Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Where do YOU want to go from here?
I think that it is time for me to share with you some of my thoughts and ask for your opinion.
This blog has been up since May 1st, 2007, a little over 2,5 years now. Frankly, when I started this blog I did it mainly for myself. I saw it as a place to do something which I could never have done before: to speak my mind in absolute freedom, without having to worry about anybody's reaction. In my past life as a military analyst, speaking my mind freely had basically ended up costing me my career, so I figured that I might as well enjoy the fact that my services were no more required by my former bosses. I also decided to keep this blog 'sort of anonymous'. What I mean by this is that any government entity with just a modicum of desire to find out who hides behind that somewhat silly handle of "The Saker" can do that with no effort. Blogspot and Google, and all the other major corporate IT companies, are really dependencies of Uncle Sam and, besides, the NSA log all the traffic (voice/email/fax/SMS/etc) anyway. I knew that, and I still connected to the Internet from my home, without using any proxy servers, no Tor "onion' routing - no nothing. I was not hiding - I just wanted my former employers not to think about me any more, and I wanted my personality and past to be irrelevant to this blog. The fact is that I ended up sharing my name, and sometimes even my phone number, with quite a few of my readers. I am very happy with this decision. In a time when people just seem to be compelled to label everybody as "Left" or "Right", conservative or liberal, Christian or Muslim - I wanted to make such labelling as useless as possible. My personal basic philosophy of life is summarized in the section "words to live by" and that is good enough, IMHO.
The one thing which this blog never had is a clearly defined profile. It was a mix of everything and anything: I "recycled" news from other sources, I wrote short commentaries and I wrote lengthy analytical pieces, I tried to open up the comments section as much as possible to have an exchange of views with my readers and to make it possible for them to talk to each other. I opened an IRC channel for the same purpose. I have to honestly admit that I am not so sure as to how to proceed.
Some of my ideas did not bring any useful results. Like the IRC channel in which almost nobody ever came to chat.
For all my efforts and pleas - the number of comments/reaction to most posts here is dismally low. Interestingly, the number of visitors is not in decline, so it appears that most of you like to read what is posted here, but don't feel like commenting. Fair enough (though I am personally a little disappointed).
My big question to you all is: do you think that my re-posting articles from other sources which you could also find by yourself is of any use to you? Should I continue to regularly "recycle" news from other websites? I thought that this might save you some time, and that posting these articles here would be a way of generating a discussion, but the latter clearly did not happen.
I have been blessed with some terrific articles sent to me by Eric Walberg and Gilad Atzmon which I feel are definitely worth publishing here, but even those have generated few, if any, comments. Besides, every reader of my blog can go himself/herself to Eric's or Gilad's websites and read these articles there. Does it make sense for me to publish them here?
Since there is a total news blackout on Hezbollah, I made it a point of honor to publish almost every speech made by Hezbollah's secretary general Hassan Nasrallah. It is my sincere belief that Hezbollah is the single most important political force in the Middle-East, more important than any country, and that Hassan Nasrallah is an absolutely crucial personality whose every word counts. There is, in my opinion, no way to understand anything in the Middle-East unless one keeps a close eye on what Hezbollah and its leader say and do. But again - these posts almost never generated a comment and this begs the question - shall I continue posting such translations here?
Another big issue for me is 9/11. I am convinced of two things now: first, there are a huge number of developments taking place right now and the 9/11 Truth movement is gaining amazing strength, not only in the USA, but also abroad. Second, uncovering the truth about what happened on 9/11 might well be the key to bringing down the entire "US Nomenklatura" and the Israel Lobby which has now completely taken over the USA. Simply put - they did 9/11 and if we can show this it will put an absolutely unbearable spotlight on them and they will have to let go. I strongly feel that 9/11 is "THE" issue, but I also suspect that most of you do not feel that way. Do you want me to continue covering it?
Would you prefer if I limited myself to publishing only and exclusively my own comments, articles or analytical pieces. That would mean that if I had nothing to say a couple of weeks nothing at all would be published here.
Another option would be to make this the blog of several people, to open it up to more than one author. Some of you clearly have the skills to contribute very interesting comments and, as far as I know, you do not have a blog of your own (Lysander, Ya_Baqiyatullah, Alibi, - this is a not so subtle hint here), would you be interested in me trying to get more people involved here or would you be interested in writing for me?
Dear friends, I now ask you to please, *PLEASE!!!!*, take the time and post a reply to my questions here. I know that this is a pain, but I need your feedback to know what you do value (or not) in this blog.
Please do not send me an email, as I would like others to see what you wrote. I always enjoy getting emails from you, but this time I need to hear some opinions to decide what I shall do next.
Barring some big event, I will leave this post up until January 1st to give you as much time as possible to express your views. Based on your replies, I will then take a decision as to where we go from here and let you know.
Many thanks in advance, a very Happy New Year and a Blessed Nativity to you all!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The key 9/11 phone calls which now the government admits never happened
Israel admits to organ thefts
Israel has admitted that it harvested organs from the dead bodies of Palestinians and Israelis in the 1990s, without permission from their families.
The admission follows the release of an interview with Jehuda Hiss, the former head of Israel's forensic institute, in which he said that workers at the institute had harvested skin, corneas, heart valves and bones from Israelis, Palestinians and foreign workers.
In the interview, which was conducted in 2000 when Hiss was head of Tel Aviv's Abu Kabir forensic institute, he said: "We started to harvest corneas ... Whatever was done was highly informal. No permission was asked from the family."
Nancy Scheper-Hughes, who conducted the interview, told Al Jazeera on Monday that Hiss had said the "body parts were used by hospitals for transplant purposes - cornea transplants. They were sent to public hospitals [for use on citizens].
Guidelines 'not clear'
"And the skin went to a special skin bank, founded by the military, for their uses", such as for burns victims.
The practice is said to have ended in 2000.
The interview was also reported on Israel's Channel 2 television, which quoted an Israeli military statement that said: "This activity ended a decade ago and does not happen any longer."
Israel's health ministry said in the Channel 2 report that at the time the guidelines for transplants "were not clear" and that for the last 10 years "Abu Kabir has been working according to ethics and Jewish law".
Scheper-Hughes, who is a professor of anthropology at the University of California-Berkeley, said that she made the interview public because of the controversy last summer over allegations of organ harvesting made by a Swedish newspaper.
In August the Aftonbladet newspaper ran an article alleging that the Israeli army had stolen body organs from Palestinian men after killing them.
Israel denied the claims, calling them anti-Semitic, and the incident raised tensions when Sweden refused to apologise for the article, saying that press freedom prevented it from intervening.
Donald Bostrom, the journalist who broke the story in Aftonbladet, told Al Jazeera: "UN staff came to me and said that you have to look into this very serious issue. Palestinian young people were disappearing in the areas and five days later they appear back in the villages with an autopsy done on them against the will of the families.
"We need to know who are the victims. Mothers need to know what happened to their sons."
Bostrom said that there is no proof that people were killed for their organs but that an investigation is needed to find out whether there was a policy in place or if the bodies used were random.
Bostrom added that Hiss is the "main key" to solving such unanswered questions, but that there would also be other people involved who could help uncover the truth.
Scheper-Hughes said that some of the dead Palestinians from whom organs were harvested were killed during military raids.
"Some of the bodies were definitely Palestinians who were killed in conflicts," she told Al Jazeera.
"Their organs were taken without consent of families and were used to serve the needs of the country in terms of hospitals as well as the army's needs."
She said that Hiss told her "that the people who did the harvesting were sent by the military. They were often medical students".
"He did it informally and without permission, and it was technically illegal," she said.
The military establishment gave their "sanction and approval" to the procedures, according to Scheper-Hughes.
During his interview with Scheper-Hughes, Hiss said that the eyelids of bodies were glued shut to prevent the removal of corneas being found out.
Hiss was dismissed as head of Abu Kabir in 2004 over irregularities in the use of organs, but charges against him were eventually dropped. He still holds the position of chief pathologist at the institute.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Venezuela Accuses U.S. Drone Of Violating Airspace From Colombia
CARACAS, Venezuela: An unmanned U.S. spy plane recently violated Venezuela’s airspace and the military has been ordered to shoot down any such aircraft if it happens again, President Hugo Chavez said Sunday.
Speaking during his weekly television and radio program, Chavez said the aircraft overflew a Venezuelan military base in the western state of Zulia after taking off from neighboring Colombia. He did not elaborate, but suggested the plane was being used for espionage.
“These are the Yankees. They are entering Venezuela,” he said.
“I’ve ordered them to be shot down,” Chavez said of the aircraft. “We cannot permit this.”
Chavez has accused Colombia of allowing the United States to use its military bases to prepare a possible attack against Venezuela.
Last week, the president accused the Netherlands of letting the U.S. military use Dutch islands off Venezuela’s Caribbean coast to prepare for a possible military offensive. The former paratroop commander said the U.S. military has sent intelligence agents, warships and spy planes to Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire, which are self-governing Dutch islands.
Tensions between Venezuela and neighboring Colombia have been tense for months due to Chavez’s accusations of warmongering and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s allegations that Venezuela has allowed Colombian rebel leaders to seek refuge there.
Chavez denied on Sunday that his socialist government is protecting Marxist guerrillas and warned Colombia’s military against sending soldiers across the border.
“You’ll be sorry,” he said. “We are not unarmed.”
Friday, December 18, 2009
Yemen: Pentagon's War On The Arabian Peninsula
Yemen will become a battleground for a proxy war between the United States and Saudi Arabia - whose state-to-state relations are among the strongest and most durable of the entire post-World War II era - on one hand and Iran on the other.
It is perhaps impossible to determine the exact moment at which a U.S.- supported self-professed holy warrior - trained to perpetrate acts of urban terrorism and to shoot down civilian airliners - ceases to be a freedom fighter and becomes a terrorist. But a safe assumption is that it occurs when he is no longer of use to Washington. A terrorist who serves American interests is a freedom fighter; a freedom fighter who doesn't is a terrorist.
Yemenis are the latest to learn the Pentagon's and the White House's law of the jungle. Along with Iraq and Afghanistan which counterinsurgency specialist Stanley McChrystal used to perfect his techniques, Yemen is joining the ranks of other nations where the Pentagon is engaged in that variety of warfare, fraught with civilian massacres and other forms of so-called collateral damage: Colombia, Mali, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia and Uganda.
BBC News reported on December 14 that 70 civilians were killed when aircraft bombed a market in the village of Bani Maan in northern Yemen.
The nation's armed forces claimed responsibility for the deadly attack, but a website of the Houthi rebels against whom the bombing was ostensibly directed stated "Saudi aircraft committed a massacre against the innocent residents of Bani Maan." 
The Saudi regime entered the armed conflict between the (eponymous) Houthis and the Yemeni government on behalf of the latter in early November and since has been accused of launching attacks inside Yemen with tanks and warplanes. Even before the latest bombing scores of Yemenis have been killed and thousands displaced by the fighting. Saudi Arabia has also been accused of using phosphorous bombs.
Moreover, the rebel group known as Young Believers, based in the Shi'ite Muslim community of Yemen which comprises 30 percent of the country's population of 23 million, claimed on December 14 that "US fighter jets have attacked Yemen's Sa'ada Province" and "US fighter jets have launched 28 attacks on the northwestern province of Sa'ada." 
The previous day's edition of Britain's Daily Telegraph reported on discussions with U.S. military officials, stating "Fearful that Yemen is in danger of becoming a failed state, America has now sent a small number of special forces teams to improve training of Yemen's army in reaction to the threat."
One unnamed Pentagon official was quoted as saying "Yemen is becoming a reserve base for al-Qaeda's activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan." 
The conjuring up of the al-Qaeda bogey, however, is a decoy. The rebels in the north of the nation are Shi'ites and not Sunnis, much less Wahhabi Sunnis of the Saudi variety, and as such are not only not linked with any group of groups that could be categorized as al-Qaeda, but instead would be a likely target thereof.
In service to American designs in the region, the British and American press lately has been referring to Yemen as the "ancestral homeland" of Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden comes from a prominent billionaire Saudi Arabian family, of course, but as his father had been born in what is now the Republic of Yemen over a century ago the Western media are exploiting an insignificant historical accident to suggest Osama bin Laden's active role in the nation and to establish a tenuous link between the South Asian war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Saudi and American armed intervention in a civil conflict in Yemen.
In 2002 the Pentagon dispatched an estimated 100 soldiers, by some accounts Green Beret special forces, to Yemen to train the country's military. In that instance, coming as it did two years after the suicide bombing attack against the Navy destroyer USS Cole in the southern Yemeni port of Aden, attributed to al-Qaeda, and accompanied by drone missile attacks against identified leaders of the same, Washington justified its actions as retaliation for that incident as well as the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. the year before.
The present context is different and a U.S.-backed counterinsurgency war in Yemen will have nothing to do with combating alleged al-Qaeda threats, but will in fact be an integral part of the strategy to expand the Afghan war into yet wider concentric circles taking in South and Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia and the Gulf of Aden, the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The eagerly awaited departure of President George W. Bush may have led to the end of the official global war on terror, now referred to as overseas contingencies operations, but nothing except the name has changed.
On December 13 the top commander of the Pentagon's Central Command in charge of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, General David Petraeus, told the Al Arabiya television network that "that U.S supports Yemen's security in the context of the military cooperation provided by America for its allies in the region" and "stressed that U.S. ships in the territorial waters of Yemen [are there] not only to control but to impede the infiltrations of weapons to Houthi rebels." 
To be recalled the next time the al-Qaeda/bin Laden canard is used to justify expanding U.S. military involvement on the Arabian Peninsula.
The Yemen Post of December 13 wrote that the Houthi media office "accused the U.S. of participating in the war against Houthis" and released photographs of what were identified as U.S. warplanes "involved in bombing operations in Sa'ada province [in] Northern Yemen."
The source estimated there have been twenty U.S. bombing raids coordinated with satellite surveillance. 
The Western press is again leading the charge in linking the Houthis, whose religious background of Zaydi Shi'ism is quite distinct from the Iranian version, to sinister machinations imputed to Tehran. Even U.S. government officials have to date acknowledged no evidence that Iran is supporting much less arming the Yemeni rebels. That will change if the script goes according to precedent as is indicated by Petraeus's comment above, and Washington will dutifully echo the Yemeni government's claim that Iran is arming its Shi'ia brethren in Yemen as it is accused of doing in Lebanon.
Yemen will become a battleground for a proxy war between the United States and Saudi Arabia - whose state-to-state relations are among the strongest and most durable of the entire post-World War II era - on one hand and Iran on the other.
In an editorial of five days ago the Tehran Times accused all parties to the Yemeni conflict - the government, the rebels and Saudi Arabia - of recklessness and issued a warning: "History provides a good example. Saudi Arabia funded extremist groups in Afghanistan and still, two decades since the withdrawal of the Soviet army from the country, the flames of war in Afghanistan are overwhelming the allies of Saudi Arabia.
"And a similar scenario is emerging in Yemen." 
The comparison between Yemen and Afghanistan alluded in particular to Riyadh, in the second case hand-in-glove with the United States, exporting Saudi-based Wahhabism to expand its political influence.
Saudi Arabia is attempting to promote its own version of extremism in Yemen as it did earlier in Afghanistan and Pakistan and is currently doing in Iraq. Far from the U.S. and its Western allies expressing any objection, the Saudis and their fellow Persian Gulf monarchies will be in the forefront of what is estimated to be $100 billion worth of Middle East arms purchases from the West over the next five years. "The core of this arms-buying spree will undoubtedly be the $20 billion U.S. package of weapons systems over 10 years for the six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council - Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain."  Saudi Arabia is also armed with state-of-the-art British and French warplanes as well as U.S. missile defense systems.
What the earlier cited Iranian commentary warned about regarding "the flames of war" in Afghanistan is perfectly confirmed by the Commander's Initial Assessment of August 30, 2009 issued by top American and NATO military commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal and published by the Washington Post on September 21 with the redactions demanded by the Pentagon. The 66-page document served as the blueprint for President Barack Obama's December 1 announcement that 33,000 more American troops are headed to Afghanistan.
In the report McChrystal stated, "The major insurgent groups in order of their threat to the mission are: the Quetta Shura Taliban (05T), the Haqqani Network (HQN), and the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HiG)."
The last two are named after their founders and current leaders, Jalaluddin Haqqanni and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Mujahideen darlings of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in the 1980s when the Agency's deputy director (from 1986-1989) was Robert Gates, now U.S. Secretary of Defense in charge of prosecuting the war in Afghanistan. And in Yemen.
In his 1996 book From the Shadows, Gates boasted that "CIA had important successes in covert action. Perhaps the most consequential of all was Afghanistan where CIA, with its management, funnelled billions of dollars in supplies and weapons to the mujahideen...." 
The New York Times in 2008 divulged these details:
"In the 1980s, Jalaluddin Haqqani was cultivated as a 'unilateral' asset of the CIA and received tens of thousands of dollars in cash for his work in fighting the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, according to an account in 'The Bin Ladens,' a recent book by Steve Coll. At that time, Haqqani helped and protected Osama bin Laden, who was building his own militia to fight the Soviet forces, Coll wrote."  Coll is also the author of the 2001 volume Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001.
Haqqani's colleague Hekmatyar "received millions of dollars from the CIA through the ISI [Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence]. Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin received some of the strongest support from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and worked with thousands of foreign mujahideen who came to Afghanistan." 
This past May the (superlatively) pro-American president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, told the American NBC news network that Taliban is "part of our past and your past, and the ISI and CIA created them together....It (the Taliban) was (a) monster created by all of us...." 
On September 11, 2001 there were only three nations in the world that recognized Taliban rule in Afghanistan: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. U.S. President George W. Bush immediately afterward singled out seven so-called states supporting terrorism for potential retaliation: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. Only Sudan, which expelled Osama bin Laden in 1996, had any conceivable connections to al-Qaeda. Of the nineteen accused September 11 airline hijackers, fifteen were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt and one from Lebanon.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia remain highly-valued American political and military allies and the United Arab Emirates has troops serving under NATO command in Afghanistan.
It is perhaps impossible to determine the exact moment at which a U.S.-supported self-professed holy warrior - trained to perpetrate acts of urban terrorism and to shoot down civilian airliners - ceases to be a freedom fighter and becomes a terrorist. But a safe assumption is that it occurs when he is no longer of use to Washington. A terrorist who serves American interests is a freedom fighter; a freedom fighter who doesn't is a terrorist.
For decades the African National Congress of Nelson Mandela and the Palestine Liberation Organization of Yasser Arafat were at the top of the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist groups. No sooner had the Cold War ended than both Mandela and Arafat (and Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams) were invited to the White House. The first shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and the second in 1994.
If a hypothetical self-styled jihadist left Saudi Arabia or Egypt in the 1980s for Pakistan to fight against the Afghan government and its Soviet ally, he was a freedom fighter in the U.S.'s eyes. If he then went to Lebanon he was a terrorist. In the early 1990s if he arrived in Bosnia he was a freedom fighter again, but if he showed up in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank a terrorist. In the Russian North Caucasus he was a reborn freedom fighter, but if he returned to Afghanistan after 2001 a terrorist.
Depending on how the wind is blowing from Foggy Bottom, an armed Baloch separatist in Pakistan or a Kashmiri one in India is either a freedom fighter or a terrorist.
Contrariwise, in 1998 U.S. special envoy to the Balkans Robert Gelbard described the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) fighting the government of Yugoslavia as a terrorist organization: "I know a terrorist when I see one and these men are terrorists." 
The following February U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright brought five members of the KLA, including its chief Hashim Thaci, to Rambouillet, France to offer an ultimatum to Yugoslavia that she knew would be rejected and lead to war. The next year she escorted Thaci on a personal tour of the United Nations Headquarters and the State Department and invited him as a guest to the Democratic Party presidential nominating convention in Los Angeles.
This November 1st Thaci, now prime minister of a pseudo-state only recognized by 63 of the world's 192 nations, hosted former U.S. President Bill Clinton for the unveiling of a statue honoring the latter's crimes. And vanity.
Washington supported armed separatists in Eritrea from the mid-1970s until 1991 in their war against the Ethiopian government.
Currently the U.S. is arming Somalia and Djibouti for war against independent Eritrea. The Pentagon has its first permanent military base in Africa in Djibouti, where it stations 2,000 troops and from where it conducts drone surveillance over Somalia. And Yemen.
In the words of Balzac's character Vautrin, "There are no such things as principles, there are only events; there are no laws, there are only circumstances...."
Yemenis are the latest to learn the Pentagon's and the White House's law of the jungle. Along with Iraq and Afghanistan which counterinsurgency specialist Stanley McChrystal used to perfect his techniques, Yemen is joining the ranks of other nations where the U.S. military is engaged in that variety of warfare, fraught with civilian massacres and other forms of so-called collateral damage: Colombia, Mali, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia and Uganda.
1) BBC News, December 14, 2009
2) Press TV, December 14, 2009
3) Daily Telegraph, December 13, 2009
4) Yemen Post, December 13, 2009
6) Tehran Times, December 10, 2009
7) United Press International, August 25, 2009
8) BBC News, December 1, 2008
9) New York Times, September 9, 2008
11) Press Trust of India, May 11, 2009
12) BBC News, June 28, 1998
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Obama, Is Preparing for War in South America
Mike Whitney: The US media is very critical of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He's frequently denounced as "anti-American", a "leftist strongman", and a dictator. Can you briefly summarize some of the positive social, economic and judicial changes for which Chavez is mainly responsible?
Eva Golinger: The first and foremost important achievement during the Chávez administration is the 1999 Constitution, which, although not written nor decreed by Chávez himself, was created through his vision of change for Venezuela. The 1999 Constitution was, in fact, drafted - written - by the people of Venezuela in one of the most participatory examples of nation building, and then was ratified through popular national referendum by 75% of Venezuelans. The 1999 Constitution is one of the most advanced in the world in the area of human rights. It guarantees the rights to housing, education, healthcare, food, indigenous lands, languages, women's rights, worker's rights, living wages and a whole host of other rights that few other countries recognize on a national level. My favorite right in the Venezuelan Constitution is the right to a dignified life. That pretty much sums up all the others. Laws to implement these rights began to surface in 2001, with land reform, oil industry redistribution, tax laws and the creation of more than a dozen social programs - called missions - dedicated to addressing the basic needs of Venezuela's poor majority. In 2003, the first missions were directed at education and healthcare. Within two years, illiteracy was eradicated in the country and Venezuela was certified by UNESCO as a nation free of illiteracy. This was done with the help of a successful Cuban literacy program called "Yo si puedo" (Yes I can). Further educational missions were created to provide free universal education from primary to doctoral levels throughout the country. Today, Venezuela's population is much more educated than before, and adults who previously had no high school education now are encouraged to not only go through a secondary school program, but also university and graduate school.
The healthcare program, called "Barrio Adentro", has not only provided preventive healthcare to all Venezuelans - many who never had access to a doctor before - but also has guaranteed universal, free access to medical attention at the most advanced levels. MRIs, heart surgery, lab work, cancer treatments, are all provided free of cost to anyone (including foreigners) in need. Some of the most modern clinics, diagnostic treatment centers and hospitals have been built in the past five years under this program, placing Venezuela at the forefront of medical technology.
Other programs providing subsidized food and consumer products (Mercal, Pdval), job training (Mission Vuelvan Caras), subsidies to poor, single mothers (Madres del Barrio), attention to indigents and drug addicts (Mission Negra Hipolita) have reduced extreme poverty by 50% and raised Venezuelans standard of living and quality of life. While nothing is perfect, these changes are extraordinary and have transformed Venezuela into a nation far different from what it looked like 10 years ago. In fact, the most important achievement that Hugo Chávez himself is directly responsible for is the level of participation in the political process. Today, millions of Venezuelans previously invisible and excluded are visible and included. Those who were always marginalized and ignored in Venezuela by prior governments today have a voice, are seen and heard, and are actively participating in the building of a new economic, political and social model in their country.
Mike Whitney: On Monday, President Chavez threw a Venezuelan judge in jail on charges of abuse of power for freeing a high-profile banker. Do you think he overstepped his authority as executive or violated the principle of separation of powers? What does this say about Chavez's resolve to fight corruption?
Eva Golinger: President Chávez did not put anyone in jail. Venezuela has an Attorney General and an independent branch of government in charge of public prosecutions. Chávez did publicly accuse the judge of corruption and violating the law because that judge overstepped her authority by releasing an individual charged with corruption and other criminal acts from detention, despite the fact that a previous court had not granted conditional freedom or bail to the suspect. And, the judge released the suspect in a very irregular way, without the presence of the prosecutor, and through a back door. The suspect then fled the country.
This is part of Venezuela's fight against corruption. Unfortunately - as in a lot of countries - corruption is deeply rooted in the culture. The struggle to eradicate corruption is probably the most difficult of all and will probably not be achieved until new generations have grown up with different values and education. In the meantime, the Chávez administration is trying hard to ensure that corrupt public officials pay the consequences. That judge, for example, engaged in an act of corruption and abuse of authority by illegally releasing a suspect and therefore was charged by the Public Prosecutor's office and will be tried. It has nothing to do with what Chávez said or didn't say, it has to do with enforcing the law.
Mike Whitney: Why is the United States building military bases in Colombia? Do they pose a threat to Chavez or the Bolivarian Revolution?
Eva Golinger: On October 30th, the US formally entered into an agreement with the Colombian government to allow US access to seven military bases in Colombia and unlimited use of Colombian territory for military operations. The agreement itself is purported to be directed at counter-narcotics operations and counter-terrorism. But a US Air Force document released earlier this year discussing the need for a stronger US military presence in Colombia revealed the true intentions behind the military agreement. The document stated that the US military presence was necessary to combat the "constant threat from anti-US governments in the region". Clearly, that is a reference to Venezuela, and probably Bolivia, maybe Ecuador. It's no secret that Washington considers the Venezuelan government anti-US, though it's not true. Venezuela is anti-imperialist, but not anti-US. The US Air Force document also stated that the Colombian bases would be used to engage in "full spectrum military operations" throughout South America, and even talked about surveillance, intelligence and reconnaisance missions, and improving the capacity of US forces to execute "expeditionary warfare" in Latin America.
Clearly, this is a threat to the peoples of Latin America and particularly those nations targeted, such as Venezuela. Most people in the US don't know about this military agreement, but it they did, they should question why their government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama, is preparing for war in South America. And, in the midst of an economic crisis with millions of people in the US losing jobs and homes, why are millions of dollars being spent on military bases in Colombia? The US Congress already approved $46 million for one of the bases in Colombia. And surely more funds will be supplied in the future.
Mike Whitney: What is ALBA? Is it a viable alternative to the "free trade" blocs promoted by the US?
Eva Golinger: The Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas - Trade Agreement for the People, is a regional agreement created five years ago between Venezuela and Cuba, and now has 9 members: Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica. ALBA is a trade agreement based on integration, cooperation and solidarity, contrary to US trade agreements which are based on competition and exploitation. It promotes a way of trading between nations that assures mutual benefits. For example, Venezuela sells oil to Cuba and Cuba pays with services - doctors, educators and technological experts that help to improve Venezuela's industries. Venezuela sells oil to Nicaragua and Nicaragua pays with food products, agricultural technology and aide to build Venezuela's own agricultural industry, which long ago was abandoned by prior governments only interested in the rich oil industry. ALBA seeks to not just provide economic benefits to its member nations, but also social and cultural advances. The idea is to find ways to help members develop and progress in all aspects of society. ALBA recently created a new currency, the SUCRE, which will be used as a form of exchange between member nations, eliminating the US dollar as the standard for trade.
Mike Whitney: Are US NGO's and intelligence agents still trying to foment political instability in Venezuela or have those operations ceased since the failed coup?
Eva Golinger: In fact, the funding of political groups in Venezuela, and others throughout Latin America that promote US agenda, has increased since the April 2002 coup against President Chávez. Through two principal Department of State agencies, USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US government has channeled more than $50 million to opposition groups in Venezuela since 2002. The USAID/NED budget to fund groups in Venezuela in 2010 is nearly $15 million, doubled from last year's $7 million. This is a state policy of Washington, which the Obama Administration plans to amp up. They call it "democracy promotion", but it's really democracy subversion and destabilization. Funding political groups favorable to Empire, equipping them with resources, strategizing to help formulate political platforms and campaigns - all geared towards regime change - is a new form of invasion, a silent invasion. Through USAID and NED, and their "partner NGOs" and contractors, such as Freedom House, International Republican Institute, National Democratic Institute, Pan-American Development Foundation and Development Alternatives, Inc., hundreds of political groups, parties and programs are presently being funded in Venezuela to promote regime change against the Chávez government. US taxpayer dollars are being squandered on these efforts to overthrow a democratically elected government that simply isn't convenient for Washington. Remember, Venezuela has 24% of world oil reserves. That's a lot!
Mike Whitney: How hard has Venezuela been hit by the economic crisis? Do the people understand Wall Street's role in the meltdown?
Eva Golinger: Actually, the Chávez government has taken important steps to shelter Venezuela from the financial crisis. People here in Venezuela absolutely understand Wall Street's role in the crisis and know that the US capitalist-consumerist system is principally responsible for causing the financial crisis, but also the climate crisis that the world is facing. The Venezuelan government took preventive steps against the financial crisis, such as withdrawing Venezuela's reserves from US banks two years ago, creating cushion funds to ensure social programs would not be cut and diversifying Venezuela's oil clientele so as not to be dependent solely on US clients. Recently, several banks have been nationalized by the Venezuelan government and others have been liquidated. But this was more due to the mismanagement and internal corruption within those banks. The Venezuelan government reacted quickly to take over the banks and guarantee customers' savings would not be lost. In fact, it's the first time in Venezuela's history that no customers have lost any of their money during a bank liquidation or takeover. This is part of the Chávez Administration's policy of prioritizing social needs over economic gain.
Mike Whitney: Here's an excerpt from a special weekend report by Bloomberg News:
"Americans have grown gloomier about both the economy and the nation’s direction over the past three months even as the U.S. shows signs of moving from recession to recovery. Almost half the people now feel less financially secure than when President Barack Obama took office in January...Fewer than 1 in 3 Americans think the economy will improve in the next six months....Only 32 percent of poll respondents believe the country is headed in the right direction, down from 40 percent who said so in September." (Bloomberg)
The frustration and disillusionment with the US political/economic system has never been greater in my lifetime. Do you think people in the United States are ready for their own Bolivarian Revolution and steps towards a more progressive, socialistic model of government?
Eva Golinger: The rise of Barack Obama neutralized a growing sentiment for profound change inside the US. Hopefully, the slowdown in US activism will only be temporary. South of the border, there is tremendous change taking place. New social, political and economic models are being built by popular grassroots movements in Venezuela, Bolivia and other Latin American nations that seek economic and social justice. I believe strongly that models in process, like the Bolivarian Revolution, provide inspiration and hope to those in the US and around the world that alternatives to US capitalism do exist and can be successful.
The US has a rich history of revolution. There are many groups inside the US dedicated to building a better, more humanist system. Unity and a collective vision are essential aspects of building a strong movement capable of moving forward. Every nation has its moment in history. This is the time of Latin America. But there is great hope that the people of the US will soon unite with their brothers and sisters south of the border to bring down Empire and help build a true world community based on social and economic justice for all.
Eva Golinger, winner of the International Award for Journalism in Mexico (2009), named “La Novia de Venezuela” by President Hugo Chávez, is a Venezuelan-American attorney from New York, living in Caracas, Venezuela since 2005 and author of the best-selling books, “The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela” (2006 Olive Branch Press), “Bush vs. Chávez: Washington’s War on Venezuela” (2007, Monthly Review Press), “The Empire’s Web: Encyclopedia of Interventionism and Subversion”, “La Mirada del Imperio sobre el 4F: Los Documentos Desclasificados de Washington sobre la rebelión militar del 4 de febrero de 1992” and "La Agresión Permanente: USAID, NED y CIA". Since 2003, Eva, a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and CUNY Law School in New York, has been investigating, analyzing and writing about US intervention in Venezuela using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain information about the US Government’s efforts to destabilize progressive movements in Latin America. Her first book, The Chávez Code, has been translated and published in six languages (English, Spanish, French, German, Italian & Russian) and is presently being made into a feature film.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Israel's Leaders on the Run
Senior officials in Israel confirmed reports on Monday that a British court issued a warrant against opposition leader Mrs. Tzipi Livni for her role in orchestrating Israel's military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip last December.
British sources reported that though a British court had issued an arrest warrant for Livni over war crimes committed in Gaza, it annulled it upon discovering she was not in the U.K.
As many of us predicted for more than a while the tide is changing. Now Israeli political and military leaders are finally being chased.
Haaretz reported today that Foreign Secretary David Miliband, the man who last week appointed a Zionist Jew to be the next British Ambassador to Israel, announced today that Britain would “no longer tolerate legal harassment of Israeli officials in this fashion.”
Miliband maintained that “the British law permitting judges to issue arrest warrants against foreign dignitaries without any prior knowledge or advice by a prosecutor must be reviewed and reformed”. I find myself puzzled, why exactly this law is to be ‘reviewed’ or ‘reformed’. Is it because Britain decided to give up on its ethical tradition? Or is it because Miliband needs the support of the Labour Friends of Israel so he can be re-elected. Or is he just revealing an ever-present hidden cronyism?
Miliband said that “the British government was determined that arrest threats against visitors of Livni's stature would not happen again.” And I find myself bewildered again, what does he mean by “Livni’s stature’? Does he really mean that ‘Livni like’ genocidal murderers are now welcome on British soil?
"Israel is a strategic partner and a close friend of the United Kingdom. We are determined to protect and develop these ties," Miliband said. This obviously brings to mind the old saying ‘tell me who your friends are, and I'll tell you who you are’. Considering Labours recent history (aka Illegal wars and foreign invasions) it is far from surprising that Miliband has so many friends in the Jewish state. And not just ordinary Israelis but actually the leading mass murderers.
According to Haaretz, Miliband called Livni to express his shock over the arrest warrant and pledged to address the matter immediately. Years ago, when we were young and naive our lecturers on politics insisted on telling us that judicial independence is crucial to the democratic process. Seemingly this principle is not highly regarded by Miliband who professes to spread democracy around the world. Miliband may benefit from spending some time with my son’s primary school teachers so he grasps what democracy stands for.
Livni clarified that she “doesn't view the arrest warrant as a personal offense, but rather one that affects Israel as a whole.” She is obviously right. The Israeli society is regarded by the growing European masses as a criminal exterminatory state. The arrest warrants against Israeli leaders are indeed just a symbolic act.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday issued a statement saying "We will not agree to a situation in which Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni will be summoned to the defendant's bench…We will not agree that IDF commanders and soldiers, who - heroically and in a moral fashion - defended our citizens against a brutal and criminal enemy, will be condemned as war criminals. We reject this absurdity outright." It is pretty obvious where Netanyahu is coming from, yet, the Israeli PM must fail to see that dropping white phosphorous on civilians is not exactly what Europeans and cultured people regard as ‘heroism’ or ‘moral fashion’.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry is almost as amusing as its bigot Minister Avigdor Liberman. In an official statement the Ministry declared "We appreciate the British government's desire to play a central role in the Middle East peace process, and thus we expected it to translate the importance it gives its relations with Israel into actions.” Let’s face it, intimidating is a common Israeli tactic. Yet, the fact that Israelis want us to believe that they are heading towards peace is less than comical, it is downright treacherous. Britain is not going to play a part in the ‘peace process’ because there is no such process.
In response to the warrant, Livni deflecting personal guilt said Tuesday that “she would not accept any accusation that compared Israel Defense Forces soldiers to terrorists.” She is actually correct. The so-called ‘terrorists’ are in fact freedom fighters. Israel on the other hand is a racist expansionist state. Its military forces are engaged in a continuous crime against humanity. Israel is as vicious as Nazi Germany but in practice, it is far worse for it is a ‘democracy’. Its murderous practices are a direct reflection of its peoples wishes expressed in a democratic vote. At the peak of the IDF's brutal Gaza campaign 94% of the Israelis supported the lethal measures against the Palestinian population. Israelis are not terrorists, they are actually the embodiment of terror.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Russia, NATO and Afghanistan: High stakes Great Game
US President Barack Obama's now expanding war against the Taliban is garnering support from liberals and neocons alike, from leaders around the world, even from Russia. “We are ready to support these efforts, guarantee the transit of troops, take part in economic projects and train police and the military,” Russian President Dmitri Medvedev declared in a recent press conference with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Moscow and Washington reached an agreement in July allowing the US to launch up to 4,500 US flights a year over Russia, opening a major supply route for American operations in Afghanistan. Previously Russia had only allowed the US to ship non-lethal military supplies across its territory by train.
So far, Obama has all European governments behind him, if not their people. Despite a solid majority in all countries, from Canada to Europe East and West, who want the troops out now, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was able to deliver pledges from 25 NATO members to send a total of about 7,000 additional forces to Afghanistan next year "with more to come" with nary a dissenting voice. In a macabre statement, Fogh Rasmussen welcomed Obama's surge: "The United States' contribution to the NATO-led mission has always been substantial; it is now even more important."
Explaining the willingness of Euro leaders to ignore their constituents, former US ambassador to NATO and RAND adviser Robert Hunter told the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR): "In terms of motivation, very few European countries believe that winning in Afghanistan -- that is, dismantling, defeating, and destroying Al-Qaeda and Taliban -- is necessary for their own security. A few believe that, but most do not. When they add forces, it is to protect the credibility of NATO now that it is there. NATO has never failed at anything it chose to do." Part and parcel with this, Europeans want to keep the US "as a European power, not just as an insurance policy but also as the principal manager of Russia's future." He ghoulishly agreed with the CFR interviewer that Afghanistan is a way for Europe to "pay the rent" to the US for continuing to bully Russia.
The combined US and NATO forces will bring together a staggering 150,000 soldiers from more than 50 nations, not to mention the estimated 80,000 mercenaries already there, bringing the total to 230,000. Every European nation except for Belarus, Cyprus, Malta, Russia and Serbia will have military forces there, as well as nine of the 15 former Soviet republics. Marvels analyst Rick Rozoff, "Troops from five continents, Oceania and the Middle East. Even the putative coalition of the willing stitched together by the US and Britain after the invasion of Iraq only consisted of forces from 31 nations." By way of comparison, in September this year there were 120,000 US troops in Iraq and only a handful of other nations' personnel. The Soviet Afghan occupation force in the 1980s peaked at 100,000 shortly before beginning to pull out in 1989; the British in 1839 had only 21,000 and in 1878 -- 42,000.
The world's last three major wars -- Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq -- have all been testing grounds for the new, global NATO. Hence the flurry of visits by US officials to prospective members to make sure they sign up for the surge. For instance, Celeste Wallander, US deputy assistant secretary of defence for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, just returned from a visit to her new friend Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, to thank him for coughing up 40 "peacekeepers" who will start training in Germany in January 2010 before deployment in Afghanistan. As if to up the ante with its nemesis, Azerbaijan promised to double its 90 troops. It would be interesting if the two warring nations' troops were to share barracks. They have far more cause to fight each other than Afghans.
It is hard to imagine this heathen Tower of Babel as an effective force against devoted Muslims ready to die to repel the invaders. But Fogh nonetheless chortles, "With the right resources, we can succeed." Could it be that one of his "resources" is the "big one"?
What explains Russia's quiescence at Obama's determination to wrest Central Asia from its traditional sphere of influence? Russian suspicions about US intentions are very strong on many fronts. Sucking more than half of the ex-Soviet republics into returning to Afghanistan -- this time on the US side -- is surely brazen. Continuing to expand NATO eastward is strongly condemned by all Russians and is not popular in either Ukraine or Georgia, but continues nonetheless. Russian intelligence is undoubtedly following US and others' machinations in Chechnya, which continues to be a serious threat to Russian security. Hunter's cynical explanation to the CFR of Euro complicity in the Afghan genocide is not lost on deaf ears.
Yet, Russia dawdles on its assistance to Iran both in nuclear energy and in providing up-to-date defence missiles, clearly at US prompting. And now seems to be happy that Obama is expanding what all sensible analysts insist is a losing and criminal war virtually next door. Is this evidence of Russian weakness, an acceptance of US plans for Eurasian hegemony which could imperil the Russian Federation itself?
Russia is still in transition, caught between a longing to be part of the West and to be a mediator between the Western empire and the rest of the world. Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, represents this conflict between the "Atlantist" and "Eurasian" vision of Russia's future, terms which have been popularised by Alexandr Dugin. In a TV interview with Russia Today, loose-cannon Rogozin argued: “There is a new civilisation emerging in the Third World that thinks that the white, northern hemisphere has always oppressed it and must therefore fall at its feet now. If the northern civilisation wants to protect itself, it must be united: America, the European Union, and Russia. If they are not together, they will be defeated one by one.”
But Rogozin is not in favour of Russia merely lying down to be walked over by NATO. He would like NATO replaced by a Euro-Russian security treaty. It is no coincidence that just before Obama's announced surge, Russia unveiled a proposal for just such a new pact, which despite talk of "from Vancouver to Vladivostok" would essentially exclude the US and include Russia. It would prevent member states from taking actions which threaten other members, effectively excluding Ukraine and Georgia from NATO and preventing Poland and the Czech Republic from setting up their beloved US missile bases. Rogozin's Atlantist vision would see NATO defanged, and North America forced to ally with a new, independent Europe, where Russia is now the dominant power.
NATO, of course, will not go quietly into the night -- unless its latest venture in Afghanistan fails. So Russia is biting the bullet on this war -- for the time being. Just in case Obama was too busy with Oslo to notice, Rogozin warned last week that Russian cooperation over transit of military supplies to Afghanistan could be jeopardised by a failure to take the Russian security treaty proposal seriously. In Washington's worst-case scenario, if its Afghan gamble implodes, not only will it have to take Russia seriously, but so will Europe, giving the Russian Atlantists the opportunity to integrate with Europe without the US breathing down their necks. If by some miracle NATO succeeds in cowing the Afghans and continues to threaten Russia with encirclement, the Eurasians will gain the upper hand, and Russia will build up its BRIC and SCO ties, forced to abandon its dream of joining and leading Europe as the countervailing power to the US empire.
As this intrigue plays itself out, any number of things could tip the apple cart. For example, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, two quarrelsome ex-Soviet republics bordering Afghanistan which are vital to Obama's surge, virtually declared war on each other earlier this month, potentially complicating the shuttling of US materiel to the front. Uzbekistan announced its withdrawal from the Central Asian electricity grid, a move that isolates Tajikistan by making it impossible for the country to import power from other Central Asian states during the cold winter months. The Tajiks threaten to retaliate by restricting water supplies that Uzbekistan desperately need for its cotton sector next summer.Who knows how this will end? At least they haven't any troops in Afghanistan, where, like the Azeris and Armenians, they would be sorely tempted to turn their guns against each other rather than against the hapless Taliban.
Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/ You can reach him at http://ericwalberg.com/
Commentary: I think that Russia's willingness to let US/NATO supplies transit through its airspace and territory can be explained by a number or pragmatic considerations:
a) If there is one thing which Russia does not want in Afghanistan it is a return to power of the Taliban whom they correctly view as a major destabilizing factor for the Central Asian republics, in particular Tajikistan. That does not mean that Russia wants the US to "succeed" in Afghanistan (such as "success" being probably impossible to achieve anyway), only that Russia does not want the US/NATO to fail dramatically, a la Vietnam, if you want.
b) By allowing US/NATO supplies to transit through Russia Medvedev makes US/NATO dependent on a Russian "service" if you want, something which they can cut off literally in one minute. That gives Russia lot of leverage over its main rival. Think of it this way: could the Ukraine or Georgia provide such a service?
c) keeping the USA involved in a war which by definition cannot be won weakens the USraelian Empire, by depleting its resources and capabilities. Having US/NATO soldiers and Taliban fighters kill each other far away from Russia is actually something very good for Russia as it weakens both of its enemies.
d) by keeping the US/NATO efforts alive in Afghanistan, Russia also keeps the US involved in Pakistan. You could say that the US is "in charge of security" in Pakistan. Considering the truly immense potential for catastrophic developments in Pakistan, having the US in charge there as the hated policeman is not a bad calculation for Russia.
e) lastly, Russia can get a great deal of solace from the fact that the countries which are not supporting the US efforts in Afghanistan are all going to become part of a slow-motion defeat of the US/NATO operation. As the expression goes, victory has many parents, but defeat is an orphan - what could better weaken NATO then a jointly lived defeat.
Somebody once said that while the Americans play monopoly, the Russians play chess. This is quite true. The only 'strategy' which the Americans appear to be capable of is to grab as much land as possible and to make others pay for "transit". The Russians, being the chess players which they are, are capable of far more sophisticated maneuvers, including traps, discovered attacks, pins, skewers, etc. In this case, it is tying up the IS forces in the defense of an indefensible pawn - Afghanistan - and while preparing itself for the best possible position on the board for the endgame.
Report from Cop-enhagen
The signs up all over the airport and various places elsewhere in town are calling it Hopenhagen, but everybody I know is calling it Cop-enhagen, which seems far more appropriate. The international media has been giving this lots of coverage, and rightly so. Of course much of the media is unable to walk and chew gum at the same time, so other things, such as the reason the protests are happening in the first place, can get lost.
Inside the Bella Center lots of stuff is going on. Namely the US, Australia and others leading the way in making sure nothing meaningful takes place there, while many other delegates and activists within try to make the best of it, or at least make the effort to thoroughly expose the bankruptcy of the position taken by the rich countries. The center itself is divided into floors where the big decisions are being made, and then the rest of the place for the little people, the delegates from unimportant countries like Tuvalu, representatives of small NGOs and other riffraff. Many of the folks involved with the process inside are dividing their time between the meetings and events outside in the streets and at the alternative conference going on elsewhere in town.
Copenhagen is a beautiful city. The architecture in the heart of the city is understated but exudes the wealth of a place that was once the capital of a fairly sizeable empire. Of course, though the Danish empire brought some riches home to Copenhagen, the wealth of modern Denmark is far greater, that being the product not so much of empire but of the Danish labor movement and Danish social democracy. It is this check on Danish capitalism that has allowed this wealth to be so impressively distributed, bringing Denmark a quality of life that is the envy of most anyone who knows about it.
Of course, as in any society there are different forces at work in Denmark. Most Danes would identify much more with those peasants who rebelled in the 17th century and helped pave the way for modern Denmark, not with the soldiers who massacred them, but those soldiers were also Danes. Most Danes would prefer to remember the heroic stories of resistance during the occupation of Denmark in the 1940's, but there were also many enthusiastic collaborators.
At so many points in history there are pivotal moments when things can go different ways, and something pushes events in a certain direction. The direction of social democracy has been the ascendant one in Denmark for quite some time, but this was able to happen for a variety of reasons – the strength and purpose of the Danish labor movement, the fear on the part of the rich of the spectre of communism, the moral bankruptcy of the leaders of society who collaborated with the Nazis after the war, and so on.
If people know anything about this most southerly of the Scandinavian countries they know it's full of windmills. Germany actually has lots more windmills than Denmark, but many of them are made in Denmark anyway, at the Vespas factories in Jutland (where they recently laid off thousands of workers).
There's a reason Denmark has been a pioneer in windmill technology, and it is, to a large extent, the Danish environmental movement. In the early 70's the Danish government was thinking about building their first nuclear reactor, following the example of Sweden, which has one right across the water, upwind. People inspired by ideas of communal living and experiential learning formed a community centered around a Free School near the little village of Ulfborg and began making plans to build the world's largest windmill. Over the course of three years, working with scientists, artisans and large numbers of hippies, they built the world's largest windmill. They refused to patent any of their ground-breaking technology, making it all available for anybody to use. Their windmill, still standing and providing power to the community 35 years later, is the prototype for the big windmills you'll see scattered around Denmark and the world.
This windmill provided more than just energy – it and the movement that built it provided political capital. Those in parliament arguing for a nuclear reactor lost the fight, and Denmark became a nation of windmills.
For the past decade or so, however, Denmark has been run by a coalition led by the neoliberal, xenophobic Vestre party. They have been privatizing hospitals and passing some of the most restrictive immigration legislation in the world. They have had troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and they have been forcibly deporting refugees back to these war-torn countries. Fueled by the changes to Danish society wrought by EU membership, this conservative coalition keeps winning elections. Along with a love of capitalism and a fear of foreigners, these people also can't stand hippies or punks or other dissenting elements, and they are on a quest to “normalize” the 900-person intentional community in the heart of Copenhagen known as Christiania. To that end they conducted a police raid early one morning in 2007 and destroyed a house they deemed to have been illegally constructed. (I got my first taste of Danish tear gas there a couple hours later.)
Shortly before this home demolition in Christiania, hundreds of Danish police had landed on the five-story squatted social center known as Ungdomshuset (“Youth House”) by helicopter early one morning. They fumigated the place with tear gas, arrested those inside, jailed them for several months, and proceeded to follow the new government policy of destruction of the house. Masked construction workers from Poland did the dirty work, since Danish unions forbid their members from doing work that requires police protection.
Over the course of the next 1-1/2 years, however, the government was forced to backtrack on their plan to civilize Denmark. The movement to support Ungdomshuset grew dramatically, involving a number of fairly significant riots and probably more importantly a weekly drill of marches every Thursday for a year and a half, involving many hundreds and often thousands every week. Eventually the chief of police and the mayor of Copenhagen had to admit that their policies had been a mistake and they gave the movement what it was demanding, a new house, bought and paid for by the city. (Leftwing foundations had offered to buy a new building for the movement but these offers were refused on principle – the line was that the government destroyed Ungdomshuset and they should replace it with something comparable.)
In the course of the riots and demonstrations around Ungdomshuset the police preemptively arrested hundreds of people on a few occasions. They weren't technically allowed to do this, but they came up with excuses. One eyewitness told me that the police started arresting people, claiming some of them were throwing rocks at them, although the rock-throwing had clearly started only after the police began arresting the assembled crowd.
A new law was passed in preparation for the climate summit which makes this kind of mass preemptive arrest perfectly legal – all the police need to do is arbitrarily determine that an area is designated as a “riot zone” and then they can arrest whoever they want. Any non-Danes arrested can be held for 40 days (including people who were born in Denmark but are not citizens, a reality for many here that may seem surprising to those in the US reading this). It went into effect a week before last Thursday, and since then the Danish police have carried out mass preemptive arrests that dwarf anything they've done before. They don't even need to pretend they had any justification for what is essentially collective punishment.
Those of you from the US reading this should be familiar with preemptive mass arrests. If you haven't had your head in the sand for the past few decades then you know this happens regularly at demonstrations throughout our great democracy. But it's new for Denmark, and it is a serious step in the direction of the Americanization, you could say, of the country. Being an American, I can say first-hand that emulating US policies in terms of law enforcement or in terms of the privatization and outsourcing of industry is all a very bad idea, at least as far as the vast majority of people are concerned – but the interests of a privileged minority are what moves people like the Danish Prime Minister, not the interests of society as a whole.
The policies and concerns of the new Danish government were represented eloquently by the kettling and mass arrest of a small march that was en route to commit acts of civil disobedience at the docks run by the Maersk corporation. Maersk is one of the world's richest men and runs one of the world's biggest shipping companies (look for his name, it's everywhere). Blockading docks is illegal, of course, and under the normal legal procedures in a democratic society people committing such acts would be told to stop and after a certain amount of time arrested, fined, brought to trial or whatever. Yesterday, however, as with the day before, hundreds of people were preemptively arrested, including many who had no intention of committing any illegal acts, such as one reporter for the Times of London.
I narrowly avoided being arrested two days ago. Of those arrested the overwhelming majority had nothing to do with the rock-throwing incident at the stock exchange that apparently set off the police action. The overwhelming majority didn't even know anything had happened at the stock exchange. All they knew was they were suddenly, randomly being arrested while taking part in a permitted march organized in part by the very mainstream Social Democratic Party. This was a family march involving tens of thousands of people with no civil disobedience or other illegal acts planned as part of it.
The new law may allow for mass preemptive arrests, but international treaties which Denmark has signed called the Geneva Conventions outline certain guidelines for the treatment of detainees which were clearly violated by the Danish police. People were handcuffed in uncomfortable positions for many hours on the frozen pavement, not allowed to move, not allowed to go to the toilet. Some fainted, many wet their pants, adding to the danger posed by the freezing temperatures. Elderly people were arrested along with teenagers. Anne Feeney's husband Juli, a 66-year-old Swede who had been slowly walking beside a carriage, was handcuffed and made to sit on the frozen ground. Among the marchers from Tvind, the Free School movement with whom I was walking, those arrested include headmasters and teachers from throughout Europe and Africa. Every one of the Norwegians I had just been hanging out with the day before from Trondheim were arrested.
I participated in a march that was very quickly thrown together involving several hundred people, starting near the Valby train station and going to the prison to which most detainees had been brought. The police surrounded (escorted?) us and seemed to be thinking about arresting all of us, but apparently ultimately thought better of it. Instead they informed us as we were marching towards the prison that most of those detained had just been released, and that we were welcome to march to the prison but no further.
Outside the prison – a temporary prison that used to be a brewery -- I heard more stories of how the Anarchist Black Cross representatives who had been attempting to provide soup and solace to people as they were being released were told to leave the premises. When they attempted to set up at the train station a kilometer away they were again told to leave. So as most people left the prison there wasn't even anyone to meet them and tell them where to find the train station. Most detainees were at no point given any food by the police. After six hours some had been given water.
Tonight after Naomi Klein, Lisa Fithian and others from Climate Justice Action held a meeting at the Big Tent in Christiania hundreds of police and dozens of police vehicles were involved in more or less laying siege to Christiania, which was defended, as in the past, by hundreds of masked, black-clad young people making burning barricades and throwing large numbers of bottles at the police, who then fired lots of tear gas. Tonight the police reportedly used a water cannon to extinguish the main burning barricade and arrested 200. Most of this happened while Anne Feeney and I were playing a concert in the Opera House, not far from the main entrance.
The future is not written. There was nothing inevitable about Denmark building a nuclear reactor, and because of the environmental movement it built windmills instead. Equally, there is nothing inevitable about Denmark becoming a neoliberal police state. The years ahead in Denmark -- and more broadly in the rest of Europe, run increasingly by pro-business and xenophobic governments – will determine in which direction things will go. And perhaps the next few days will be a particularly important moment in that process.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Israeli settlers threaten 'Holocaust' in occupied Palestine
Jewish settlers are suspected of being behind an attack on a mosque in the north of the occupied West Bank. Attackers set fire to bookshelves and a large area of carpet in the mosque, and sprayed graffiti in Hebrew on a wall (...) Israeli human rights groups have accused the police and army of running inadequate investigations into such incidents. One group reported that nine out of 10 investigations into alleged attacks on Palestinians by settlers end without anyone being charged. (...) One of the slogans sprayed on the wall of the mosque in Yasuf read: "Get ready to pay the price," Israeli public radio reported. Another read: "We will burn you all."
Interesting choice of words, in particular from adepts of the "Holocaust religion1". See - the word "holocaust" comes from the Greek word ὁλόκαυστον (Holókauston): holos, "whole" and kaustos, "burnt" and it is a frankly bizarre choice of words to describe the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis during World War II considering that the vast majority of murdered Jews (and non-Jews) were, of course, *not* burned. In reality, of course, the reason for the choice of this word "Holocaust©" (written with a capital "c" and copyrighted to be applicable only to Jews) has nothing to do with the Nazi mode of corpse disposal and everything to do with the Biblical reference to "whole burnt offering which is brought up" to God, in Hebrew (olah) (another frankly bizarre idea as it turns Hitler into some God-serving high priest, but nevermind).
The Old Testament is replete with references to a Messiah which will come one day and die for the sins of mankind, thereby freeing it from death and ushering it into a new Age. Christianity saw Christ as being this Messiah; the Holocaust religion sees the entire Jewish people (assuming, of course, that there is such thing, which, of course, is yet another a myth) as this Messiah. Take all the basic tenets of Christology (Christian dogmatic theology) and simply transpose them from Christ to "the Jewish people" and you will have a pretty good idea of what these self-worshipping racist crackpots actually think about themselves! High-Priest, King of Kings, Son of God - you name it, they claim it....
In this context, the slogan "we will burn you all" is clearly not an innocent choice of words. It is, in fact, a promise to do exactly that - to burn all of the Palestinians in a (real) holocaust (small 'c', copyright free). It would be irresponsible to dismiss this threat as the ravings of a small fringe of lunatics. Not after the use of phosphorus in Gaza, which many Israelis came to watch from specially prepared tourist observation stations. Not after the mass bombing of Lebanon in 2006. Not from a country which, unlike Iran, has never signed the NTP and which sits on several hundred nuclear weapons.
Sadly, and frighteningly, there is a consensus in Israel around the basic idea of taking over all of Palestine and either expelling or exterminating all the remaining Palestinians who still live there. That has been the not-so-secret program of all the Israeli governments since the foundation of this state and the vast majority of the Israeli people steadfastly support it. They differ only in the choice of methods, in tactical details if you wish, but the fundamental strategic goal is clear: a genocide of the Palestinian people.
What is taking place every day in occupied Palestine is a "slow-motion" genocide, an attempt to exterminate an entire people. This genocide is unique not only in that it is executed in slow motion, over many decades now, but by the fact that it is public knowledge, that not a single aspect of this abject enterprise is hidden from view. It is the first, and probably only, genocide in history which is a public genocide. Everybody knows about it, and everybody chooses to simply look away. As for our politicians, they will continue to mantrically repeat the the Zionist slogan of "never again" and spend their time (and our money) prosecuting the likes of Demjanuk for being an "accessory" to Nazi crimes.
But who cares, right?
"Hey, honey, what is the Holocaust© movie for this holiday season?"
1 The commandment of this cult are as follows:
1. Remember what Amalek (the Non-Jews) has done to thee.
2. Thou shalt never compare THE HOLOCAUST with any other Genocide.
3. Thou shalt never compare the Nazi crimes with those of Israel.
4. Thou shalt never doubt the number of 6 million Jewish victims.
5. Thou shalt never doubt that the majority of them died in gas chambers.
6. Thou shalt not doubt the central role of SATAN Hitler in the extermination of the Jews.
7. Thou shalt never doubt the right of Israel to exist as the Jewish state.
8. Thou shalt not criticize the leading Jewish organizations and the Israeli government.
9. Thou must never criticize Jewish organizations and the Zionist leadership for abandoning the European Jewry in the Nazi era
10.Thou shalt take these commandments literally and never shew mercy to them that doubt!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Ha'aretz says U.S. officials face 'pro-Israel' background check
There is an amazing story in Ha'aretz today on the "pro-Israel" litmus test that determines who is permitted to serve in the United States government. Here's the sort of lede you're not likely to read in the New York Times or Washington Post:
Every appointee to the American government must endure a thorough background check by the American Jewish community.
In the case of Obama's government in particular, every criticism against Israel made by a potential government appointee has become a catalyst for debate about whether appointing "another leftist" offers proof that Obama does not truly support Israel."
The story goes on to rehearse what happened to Chas Freeman (whose appointment was derailed by the Israel lobby because he voiced a few mild criticisms of Israel's behavior) and reports that similar complaints are now being raised against the appointment of former Senator Chuck Hagel. Even more bizarrely, the Zionist Organization of America and other rightwing Jewish groups are complaining about the appointment of Hannah Rosenthal to direct the Office to Combat and Monitor Anti-Semitism. Why? Apparently she's been involved with J Street and other "leftwing" organizations that ZOA et al deem insufficiently ardent in their support for the Jewish state, and has suggested that progressive forces need to be more vocal in advancing the peace process.
One has to feel a certain sympathy for Ms. Rosenthal, who is forced to defend her own appointment by telling an interviewer:
I love Israel. I have lived in Israel. I go back and visit every chance I can. I consider it part of my heart. And because I love it so much, I want to see it safe and secure and free and democratic and living safely."
These are fine sentiments, but isn't it odd that she has to defend her qualifications for a position in the U.S. government by saying how much she "loves" a foreign country? For an American official in her position, what matters is that she loves America, and that she believes anti-semitism is a hateful philosophy that should be opposed vigorously. Whether she loves Israel or France or Thailand or Namibia, etc., is irrelevant. (And yes, it's entirely possible to loathe anti-Semitism and not love Israel).
But the real lesson of all these episodes is the effect of this litmus test on the foreign policy community more broadly. Groups in the lobby target public servants like Freeman, Hagel, and Rosenthal because they want to make sure that no one with even a mildly independent view on Middle East affairs gets appointed. By making an example of them, they seek to discourage independent-minded people from expressing their views openly, lest doing so derail their own career prospects later on. And it works. Even if the lobby doesn't manage to block every single appointment, they can make any administration think twice about a potentially "controversial" choice and use the threat to stifle open discourse among virtually all members of the mainstream foreign policy community (and certainly anyone who aspires to public service in Washington).
The result, of course, is the U.S. Middle East policy (and U.S. foreign policy more generally) is reserved for those who are either steadfastly devoted to the "special relationship" or who have been intimidated into silence. The result? U.S. policy remains in the hands of the same set of "experts" whose policies for the past seventeen years (or more) have been a steady recipe for failure. If a few more Americans read Ha'aretz, they might start to figure this out.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Obama's Nobel & START: Peacemaker arrives empty-handed
Obama desperately needed a new nuclear arms treaty to replace START I to provide some justification for the Nobel Committee's gamble. The award in the face of US imperial wars and hubris is proving to be extremely embarrassing to everyone, left and right. In awarding the Nobel Prize to Obama on 9 October, the selection committee “in particular looked at Obama’s vision and work toward a world without atomic weapons,” giving him an out, if he could at least bring a nuclear arms treaty with him.
Instead, US inspectors packed their bags last week and left Russian nuclear sites unmonitored for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union almost two decades ago. The expiration of the treaty and stalled talks on a replacement dealt a blow to those in the Obama administration who had hoped to achieve at least this one tangible step before the president goes to Norway.
The Kremlin knows when it has a good hand, and it coolly played along with White House officials frantically trying to broker a signing ceremony for the new START treaty in the Czech Republic on 11 December, after Obama's visit Copenhagen for global climate treaty negotiations and his trip to Oslo. Keep in mind that the Czechs are gung-ho to be part of US missile plans for Europe, which are clearly aimed at Russia as much as any other state. How fitting to have the Russians grovel in Prague and cheer on the war president as the world's symbol of peace and goodwill.
But few children older than six or seven believe in Santa, and the supposedly "minor" details left to negotiate to make sure Santa arrives on schedule at the White House are in fact not so minor.
Moscow December 2009 is not Moscow July 1991, when START I was signed, just weeks before the coup which deposed Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, as the Soviet Union descended into chaos. The original START allowed for US inspectors to live near the country’s primary missile production facility in Votkinsk in the Udmurtia republic, deep in the heart of Russia, and carry out intrusive inspections on demand, something which Gorbachev was in no position to demand from Bush senior.
The need to re-evaluate this lopsided one-way monitoring process just cannot be papered over. It amounts to whether Moscow will accept its subservient role in the US-run nuclear club or not. Russia wants to end the imbalance, while Washington wants to maintain and even increase its access to Russia military secrets.
The other issue -- how many warheads and launchers each side will be allowed -- probably could be settled without too much effort. The Russian government has said it is more than happy to reduce its strategic arms stockpiles by “several fold” if the US would only give up plans for Star Wars and its planned European bases. After all, what difference does it make if you can destroy the world twice as opposed to only once?
But, after Obama promised not to put its missiles in Russia's backyard in September in order to clinch a deal with the Russians to allow NATO weapons and armies to pass through Russia on their way to Afghanistan, his sundry minions have gone out of their way to backpedal. The Czechs and Poles are increasing their troop numbers in Afghanistan, after all, and they are not easily mollified. Likewise, US and NATO officials continue to assure Ukraine and Georgia that they will soon be part of the happy NATO family, despite Obama's obvious lack of interest in thereby further provoking the Russians. These unstated ploys are really just as much sticking points as the officially acknowledged ones.
START I was indeed historic. In 1985, at the height of the Cold War, the US and Russia possessed 23,000 and 39,000 operational warheads each. By 1995, these arsenals were more than halved to 11,000 and 16,000 respectively. When the Soviet Union was dissolved on 31 December, 1991, Russia and the former Soviet republics with nuclear capabilities (Ukraine, Belarus, Kazahkstan) agreed, in the Lisbon Protocol signed on 5 December, 1994, to abide by the treaty until its expiry 15 years later. Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, says that since the START I treaty was signed, the US and Russia have slashed their strategic nuclear arsenals even more. "Today, the United States deploys approximately 2,200 strategic warheads, and Russia deploys somewhere slightly above 2,200 strategic warheads today on a smaller number of strategic delivery vehicles."
The treaty looked doomed as time ran out under US president George W Bush, who dismayed the Russians as he pursued a policy of confrontation and encirclement of Russia and launched war after war abroad. But Obama seemed to promise a less confrontation approach with his talk of "pressing the reset button" with Russia, and during his state visit to Russia last July, Obama and Medvedev agreed to hold talks dedicated to extending START I.
With Obama's embarrassing dilemma -- the Nobel Peace Prize and his vow to intensify the war in Afghanistan -- he was keen to bring to Oslo at least a scrap of paper to justify the committee's faith in him. The Russians, eager to change the trajectory of their relations with Washington, played along. However, to expect the Russians to lie down and play dead again was foolish on the part of Obama's advisers. Sergei Markov, a United Russia State Duma deputy, said the main difficulty would be achieving a treaty that viewed Russia and the US as equals.“It was very difficult to negotiate a balance when in the Cold War the balance of power was 50-50, but in the 1990s it was 90-10 for the US. Today we are still far from equals,” he said, hinting at what might be the case if Russia continues its recovery and the US continues its decline.
But it is not just Russia that is the spoiler. Otfried Nassauer, director of the Berlin Information Centre for Transatlantic Security, said the US has also shown obstinacy on some issues for domestic political reasons. Obama needs at least seven Republican votes in the Senate to ensure ratification.
Anatoly Khramchikhin, an analyst with the Institute for Political and Military Analysis, said the political impetus might be lost if talks run into next year. “It is just very hard to bring the interests of both sides into one place,” he said.
As START I was due to expire, the US and Russian presidents issued a joint statement: "We express our commitment, as a matter of principle, to continue to work together in the spirit of the START treaty following its expiration, as well as our firm intention to ensure that a new treaty on strategic arms enters into force at the earliest possible date." In July, Obama and Medvedev agreed to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear warheads to 1,700 each within seven years, a START I Mark II if you like, though they did not sign anything.
So we can hope that Obama's shiny medal will at least remind him of this one small step he has made towards ridding the world of nuclear weapons, a goal that he has expressed more than once. During his visit to Prague in April, for instance, Obama pledged to push for ratification of the 13-year-old Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, much to the displeasure of many a US hawk.
Ironically, it may be easier to pursue his dream without a new treaty, which would need those pesky seven Senate Republicans to get it ratified. The Senate is notorious for balking at approving peace treaties, most notably, the 10-year-old Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines. Obama supported it back in 2006, but as president, apparently is unable to do anything about getting the Senate to ratify it. Bemoans Senator Patrick Leahy: "The administration’s approach to this issue has been cursory, half-hearted, and deeply disappointing. One would hope that an administration that portrays itself as a global leader on issues of humanitarian law and arms control recognises this is an opportunity."
Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/ You can reach him at http://ericwalberg.com/