Click on the image above to see an infographics about WTC-based companies, before and after 9/11.
catceleste: today we commemorate the day america founded earth
I’d laugh, but the prospect of however many people actually believe this is pretty disturbing.
The NYPD tried to start a hashtag outpouring of positive memories with their police force.
If this were ever a bad idea, it was probably the worst idea for arguably the most corrupt police force in America.
What the person running the Twitter account probably failed to realize is that most people’s interactions with the cops fall into a few categories:
1. You are talking to them to get help after you or someone you knew was robbed, beaten, murdered, or sexually assaulted.
2. You are getting arrested.
3. You are getting beaten by the police.
In category 1, you are probably not going to be like, “Oh, let me take a selfie with you fine officers so I can remember this moment,” and the other two categories are not things that the NYPD would like people on social media talking about. Additionally, the people who use Twitter a lot (and who aren’t Sonic the Hedgehog roleplayers) are the type who love fucking with authority figures. In any case, #myNYPD quickly became a trending topic in the United States, largely because people were tweeting and retweeting horrific images of police brutality perpetrated by New York City cops.
In which the NYPD’s attempt at “public relations” backfires tremendously.
All PD’s should be held to scrutiny, keep their feet on the fire of accountability.
ourtimeorg: Wise words from a brilliant man.
The following is an excerpt from a chapter by Michel Chossudovsky in Global Research’s new book entitled: “The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.”
December 18, 2010 - What has been implemented under Obama is strong economic medicine with a “human face”. “Promise amid peril”. The stated priorities of the Obama economic package are health, education, renewable energy, investment in infrastructure and transportation. “Quality education” is at the forefront. Obama has also promised to “make healthcare more affordable and accessible” for every American. At first sight, the budget proposal had all the appearances of an expansionary program, a demand-oriented “Second New Deal” geared towards creating employment, rebuilding shattered social programs and reviving the real economy. The realities are otherwise. Obama’s promise is based on a mammoth austerity program. The entire fiscal structure is shattered, turned upside down. To reach these stated objectives, a significant hike in public spending on social programs (health, education, housing, social security) would be required, as well as the implementation of a large-scale public investment program. Major shifts in the composition of public expenditure would also be required, i.e. a move out of a war economy, requiring a shift out of military-related spending in favor of civilian programs. In actuality, what we are dealing with is the most drastic curtailment in public spending in American history, leading to social havoc and the potential impoverishment of millions of people. The Obama promise largely serves the interests of Wall Street, the defense contractors, the oil conglomerates and Big Pharma. In turn, the Bush-Obama bank “bailouts” have led America into a spiraling public debt crisis. The economic and social dislocations are potentially devastating.
War and the economic crisis
The worldwide meltdown of financial markets occurs at the crossroads of a major military adventure. The global financial crisis is intimately related to the war. (For further analysis, see chapters 9-12). A spiraling defense budget backlashes on the civilian sectors of economic activity. The war economy has a direct bearing on fiscal and monetary policy. Defense appropriations are in excess of 700 billion dollars (for the 2010 fiscal year). An impending fiscal crisis is looming which threatens to undermine the entire structure of public spending. “War is Good for Business”: the powerful financial groups which routinely manipulate stock markets, currency and commodity markets, are also promoting the continuation and escalation of the Middle East war. The financial crisis is related to the structure of U.S. public investment in the war economy versus the funding, through tax dollars, of civilian social programs. “More broadly, this also raises the issue of the role of the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. monetary system, in relentlessly financing the military industrial complex and the Middle East war at the expense of most sectors of civilian economic activity.” The war is profit-driven, financed through the massive worldwide expansion of dollar denominated debt. War and globalization go hand in hand. Wall Street, the oil companies and the defense contractors have concurrent and overlapping interests. The oil companies were behind the 2008 speculative surge in crude oil prices on the London energy market, which preceded the collapse of the stock market in September-October of 2008. In turn, resulting from the military agenda, the U.S. civilian economy is in crisis as the nation’s resources, including tax dollars, are diverted into funding a multibillion dollar Middle East war.
Defense outlays for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
This is a “war budget”. The austerity measures hit all major federal spending programs with the exception of defense and the Middle East Central Asian War, the Wall Street bank bailout and interest payments on a staggering public debt. The nation’s budget diverts tax revenues into financing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the set-up of new military bases in Colombia. It legitimizes the fraudulent transfers of tax dollars to the financial elites under the bank bailouts. The pattern of deficit spending is not expansionary. We are not dealing with a Keynesian-style deficit which stimulates investment and consumer demand, leading to an expansion of production and employment. The bank bailouts (involving several initiatives financed by tax dollars) constitute a component of government expenditure. Both the Bush and Obama bank bailouts were handouts to major financial institutions. They did not result in a positive spending injection into the real economy. In fact, the opposite is true. The bailouts have contributed to financing the restructuring of the banking system, leading to a massive concentration of wealth and centralization of banking power. A large part of the bailout money granted by the U.S. government has already been transferred electronically to various affiliated accounts including the hedge funds. The largest banks in the U.S. are also using this windfall cash to buy out their weaker competitors, thereby consolidating their position. The tendency, therefore, is towards a new wave of corporate buyouts, mergers and acquisitions in the financial services industry. In turn, the financial elites will use these large amounts of liquid assets (paper wealth), together with the hundreds of billions acquired through speculative trade, to buy out real economy corporations (airlines, the automobile industry, telecoms, media, etc.), whose quoted value on the stock markets has tumbled. In essence, a budget deficit (combined with massive cuts in social programs) was required to fund the handouts to the banks, as well as finance defense spending and the military surge in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama’s 2010 budget
Obama’s budget for the 2010 fiscal year was of the order of 3.94 trillion dollars, an increase of 32%. Total government revenues for the 2010 fiscal year, according to estimates by the Bureau of Budget, were quoted at 2.381 trillion dollars. This puts the predicted budget deficit at 1.75 trillion dollars, equaling almost 12% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
1. Defense spending of 534 billion dollars for 2010, a supplemental 130 billion dollars appropriation for fiscal 2010 for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a supplemental 75.5 billion dollars emergency war funding for the rest of the 2009 fiscal year. Defense spending and the Middle East war, with various supplemental budgets, was (officially) of the order of 739.5 billion dollars. Some estimates placed aggregate defense and military related spending at over one trillion dollars.
2. A bank bailout of 750 billion dollars announced by Obama, which was added on to the 700 billion dollars in bailout money already allocated by the outgoing Bush administration under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). The total of both programs is a staggering 1.45 trillion dollars, to be financed by the Treasury. (See Table 1.3 next page). It should be understood that the actual amount of cash financial “aid” to the banks is significantly larger than 1.45 trillion dollars.
3. Net interest on the outstanding public debt was estimated by the Bureau of the Budget at 164 billion dollars in 2010.
The magnitude of these allocations is staggering. Under a “balanced budget” criterion - which has been a priority of government economic policy since the Reagan era - almost all the revenues of the federal government amounting to 2.381 trillion dollars would be used to finance the bank bailout (1.45 trillion), the war (739.5 billion) and interest payments on the public debt (164 billion). In other words, no money would be left over for other categories of public expenditure.
The budget deficit
Three categories of expenditure, namely defense, the bank bailout and interest on the public debt, had virtually swallowed up the entire 2010 federal government revenue of 2381.0 billion dollars. Moreover, as a basis of comparison, all the revenue accruing from individual federal income taxes (1.061 trillion dollars in fiscal 2010), that is, all the money households across America paid annually in the form of federal taxes, did not suffice to finance the handouts to the banks, which officially amounted to 1.45 trillion dollars. This amount includes the 700 billion dollars granted during fiscal year 2009 under the TARP, program plus the proposed 750 billion dollars granted by the Obama administration. Bush’s Troubled Assets Relief Program and Obama’s 750 billion dollar bank bailout - although disbursed over more than one fiscal year - nonetheless represented almost half of total government expenditure (half of Obama’s 3.94 trillion dollar budget for fiscal 2010), which was financed by regular sources of revenue (2381 billion dollars), plus a staggering 1.75 trillion dollar budget deficit, which ultimately required the issuing of Treasury Bills and government bonds. The feasibility of a large short-term expansion of the public debt at a time of crisis was yet another matter, particularly with interest rates at abysmally low levels. The budget deficit was 1.58 trillion dollars according to official sources. Obama acknowledged a 1.3 trillion dollar budget deficit, inherited from the Bush administration. In actuality, the budget deficit was much larger. The official figures tended to underestimate the seriousness of the budgetary predicament. The 1.58 trillion dollar budget deficit figure was questionable because the various amounts disbursed under TARP and other related bank bailouts including Obama’s 750 billion dollar aid program to financial institutions were not acknowledged in the government’s expenditure accounts. The aid hasn’t been requested formally, but appears in a line item “for potential additional financial stabilization efforts,” according to the budget overview. The budget office calculated a $250 billion net cost to taxpayers this year, because it anticipates it would eventually recoup some, though not all, of the money expended to help financial companies. The funds would come on top of the $700 billion rescue package approved last October by Congress. The White House budgets no money for fiscal 2010 and beyond for such aid.
A major crisis of the federal fiscal structure was in the making. The multibillion dollar allocations to the war budget and to the Wall Street bank bailout program backlash on all other categories of public expenditure. In November 2008, the federal government’s bank rescue program was estimated at a staggering 8.5 trillion dollars, an amount equivalent to more than 60% of the U.S. public debt estimated at fourteen trillion dollars (2007). Meanwhile, under the Obama budget proposal, 634 billion dollars were allocated to a reserve fund to finance universal healthcare. At first glance, it appears to be a large amount. But it is to be spent over a ten year period, i.e. a modest annual commitment of 63.4 billion. Thus public spending will be slashed with a view to curtailing a spiraling budget deficit. Health and education programs will not only remain heavily underfunded, they will be cut, revamped and privatized. The likely outcome is the outright privatization of public services and the sale of state assets, including public infrastructure, urban services, highways and national parks. Fiscal collapse leads to the privatization of the state. The fiscal crisis is further exacerbated by the compression of tax revenues resulting from decline of the real economy. Unemployed workers do not pay taxes, nor do bankrupt firms. The process is cumulative. The solution to the fiscal crisis becomes the cause of further collapse.
The structure of the public debt
This large-scale appropriation of liquid money assets under the bank bailouts by a handful of financial institutions serves to increase the public debt overnight. When the U.S. Treasury under the Bush administration allocates 700 billion dollars to the Troubled Assets Relief Program, it constitutes a budgetary outlay which inevitably must be financed from within the structure of government revenues and expenditures. A similar reasoning applies to the bank bailouts under the Obama presidency. Unless all other categories of public expenditure including health, education and social services are slashed, the various outlays under the bank bailouts will require running a massive budget deficit, which in turn will increase the U.S. public debt. Bear in mind, this budget deficit is not expansionary (in the Keynesian context). It does revive investment and consumer spending. It has no direct bearing on the real economy. It is a money transfer from U.S. tax payers into the coffers of a handful of financial institutions. America is the most indebted country on earth. The United States (federal government) gross public debt is currently of the order of fourteen trillion dollars. This does not include mounting public debts at the state and municipal levels. This U.S. dollar denominated (federal) debt is composed of outstanding treasury bills and government bonds. The public debt, also called “the national debt” is the amount of money owed by the federal government to holders of U.S. debt instruments. These are held by American residents (as part of their savings portfolios), companies and financial institutions, U.S. government agencies, foreign governments and individuals in foreign countries, but does not include intergovernmental debt obligations or debt held in the Social Security Trust Fund. Types of securities held by the public include, but are not limited to, Treasury Bills, Notes, Bonds, TIPS, United States Savings Bonds, and State and Local Government Series securities. The proposed solution becomes the cause of the crisis. The 700 billion dollar bailout under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, combined with Obama’s 750 billion dollar aid package to the financial services industry, is but the tip of the iceberg. A panoply of bailout allocations in addition to the 700 billion dollars have been decided upon. Moreover, an additional budgetary overrun was implemented under Obama’s stimulus package of 787 billion dollars launched in February 2009 under The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The stimulus package, as distinct from Obama’s bank bailout program, is in part directed towards the real economy.
Spiraling public debt crisis
Is the Treasury in a position to finance this mounting budget deficit officially tagged at 1.58 trillion dollars through the emission of Treasury bills and government bonds? The actual budget deficit is much higher. We are facing the largest ever budget deficit coupled with the lowest interest rates in U.S. history. With the Fed’s “near zero” percent discount rate, the markets for U.S. dollar denominated government bonds and Treasury bills are in a straitjacket. Moreover, the essential functions of savings (which are central to the functioning of a national economy) are in crisis. Who wants to invest in U.S. government debt? What is the demand for Treasury bills at exceedingly low interest rates? The market for U.S. dollar denominated debt instruments is potentially at a standstill, which means that the Treasury lacks the ability to finance its mammoth budget deficit through public debt operations, leading the entire budgetary process into a quandary. The question is whether China and Japan will continue to purchase U.S. dollar denominated debt instruments. Washington is running a public relations campaign to lure Asian investors into buying T-bills and U.S. government bonds. With the markets for U.S. dollar denominated debt (both domestically and internationally) in crisis, further pressure will be exerted on the Treasury to slash (civilian) public expenditure to the bone, exact user fees for public services and sell off public assets, including state infrastructure and institutions. In all likelihood, this crisis is leading us to the privatization of the state, where activities hitherto under government jurisdiction will be transferred into private hands. Who will be buying state assets at rock bottom prices? The financial elites, who are also the recipients of the bank bailout.
Consolidation of the banks
A massive amount of liquidity has been injected into the financial system, from the bailouts but also from pension funds, individual savings, etc. The stated objective of the bank bailout programs is to alleviate the banks’ burden of bad debts and non-performing loans. In actuality what is happening is that these massive amounts of money are being used by a handful of institutions to consolidate their position in global banking. The exposure of the banks, largely the result of derivative trade, is estimated in the tens of trillions of dollars, to the extent that the amounts and guarantees granted by the Treasury and the Fed will not resolve the crisis. Nor are they intended to resolve the crisis. The mainstream media suggests that the banks are being nationalized as a result of TARP. In fact, it is exactly the opposite: the state is being taken over by the banks, the state is being privatized. The establishment of a worldwide unipolar financial system is part of the broader project of the Wall Street financial elites to establish the contours of a world government. In a bitter irony, the recipients of the bailout under TARP and Obama’s proposed 750 billion dollar aid to financial institutions are the creditors of the federal government. The Wall Street banks are the brokers and underwriters of the U.S. public debt. Although they hold only a portion of the debt, they transact and trade in U.S. dollar denominated public debt instruments worldwide. They act as creditors of the U.S. State; they evaluate the creditworthiness of the U.S. government; they rank the public debt through Moody’s and Standard and Poor; they control the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve Board and the U.S. Congress; they oversee and dictate fiscal and monetary policy, ensuring that the state acts in their interest. The government hands money to assist the banks under the bank bailout. As a result, its credit rating established by Wall Street is affected.
The U.S. government finances its own indebtedness: Circular and contradictory relationship
Since the Reagan era, Wall Street dominates most areas of economic and social policy. It sets the budgetary agenda, ensuring the curtailment of social expenditures. Wall Street preaches balanced budgets but the practice has been to lobby for the elimination of corporate taxes, grant handouts to corporations and tax write-offs in mergers and acquisitions, all of which lead to a spiraling public debt. It oversees the U.S. public debt and the banks are involved in the sale of treasury bills and government bonds on financial markets in the U.S. and around the world. They also hold part of the public debt and are the creditors of the U.S. government. In a bitter irony, the massive increase in the public debt (2009-2010) required to “rescue the banks” was financed and brokered by the financial institutions which were the direct beneficiaries of the Bush and Obama bank bailouts. The Federal Reserve System is a privately owned central bank. While the Federal Reserve Board is a government body, the process of money creation is controlled by the twelve Federal Reserve banks, which are privately owned. The shareholders of the Federal Reserve banks (with the New York Federal Reserve Bank playing a dominant role) are among America’s most powerful financial institutions. The increase in the U.S. public debt in 2009-2010 was a direct result of the bailout monies transferred to the banks. To finance the bank bailouts, the Treasury was obliged to run up a massive budget deficit. While the Federal Reserve creates money out of thin air, the multibillion dollar outlays of the Treasury (including the Bush and Obama bank bailouts) required a massive emission of public debt in the form of Treasury Bills and government bonds. Only part of these T-Bills are held by the Fed. We are dealing with a pernicious circular relationship. When the banks pressured the Treasury to assist them in the form of a major bank rescue operation, it was understood from the outset in September 2008 that the banks as creditors would in turn “assist” the Treasury in coping with a skyrocketing public debt. Public opinion had been misled. A diabolical circular process had been set in motion. The U.S. government is in a sense financing its own indebtedness: the money granted to the banks is in part financed by borrowing from the banks. To finance the 1.45 trillion dollar bailout, the government needs to borrow, through the emission of public debt. Where does the government go? To the banks. In other words, with the money the banks lend to the government, the Treasury finances the bailout in favor of the banks. In turn, the banks impose conditionalities on the management of the U.S. public debt. They dictate how the money should be spent. After having cashed in on their bailout money, they impose “fiscal responsibility” on the U.S. Treasury; they demand massive cuts in public spending, which eventually results in the collapse and/or privatization of public services; they impose the privatization of urban infrastructure, roads, sewer and water systems, public recreational areas - everything is up for privatization. This public debt crisis triggered by Wall Street is all the more serious because the U.S. federal government does not control monetary policy. All public debt operations go through the Federal Reserve, which is in charge of monetary policy, acting on behalf of private financial interests. The government as such has no authority over money creation. This means that public debt operations essentially serve the interests of the banks.
Where is the money going?
The Obama economic stimulus program constitutes a continuation of the Bush administration’s bank bailout packages. The proposed policy solution to the crisis becomes the cause, ultimately resulting in further real economy bankruptcies and a corresponding collapse of the standard of living of Americans. Both the Bush and Obama bank bailouts are intended to come to the rescue of troubled financial institutions, to ensure the payment of “inter-bank” debt operations. In practice, large amounts of money transit through the banking system, from the banks to the hedge funds, to offshore banking havens and back to the banks. The government and the media tend to focus on the ambiguous notion of “inter-bank debts”. The identity of the ultimate creditors is rarely mentioned. The legitimacy of the creditors is never questioned. Multibillion dollar transfers are conducted electronically from one financial entity to another. Where is the money going? Who is collecting these multibillion debts, which are in large part the consequence of financial manipulation and derivative trade? There are indications that the financial institutions are transferring billions of dollars into their affiliated financial entities and hedge funds. From these hedge funds, money is also being used to acquire real economy assets. Through what circuitous financial mechanisms were these debts created? Where is the bailout money going? Who is cashing in on the multibillion dollar government bailout money? This process is contributing to an unprecedented concentration of private wealth. Financial manipulation is an integral part of the New World Order. It constitutes a powerful means to accumulate wealth. It has contributed to destabilizing the U.S. fiscal structure. Under the present political arrangement, those responsible for monetary policy are quite deliberately serving the interests of the financiers, to the detriment of working people, leading to economic dislocation, unemployment and mass poverty. More generally, this restructuring of global financial markets and institutions (alongside the pillage of national economies) has enabled the accumulation of vast amounts of private wealth, a large portion of which has been amassed as a result of strictly speculative transactions. This critical drain of billions of dollars of household savings and state tax revenues paralyzes the functions of government spending and spurs the accumulation of a public debt, which can no longer be financed through the emission of U.S. dollar denominated debt instruments. What we are dealing with is the fraudulent confiscation of lifelong savings and pension funds and the appropriation of tax revenues to finance the bank bailouts. To understand what has happened, follow the money trail of electronic transfers with a view to establishing where the money has gone. What is at stake is the outright criminalization of the financial system, financial theft on an unprecedented scale. The monetary system, which is integrated into the state budgetary process, has been destabilized. The fundamental relationship between the monetary system and the real economy is in crisis. The creation of money “out of thin air” threatens the value of the U.S. dollar as an international currency. Similarly, the financing of a mammoth U.S. budget deficit through dollar denominated debt instruments is impaired as a result of exceedingly low interest rates. Moreover, the process of household savings is undermined with interest rates close to zero. What we have dealt with in this chapter is one central aspect of an evolving process of global financial collapse. While the financial apparatus has not collapsed, the Great Depression of the 21st century is by no means over. We can expect a renewed wave of bank failures, mergers and acquisitions in the years to come.
The complexity of this crisis is overwhelming. While specific ad hoc measures including the freeze of speculative trade can be envisaged, there are no ready solutions under the prevailing global financial architecture. What is at stake is the power configuration behind these measures. Economic policy quite deliberately serves the interests of the financial elites, who in turn control the political process. Meaningful policies cannot be achieved without radically reforming the workings of the international banking system. What is required is an overhaul of the monetary system including the functions and ownership of the central bank, the arrest and prosecution of those involved in financial fraud both in the financial system and in governmental agencies, the freeze of all accounts where fraudulent transfers have been deposited and the cancellation of debts resulting from fraudulent trade and/or market manipulation. People across the land, nationally and internationally, must mobilize. This struggle to democratize the financial and fiscal apparatus must be broad-based and democratic, encompassing all sectors of society at all levels, in all countries. What is ultimately required is to disarm the financial establishment:
- confiscate those assets which were obtained through fraud and financial manipulation;
- restore the savings of households through reverse transfers;
- restore home ownership to those who lost their homes through the process of foreclosures;
- return the bailout money to the Treasury;
- freeze the activities of the hedge funds;
- freeze the gamut of speculative transactions including short-selling and derivative trade.
December 18, 2010 - As the U.S. is now an international aggressor, do Americans still owe it allegiance? If a citizen releases information about crimes the U.S. commits, can he or she be legally punished? These questions arise in connection with the arrests of Australian Julian Assange and PFC Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst believed to be the source of the secret government cables published by Assange’s WikiLeaks website. Thanks to the long arm of Uncle Sam, Assange is now being held under house arrest by its UK criminal co-conspirator in the Middle East wars and Manning now resides in the U.S. Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Va. Although not convicted of any crime, Manning for seven months allegedly has been subjected to solitary confinement, perhaps themost diabolical punishment ever devised by American wardens. Studies of U.S. prisoners subjected to it show they suffer mental deterioration and insanity. This harsh punishment prior to any trial betrays the face of the tyrant state.
Under ordinary circumstances, the release of information labeled “secret” violates U.S. law, as intelligence specialist Manning undoubtedly knew. But if the U.S. is an aggressor state, as Germany was when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, doesn’t that change everything? America under President George W. Bush attacked two small nations that posed no threat to it. Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told BBC the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was “illegal.” He said it contravened the UN Charter as the attack lacked Security Council approval. MIT Professor Noam Chomsky in his book “Imperial Ambitions,” (Metropolitan), called the U.S. invasion of Iraq as “open an act of aggression as there has been in modern history, a major war crime.” By ratifying the UN Charter the U.S. agreed to refrain “from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” And international law authority Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois, Champaign, called the invasion of Afghanistan “an illegal armed aggression that has created a humanitarian catastrophe” for its 22 millions. (Destroying World Order, Clarity Press.) And as these invasions are criminal, why shouldn’t pertinent information about them not be brought to light? Whenever has it been wrong to expose a criminal enterprise? Public-spirited citizens go to the police and FBI every day to report crimes. “Under international law,” says Boyle, professor of that subject, “citizens have a basic human right to resist the commission of international crimes by their own government, especially aggression.” And this is what PFC Manning did. He resisted aggression by informing Americans of how their government breaks laws. The Associated Press reports Manning told an associate, “I want people to see the truth..because without information you cannot make informed decisions as a public.” America’s Founders believed that, too, and made a free press a cornerstone of the new nation. Ann Medlock, Founder of the Giraffe Heroes Project, says, “In a perfect world, institutions would listen to their staffers when they point out errors, lapses of ethics, and outright chicanery within the organization. Then those holding power would correct those flaws. But that hasn’t been the reality. Again and again authorities just blast away at the truthsayers rather than addressing the problems.” In a democratic society, wouldn’t the Pentagon commend Boyle for calling to attention the murder of innocent civilians and reporters by a helicopter gunship? Webster’s (Random House) defines a patriot as one who “loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests.” The word “defends” here is critical. The wars the U.S. is waging in the Middle East are not defensive but offensive, thus it is unpatriotic to support them. In its highest sense, patriotism means citizen opposition to a totalitarian regime, not support for it. Looking back, who do Germans today honor and revere as “patriots” during the Hitler years if not the students of the White Rose Society? Ask yourself if those students were guilty of treason for passing out leaflets that denounced Hitler’s crimes? Hitler thought so and they were arrested, tortured and decapitated. Yet the students were only trying to reach their fellow Germans with truths Hitler tried to conceal. How different is PFC Manning’s actions from theirs? PFC Manning appears to be within his rights as any whistleblower to divulge information that exposes U.S. crimes.
Today, the American warfare state is a tyranny that operates 800 military bases abroad (in addition to 1,000 on its own soil) and spends more for war than the next 15 nations combined. It kidnaps people off the streets around the world and dispatches them to remote prisons where they are held incognito and tortured. It is the world’s No. 1 Jailer, with tens of thousands imprisoned in the Middle East against whom no charges ever have been brought. It taps the telephones of UN officials and, as WikiLeaks disclosed, orders its diplomats to spy on their foreign counterparts. It leads the world in the sale of armaments to dictators. It violates anti-nuclear covenants and uses illegal irradiated ammunition on battlefields. It attacks small countries that have never attacked it and its CIA sows mayhem as it overthrows other countries (Iran and Chile are examples) by force and violence. President Obama’s decision not to prosecute his predecessor for making illegal wars turns the Constitution into toilet paper. Chalmers Johnson wrote in “The Sorrows of Empire,” (Metropolitan/Owl Books), “the growth of militarism, official secrecy, and a belief that the United States is no longer bound, as the Declaration of Independence so famously puts it, by “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” is probably irreversible. A revolution would be required to bring the Pentagon back under democratic control, or to abolish the Central Intelligence Agency.” Johnson does not advocate revolution; he means an earth-shaking change needs to occur. As revolutions involve violence and proceed by force rather than reason, in point of fact, Americans who feel obliged to restore democracy here would be better off following Dr. King’s example of exerting non-violent “soul force” to effect change. The American people have been led into wars based on lies, fictions, and secrets and should be grateful to Assange and Manning for revealing the truth of this misconduct. PFC Manning is no traitor but an American patriot. Like Julian Assange, he should be set free now.
December 18, 2010 - The alacrity with which a lame duck U.S. Congress passed legislation against Palestinian aspirations to independence should cause alarm bells to ring, and loudly. That this Congress would so openly endorse the position of Benjamin Netanyahu’s intransigent government is not surprising. What is surprising is the message that the hastily passed bill sent regarding profound changes in the attitude of the “international community” towards an increasingly rogue state Israel. For, the Congress was not putting forward an objective statement regarding the Mideast conflict, it was reacting - hysterically - to the threat of punitive actions by powerful institutional forces against Israel. Increasingly, leading factors on the world political scene are signaling that they are fed up with Israel’s continuing sabotage of negotiations and are preparing to introduce corrective action if it continues. The facts of the matter are the following: On December 15, the Congress passed Res. 1765 by a voice vote. Presented by Rep. Berman (with colleagues Poe, Berkley, Ros-Lehtinen, Ackerman, and Burton), the resolution ticks off a list of “Whereases”: on the one hand, the Palestinians are “pursuing a coordinated strategy of seeking recognition of a Palestinian state within the United Nations, in other international forums, and from a number of foreign governments;” and some Latin American governments are moving in that direction; and, on the other, Secretary of State Clinton has repeatedly said only negotiations can lead to a Palestinian state, a position endorsed by Israel; the Congress therefore opposes any such recognition strategy, calls on Palestinians to cease and desist from such efforts, and rather return to negotiations. The resolution ends with a call on the Administration to “affirm that the United States would deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state outside of an agreement by the two parties.” The PLO Executive Committee denounced the bill as “blunt and completely biased in favor of Israel and occupation.” In a statement, the Palestinian Delegation to the U.S. expressed its “deep disappointment,” and said the Congress was “misinformed as to the facts.” It said: “The Palestinian right to freedom and self-determination is not contingent on the approval of the state of Israel, which has been militarily occupying and colonizing the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem for more than 43 years in violation of international law and the policies of the United States and the international community.” The statement noted that “the state of Israel came into being in 1948 as a unilateral step.” It is important to stress that the resolution did not come in response to the Palestinian Authority’s having made any such unilateral declaration of independence. However, discussion of such an initiative has been spreading since Israel rejected the “incentives” proposed by the Obama government for it to halt settlements: In addition to $3 billion more in military aid, the U.S. government had reportedly offered Israel a mafia-style protection option, whereby Washington would shoot down any attempt in the United Nations to condemn or sanction Israel - or to act on a unilateral declaration of independence by the Palestinian Authority. The mere suggestion that any country should require such protection by a superpower is tantamount to a declaration of moral bankruptcy by that country, but that is not the point. The point is that Israel flatly rejected it, thus signaling its commitment to continue taking over Palestinian land in fulfillment of the radical Zionist vision of a Greater Israel. And “to hell with the rest of the world,” Netanyahu might have added. The Palestinian side had no choice but to insist it would not restart direct talks until Israel froze the settlements. Despite Special Envoy George Mitchell’s good intentions, it is unlikely that anything will come of renewed “indirect” talks. By now, politically astute observers have understood that Israel’s willingness to engage in such indirect talks is merely a ruse to provide cover for continuing colonization.
Unilateral declaration of independence
What options are left for the Palestinians in this situation? One option is to abandon the format thus far unsuccessfully adopted, and explore a different venue for solving the conflict, to wit, the United Nations. On November 9, PressTV reported negotiator Saeb Erekat’s statement, “Israeli unilateralism is a call for immediate international recognition of the Palestinian state.” His remarks came on the heels of Israeli announcements that 1,300 new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem had been approved. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who has been feverishly working on the West Bank to establish the infrastructure for a future Palestinian state, indicated that if peace talks failed, a unilateral declaration of independence could be on the agenda. Later, on December 16, Erekat was quoted as saying that this was not the case and was indeed not necessary; in fact, he said, the Palestinians had already declared their independence in 1988. “Now it’s up to the international community to declare recognition of our independence.” Confirming the PA’s recognition of the state of Israel, he added that it was now “up to the international community to stand firm and recognize Palestine on the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital.” Arab News reported on December 16 that Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath had just asked the EU and several member states to recognize a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders. In point of fact, since that 1988 declaration, over 100 members of the United Nations have recognized Palestine as an independent state. Most recently, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Norway declared their support. The Israelis predictably went through the roof. A Foreign Ministry statement said, “Recognition of a Palestinian state is a violation of the interim agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1995, which established that the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be discussed and solved through negotiations.” It also claimed that such a stance violated provisions in the Oslo Accords and the Road Map - as if the Netanyahu government had ever respected the provisions of those agreements.
European statesmen launch challenge
The Israeli establishment is clearly panicked by the mere suggestion that the entire Middle East dossier might end up at the United Nations. And this is precisely what a group of august former political leaders in Europe - foreign ministers, prime ministers, and other luminaries - has urged the European Union and its member states to explore. In an intervention into current affairs which is as unusual as it is timely, the group of elder statesmen addressed an open letter to the EU Heads of Government and their Ministers of Foreign Affairs, as well as Herman van Rompey, EC President, and Lady Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. [Letter to the President of the European Council] Among the members of the European Former Leaders Group who signed the letter are: Chris Patten, Hubert Vedrine, Giuliano Amato, Roland Dumas, Lionel Jospin, Romano Prodi, Helmut Schmidt, Clare Short, Javier Solana, and Richard von Weizsaecker. The letter makes reference to the twelve “Council resolutions on the Middle East peace process,” which the EU Foreign Affairs Council adopted on December 8, 2009, almost exactly one year ago. Since then, they write, “we appear to be no closer to a resolution” and the reason is that “developments on the ground, primarily Israel’s continuation of settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including in East Jerusalem pose an existential threat to the prospects of establishing a sovereign, contiguous and viable Palestinian state also embracing Gaza, and therefore pose a commensurate threat to a two-state solution to the conflict.” The elder statesmen urge the EU therefore to “revisit the principles” and “establish new steps” in its December 2010 meeting. Specifically, the former leaders demand that EU “identify concrete measures to operationalize its agreed policy and thence move to implementation of the agreed objectives.” The text goes on to quote from the 2009 Council document, and to demand that the recommendations be enforced. But in every one of the twelve points referenced, the VIPs note that what had been agreed upon in 2009 has been sabotaged by Israel. For example: they recall earlier demands for resumption of negotiations, and add that they indeed welcomed the resumption of talks in September 2010, but “it gives us grave concern that the current talks lack a clear framework or terms of reference, and stalled as soon as they commenced on account of continued settlement construction by Israel.” Lamenting the “deterioration of the situation on the ground,” which jeopardizes the two-state solution, the document recommends that the EU, in cooperation with the U.S., UN, Russia, Arab League etc. “put forward a concrete and comprehensive proposal” to resolve the conflict. The document states: “We believe the EU should at the December 2010 Council meeting set a date at which it will take further action. It should for example say that if there is no progress by its next meeting scheduled for April 2011, this will leave the Council with no alternative but to refer the matter to the international community to enable the latter to lead efforts to define a vision and a strategy for a resolution of this conflict.” Who is the “international community” here? Obviously, the United Nations. The VIP letter quotes further from the EU Council’s 2009 document to the effect that the EU “will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties.” Now, in response to unilateral measures by Israel, “we recommend that the EU reiterate its position that it will not recognize any changes to the June 1967 boundaries, and clarify that a Palestinian state should be in sovereign control over territory equivalent to 100% of the territory occupied in 1967, including its capital in East Jerusalem.” In a later paragraph, the document reaffirms its commitment to Israel’s security and to developing bilateral relations, including its accession to the OECD. “Yet Israel has continued with settlement construction in the OPT, including East Jerusalem, and refused to negotiate seriously on terminating occupation and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state.” The letter complains that, although the EU has always considered settlements illegal, it “has not attached any consequences for continued and systematic Israeli settlement expansion in the OPT, including East Jerusalem.” The elder statesmen propose that any further enhancement of bilateral relations with Israel be blocked until Israel freezes the settlements. Furthermore, they recommend “in the strongest possible terms” that the EU review the legalities of agreements with Israel: specifically, they say that goods produced in the OPT (“prohibited by international law and considered unlawful by EU policy”) must not enjoy benefits; the EU must “bring an end to the import of settlement products which are, in contradiction with EU labeling regulations, marketed as originating in Israel.” Without masking irritation, they add: “We consider it simply inexplicable that such products still enjoy benefits under preferential trade agreements between the EU and Israel.” Not only should the EU deny Israel such privileges, but it should punish it for having resumed settlements, which the EU has “for decades” declared to be illegal. “Like any other state, Israel should be held accountable for its actions,” the letter says. “It is the credibility of the EU that is at stake” - a notion repeated several times in the letter. Moving on to the deterioration of the situation in East Jerusalem, the VIPs call for action: “We believe that a high-level delegation led by the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and including EU foreign ministers should visit East Jerusalem as a matter of urgency to draw attention to the erosion of the Palestinian presence there, and report back to the EU with an agenda of proposals to arrest and reverse the deterioration of the situation on the ground.” Regarding Gaza, the letter calls for opening the borders to allow normal trade. It recommends the EU contribute to Palestinian internal reconciliation through offers of development assistance to the West Bank and Gaza equally. In conclusion, the document recalls that the EU has made “substantial” outlays of tax-payers’ money over the past two decades to promote a two-state solution. If no political progress is forthcoming from the Israeli side, then “Israel should be required to shoulder its obligations as the occupying power.” The elder statesmen’s initiative is truly remarkable, and indicates that institutional forces in Europe, but also in the Arab world and the U.S., have decided to break taboos, and treat Israel like any other nation.  At the end of the text, the VIPs note the desire on the part of many Arabs “and prominent Israelis” to see the EU assume a more pro-active role in finding a solution. Significantly, they add: “Senior figures in the United States are also signaling to us that the best way to help President Obama’s efforts is to put a price tag on attitudes and policies that run counter to the positions that the U.S. president himself has advocated.” The White House had, prior to the letter’s publication, acknowledged Israel’s refusal to stop settlements as a fait accompli. Whether or not the EU leaders will welcome the recommendations of their senior peers is a question mark. But the fact that such prominent figures have spoken out in this form is important. They have essentially challenged the EU - and very publicly - to live up to its promises, as articulated in its 2009 document, and finally take political action vis-a-vis Israel. Predictably, the Israelis responded with a combination of hysterical denial and veiled threats. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor was quoted December 12 in the Jerusalem Post, saying, “It is difficult to see how the call for sanctions and Israel’s isolation will promote peace, but clearly this will diminish the EU’s capability to play a constructive role in promoting peace in the region.” He railed that “the settlements never constituted an obstacle to peace and to territorial withdrawal,” and said the EU, with such a posture, would only “totally sideline” itself from the process.
Back to the UN
The most intriguing question now on the table is: what would happen if the Mideast conflict were handed back to the UN? In the General Assembly there is little doubt that an overwhelming majority would vote to recognize a sovereign, independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. What about the Security Council? What would the U.S. do? About a year ago, on November 9, 2009, World Net Daily cited Israeli sources to the effect that Obama was considering the option of recognizing a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza, regardless of what negotiations might bring. The article also referenced Palestinian sources who said the U.S. president had agreed to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan to establish a state within two years, i.e. by 2011. According to Haaretz, Fayyad had made a secret agreement with Obama whereby the PA, together with the Arab League, would file a “claim of sovereignty” with the UNGA and Security Council. Fayyad had reportedly discussed the plan with representatives of the UK, France, Spain, and Sweden, and had told Israelis that the U.S. president was not opposed. This account may or may not be accurate; but, Netanyahu, in Washington at the time, did pressure Clinton and Mitchell to do everything possible to sabotage such a scenario. And Defense Minister Ehud Barak also raised the issue while in Washington this December. Then came the Congressional Resolution.  The noose is tightening around Netanyahu’s political neck. As these developments indicate, the “international community” is no longer willing to sit back and watch as Israel crosses one red line after another. Whatever Obama’s real sentiments and intentions, it is obvious that no American president can revel in being treated like an underling by a rogue state. If, as the European VIPs stressed in their letter, the credibility of the EU is at stake, then the credibility of the U.S., not to mention the UN, is as well. Pressures are coming down on Israel from many sides and this can only enhance the process of breaking taboos and abandoning double standards. To mention one salient example: while Ehud Barak was lobbying in Washington for yet another round of sanctions against Iran, the Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd called for Israel to join the NPT. As reported by PressTV on December 15, he said his government’s view was that “all states in the region should adhere to the NPT, and that includes Israel. And therefore,” he added, “their nuclear facility should be subject to IAEA inspection.” His Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, rejected it out of hand. But a consensus has been growing in the IAEA, as seen in its September meeting, for Israel to come clean on its nuclear program. The former European leaders are right in stressing that time is of the essence, and their successors must intervene now, to avoid new conflict. The situation in Lebanon is deteriorating, with attempts to inculpate Hezbollah for the murder of Rafiq Hariri. Suicide bombings and assassinations of scientists organized by foreign-backed terrorist groups in Iran are creating a dangerous climate of tension at a time when a real possibility to solve the nuclear issue is emerging. In Iraq, sectarian terrorism is threatening to thwart attempts at building a stable government. And Israel, with its back against a wall, could very well lash out against any one of its perceived enemies: Hamas, Hezbollah, and/or Iran.
 A retired German diplomat Dr. Gerhard Fulda, presented a paper to the German-Arab Society last year in which he proposed a similar radical change in Germany’s and Europe’s approach to Israel, specifically suggesting that the EU impose economic sanctions on Israel and withhold development aid.
 Curiously, among the hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks, there have been none concerning U.S.-Israeli relations, although they rank high on Washington’s foreign policy agenda. An article in Indymedia on December 7, “WikiLeaks ‘struck a deal with Israel’ over diplomatic cable leaks," cites Arab and other sources to the effect that Assange accepted payment to keep Israel out of the leaks. Such diplomatic correspondence would certainly shed interesting light on the debate around Palestinian statehood.
December 17, 2010 - Bruised egos, embarrassed faces, pubic and private indignation at the audacity of Julian Assange, clarifications offered and apologies extended; until now, these have been the reactions of world leaders and diplomats to the unprecedented release of WikiLeaks cables. But on Monday, they may have claimed their first victim. In the middle of an official state visit to Senegal, Manouchehr Mottaki was unceremoniously dismissed as Iran’s foreign minister by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He only learned of it through media reports. The MIT-educated head of the country’s Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Akbar Salehi (always Ahmadinejad’s preferred candidate for the position) was quickly named interim foreign minister. Mottaki was sacked exactly one week after Iran held its first talks in over a year with the P5+1 powers in Geneva (the five members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany), and six months after yet another round of economic sanctions were imposed by the U.N. Security Council over Iran’s contentious nuclear program. Presciently, Mottaki was absent from the Geneva summit.
The indecorous manner in which he was ousted aside, what was the reason behind Mottaki’s dismissal? Ahmadinejad’s office provided no official explanation, but several theories exist. One was that Mottaki was a bit too compromising for Tehran’s liking.
In early December, both Mottaki and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended the Manama Dialogue, a three-day security conference organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Bahrain. There, Clinton mentioned that Iran is entitled to enrich uranium and develop a civilian nuclear energy program provided it was done in a “responsible manner.” Mottaki characterized this as a “step forward.” On a subsequent visit to Athens, he remarked there were “certain shared positions” where cooperation could take place. A second and more credible supposition is that Ahmadinejad wants to fill his cabinet with loyalists and sycophants. “Mottaki is the one and only man (in the cabinet) who does not belong to Ahmadinejad’s group of ministers with mostly intelligence and IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) background,” said Massoumeh Torfeh of London‘s School of Oriental and African Studies as quoted by Reuters.
Ahmadinejad wasted little time in finding ways to undermine Mottaki. By appointing six foreign envoys that report directly to him, Ahmadinejad managed to bypass the foreign ministry entirely (they were eventually downgraded to advisors after Ayatollah Khamenei intervened). Mottaki is also a close associate of current parliament speaker Ali Larijani, who has butted heads with Ahmadinejad on more than one occasion. Among other complaints, Larijani argues that power is being increasingly consolidated by the president at the expense of parliamentary consultation and oversight. It may be, as Iran’s Press TV reported, that Mottaki’s exit was long in the works. [Mottaki’s removal previously on agenda - December 14, 2010] This is likely correct, but is it coincidence that it came on the heels of WikiLeaks cables that revealed the Arab regimes’ estrangement and hostility toward Tehran and its nuclear ambitions? (Feelings not shared by the Arab public incidentally). To hide his embarrassment, Ahmadinejad was forced to assert the divulged memos were part of an “American conspiracy” in a game of “an intelligence and psychological” warfare.
It is true that the comments made by Arab potentates to U.S. officials, repeatedly goading the U.S. to attack Iran, belied their public declarations of friendship and brotherhood. The Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Adel al-Jubeir, relayed that King Abdullah urged Washington to “cut the head of the snake” while Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed said Ahmadinejad - whom he referred to as “Hitler” - was “going to take us to war” and must be stopped at all costs. “Bomb Iran or live with an Iranian bomb” was the exhortation that came out of Jordan. The real fear of nations like Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia is that Iran will inspire oppressed Arab Shia Muslims to rise against monarchy and dictatorship as their co-religionists did in 1979 across the Persian Gulf. They also fear that the growing popularity of Iranian-backed groups like Hezbollah will erode their own authority and influence. This repression is particularly severe in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
What the Arab regimes fail to realize is that instead of regarding Arab Shia as fifth columnists for Iran, they should treat them with the same respect and dignity as they do Sunni citizens (however small that may be) and grant them equals rights to practice their religion. The myth of Shia disloyalty would disappear overnight were that to happen. There was little Mottaki could due to convince the Persian Gulf monarchies they first need to address and rectify troubles within their borders, not outside of them. Nevertheless, the cables release may have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and culminated in the quick end to his five-year tenure as Iran’s foreign minister. Mottaki sudden removal is multifactorial: it points to the battle between conservatives who believe power should be vested in the Supreme Leader, clergy and parliament; and Ahmadinejad supporters, namely the IRGC, who are slowly gnawing away at their control and power. His alleged foreign policy shortcomings, like the failure to stave off a fourth round of sanctions at the U.N. or win the Arab states’ confidence, were pretexts needed to expeditiously sack him.
A foreign minister who can forestall additional punitive economic measures or reassure Iran’s jittery neighbors is unlikely to be found at present; the negative political climate is simply too great for one person to overcome. But a minister who will acquiesce to a foreign policy dictated by Ahmadinejad’s inner circle and the IRGC can be. In Salehi, a willing accomplice was hired.
December 17, 2010 - Operation Apollo, Operation Athena, Operation Archer, Operation Accius, Operation Altair..since Canada first entered the war on Afghanistan in 2001 the list of extensions, renewals and “spin‑offs" has gone on and on and on. Originally scheduled to end in 2003, Canada’s involvement in this imperialist aggression threatens to continue until 2014 if Prime Minister Stephen Harper gets his way. Afghanistan has been the central preoccupation of Canadian foreign policy over the past decade. It has also been a main focus of peace movement activity. Mobilizations against the war in Afghanistan have not been nearly as spectacular as those against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The build up was slower, and it took more time to locate a basis of unity upon which to build mobilizations. But, for the entire decade, opinion polls have repeatedly shown that a majority of Canadians disagree with the war. Despite massive spending on huge PR campaigns to “sell" the war to the public, and the constant ideological bombardment from the government, the military and its allied industries, and the corporate media, Canadians remain opposed to this war.
Yet successive Canadian governments (both Liberal and Conservative) have pursued a policy of war. Clearly, the state has an interest in the Afghanistan war that surpasses (and diminishes) the electoral concerns of any individual party or government. Examining and understanding this interest is key to strengthening both the anti‑war effort and the broader movement for peace and progress. The advanced sections of the peace movements have long understood that the war in Afghanistan was never a localized conflict. From the get-go, it was part of a regional campaign that includes the war against Iraq and Israel’s role in the Middle East. To overly simplify the situation, the war in Afghanistan was a key component in the drive by the United States (and its Canadian and British allies) to recolonize a huge, resource‑rich area of the world. While this view is quite correct, it is obviously a truncated assessment of a much more complicated issue. A related way of looking at things is to view the war in Afghanistan as the crucible in which a new direction in Canadian foreign policy is being tested and clarified.
There are a number of elements to this policy shift: a deliberate and dramatic shift away from UN‑oriented multilateralism toward an “ad‑hoc" multilateralism. (There are many problems with the United Nations, but to replace it with makeshift "coalitions of the willing" is nothing short of gangster politics on a global scale); a heightened emphasis on NATO and identifying a new role for that military alliance; a definite move away from “traditional peacekeeping" (again, there are plenty of problems with this role and these missions, but Canada is certainly not moving toward an improved model); a more aggressive posture in foreign policy, with greater emphasis on military action, sanctions, terror lists, etc., instead of development, diplomacy, cooperation, and peace; a more brash statement of Canadian economic interests as key to foreign policy developments. These changes are deeply at play in Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. Perhaps the clearest example is the Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS), the Harper government’s blueprint for defence and foreign policy.
The following excerpts from a 2008 Canadian Peace Congress statement on CFDS provide a sense of the scope of the reorientation in Canadian foreign policy, how tightly related it is to the war in Afghanistan, and the profound implications it has for domestic policy:
“CFDS is the manifesto of the most aggressive circles of Canadian finance capital seeking with a bigger military budget to strengthen its influence at the round tables in Washington and Brussels.”
“The CFDS flaunts military power as the essential ingredient of Canadian diplomacy in international affairs. CFDS promotes the growth, modernization and combat readiness of the Canadian military and its interoperability with U.S. military forces for one main reason, to commit Canada to current and future U.S.‑NATO wars, interventions and occupations as the first principle of Canadian government foreign policy. CFDS boasts of the experience gained by Canadian forces in Afghanistan as a ‘military that can operate far from home on a sustained basis’. According to Prime Minister Harper the ability to wage war is the path that will return Canada to the international stage as a ‘credible and influential country.’”
“CFDS elevates commitments to NATO, NORAD, NORTHCOM, the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and the Civil Assistance Plan, the latter permitting U.S. troops on Canadian soil in the event of a ‘civil emergency’, above all other Canadian international obligations and treaties. As such CFDS actually weakens Canadian sovereignty by subordinating Canadian defense policy to the global military strategy of the U.S. and NATO.”
“Fear-mongering about alleged threats to Canadian security is the method used by the Conservative government to justify massive transfers of public finances, without Parliamentary approval, to foreign and domestic defence contractors to stimulate a speculative expansion of the economy. This is what is meant by the ‘military partnership with Canadian industry’.”
“CFDS is profoundly undemocratic and was implemented without seeking Parliamentary approval and commits $492 billion over 20 years on top of the $5.3 billion already allocated in 2006, approaching 2.2% of GDP, all to guarantee the profits of defence contractors and investors. The Canadian government policy of the rapid militarization of the economy is the only job creation project the Government has to offer youth, the unemployed and the underemployed. CFDS cannot be implemented without sacrificing the needs of public healthcare, pensions, child care, seniors’ needs, low cost housing and the peaceful development of the country.”
To understand why the state is so committed to this sweeping reorientation of Canadian foreign policy, it is useful to review events of the past two decades. In the early 1990s, Canada experienced a huge economic recession, exacerbated by “free trade.” The comprehensive restructuring of the Canadian economy meant that some entire sectors were decimated, while some new sectors of Canadian capital emerged and grew. Globalization in general (related to huge developments in technology) was on the rise, sparking extensive discourse about how to reorient in order to identify and exploit new global opportunities. But the central development at this time was the sudden, unexpected collapse of the USSR and massive geopolitical changes which followed. Huge areas of the world were now “opened up" to Western capitalism (whose members were fighting amongst themselves for key positions ‑ for a slice of the pie). At the same time, the end of the Cold War meant the sudden loss of NATO’s raison d’etre. NATO embarked on a long search for a new identity and role, taking it to the war on Yugoslavia (which, at least immediately, was a disaster in terms of consolidating Western states around a new role for the alliance).
A key moment in the “post‑Soviet" era policy debates is represented by the 1999 Symposium of the Conference of Defence Associations. The CDA is an old and extremely influential advocacy group, whose membership is made up of over 50 military organizations. It is large, well‑funded and well‑connected. Part of its funding comes from the Department of National Defence, so when CDA speaks, DND listens. The 1999 symposium was focused on changing strategic assessment within the context of massive geopolitical shifts. Specifically, the symposium identified the following strategic issues: the pressing need for reorientation in Canadian foreign policy (military and economic) in light of the collapse of the USSR; the rise of China as a political and economic world power, a rise characterized as “the most serious challenge to Western interests in the Pacific”; the importance of retaining and developing NATO as a counter-balance to changing geopolitics that challenge Western interests; the destabilization of the central Asian states as a strategic and economic opportunity, and specific opportunities for Canada in the vast energy reserves of the central Asian region; the necessity for Canada to integrate military and economic issues within foreign policy discussions, in order to exert global influence and reap economic benefit; the government of Iraq ‑ characterized as a “rogue state" ‑ as a barrier to securing Western interests in the central Asian region.
Virtually every one of these concerns have assumed a central place in Canadian foreign policy over the past ten years, and every one has been addressed to significant extents in the arena of the war on Afghanistan. The Canadian state uses the war to justify, implement, test and clarify new foreign policy directions whose scope range far beyond that one country. For this reason, the stakes are critically high for a government that seeks to extend the war. By the same token, when the peace and anti‑war movements confront the war in Afghanistan, we are engaged in a much more profound struggle, one that ultimately has a decisive role in determining our country’s role in the world. Mobilization against the war must continue ‑ it is the war that must end, now.
December 16, 2010 - The details of an elaborate KLA-run human organ harvesting ring, broadly known for years, have been confirmed by a Council of Europe report published on January 15. [War on terrorism skipped the KLA] The report, “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking of human organs in Kosovo” identifies the province’s recently re-elected “prime minister” Hashim Thaçi as the boss of a “mafia-like” Albanian group specialized in smuggling weapons, drugs, people, and human organs all over Europe. The report reveals that Thaçi’s closest aides were taking Serbs across the border into Albania after the war, murdering them, and selling their organs on the black market. In addition, the report accuses Thaçi of having exerted “violent control” over the heroin trade for a decade.
Deliberate destruction of evidence
Long dismissed in the mainstream media as “Serbian propaganda,” the allegations of organ trafficking - familiar to our readers - were ignored in the West until early 2008, when Carla Del Ponte, former Prosecutor at the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague, revealed in her memoirs that she had been prevented from initiating any serious investigation into its merits. She also revealed - shockingly - that some elements of proof taken by ICTY field investigators from the notorious “Yellow House” in the Albanian town of Rripe were destroyed at The Hague, thus enabling the KLA and their Western enablers to claim that “there was no evidence” for the organ trafficking allegations. [The worst GOP candidate in history; Former war crimes prosecutor alleges Kosovan army harvested organs from Serb prisoners; The bloody yellow house] In April 2008, prompted by Del Ponte’s revelations, seventeen European parliamentarians signed a motion for a resolution calling on the Assembly to examine the allegations. The matter was referred to the Assembly’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which in June 2008 appointed Swiss senator Dick Marty as its rapporteur. He had gained international prominence by his previous investigation of accusations that the CIA abducted and imprisoned terrorism suspects in Europe.
In his Introductory Remarks Marty revealed some of the “extraordinary challenges of this assignment”: the acts alleged purportedly took place a decade ago, they were not properly investigated by any of the national and international authorities with jurisdiction over the territories concerned. In addition, Marty went on, ”efforts to establish the facts of the Kosovo conflict and punish the attendant war crimes had primarily been concentrated in one direction, based on an implicit presumption that one side were the victims and the other side the perpetrators. As we shall see, the reality seems to have been more complex. The structure of Kosovar Albanian society, still very much clan-orientated, and the absence of a true civil society have made it extremely difficult to set up contacts with local sources. This is compounded by fear, often to the point of genuine terror, which we have observed in some of our informants immediately upon broaching the subject of our inquiry. Even certain representatives of international institutions did not conceal their reluctance to grapple with these facts: “The past is the past”, we were told; “we must now look to the future.” The report says Thaçi’s links with organized crime go back to the late 1990’s, when his Drenica Group became the dominant faction within the KLA. By 1998 he was able to grab control of “most of the illicit criminal enterprises” in Albania itself. Thaçi and four other members of the Drenica Group are named as personally guilty of assassinations, detentions and beatings: ”In confidential reports spanning more than a decade, agencies dedicated to combating drug smuggling in at least five countries have named Hashim Thaçi and other members of his Drenica Group as having exerted violent control over the trade in heroin and other narcotics. Thaçi and these other Drenica Group members are consistently named as “key players” in intelligence reports on Kosovo’s mafia-like structures of organised crime. I have examined these diverse, voluminous reports with consternation and a sense of moral outrage.” Marty notes that the international community chose to ignore war crimes by the KLA, enabling Thaçi’s forces to conduct a campaign of murderous terror against Serbs, Roma, and Albanians accused of collaborating with the Serbs. Some 500 of them “disappeared after the arrival of KFOR troops on 12 June 1999,” about a hundred Albanians and 400 others, most of them Serbs. Some of these civilians had been secretly imprisoned by the KLA at different locations in northern Albania, the report adds, “and were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, before ultimately disappearing.” Captives were “filtered” in ad-hoc prisons for their suitability for organ harvesting based on sex, age, health and ethnic origin. They were then sent to the last stop - a makeshift clinic near Fushë-Krujë, close to the Tirana airport: ”As and when the transplant surgeons were confirmed to be in position and ready to operate, the captives were brought out of the ‘safe house’ individually, summarily executed by a KLA gunman, and their corpses transported swiftly to the operating clinic.”
Thaci the untouchable
The report states that Thaçi’s Drenica Group “bear the greatest responsibility” for the prisons and the fate of those held in them. It criticizes the governments supportive of Kosovo’s independence for not holding to account senior Albanians in Kosovo, including Thaçi, and of lacking the will to effectively prosecute the former leaders of the KLA. The diplomatic and political support by such powers “bestowed upon Thaçi, not least in his own mind, a sense of being untouchable.” Marty concludes that “[t]he signs of collusion between the criminal class and the highest political and institutional office holders are too numerous and too serious to be ignored,” but “the international authorities in charge of the region did not consider it necessary to conduct a detailed examination of these circumstances, or did so incompletely and superficially.” Following Marty’s presentation of the report to the Council of Europe in Paris on December 16 it will be debated by the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg on January 25.
Within days of the publication of Marty’s report, numerous of excellent articles were published in the mainstream media Europe linking his revelations with the broader problem of NATO’s war against the Serbs in 1999, the precedent it had created for Afghanistan and Iraq, and the nature of the “Kosovar” society today. Neil Clark in The Guardian assailed “the myth of liberal intervention.” [Kosovo and the myth of liberal intervention - December 15, 2010] Far from being Tony Blair’s “good” war, he wrote, the assault on Yugoslavia was as wrong as the invasion of Iraq: ”It was a fiction many on the liberal left bought into. In 1999 Blair was seen not as a duplicitous warmonger in hock to the U.S. but as an ethical leader taking a stand against ethnic cleansing. But if the west had wanted to act morally in the Balkans and to protect the people in Kosovo there were solutions other than war with the Serbs, and options other than backing the KLA - the most violent group in Kosovan politics. Instead, a virulently anti-Serb stance led the west into taking ever more extreme positions, and siding with an organisation which even Robert Gelbard, President Clinton’s special envoy to Kosovo, described as “without any question, a terrorist group.” Clark reminds us that it was the KLA’s campaign of violence in 1998 which led to an escalation of the conflict with the government in Belgrade. “We were told the outbreak of war in March 1999 with NATO was the Serbian government’s fault,” he adds, yet Lord Gilbert, the UK defence minister, admitted “the terms put to Miloševic at Rambouillet [the international conference preceding the war] were absolutely intolerable..it was quite deliberate.” Then came the NATO occupation, under which an estimated 200,000 ethnic Serbs and other minorities from south Kosovo, and almost the whole Serb population of Pristina, have been forced from their homes. But as the Iraq war has become discredited, Clark concludes, ”so it is even more important for the supporters of “liberal interventionism” to promote the line that Kosovo was in some way a success. The Council of Europe’s report on the KLA’s crimes makes that position much harder to maintain. And if it plays its part in making people more sceptical about any future western “liberal interventions”, it is to be warmly welcomed.” Tony Blair has some very bizarre friends, wrote Stephen Glover in The Daily Mail, but a monster who traded in human body parts beats the lot. [Mr Blair has some very bizarre friends - December 16, 2010] The prime minister of Kosovo is painted by the report as a major war criminal presiding over a corrupt and dysfunctional state, Glover says, and yet this same Mr Thaci and his associates in the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army were put in place after the U.S. and Britain launched an onslaught in March 1999 against Serbia, dropping more than 250,000 and killing an estimated 1,500 blameless civilians: “This was Mr Blair’s first big war, and it paved the way for the subsequent Western invasion of Iraq. The crucial difference is that while the Left in general opposed the war against Saddam Hussein, both were among Mr Blair’s main cheerleaders as he persuaded President Bill Clinton to join forces with him in crushing Serbia.” Both London and Washington tended to ignore atrocities committed by Hashim Thaci’s KLA, Glover concludes, and offered unacceptably draconian terms to the Serbs “because by that stage Blair and Clinton preferred war”: ”Those were the days, of course, when most of the media thought Tony Blair could do no wrong. His military success in 1999 convinced him that Britain could and should play the role of the world’s number two policeman to the U.S. A messianic note entered his rhetoric, as at the 2001 Labour party conference, when he raved that ‘the kaleidoscope has been shaken. Let us re-order this world about us.” What happened in Kosovo helped shape subsequent events in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is richly ironic that ‘liberated’ Kosovo should now be a failed, gangster state. With his messianic certainties, the morally bipolar Tony Blair liked to divide the world into ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’, having presumptuously placed himself in the first category. How fitting that this begetter of war after war should end up by receiving the Golden Medal of Freedom from a monster who traded in body parts.”
U.S. damage limitation and self-censorship
Such commentary is light years away from the feeble and half-hearted reporting in the American mainstream media. The Chicago Tribune, for instance, did not deem it fit to publish a story about the Council of Europe report itself. It published two related items critical of the report instead, on the European Union expressing doubt about its factual basis and on the “government” of Kosovo planning to sue Dick Marty for libel. No major daily has published a word of doubt about Bill Clinton’s wisdom of waging a war on behalf of Thaçi and his cohorts a decade ago, or perpetuating the myth of it having been a good war today. That Thaçi aka “The Snake” is a criminal as well as a war criminal is no news, of course. [Hashim Thaci, from snake to PM; When the little red-cap’s wolf is tamed] The intriguing question is who, on the European side, wanted to end his “untouchable” status, why now, and what is the U.S. Government - his principal enabler and abettor - going to do about it. Unsurprisingly, Thaçi’s “government” dismissed the report on December 14 as “baseless and defamatory.” [Kosovo rejects organ trafficking claims] On that same day Hashim Thaçi wrote in a telegram to President Obama that “the death of Richard Holbrooke is a loss of a friend.” “The Snake” has many other friends in Washington, however, people like U.S. senator (and current foe of WikiLeaks [Lieberman introduces anti-Wikileaks legislation]) Joseph Lieberman, who declared back in 1999 at the height of the U.S.-led war against the Serbs that “the United States of America and the Kosovo Liberation Army stand for the same human values and principles. Fighting for the KLA is fighting for human rights and American values.” Thaçi’s photos with top U.S. officials are a virtual Who’s Who of successive Administrations over the past 12 years: Bill and Hillary Clinton, Albright, Bush, Rice, Biden, Wesley Clark. Thaçi’s American enablers and their media minions are already embarking on a bipartisan damage-limitation exercise. Its pillars will be the assertion that the report rests on flimsy factual evidence, an attempt to discredit Dick Marty personally, and the claim the Council of Europe as an irrelevant talking shop.
State Department documents published by Wikileaks evidence Washington’s plans to “contain” Venezuela’s influence in the region and increase efforts to provoke regime change
December 16, 2010 - A substantial portion of the more than 1600 State Department documents Wikileaks has published during the past two weeks refer to the ongoing efforts of U.S. diplomacy to isolate and counter the Venezuelan government. Since Hugo Chavez won the presidency for the first time in 1998, Washington has engaged in numerous efforts to overthrow him, including a failed coup d’etat in April 2002, an oil industry strike that same year, worldwide media campaigns and various electoral interventions. The State Department has also used its funding agencies, USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), to channel millions of dollars annually to anti-Chavez NGOs, political parties, journalists and media organizations in Venezuela, who have been working to undermine the Chavez administration and force him from power. When these interventionist policies have been denounced by the Chavez government and others, Washington has repeatedly denied any efforts to isolate or act against the Venezuelan head of state. Nonetheless, the State Department cables published by Wikileaks clearly evidence that not only has Washington been actively funding anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela, but it also has engaged in serious efforts during the past few years to convince governments worldwide to assume an adversarial position against President Hugo Chavez.
Contention plan against a formidable foe
In a secret document authored by current Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Craig Kelly, and sent by the U.S. Embassy in Santiago in June 2007 to the Secretary of State, CIA and Southern Command of the Pentagon, along with a series of other U.S. embassies in the region, Kelly proposed “six main areas of action for the U.S. government (USG) to limit Chavez’s influence” and “reassert U.S. leadership in the region”. Kelly, who played a primary role as “mediator” during last year’s coup d’etat in Honduras against President Manuel Zelaya, classifies President Hugo Chavez as an “enemy” in his report. “Know the enemy: We have to better understand how Chavez thinks and what he intends. To effectively counter the threat he represents, we need to know better his objectives and how he intends to pursue them. This requires better intelligence in all of our countries”. Further on in the memo, Kelly confesses that President Chavez is a “formidable foe”, but, he adds, “he certainly can be taken”. In 2006, Washington activated a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Mission Manager for Venezuela and Cuba. The mission, headed by clandestine CIA veteran Timothy Langford, is one of only four such intelligence entities of its type. The others were created to handle intelligence matters relating to Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan/Pakistan, evidencing the clear priority that Washington has placed on Venezuela as a target of increased espionage and covert operations. Another suggestion made by Kelly in the secret cable, is a recommendation to increase U.S. presence in the region and improve relations with Latin American military forces. “We should continue to strengthen ties to those military leaders in the region who share our concern over Chavez”. Kelly also proposed a “psychological operations” program against the Venezuelan government to exploit its vulnerabilities. “We also need to make sure that the truth about Chavez - his hollow vision, his empty promises, his dangerous international relationships, starting with Iran - gets out, always exercising careful judgment about where and how we take on Chavez directly/publicly”. Kelly recommended U.S. officials make more visits to the region to “show the flag and explain directly to populations our view of democracy and progress”. Kelly also offered details on how Washington could better exploit the differences amongst South American governments to isolate Venezuela: “Brazil can be a powerful counterpoint to Chavez’s project. Chile offers another excellent alternative to Chavez. We should look to find other ways to give Chile the lead on important initiatives, but without making them look like they are our puppets or surrogates. Argentina is more complex, but still presents distinct characteristics that should inform our approach to countering Chavez’s influence there”.
Kelly also revealed the pressure Washington has been applying to Mercosur (Market of the South) to not accept Venezuela as a full member in the regional trade bloc. “With regard to Mercosur, we should not be timid in stating that Venezuela’s membership will torpedo U.S. interest in even considering direct negotiations with the trading bloc”.
Mexico, Bogota & others ask to fight Chavez
The cables published by Wikileaks not only reveal U.S. hostility towards Venezuela, but also the requests made by regional leaders and politicians to work against President Chavez. One secret document from October 2009 referring to a meeting between Mexican President Felipe Calderon and U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair tells of how Calderon confessed he was “trying to isolate Venezuela through the Rio Group”. The Mexican head of state also appealed to the U.S. intelligence chief, “The region needs a visible U.S. presence..the United States must be ready to engage the next Brazilian president. Brazil, he said, is key to restraining Chavez. The U.S. needs to engage Brazil more and influence its outlook”.
Uribe requests military actions against Chavez
In several secret documents authored by the U.S. Embassy in Colombia, efforts by ex President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, to convince Washington to take action against Venezuela are evidenced. In one cable from December 2007, the U.S. Ambassador in Colombia recounts a meeting between Uribe and a delegation of U.S. congress members, including Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. According to the text, Uribe “likened the threat Chavez poses to Latin America to that posed by Hitler in Europe”. And in yet another report summarizing a January 2008 meeting between Uribe and the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, Uribe is quoted as recommending military action against Venezuela. “The best counter to Chavez, in Uribe’s view, remains action - including use of the military”. Later in that same secret cable, Uribe urged Washington to “lead a public campaign against Venezuela to counter Chavez.”
Opposition bishop requests U.S. action
In addition to regional politicians and U.S. diplomats urging plans against President Chavez, one cable reveals how during a meeting between a Venezuelan Archbishop and the U.S. Ambassador, the religious leader asked for Washington to act against his own government. At the meeting, which took place in January 2005 according to the document, Archbishop Baltazar Porras told Ambassador William Brownfield that the “U.S. government should be more clear and public in its criticism of the Chavez administration” and that the “international community also needs to work and speak out more to contain Chavez.” The plans and strategies revealed through these official documents confirm what other evidence has already corroborated regarding Washington’s increase in aggression towards Venezuela. The U.S. continues to fund opposition groups that act to undermine Venezuelan democracy while escalating its hostile discourse and policies against the Chavez government. This week’s Senate affirmation of Larry Palmer as Ambassador to Venezuela will only make matters worse. Palmer was rejected by the Venezuelan government after he made negative statements about the Chavez administration in August. Washington’s insistence of sending Palmer appears to be an effort to provoke a rupture in diplomatic relations.