSPTC represented an illegal barrier to trade. The complaint alleged that the ban on flavored cigarettes was “discriminatory and unnecessary.” Indonesia had  been the primary exporter of clove cigarettes to the United States before they were banned by this new law. Indonesia argued that because menthol cigarettes were still allowed under the law, the ban on other flavored cigarettes was discriminatory. This argument falls flat because the decision to continue to sell menthol and regular cigarettes was based on the fact that many older adults utilize these products, whereas the flavored cigarettes are almost exclusively used by young adults and new smokers. […]

READ @ http://economyincrisis.org/content/wto-consistently-rules-against-the-public-interest

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* IRAN, ANOTHER FALSE ENEMY?

By Stephen Merrill, Information Clearing House

Is Iran truly a country so bent on murdering innocent Americans it embraces its own nuclear annihilation, unlike any other nation now or previously, utter, complete defeat at war?

This is the claim made by the pro-warfare wing of the Republicrat Party, seven out of eight candidates seeking the Republican nomination for President. It is a given within this frightened circle that Iranians are willing to commit mass suicide as a people just to make a negative point about the freedoms enjoyed in the United States.

The warfare candidates in their many words on the subject betray little personal knowledge of Iranian history or proclivities. The main evidence cited in favor of a US military attack on Iran is the rants of the staged showman of the mullah empire, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Even he has never stated that Iran is willing to die as a nation just to launch one nuclear attack of its own on Israel or the United States. With an impoverished economy, a strong protest movement, no known weapons of mass destruction and no direct capacity to deliver a nuclear missile even close to Tel Aviv, Iran seems an odd nation for the West to be so frightened of. […]

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30111.htm

Dec 082011
 

 

* LEON PANETTA IS FULL OF SHIT

By Barry Eisler, Information Clearing House

In a letter to Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, Panetta warned that after possible cuts in the military budget, “we would have the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history.”

Which would be pretty damn bad… if we wound up having to go to war with America’s 1940 army, 1915 navy, or some historical version of America’s Air Force. If we’re lucky, though, and don’t have to go to war with past incarnations of our military, Panetta’s comparison is logically nearly irrelevant. In fact, even the most massive cuts currently under consideration would return American military spending only to 2007 levels. So as long as we don’t have to go to war with our 2007 military, we should be okay.

If Panetta had been interested in logical relevance, though, he wouldn’t have referred to the past at all. He would have focused on the present, and in the present, we spend more on our military than the rest of the world spends combined. And we spend more than five times more on our military than the second biggest military spender, which is China (numbers 3 and 4 are France and the UK, American allies).

But Panetta doesn’t want you to know these numbers. If you did, you might laugh at him when he describes military cuts as meaning “doomsday” for America.

That’s right. According to Panetta, returning to 2007 military spending levels, and still spending about as much as the rest of the world combined — means doomsday for America. […]

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article29910.htm

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* POLICE ARREST 62 AS ‘OCCUPY’ PROTESTERS TARGET LOBBYISTS

By Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON — Police arrested 62 protesters Wednesday as supporters of Occupy Wall Street targeted lobbyists who promote the interests of corporate America in Washington’s corridors of power.

Undeterred by steady rain, more than 1,000 marchers — many of them labor-union activists — shut down several blocks of K Street, epicenter of the US capital’s influential and lucrative lobbying industry, around midday.

Police, including a trio on horseback, intervened when several dozen protesters sat or lay down on the wet pavement at 14th and K streets and refused to budge when threatened with arrest for obstruction.

“This really speaks well of America,” one of the rain-soaked protesters, Kelly Caldwell of Portland, Oregon, yelled sarcastically as police officers in long yellow coats put him in handcuffs and dragged him into a waiting van.

Sixty-two people were arrested, a spokesman for Washington’s Metropolitan Police told AFP. One was charged with assaulting a police officer, and all the others with obstructing a public thoroughfare.

In the evening, about 50 protesters marched on the White House to condemn the National Defense Authorization Act, now before Congress, which critics say would give US soldiers the power to hold civilians indefinitely without charge.

Wednesday’s shutdown of K Street came a day after demonstrators backed by labor unions and civic groups occupied Congressional and Senate offices on Capitol Hill as part of a three-day Take Back the Capitol action.

Washington is home to two separate open-ended protest encampments, both near the White House, inspired by Occupy Wall Street and condemning social inequality and corporate influence on US politics.

Joining them this week has been a self-styled People’s Camp on the National Mall, made up of about 15 tents — in clear view of the Capitol — erected by protesters from different corners of the United States. […]

READ @ http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/12/07/police-arrest-62-as-occupy-protesters-target-lobbyists/

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* U.S. ARMING EGYPTIAN MILITARY CRACKDOWN

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

When the Center for American Progress’ Think Progress blog recently compiled all of the inspiring foreign policy successes of our nation’s strong and resolute Commander-in-Chief, they listed — alongside the assassination of a U.S. citizen without due process and increased deference to Israel — what they hailed as the President’s having “supported democratic transition in Egypt.” President Obama apparently deserves credit for this notwithstanding the fact that his administration supported President Mubarak up to the very last minute; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in 2009, proclaimed: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family”; and Obama, once Mubarak’s fall became inevitable, tried to engineer the empowerment of Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s long-time trusted lieutenant most responsible for its torture, brutality and domestic repression. If that’s supporting democracy in Egypt, I would hate to see what opposition entails.

Over the past several weeks, the Egyptian government has used brutal and indiscriminate violence against citizen protesters. On November 21, The Wall Street Journal reported that “Military police used rubber bullets, truncheons and tear gas in a failed attempt to expel protesters from” Tahrir Square and that “at least eight people were killed . . . and 192 people were injured.” The same day, The New York Times reported that “the Health Ministry said at least 23 people had died, and several doctors treating patients at a field clinic and nearby hospital said several had been killed by live ammunition, contrary to denials by the Interior Ministry.” That day, White House spokesman Jay Carney issued a bizarrely neutral statement which called for “restraint on all sides” — a statement that triggered predictable and justifiable anger among Egyptians:

The US attempt to reposition itself as a supporter of democracy and human rights in the Middle East is being undermined by a growing Egyptian perception that Washington will back Egypt’s military junta unreservedly despite its increasing repressiveness.

That perception was reinforced yesterday, when a White House statement on the clashes between protesters and security forces appeared to place the blame equally on both sides for violence that has killed at least 29 protesters since Saturday. . . .

That call for restraint on “all sides,” in the face of days of excessive use of force by police and soldiers, was met with incredulity in Cairo. Security forces have shot not only tear gas and rubber bullets, but bird shot and live ammunition at protesters throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. “Should we stop dying? Is that how we should show restraint?” scoffed protester Salma Ahmed as heavy gunfire echoed through Tahrir Square.

That’s standard fare for the U.S.: when a government it dislikes uses violence against its own citizens, it vehemently denounces that government and depicts itself as the guardians of democracy and protest rights; but when an allied government does exactly the same thing, it simply calls for “restraint on all sides” — as though the protesters being killed by U.S.-backed regimes are on equal moral footing with the regimes doing the killing — or, at best, condemns the deaths while refusing to blame the government. In the case of Egypt, all of this is part and parcel with the Obama administration’s conspicuous support for the regime despite ongoing abuses; as the Christian Science Monitor explained two weeks ago:

In recent months, Egypt’s military rulers have become increasingly repressive – torturing with impunity, jailing bloggers, sending more than 12,000 civilians to military tribunals, and using excessive force against protesters, killing dozens. Yet as the abuses have stacked up, the US has mostly refrained from public criticism of Egypt’s military, whose $1.3 billion in US aid could come under review if critics in Congress prevail. Washington’s relative silence has created the appearance that the US has returned to its Mubarak-era policy of turning a blind eye to its ally’s abuses to preserve the relationship.

Unsurprisingly in light of these facts, the actual Egyptian people don’t share CAP’s view that President Obama deserves credit for supporting their transition to democracy, as multiple polls over the last 18 months show that the U.S. is viewed even more unfavorably in that country than it was during the Bush years. That’s particularly disappointing given that Obama’s April, 2009 speech in Cairo was one of the more impressive things he’s done: standing in the middle of the Muslim world, in front of President Mubarak, and eloquently arguing for the imperatives of democratic reform. But Egyptians obviously have come to realize, as many Americans have as well, that President’s Obama’s pretty, pretty speeches are often not backed up — or are even aggressively negated — by his subsequent actions. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2011/12/08/u_s_arming_egyptian_military_crackdown/singleton/

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* THE MILITARIZATION OF AMERICAN POLICE – AND SHREDDING OF OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS – STARTED AT LEAST 30 YEARS AGO

By Washington’s Blog

Police Being Militarized Nationwide

Journalists from across the spectrum have documented the militarization of police forces in the United States, including, CNN, Huffington Post, the Cato Institute, Forbes, the New York Times, Daily Kos, Esquire, The Atlantic, Salon and many others.

Many police departments laugh at and harass Americans who exercise their right to free speech:

Indeed – especially since police brutality against protesters has been so blatant in recent months, while no top bank executives have been prosecuted – many Americans believe that the police are protecting the bankers whose fraud brought down the economy instead of the American people:

Some are comparing police brutality towards the Occupy protesters to that used by Israeli forces against Palestinian protesters. Indeed, numerous heads of U.S. police departments have traveled to Israel for “anti-terrorism training”, and received training from Israeli anti-terrorism experts visiting the U.S. See this, this, this, this, this. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/12/the-militarization-of-american-police-and-shredding-of-our-constitutional-rights-started-30-years-ago.html

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* THE REAL HISTORY OF ‘CORPORATE PERSONHOOD’: MEET THE MAN TO BLAME FOR CORPORATIONS HAVING MORE RIGHTS THAN YOU

By Jeffrey Clements, AlterNet

In 1971, Lewis Powell, a mild-mannered, courtly, and shrewd corporate lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, soon to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court, wrote a memorandum to his client, the United States Chamber of Commerce. He outlined a critique and a plan that changed America.

Lewis Powell, like the Citizens United dissenter Justice John Paul Stevens, was a decorated World War II veteran who returned to his hometown to build a most respected corporate law practice. By all accounts, Powell was a gentleman — reserved, polite, and gracious — and a distinguished lawyer and public servant. Commentators and law professors cite Powell’s “qualities of temperament and character” and his “modest” and “restrained” approach to judging. At his funeral in 1998, Sandra Day O’Connor, who had joined the Supreme Court in 1987, said, “For those who seek a model of human kindness, decency, exemplary behavior, and integrity, there will never be a better man.” Even the rare critic will cite Lewis Powell’s decency and kindness.

Much about these accounts must be true, but none tells the whole story of Lewis Powell. All of them, and even the principal Powell biography, omit the details of how he used his gifts to advance a radical corporate agenda. It is impossible to square this corporatist part of Powell’s life and legacy with any conclusion of “modest” or “restrained” judging.

Powell titled his 1971 memo to the Chamber of Commerce “Attack on American Free Enterprise System.” He explained, “No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack.” In response, corporations must organize and fund a drive to achieve political power through “united action.” Powell emphasized the need for a sustained, multiyear corporate campaign to use an “activist-minded Supreme Court” to shape “social, economic and political change” to the advantage of corporations. […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/153345

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* WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN THE RUSSIAN ELECTIONS

By Israel Shamir, Counterpunch

Moscow is unusually warm: the temperature refuses to dip below zero degrees Centigrade, the freezing point.  Instead, it is wet and dark. The sun gets up late and goes to sleep early. To make matters worse, President Medvedev decided to keep Russia on daylight savings  time throughout winter. To offset this stupid decision, Christmas illumination was turned on a month before the usual time, in order to cheer up the voters. Now it lights the way for the armoured vans of the riot police sent in to pacify the cheery electorate.

The parliamentary elections were deemed in advance as a futile and vain exercise of no practical importance. “It does not matter how you vote, what matters is how they count”,  pundits said. But the results were quite impressive and they point to great changes ahead. The Russians have said to communism: “Come back, all is forgiven.” They effectively voted to restore the Soviet Union, in one form or another.  Perhaps this vote will not be acted upon, but now we know – the people are disappointed with capitalism, with the low place of post-Soviet Russia in the world and with the marriage of big business and government.

If communists proved the fallacy of their ideas in 70 years, the capitalists needed only twenty years to achieve this same result, joked Maxim Kantor, a prominent modern Russian painter, writer and thinker. The twentieth anniversary of the restoration of capitalism that Russia commemorated this year was not a cause for celebration but rather for sad second thoughts. The Russians loudly regretted the course taken by their country in 1991; the failed coup of August 1991, this last ditch attempt to preserve communism, has been reassessed in a positive light, while the brave Harvard boys of yesteryear who initiated the reforms are seen as criminals. Yeltsin and Gorbachev are out, Stalin is in. […]

READhttp://www.counterpunch.org/2011/12/07/what-really-happened-in-the-russian-elections/

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* COMMITTEE ON ETHICS: IN THE MATTER OF REP. NEWT GINGRICH

House Report 105-1

Click here to view Part 1 of the Report »

Click here to view Part 2 of the Report »

Click here to view Part 3 of the Report »

Click here to view Part 4 of the Report »

READ @ http://ethics.house.gov/committee-report/matter-representative-newt-gingrich