Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Faltering Peace Process Indicators: Martin Indyk and Obama's Moral Crisis

Martin Indyk’s Galloping Horse: Moral Crisis at Heart of Obama’s Peace

by Ramzy Baroud  -

To understand how thoughtless the US latest ‘peace process’ drive has been, one only needs to consider some of the characters involved in this political theater. One particular character who stands out as a testament to the inherently futile exercise is Martin Indyk.

Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, was selected by Secretary of State John Kerry for the role of Special Envoy for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Under normal circumstances, Kerry’s selection may appear somewhat rational. Former ambassadors oftentimes possess the needed expertise to navigate challenging political landscapes in countries where they previously served. But these are not normal circumstances, and Indyk is hardly a diplomat in the strict use of the term.

As the US-sponsored peace process began to falter, Kerry made a peculiar move by dispatching his envoy Indyk to Jerusalem. On Friday, April 18, Indyk took on the task of speaking to both sides separately. International media depicted the event as a last ditch effort to revive the talks, and to help bridge the gap between the PA’s Mahmoud Abbas and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. The envoy visit took place a day after intense and difficult talks were reported to have taken place between Israeli and PA negotiators. “No breakthrough was made,” an official Palestinian source told AFP of the Thursday meeting.

It was not that any progress was expected. Both sides are not talking about resolving the conflict per se, but the deliberations were mostly concerned with deferring Kerry’s deadline for a ‘framework agreement’, slated for April 29.

The Americans want to maintain the charade for reasons other than peace. Without a ‘peace process’ the US will be denied an important political platform in the Middle East. US administrations have bestowed upon themselves the title ‘honest broker’. Of course, it takes no particular genius to realize that the Americans were hardly honest in their dealings with both parties. In fact, the US was not a third party at all, but was and remains steadfast in the Israeli camp. It used its political and financial leverage as a platform that allowed it to advance Israeli interests first, and their own interests second. Indyk is an example.

Martin Indyk, the prospective harbinger of peace, worked for the pro-Israeli lobby group AIPAC in 1982. AIPAC is a rightwing outlet that has invested unlimited funds and energy to impede any just and peaceful resolution to the conflict. It has such a strong grip over US Congress to the extent that some have suggested that Capitol Hill has become, in a sense, an occupied territory by Israel and its allies. Indyk’s most important contribution to Israel, however, was the founding of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) in 1985, another Israeli lobby outlet that has done tremendous damage to the credibility of US foreign policy in the Middle East by using ‘intellectuals’ and ‘experts’ as mediums.

Writing in Mondoweiss last year, Max Blumenthal recalled some interesting statements made by Indyk at J Street’s first annual convention in Washington DC in 2009. J Street is another Israeli lobby group that has cleverly distinguished itself as pro-peace, thus deceiving many into believing that AIPAC’s dominance in Washington is being seriously challenged. However, its cleverly worded statements, and the colorful past of its honored guests and speakers indicate otherwise. Indyk, the rightwing Israel lobbyist, was indeed among friends.

“I remembered stumbling into a huge auditorium to hear Indyk describe how he made ‘aliyah to Washington’ during the 1980’s to ensure that US policy remained slanted in Israel’s favor, and go on to blame Yasser Arafat for the failure of Camp David,” Blumenthal recalled.

He quoted Indyk:

“I came to that conclusion 35 years ago when I was a student in Jerusalem and the Yom Kippur war broke out,” said Indyk. “I worked as a volunteer there in those terrible days when Israel’s survival seemed to hang in the balance and I witnessed the misery of war and the critical role that the United States in the form of Henry Kissinger played through activist diplomacy in forging a peace out of that horrendous war.”

These were not passing comments made by Indyk, but a reflection of the man’s undying commitment, not to peace, but to Israel, or, more accurately, to ‘peace’ as envisioned by Israel, which is the core of the ongoing crisis. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu never ceases to talk about peace, as does his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Even the Minister of Economy, Naftali Bennett, leader of the extremist party, The Jewish Home, who is known for his bellicose rhetoric, is an ardent advocate of peace. But it is not peace that is predicated on justice or that envisaged by international and humanitarian laws. It is specifically-tailored peace that would allow Israel to maintain an unmistakably racist agenda, and a colonial policy of land grabbing.

Unsurprisingly, this is the same kind of ‘peace’ that the Americans envision as well. Kerry’s new peace agenda is not entirely a rehash of old agendas. Yes, it is that too, but it almost completely embraces the once far-fetched ideas of Lieberman and rightwing groups, that of annexations – the Jordan Valley – and ‘land swaps’ in exchange of main settlement blocs. When Lieberman floated these ideas a few years ago, he sounded like a deranged politician. Thanks to Kerry, it is now part of mainstream thinking.

So Indyk, who dedicated a lifetime to securing an Israeli style ‘peace’, is now magically branded as the one attempting to revive talks and exert pressure on both sides like any good ‘honest broker’ would do in these situations. But Indyk is not the only lobbyist-turned advocate for ‘peace.’ He is one of many. Dennis Ross, one of Washington’s essential political hawks for many years and a strong supporter of the disastrous Iraq war, served as a special Middle East coordinator under Bill Clinton, and was handpicked by President Barack Obama very early on to continue to the play the same role in the new administration. Aside from the diplomat’s strong links to neoconservatives, especially those involved in the now defunct pro-war group, the Project for the New American Century; he also served as a consultant to the same lobby club founded by Indyk, WINEP.

It was no coincident of course. WINEP, as other hawkish pro-Israeli groups, has served as an advocacy platform for Israel, and also fashioned Israeli styled ‘peace makers.’ Interestingly, both Dennis and Indyk blamed Palestinians for the failure of previous peace talks. Blumenthal astutely highlighted Indyk’s J Street tirade blaming late PLO leader Arafat with “that big shit-eating grin of his” for the failings of the so-called Clinton peace parameters, despite the fact that Arafat had indeed accepted them.

Indyk reminisced: “I remember Shimon Peres saying to me at the time when Arafat had to decide whether to accept the Clinton Parameters, he said, history is a horse that gallops past your window and the true act of a statesman is to jump from the window on to a galloping horse. But of course Arafat let the galloping horse pass by leaving the Israelis and Palestinians mired in misery.”

Now, it’s Indyk, the die-hard Israel lobbyist, being sent along with another galloping horse outside Abbas’ window. We all know well how this is going to end, and we can imagine Indyk giving another speech at an AIPAC or J Street conference deriding Abbas for failing to jump.

Ramzy Baroud is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).

The Sun Also Sets: Obama's Draws Curtain on American Century in Japan

Maybe the End of the American Century Starts Here

by Peter Lee - China Matters

I try to eschew dramatic, click-baiting headlines, but I think current developments in Asia are a big deal. President Obama is visiting Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, and South Korea.

He’s not visiting the People’s Republic of China. He never planned to, because this trip is meant as an exercise in pivot-love, the bromance of Asian democracies + the United States dedicated to…

…well, let’s cut to the chase.

 Dedicated to the containment of the People’s Republic of China.

The pivot to Asia, in my humble opinion, started out as a rather cynical exercise by the United States in encouraging pushback against the PRC by its aggrieved and alarmed neighbors, so that the US could step up, flourish its world’s best military and soft power muscle, and thereby claim a prime position in the evolving East Asian economic and security order.

I’m not saying the PRC hasn’t been acting like a dick in its dealings its neighbors. What I’m saying is the best way to deal with that was not by slapping up a confrontational security alliance by hyping local dustups as a challenge to global economic and security well-being.

The pivot, in other words, has foundations built on sand. It uses the rhetoric of existential threat to create expectations of unity and determination that simply aren’t there. The pivot actually relies completely on the idea that the United States, because of its military superiority, can deter the PRC before the Asian democracies really have to decide that they want to participate in a war of annihilation with the PRC for the sake of the Senkakus, Scarborough Shoal, Second Thomas Shoal, and Paracels, hereinafter The Worthless Islands Nobody Wants to Die For or TWINWTDF.

Personally, I think the United States would have advanced the interests of its allies, regional stability, and its relations with the PRC by measured engagement on individual issues, but that didn't happen. Instead, we got the pivot which, in a pattern familiar to grandiose American global and regional escapades, will probably provide full employment over decades for the diplomats, soldiers, and spooks tasked with trying to manage its fundamental and intractable problems while royally screwing up the localities it is ostensibly rescuing/protecting/assisting with its ostentatious intransigence.

In bad news for the United States and the pivot, it looks like the PRC has decided to call that bluff.

When Secretary of Defense Hagel visited the PRC, his counterpart, Chang Wanquan, stated:

"The China-U.S. relationship is neither comparable to U.S.-Russia ties in the Cold War, nor a relationship between container and contained. China's development can't be contained by anyone."

This statement is not just bravado and bullshit, in my opinion. It reflects the PRC’s considered response to the threat of the pivot.

Specifically, the PRC is stating that the containment model doesn’t apply because the PRC is deeply integrated into the global economy and, indeed, into the economies of its putative adversaries. The PRC does not recapitulate the containment of the USSR envisioned by George Kennan; for Kennan, the USSR had intentionally isolated itself and sought to prop up its rule by invocation of the Western threat, so economic isolation automatically underpinned the military element of containment.

Also, I think the PRC position is based upon the perception that there are no existential issues involved in the PRC’s conflicts with its neighbors. Nobody wants to upset the global economic applecart by starting World War III over TWINWTDF.

So the PRC is signaling it does not fear the pivot. Or, more accurately, the pivot has produced genuine disadvantages and costs to the PRC, but it has decided it is in its interests to push back, strategically and systematically, instead of trying to modify its behavior to suit the US and its pivoteers. That’s why the PRC excluded Japan from the naval fleet review planned at Qingdao and, when the US pulled out to demonstrate its support for its pivot partner, cancelled the whole exercise instead of pursuing some face-saving compromise.

If pressed, the PRC will seek to demonstrate the weakness of the pivot and the hollowness of the US military-based deterrent by pounding away at its antagonists at their most vulnerable points, specifically their economic links to the PRC and their assets inside the PRC (and, perhaps, letting its courts seize a Japanese ore ship to satisfy a 77-year old legal claim).

Unfortunate developments in the Ukraine, I think, have a lot to do with the recent evolution of strategic jostling.

The PRC, while politely appalled by the Russian annexation of Crimea, also noted that the United States and EU quietly parted ways on the need to confront Russia even with sanctions, let alone militarily and apparently essayed some mischief of its own, interfering with the Philippines' resupply of its detachment of marines on the Ayungin Shoal.

The United States, bearing in mind the rather dismal picture of Western resolve exhibited on the matter of Ukraine and setting the table for President Obama's Asian trip, decided it needed to double down on unity with its pivot partners, coming down more explicitly and categorically on the side of the Philippines and Japan on their island issues (for details see my Asia Times Online article attached below).

Also, I believe, the absolute identification of the US with the interests of the shaky and compromised Ukraine regime, its refusal to engage with Russia on the crisis that the US-supported coup had created, and its adventurism in trying to destabilize Russia by attacking its oligarchs with sanctions served further notice, if any was needed, that in times of genuine crisis when the boot might be put to a geopolitical adversary, US professions of honest brokerdom and responsible leadership in dealing with inconvenient “strategic competitors” were meaningless.

As a fitting symbol of the US “all in” determination to support the Kiev regime and whitewash its deep and disturbing flaws, I give readers this immortal image of Joe Biden defiantly giving the grip and grin with Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of Ukraine’s “ultranationalist” Svoboda party for the cameras of the world press.

Add to that the US decision that enabling Japanese remilitarization, symbolized by collective self defense, is an indispensable component of the pivot. The US looks to be too deep in Japan’s embrace to restrain Japan’s undeniable independent inclinations in regional policy (undeniable, that is if one looks closely at Japan’s discrete adventurism in the Philippines, with North Korea, and the DPP opposition in Taiwan) and, if it extracts itself to try to play the “honest broker” its efforts will be equivocal and less than effective.

G2—a mutually supportive and productive engagement between the PRC and the US—never lived, even though Hillary Clinton took pains to declare it dead. Now, the “honest broker” ship has sailed, for good, I think, courtesy of the deepened US commitment to the pivot.

The PRC’s increased willingness to defy the pivot and chip away at US deterrent credibility by attacking the interests of its allies--and its determination to test its ability to endure the real diplomatic, economic, and political costs of festering hostility with its neighbors against the resolve of the region and disapproval of the United States--is, I believe, related to the fact that the pivot and Japanese security activism has exacerbated a lot of the PRC’s festering disputes with its neighbors.

The PRC can expect a series of crises related to the pivot and emboldened neighbors in the upcoming years, including a possible loss of the Philippine arbitration over the nine-dash line, continued friction with Japan (which Japan will welcome if not incite in order to keep PRC firmly in the ranks of Asia’s scary bad guy), and also on the radar, the possibility that the viscerally anti-PRC DPP will win the presidential elections in 2016 and, if they lose, subject Taiwan to a Maidan-style political crisis.

To this uninviting mix add the prospect of eight years of Hillary Clinton, a confirmed and enthusiastic panda-slugger and pivot proponent, in the White House, and the growing credibility of the PRC-excluding Trans Pacific Partnership, prospects for favorable developments for the PRC in its East Asian dealings are rather slim.

So it looks to me like the PRC is no longer solely relying on the "long game"--the idea that it could dodge confrontation with the United States and "slice the salami" in the South China Sea until its demographic, military, and economic sway over East Asia would appear insurmountable and the region and US would quietly reconcile itself to the idea that the PRC should be calling most of the shots.

Instead, it looks like the PRC has decided that, rather than waiting for the crises to erupt and have to engage in risky adventures in the South China Sea or the Senkakus or, God forbid, actually have to do something about its intransigent stance on Taiwan de jure independence, it will pre-emptively go on the offensive and chip away at the foundations of the pivot and the credibility of the US deterrent by fomenting selected confrontations on its own, more favorable terms.

I’m not expecting open confrontation with the US, by the way—it will be the pre-eminent military force in Asia for the foreseeable future—and superficial comity will prevail. But I do not expect it to be a particular fun time to be a US ally. The cost of membership in the pivot, in other words, will be continued PRC pressure and harassment and discrete economic warfare.

Asian countries that hedge their bets and eschew active membership in the pivot, on the other hand, might do rather well in their dealings with the PRC.

Collateral damage of this PRC strategy may involve abandoning the World War II victor’s dispensation, which granted the United States the central role in Asian security and was promoted by the PRC when it still appeared that the US might constrain Japan as well as the PRC. Shorn of its unique moral and security role among the Asian nations (with their burgeoning economies and defense budgets), the US may find itself increasingly perceived as an economic competitor and source of security instability, rather than the font of prosperity and security it imagines itself.

That’s why I’m saying President Obama’s trip to Asia might serve as the marker for the end of the “American Century” and the beginning of the “Pacific Century”.

In passing, I guess I should address President Obama’s explicit statement that the Senkakus were covered by the US-Japan Security Treaty.

Nothing particularly new here; Secretary of State Clinton affirmed coverage in 2010 and I think it’s been reaffirmed incessantly since then.

Now, if President Obama had declared that the US regarded the Senkakus as Japanese sovereign territories (he didn’t; he carefully described them as territories administered by Japan), the PRC would have justifiably gone apeshit.

I am getting a little tired of repeating this point, but Nixon returned the Senkakus to Japanese administrative control with the understanding that Japan would negotiate their sovereignty with “China”, especially Taiwan which, by any interpretation is the most plausible candidate. By nationalizing three of the islands in 2012, the Japanese government basically spit on that deal and provided a certain degree of encouragement to PRC hopes that the US might act as a real “honest broker” over the islands. Not to be, in my opinion.

If one wants to explore the real mystery of the Senkakus, their role in Japanese security adventurism, and what the PRC expects of the tenor and integrity of US-PRC relations in a Hillary Clinton presidency, I invite readers to reflect on this passage from the Japan Times in August 2010 (link no longer available; if anyone can find it behind the paywall in the archive, please let me know):

The Obama administration has decided not to state explicitly that the Senkaku Islands, which are under Japan's control but claimed by China, are subject to the Japan-US security treaty, in a shift from the position of George W Bush, sources said Monday.

The administration of Barack Obama has already notified Japan of the change in policy, but Tokyo may have to take counter-measures in light of China's increasing activities in the East China Sea, according to the sources.

In other words, the Obama administration was ready to sidle closer to the PRC’s side on the Senkaku Islands. But a few weeks later, PRC relations blew up with the detention of the Chinese fishing boat off the Senkakus, the rare earth “crisis”, and Hillary Clinton’s affirmation that the Senkakus were, surprise, covered by the treaty. I think history will judge that the whole episode was a “counter-measure”, a provocation if you will, by Clinton and Seiji Maehara (Maehara insisted over the objections of the cabinet that the Chinese captain be tried in Japanese court, guaranteeing an international incident).

With this lengthy preamble, here is my Asia Times Online article from April 22, 2014:

Obama runs China's pivot gauntlet

by Peter Lee - China Matters

Civil Liberties Group Launches Access to Information Resource

What Do They Know? BCCLA Launches Access to Information Resource


VANCOUVER - Today the BC Civil Liberties Association launched a resource to help people file requests for information from federal government agencies.

The development of this resource was prompted by revelations late last year that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) illegally monitored and spied on the peaceful, democratic activities of community groups opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project.

The BCCLA filed complaints against the RCMP and CSIS about this unlawful monitoring. In response to our complaint, the RCMP Public Complaints Commission has launched a public interest investigation. CSIS has responded that they have not broken the law, and the BCCLA has asked the Security Intelligence Review Committee to investigate further.

The activities of the RCMP and CSIS originally came to light through an access to information request filed by journalist Matthew Millar of the Vancouver Observer.

“We have a right to know what information our government is collecting about us, especially when it affects our ability to engage in democratic activities,” said Raji Mangat, staff lawyer at the BCCLA.
“Free expression, assembly, and association are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When governments gather information on people who are engaged in democratic participation, it can intimidate people and put a chill on their freedoms. That can’t be taken lightly. People need to know about it, and access to Information is an important, necessary tool in keeping government accountable.”

The BCCLA pointed out that the process to request information about oneself from government agencies can be time-consuming. The organization said that its educational resource will help people to navigate the system to find out whether their personal information is being compiled by federal agencies. Mangat added:

“We have received many requests from people to help them understand how to find out whether the government has got a file on them. We hope that this will help them to find that out.”
"The government’s muzzling of scientists and gutting of the environmental review process threaten our democracy. Spying on peaceful citizens is unconscionable," said Ben West, a Campaign Director at ForestEthics Advocacy.
"We are proud to support the BCCLA in empowering citizens to find out for themselves what the government is up to. We won’t let our democratic rights be collateral damage in the fight over pipelines and the future of our coast," said West.

The resource, available here, includes instructions for completing Access to Information requests to federal agencies and departments, and sample templates for requests to the National Energy Board, the RCMP, CSIS and Natural Resources Canada.


For Immediate Release - Wednesday, April 23, 2014
For more information contact:

Ben West, ForestEthics Advocacy Tar Sands Campaign Director
Raji Mangat, BCCLA Counsel

Retracted: New York Times Deems Own Russia Story/Photo Scoop Unfit to Print

NYT Retracts Russian-Photo Scoop

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

Two days after the New York Times led its editions with a one-sided article about photos supposedly proving that Russian special forces were behind the popular uprisings in eastern Ukraine, the Times published what you might call a modified, limited retraction.

Photograph published by the New York Times purportedly taken in Russia of Russian soldiers who later appeared in eastern Ukraine. However, the photographer has since stated that the photo was actually taken in Ukraine, and the U.S. State Department has acknowledged the error.

Buried deep inside the Wednesday editions (page 9 in my paper), the article by Michael R. Gordon and Andrew E. Kramer – two of the three authors from the earlier story – has this curious beginning:

“A collection of photographs that Ukraine says shows the presence of Russian forces in the eastern part of the country, and which the United States cited as evidence of Russian involvement, has come under scrutiny.”

In the old days of journalism, we used to apply the scrutiny before we published a story on the front page or on any other page, especially if it had implications toward war or peace, whether people would live or die. However, in this case – fitting with the anti-Russian bias that has pervaded the mainstream U.S. press corps – the scrutiny was set aside long enough for this powerful propaganda theme to be put in play and to sweep across the media landscape.

Only now do we belatedly learn what should have been obvious: the blurry photographs provided by the coup regime in Kiev and endorsed by the Obama administration don’t really prove anything. There were obvious alternative explanations to the photos that were ignored by the Times, such as the possibility that these were military veterans who are no longer associated with the Russian military. Or that some photos are not of the same person.

And, one of the photos featured by the Times in its Monday lead article, purportedly showing some of the armed men in Russia, was actually shot in the Ukrainian town of Slovyansk, according to Maxim Dondyuk, the freelance photographer who took the picture and posted it on his Instagram account.

Here is the tortured way the Times treated that embarrassing lapse in its journalistic standards:

“A packet of American briefing materials that was prepared for the Geneva meeting asserts that the photograph was taken in Russia. The same men are also shown in photographs taken in Ukraine.

“Their appearance in both photographs was presented as evidence of Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine. The packet was later provided by American officials to The New York Times, which included that description of the group photograph in an article and caption that was published on Monday. … The dispute over the group photograph cast a cloud over one particularly vivid and highly publicized piece of evidence.”

Then, after noting Dondyuk’s denial that the photo was snapped in Russia, the Times quoted State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki as acknowledging:

“[T]hat the assertion that the photograph in the American briefing materials had been taken in Russia was incorrect. But she said that the photograph was included in a ‘draft version’ of a briefing packet and that the information has since been corrected.”

But the misidentification of the photo’s location as Russia, not Ukraine, was not some minor mistake. If the photo was taken in Ukraine, then the whole premise of the claim that these same guys were operating in Russia and have since moved to Ukraine collapses.

Note how the Times framed this point in its Monday article: “Some of the men photographed in Ukraine have been identified in other photos clearly taken among Russian troops in other settings.” Then, the cutline below the photo read: “Soldiers in a group photo of a reconnaissance unit, which was taken in Russia, were later photographed operating in towns in eastern Ukraine.” There was no attribution. The location is stated as flat fact.

Still, the Obama administration is not going to let its sloppy mistake get in the way of a potent propaganda theme. According to the Times, Psaki insisted that there was plenty of other classified and unclassified evidence proving that the Russians are behind the eastern Ukrainian uprisings, but none of that supposed evidence was included in Wednesday’s story.

The problem for the Times, however, is different. Many of the flaws in the photographic evidence were there to see before Monday’s front-page article, but the newspaper was apparently blinded by its anti-Russian bias.

For instance, the article devoted much attention to the Russian skill at “masking” the presence of its troops, but that claim would seem to be contradicted by these allegedly secret warriors posing for public photos.

The Times also ignored the fact that the U.S. Special Forces – and indeed the special forces of many other nations – also seek to blend in with the populations by growing beards and wearing local clothing. This is not some unique tactic employed by the nefarious Russians.

[For more on this topic, see’s “Another NYT-Michael Gordon Special?”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Serf Rampage of Death in Chicago As Black Emperor Rains Death on Yemen

Apt Pupils: Chicago Violence Reflects the Lessons of the Elite

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

I wrote here Monday of an Easter weekend full of death in Yemen, ordered up hot and steaming by the progressive American president and his assassins. But death was feasting elsewhere too -- in the president's hometown of Chicago, as the Guardian reports:

A senior Chicago police officer said that parts of the city are being overwhelmed by gun violence, after a weekend in which nine people were shot dead and at least 36 – including six children – were wounded.

Ronald Holt, the commander of the Chicago police department’s special activities division, said that the city was witnessing “fratricide” among young men who had come to believe “that the only way to resolve a conflict is to get a gun and go shoot to kill”.

“To tackle gun violence where it is overwhelming communities with the extraordinary loss of lives at an alarming pace, we must deal with it as a social disease and health issue,” Holt, whose 17-year-old son Blair was shot dead on a bus in 2007, told the Guardian in an email.

His remarks came as Chicago suffered its bloodiest weekend of the year. Dozens of residents were shot in a series of separate incidents. On the city’s south side, five children aged between 11 and 15 were shot while walking home from a park on Sunday evening.

This outburst of violence and hopelessness is the "strange fruit" of the implacable, relentless hatred that American society has always felt toward its black citizens. Since the end of slavery -- which was only achieved by a Civil War that killed more than 600,000 people (in contrast to the peaceful end of serfdom, in the same period, achieved by the 'barbaric' Russians) -- African-Americans have been subjected to an unforgiving barrage of legal blockades and economic terrorism to keep them broken down, broken apart, struggling for crumbs of survival in the midst of affluence and opportunity for others.

For a few years, in the 1960s, a few very mild measures were adopted with the aim of beginning to address the ingrained injustice and inequality imposed on black people during a whole century of supposed "freedom." And even these few measures would almost certainly not have passed except for the national trauma of John Kennedy's assassination, which produced a powerful Democratic majority for his successor, Lyndon Johnson, and -- temporarily -- a national mood that major changes needed to be made in an obviously sick society.

But let us be clear: as momentous as they were in context, the Civil Rights laws of the 1960s were, again, very mild, preliminary measures in relation to the vast injustice and institutionalized hatred they were meant to address. I mean, think of it: how a nation celebrated the fact that after arduous political warfare, civil unrest, many deaths and much suffering, it managed to strike down some of the laws that prevented or hindered black citizens from voting. And this in the seventh decade of the 20th century. Any civilized nation would have been ashamed that it took so long to accomplish even this barest minimum of democratic rights for a substantial part of its population; but America has never stopped congratulating itself for its magnificent benevlolence in letting the darkies cast a ballot in the "world's greatest democracy."

This back-patting still goes on today, even among political factions -- such as those bankrolled by the Pulitzer-lauded friends of humanity, the Koch Brothers -- who are spending millions of dollars to turn blacks away from the voting booth ... by any means neccessary. Yet just five years after these mild measures were introduced, the government -- and its corporate allies -- were already working assiduously to undermine them. Who can forget the sage counsel of Patrick Moynihan, who urged his boss, Richard Nixon, to practice "benign neglect" toward "issues of race," letting "the Negroes" stew in their own "social pathologies." (Moynihan, of course, went on to become a famously "progressive" Democratic senator from New York, then handed off his seat to Hillary Clinton.)

No matter; most white Americans believe, firmly but vaguely, that "all that Civil Rights stuff" in the Sixties settled America's racial issues once and for all. So if "the Negroes" have any trouble these days, it's their own damn fault. It's their "social pathologies," as Moynihan said 45 years ago; or a problem of "inner city culture," as Paul Ryan put it this year. Hey, after all, there's a black president, right? What else do these damn people want?

This is all unspeakable, evil tripe. The American system has never, for a single instant, treated African-Americans as equal citizens, of equal worth to those with white skin. It has always practiced not benign but malign, malevolent neglect toward its black citizens. Prejudice and fear toward black people is deeply ingrained in white Americans, and not just in the South. It is there, it is part of white Americans' cultural heritage and psychology; it is a stain, a presence that for most white Americans must be consciously, effortfully overcome. And of course, in many, many cases, it is not overcome. It is surrendered to; it is simply accepted, without reflection, as the natural order of things. It is expressed in almost 150 years of organized economic deprviation and denial of opportunity, in social, economic and political policies aimed at destroying black families, black communities, leaving them at the mercy of gangs, hoods and criminal -- those perfect replicators of the ruling class ethos of unjust domination backed by violence.

Look at Detroit: a major city fallen into unprecedented ruin and abandonment, now in the hands of appointed managers, with all pretense of democracy stripped away. It is inconceivable that this would happen to any city with a white majority -- or any city in a genuinely civilized, democratic country. Detroit's fate is one of the scandals of the century -- yet is is completely ignored ... even by the "first black American president," who has joined with the rest of the power structure in letting "the Negroes" in Detroit stew in "their social pathologies." Trillions of dollars are spent to bail out financial criminals who wrecked the entire global economy; billions of dollars are being sent to aid the ailing economy of Ukraine. But bailing out Detroit, all those shiftless darkies? No chance, man.

Proportionally, more blacks are imprisoned than any other Americans; more blacks are executed than any other Americans. More blacks are denied loans and jobs, more blacks are relegated to substandard, underfunded schools. Subsequently, more blacks begin life several rungs down the ladder from their white compatriots. And on every rung of that ladder, there are powerful forces waiting to beat them down, repress them, belittle them -- then blame them for not rising higher, faster, for daring to complain about the hammers pounding down on their fingers as they try to grasp the rung above.

The election of the first black president (actually, a half-white president) has done little to alter this state of affairs -- except, as Glenn Ford at Black Agenda Report has pointed out, to disarm the resistance of African-American leaders to America's still horrific, still deeply racist system. The violence in Chicago -- and the nihilistic dearth of hope and opportunity and common human feeling it represents -- is just more evidence of a terrible reality that no one will acknowledge. Brutalized, abandoned, bludgeoned, hated and scorned, the gangs of black America are reflecting the lessons taught by our elites, from the gilded corporate boardrooms and the heights of geopolitics: Money is god; power is king; violence is the way; there is no such thing as the common good.

The Idea of Israel: Pappe's Chronicling of a History of Race Superiority and Pathological Hate

Reviewing 'The Idea of Israel - A History of Power and Knowledge' by Ilan Pappe

by Jim Miles - Palestine Chronicle

This is a powerfully written unsettling work that relates the story of Israel from the perspective of how ideas are changed and manipulated for the benefit of the state. Unfortunately the majority of citizens of most countries are susceptible to the ideation/ideology of the mainstream of political thought as it is supported by the mainstream press. In the case of Israel, image and ideation, its narrative and ideology, are of paramount importance for the survival of the state beyond its military strength and relatively successful integration into the globalized corporate governed world.

For a brief decade, generally within the 1990s, the Israeli narrative, its foundational ideas, were challenged by a small group of academics known as the new historians. In a factual sense they brought forward many details about the story of Israel - using newly released and openly available IDF archives - that contradicted the narrative preferred by the Israeli government and its supporters.

They were successful at opening up a dialogue about the 1948 Nakba/war of independence, the post 1967 settlement plans, and for both dates, the knowledge of expulsions, massacres, and ethnic cleansing. But that success had limited reach within Israel, as the new historians were an academic minority, and only in infrequent media presentations - stage, theatre and film in particular - was there any other real arena of success. It did create some significant stirrings abroad, but the main feature in other countries, again apart from a few vocal academics, was a broad base of apathy and disinterest, cultivated by a corporate controlled media supporting - again, the corporate governed globalized world.

Nakba, 1948

This is the story that is developed within Ilan Pappe’s latest work, The Idea of Israel. Pappe follows the historical timeline within this ideational confrontation, starting with the 1948 Nakba and its ‘traditional’ perspective before the age of the new historians.

In this original perspective, the ‘land without people’ became an insult to the Zionists by the very presence of the Palestinians. It involved the physical conflict between Palestinians and the Zionists, with the Palestinians - when they were acknowledged at all - denigrated as primitive and backwards, requiring ‘modernization.’ Their resistance was a surprise, with unknown rational, arising “out of the blue” and being “tantamount to terrorism.”

As the discourse was written by the Israelis, the “unexplained violence was identified academically as an essential feature of Arab culture and life.” The violence as depicted in the cinema “need not be explained, merely described,” with an “absence of logical explanation” other than that of a “meaningless and cruel assault.” The cinematic representation was a “combination of a racist superiority complex intertwined with pathological hate.”

At first, the Post Zionist movement was represented by academics reacting with “disgust at abhorrent conduct” of the Israelis towards the Palestinians” and the “intellectual rejections of paradoxes and absurdities of ideological dogma.” During the 1970s and 1980s undercurrents of criticism emerged which “exposed some basic Zionist truisms as doubtful at best and as fallacies at worst…..It became apparent...that society was ridden with tensions between various cultural and ethnic groups, and was only precariously cemented together by the lack of peace and the continual sense of crisis.”

The new historians discussed many myths concerning the 1948 Nakba. Pappe discusses the UN Partition plan, the lack of popularity of Grand Mufti al-Husayni, the desire of the Arab world to destroy Israel (in spite of their secret agreement with Jordan contradicting this), the exodus because the Palestinians were told to leave rather than being forced, the Israeli David versus the Arab Goliath, and the Israeli rejection of the offering of peace.

Later on these ideas were revitalized after the Second Intifada, the lack of success at Camp David, and the events of 9/11 and the al-Aqsa mosque. They have been revitalized with the Neo Zionist’s new discourse on Israeli history.

Post Zionism

But before getting there, Pappe examines different aspects of the presentation of the new historians and Post Zionism in the 1990s. It was “a decade in which the entire idea of Israel was questioned and serves as a “convenient term for measuring the distance that these scholars travelled out of the Zionist camp” yet were “still close enough to the tribal space to return to its warm embrace.” It was in Pappe’ view, the “only positive result of these two monumental events [ the Intifada, and Oslo].”

Topics of discussion covered the obvious history but also economic realities, nationalism in relation to biblical myths, settlers, exile, socialism and class distinctions, militarism, colonialism, and feminism and gender being “most influential.”

The next topic is the holocaust and its myths wherein the Israelis “perfected such manipulation as a diplomatic tool in its struggle against Palestinians,” which was “consensual and widespread.” Critics of holocaust ideation called it “excessive and abusive preoccupation,” with “perverted moral values and judgement.” It “prevented them from seeing the Palestinians in a more realistic light and impeded a reasonable political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Within that context Pappe examines early Jewish sympathy to the Nazis (anti-British, expulsion from Germany as a good, and a negation of the diaspora). He looks at the Warsaw uprising as represented as a distinctly Jewish event and not as one of several reactions to knowledge of one’s ultimate death at the hands of the Nazis. It was/is part of the “construction of a selective narrative that adapted the history of the holocaust to Israel’s strategies and ideological demands,” vis a vis the brave Jew versus the passive Jew, nationalizing the rebellion as “part of the history of modern genocide,” the survivors not fitting the mould of the tough Jew, most of whom wished to migrate to the UK or the US rather than Israel. Finally, it universalizes genocide to accept all genocides.

Another topic of concern to the Post Zionists is the presence of the Arab Jews. As above most immigrants wanted to immigrate to the UK or the US, not to Israel. They did not see themselves as residents nor did they want to colonize the country, they retained their patriotism for their home country, and were used as cheap labour and support for the ‘demographic problem.’ This reflected that “life as a Jew in Arab and Islamic societies was a life of integration and co-existence.” To this day they “continue to pose some sort of challenge and alternative to the idea of Israel as presented by the establishment and as understood by the vast majority of Jews within the state.”

The media is given two chapters separated mainly as the written word and the spoken word. Due to self imposed restrictions, “security considerations” with a consensual approach, the press “did not deviate from the Zionist consensus.” They were liberal but not unpatriotic, and did not pry into pre-1967 Israel nor the 1948 Nakba.

While there were particular efforts at revealing the true nature of Israeli society, Pappe’s conclusion is that there was “no political impact” overall. Within a few movies there was a “tension between conformity and criticism,” that showed the reality of a nation “that was unstable and insecure, since state and society had failed to reconcile with the people whom they expelled, whose land they took, and whose culture they destroyed.”

Neo Zionism

One of the interesting aspects of Neo Zionism is that they did not deny the ‘facts’ as uncovered through the IDF archives and government documents, but that they incorporated them into a new paradigm. A “highly nationalistic, racist, and dogmatic version of Zionist values overrule all others in the society, and any attempt to challenge that interpretation of the idea of Israel is considered unpatriotic and in fact treasonous.”

Post Zionism was considered a “corrupting method and theory,” which was “gradually silenced and crushed,” allowing the traditional Zionists to “reassert their historiographical interpretation.” The main transition points, as indicated earlier, were the Second Intifada, the lack of success at Camp David, and the events of 9/11 and the al-Aqsa mosque.

The paradigm is one of both national and religious unity. It covers the ideation within politics, religion, and education, the latter being especially significant for its militarization role in society (IDF prep in schools). Education also plays the role of creating a racist, insular, ethnocentric perspective, a generalized “fear of the Other.” Apartheid becomes legalized, its argument relating to the always present Zionist concern about demographics. The Palestinians become invisible, culturally and geographically.

Pappe revisits the 1948 Nakba where the Neo Zionists accept the ‘facts’ interpreting them within a new paradigm. Themes of equal combatants (as per 1948) and victimhood (holocaust, 1967 war) combine with a “divine promise” for “existential survival”. Justification is provided for ethnic cleansing while the “moral defence of the war approaches messianic proportions.” The war is described in terms of a “just war”, “redemption,” “purity of arms,” an “eternal justification,” and is fully unapologetic for all the newly recognized actions that in humanitarian terms are war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Currently, the media war has been successful within Israel, the academics have retreated into the comfort of their nationalistic/religious paradigm of Neo Zionism. Outside Israel is the recognition that the ‘facts’ are a bit disturbing, and cannot be countered with argument. The response then is a PR campaign to sell Israel as a “heaven on, fun, and technological achievement.” Its success has been highly moderated by the awareness of current Israeli actions, the violence of its assault on Gaza and Lebanon and the nature of its apartheid system of containment/imprisonment of Palestinians.

The Idea of Israel is a complex work, and might be a difficult read without some other historical reference concerning the ‘facts.’ Ilan Pappe’s other main works, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2007) and A History of Modern Palestine - One Land, Two Peoples (2006) provide that history. Given the nature of the topic, a reading of Israel’s history from the Israeli perspective would serve equally as well, as it will provide their perspective that can then be compared and contrasted to Pappe’s Post Zionist critique, and the ideas presented in this well thought out work.

In Damascus: Insight on Bab Touma Mortar Attacks

More Insights into Bab Touma Mortar Attacks

by Eva Bartlett - In Gaza

Two days ago, one of the stream of mortars being fired upon various areas of Damascus hit Bab Touma (Thomas Gate) square, killing 2 and injuring at least 23, according to Sana news.

Bab Touma itself is one of the eight gates leading into Damascus’ Old City. It also happens to be a busy area, filled with market stalls, vendors, pedestrians, and shops. And in terms of the greater area, while I haven’t been hurt by the mortars, I’ve heard many in the old city in the past few days, and many have landed within 500 metres or less (20-30 metres) of places I’m staying or have been in Damascus.

A falafel shop was damaged in this latest Bab Touma mortar attack, and many shops surrounding the open area where the shell landed were damaged to varying degrees. A shoe store I visited last night in the area wasn’t too badly damaged; the windows had their original layer of thin plastic on them, which kept the closest window from spraying glass into the room where employees were working. I chatted with the owner, an Armenian, about the attack. He wasn’t there at the time, but an employee was.

“It was just after 3 pm, the mortar landed there,” he said, pointing to the center of the open area. “Shrapnel flew everywhere, little bits and pieces.”
[aside: the other day I got a lesson in mortars. The kind the "rebels" are using, mostly, are home-made. Some have just enough explosives to make them fly, the shell itself--stuffed with bits of metal, nails, anything injurious--causing wider injury to people.]
“The area was packed with people. It happens a lot, a lot, a lot, …all the time. In the last two weeks, around ten mortars have landed in this area. But they weren’t as devastating as he day before yesterday.” I asked his opinion on who was firing these mortars. “I have no idea. But logistically, they had to have come from Jobar.”
[Jobar is east of Damascus and is an area from which, I'm told, "rebels" have been launching mortars.]

Across the street, a clothes shop employee pretty much reiterated what I’d just been told.

“We were inside, heard the explosion, went outside and saw the dead lying on the ground. We get these mortars all the time.”

This man was more decided about by whom the mortars were being launched. “From the ‘Free Syrian Army’.”

“This isn’t a revolution,” the first man said. “They’ve come from outside. Do you know how we were living? We had security, work… but, sorry, now…?

A juice vendor who gave me a glass of freshly pressed orange and grapefruit juice some nights ago waved me over to say hello as I walked back to my hotel. Sitting outside his small booth, he lamented the Syria of more than three years ago.

 “This area would be alive until 5 am,” he said, gesturing to “Straight Street” leading from Bab Sharqi (East Gate) to the Hamdiyeh market and on. “There was live music in the hadika there,” he said, pointing to a long grassy patch flanked by the remains of Roman columns. “Tourists came, they loved it.

Now, no tourists. You could walk home or go out in the late hours of night, without fear of mortar attacks or being kidnapped,” he said, echoing what so many have told me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Signs of the Times: NYT Channels TASS on Ukraine

The New York Times finds Russian spies in eastern Ukraine

by Alex Lantier - WSWS

The New York Times has run a relentless campaign of lies and distortions backing US policy in Ukraine. This has included portraying the opposition in eastern Ukraine to the pro-Western regime in Kiev as proof of an aggressive Russian intervention threatening Ukraine, Eastern Europe and the world.

The newspaper’s article Monday, “Photos Link Masked Men in Eastern Ukraine to Russia,” purports to provide definitive proof that Russian spies are active in eastern Ukraine and manipulating events there.

The article begins: “For two weeks, the mysteriously well-armed, professional gunmen known as ‘green men’ have seized Ukrainian government sites in town after town, igniting a brush fire of separatist unrest across eastern Ukraine. Strenuous denials from the Kremlin have closely followed each accusation by Ukrainian officials that the world was witnessing a stealthy invasion by Russian forces.

“Now, photographs and descriptions from eastern Ukraine endorsed by the Obama administration on Sunday suggest that many of the green men are indeed Russian military and intelligence forces—equipped in the same fashion as Russian special operations troops involved in annexing the Crimea region in February.”

There may or may not be Russian agents in Ukraine, a question the World Socialist Web Site is not in a position to answer. However, even if the Times article proved its charge that Russian spies are active in Ukraine—which, as we will see, it does not—the reader would have a right to ask: So what?

CIA Director John Brennan went to Kiev a week ago, though he sought to hide his visit from the public, as the Western-backed regime in Kiev prepared its crackdown on the eastern Ukraine protests. British intelligence has admitted that its agents are combing east Ukraine. Why is the dispatching of spies to Ukraine by Russia more threatening than the appearance of MI6 or of Brennan, who has played a leading role in running a global network of torture camps and a program of drone murder?

Leaving these questions unasked and unanswered, the Times can write a fear-mongering piece covering up both the imperialist interests driving US policy and the hypocrisy of the American position. Washington and its European allies installed an unelected, anti-Russian government in Kiev by backing a putsch in February spearheaded by the fascist Right Sector militia. During the protests leading up to the putsch, US officials boasted that they had spent $5 billion on building up Ukrainian opposition groups.

Unsurprisingly, given that the protests were led by fascist groups based in western Ukraine against pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, whose political base was in the east, this led to opposition to the new regime in eastern Ukraine.

The US regime-change plan in Ukraine was part of a broader policy decision to isolate Russia and treat it as a “pariah state,” as the Times reported on Sunday—a designation previously reserved for countries targeted for US subversion or military attack such as Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Iran. This information is critical to enable the reader decide for himself whether it is Moscow or Washington, abetted by the New York Times, that is driving the Ukraine crisis.

The Times ignores all of these issues, focusing obsessively on the threat it claims Russian spies pose to Ukraine. Its approach to presenting the issue is indistinguishable from that of a state propaganda agency. It uncritically repeats, as “news,” talking points from the military and the Obama administration, largely gleaned from Kiev’s intelligence agencies, providing none of the political context necessary for readers to independently evaluate the claims of the generals and spies it quotes.

The Times extensively quotes General Philip M. Breedlove, the top military commander of NATO, who has pushed for a hard line against Russia in the crisis.

Breedlove argues that pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine “exhibit telltale military training and equipment,” including Russian Army issue, which is not gear “that civilians would be likely to be able to get their hands on in large numbers.” The Times writes that “General Breedlove conceded that such points, taken alone, might not prove much, ‘but taken in the aggregate, the story is clear.’”

Breedlove’s most significant comment is his admission that his own arguments do not prove anything. It is, of course, conceivable that the protests are driven by Russian army units that have infiltrated east Ukraine, even after Kiev sealed its border with Russia, somehow escaping detection by US spy satellites and electronic monitoring. The Russian army is hardly the only possible source of militarily trained manpower in east Ukraine, however. Units of Ukraine’s Berkut riot police and elements of its army, which has Russian-issue gear, have defected to the protesters.

Breedlove adds, “It’s hard to fathom that groups of armed men in masks suddenly sprang forward from the population in eastern Ukraine and systematically began to occupy government facilities.”

This comment unintentionally underscores the Times’ boundless hypocrisy and the absurdity of its own presentation of the US-backed protests in Kiev that led up to the putsch. Only a few months ago, the newspaper depicted the groups of masked and armed fascist goons from Right Sector who stormed state buildings as the spearhead of a spontaneous popular uprising for democracy.

The heart of the Times’ article is its presentation of photos and transcripts of audio recordings collected by Ukrainian intelligence that supposedly show the role of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. What rapidly becomes clear, examining the paltry materials presented by the Times, is that they provide no hard proof of any of the newspaper’s claims.

The dossier of photos, the Times writes, “features pictures taken in eastern Ukraine of unidentified gunmen and an earlier photograph of what looks like the same men, appearing in a group shot of a Russian military unit in Russia.”

Examining the grainy, low-resolution photos published by the Times, one can only conclude that eastern Ukrainian protesters wear similar helmets, ski masks, and—occasionally—beards as do Russian soldiers. Like Breedlove’s arguments, the photos prove nothing to anyone who approaches the far-right Kiev regime’s claims with an ounce of skepticism. A Reddit user who examined the pictures released by the Ukrainian regime and the lower-resolution versions used by the New York Times concluded that the men in the Russian and east Ukrainian units are in fact different people (click here for the Reddit thread). This further raises the question of whether the Times was a party to a falsification of data, in order to prove a claim for which it has no evidence. It published images without doing the same level of fact-checking that was able to be carried out by someone with a few google searches.

In a comment posted to the paper’s site, one of the many disgruntled readers of the Times article wrote:
“These photos look as convincing as the satellite footage of Iraq’s WMD [weapons of mass destruction] that CIA presented just before the invasion.”

This footage, of course, proved nothing, as Iraq had no WMD. The Iraq war was then launched based on lies which the Times aggressively promoted.

Finally, the Times presents a YouTube clip of a cell phone call between “Strelok” (whom Ukrainian intelligence claims is an alias for an ethnic Russian active in the protests, Igor Strelkov) and his anonymous Russian superior. The two reportedly discuss how to hold territory and how to discuss the armed protesters’ political positions with Russian media.

Since the release of this YouTube clip several days ago, a political analyst named Alexander Boroday has come forward and identified himself as the person on the phone with Strelok. He says he is a counselor for the pro-Russian government in Crimea and denies working for Russian intelligence. The Times, remarkably, does not report these developments to its readers.

It is conceivable that the Kremlin is running through Boroday a major operation on the scale of the US-backed Right Sector operation in Kiev. However, the Times offers no proof whatsoever to support such speculation.

One final point regarding the Times’ alleged evidence. The Russian government and media have intercepted and published damning material on the role of US and European imperialism in Ukraine, involving publicly known, high-level officials.

During the Kiev protests, they recorded US State Department official Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt plotting to install now-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk in power in Kiev. They later intercepted communications between EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Latvian officials, discussing the fact that protesters in Kiev were shot not by Yanukovych’s forces, but by pro-Western forces.

Notwithstanding the massive electronic surveillance program it runs through the National Security Agency, the US government has manifestly been unable to discover material of even vaguely comparable significance.

The Times’ supposed proof of Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine is a red herring. Its immediate political purpose is indicated in the article itself. The Times writes: “The question of Russia’s role in eastern Ukraine has a critical bearing on the agreement reached Thursday in Geneva among Russian, Ukrainian, American and European diplomats to ease the crisis. American officials have said that Russia would be held responsible for ensuring that the Ukrainian government buildings were vacated, and that it could face new sanctions if the terms were not met.”

Washington has no interest in defusing the crisis. It entered into the Geneva agreement in bad faith, intending to use Russia’s supposed violation of the agreement to justify further sanctions and stepped up military provocations. By supposedly publishing “proof” that the protests in the east are manipulated by Russia, the Times is supplying the US government with propaganda to claim that the failure of the protesters to disband is Moscow’s doing, which is to become the pretext for further escalating the crisis.

Monday, April 21, 2014

America's Archipelago: Middle East Gulag States

Obama: “Remaking the Middle East” - The American Gulag

by James Petras

During the beginning of his first term in office President Obama promised “to remake the Middle East into a region of prosperity and freedom”. Six years later the reality is totally the contrary: the Middle East is ruled by despotic regimes whose jails are overflowing with political prisoners. 
The vast majority of pro-democracy activists who have been incarcerated, have been subject to harsh torture and are serving long prison sentences. The rulers lack legitimacy, having seized power and maintained their rule through a centralized police state and military repression. 
Direct US military and CIA intervention, massive shipments of arms, military bases, training missions and Special Forces are decisive in the construction of the Gulag chain from North Africa to the Gulf States.


We will proceed by documenting the scale and scope of political repression in each US backed police state. We will then describe the scale and scope of US military aid buttressing the “remaking of the Middle East” into a chain of political prisons run by and for the US Empire.

The countries and regimes include Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan and Turkey . . . all of which promote and defend US imperial interests against the pro-democracy majority, represented by their independent social-political movements.

Egypt: Strategic Vassal State

A longtime vassal state and the largest Arab country in the Middle East, Egypt’s current military dictatorship, product of a coup in July 2013, launched a savage wave of repression

subsequent to seizing power. According to the Egyptian Center for Social and Economic Rights, between July and December 2013, 21,317 pro-democracy demonstrators were arrested. As of April 2014, over 16,000 political prisoners are incarcerated. Most have been tortured. The summary trials, by kangaroo courts, have resulted in death sentences for hundreds and long prison terms for most. The Obama regime has refused to call the military’s overthrow of the democratically elected Morsi government a coup in order to continue providing military aid to the junta.In exchange the military dictatorship continues to back the Israeli blockade of Gaza and support US military operations throughout the Middle East.

Israel: The Region’s Biggest Jailer

Israel, whose supporters in the US dub it the “only democracy in the Middle East”, is in fact the largest jailer in the region.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselm, between 1967 and December 2012, 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned at some point, over 20% of the population. Over 100,000 have been held in “administrative detention” without charges or trial. Almost all have been tortured and brutalized. Currently Israel has 4,881 political prisoners in jail. What makes the Jewish state God’s chosen… premier jailer, however, is the holding of 1.82 million Palestinians living in Gaza in a virtual open air prison. Israel restricts travel, trade, fishing, building , manufacturing and farming through air, sea and ground policing and blockades. In addition, 2.7 million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (West Bank) are surrounded by prison-like walls, subject to daily military incursions, arbitrary arrests and violent assaults by the Israeli armed forces and Jewish vigilante settlers engaged in perpetual dispossession of Palestinian inhabitants.

Saudi Arabia: Absolutist Monarchy

According to President Obama’s ‘remaking of Middle East’ Saudi Arabia stands as Washington’s “staunchest ally in the Arab world”. As a loyal vassal state, its jails overflow with pro-democracy dissidents incarcerated for seeking free elections, civil liberties and an end to misogynist policies. According to the Islamic Human Rights Commission the Saudis are holding 30,000 political prisoners, most arbitrarily detained without charges or trial.

The Saudi dictatorship plays a major role bankrolling police state regimes throughout the region. They have poured $15 billion into the coffers of the Egyptian junta subsequent to the military coup, as a reward for its massive bloody purge of elected officials and their pro-democracy supporters. Saudi Arabia plays a big role in sustaining Washington’s dominance, by financing and arming ‘jailer-regimes’ in Pakistan, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt.

Bahrain: Small Country – Many Jails

According to the local respected Center for Human Rights, Bahrain has the dubious distinction of being the “top country globally in the number of political prisoners per capita”. According to the Economist (4/2/14) Bahrain has 4,000 political prisoners out of a population of 750,000. According to the Pentagon, Bahrain’s absolutist dictatorship plays a vital role in providing the US with air and maritime bases, for attacking Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. The majority of pro-democracy dissidents are jailed for seeking to end vassalage , autocracy, and servility to US imperial interest and the Saudi dictatorship.

Iraq: Abu Ghraib with Arab Characters

Beginning with the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 and continuing under its proxy vassal Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens have been tortured, jailed and murdered. Iraq’s ruling junta, has continued to rely on US military and Special Forces and to engage in the same kinds of military and police ‘sweeps’ which eviscerate any democratic pretensions. Al-Maliki relies on special branches of his secret police, the notorious Brigade 56, to assault opposition communities and dissident strongholds. Both the Shi’a regime and Sunni opposition engage in ongoing terror-warfare. Both have served as close collaborators with Washington at different moments.

The weekly death toll runs in the hundreds. The Al-Maliki regime has taken over the torture centers (including Abu Ghraib), techniques and jails previously headed and run by the US and have retained US ‘Special Forces’ advisers, overseeing the round-up of human rights critics, trade unionists and democratic dissidents.

Yemen:A Joint US-Saudi Satellite

Yemen has been ruled by US-Saudi client dictators for decades. The autocratic rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh was accompanied by the jailing and torture of thousands of pro-democracy activists, secular and religious, as well as serving as a clandestine torture center for political dissidents kidnapped and transported by the CIA under its so-called “rendition” program. In 2011 despite prolonged and violent repression by the US backed Saleh regime, a mass rebellion exploded threatening the existence of the state and its ties to the US and Saudi regimes. In order to preserve their dominance and ties to the military, Washington and Saudi orchestrated a ‘reshuffle’ of the regime: rigged elections were held and one Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a loyal crony of Saleh and servant of Washington, took power. Hadi continued where Saleh left off: kidnapping, torturing, killing pro-democracy protestors… Washington chose to call Hadi’s rule “a transition to democracy”. According to the Yemen Times (4/5/14) over 3,000 political prisoners fill the Yemen prisons. “Jailhouse democracy” serves to consolidate the US military presence in the Arabian Peninsula.

Jordan: A Client Police State of Longstanding Duration

For over a half century, three generations of reigning Jordanian absolutist monarchs have been on the CIA payroll and have served US interests in the Middle East. Jordan’s vassal rulers savage Arab nationalists and Palestinian resistance movements; signed off on a so-called “peace agreement” with Israel to repress any cross-border support for Palestine; provide military bases in support of US, Saudi and EU training, arming and financing of mercenaries invading Syria.

The corrupt monarchy and its crony oligarchy oversee an economy perpetually dependent on foreign subsidies to keep it afloat: unemployment is running over 25% and half the population is subsisting in poverty. The regime has jailed thousands of peaceful protestors. According to a recent Amnesty International Report (Jordan 2013), King Abdullah’s dictatorship “has detained thousands without charges”. The jailhouse monarchy plays a central role in buttressing US empire-building in the Middle East and facilitating Israeli land grabbing in Palestine.

Turkey: NATO Bulwark and Jailhouse Democracy

Under the reign of the self-styled “Justice and Development Party” led by Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has evolved into a major military operational base for the NATO backed invasion of Syria. Erdoğan has had his differences with the US; especially Turkey’s cooling relations with Israel over the latters’ seizure of a Turkish ship in international waters and the slaughter of nine unarmed Turkish humanitarian activists. But as Turkey has turned toward greater dependence on international capital flows and integration into NATO’s international wars, Erdoğan has become more authoritarian. Facing large scale public challenges to his arbitrary privatization of public spaces and dispossession of households in working class neighborhoods, Erdoğan launched a purge of civil society ,class based movements and state institutions. In the face of large scale pro-democracy demonstrations in the summer of 2013, Erdoğan launched a savage assault on the dissidents. According to human rights groups over 5,000 were arrested and 8,000 were injured during the Gezi Park protests. Earlier Erdoğan established “Special Authorized Courts” which organized political show trials based on falsified evidence which facilitated the arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of military officers, party activists, trade unionists, human rights lawyers and journalists, particularly those critical of his support for the war against Syria. Despite conciliatory rhetoric, Erdogan’s jails contain several thousand Kurdish dissidents, including electoral activists and legislators (Global Views 10/17/12).

While Erdoğan has served as an able and loyal Islamist anchor against popular democratic and nationalist movements in the Middle East, his pursuit of greater Turkish influence in the region, has led the US to deepen its political ties with the more submissive and pro-Washington , pro-Israel Gulenist movement embedded in the state apparatus ,business and education. The latter has adopted a permeationist-strategy: purging adversaries in its quiet march to power from within the state. The US still relies on Erdoğan’s “jailhouse democracy” to repress anti-imperialist movements in Turkey; to serve as a military anchor for the war against Syria; to back sanctions against Iran and to support the pro-NATO Maliki regime in Iraq.

The Middle East Gulag and US Military Aid

The police state regimes and the long-term authoritarian political culture in the Arab world is a product of long-term US military support for despotic rulers. The absence of democracy is a necessary condition for expanding and advancing the US imperial military presence in the region.

A small army of US Islamophobic academics, “experts”, journalists and media pundits totally ignore the role of the US in promoting, sustaining and strengthening the ruling dictators and repressing the profoundly democratic mass movements which have erupted over a prolonged period of time. Spearheaded by long-time pro-Israel Middle East scribes and scholars, in Ivy League universities, these propagandists, claim that Arab dictatorships are a product of “Islamic culture”,or the “authoritarian personality of Arabs” in search of a ‘strongman’ to guide and rule them. Ignoring or distorting the history of working class struggles, pro-democracy protests and affirmations, in all of the major Arab countries, these scholars justify the US ties to the dictatorships as “realistic policies” given the “available options”. Wherever real democracy begins to emerge, where political rights begin to be exercised, Washington provokes coups and intervenes to bolster the repressive apparatus of the state (Bahrain 2011-14, Yemen 2011 to 2014, Egypt 2013, Jordan 2012 among numerous other cases). While the bulk of the Middle East “experts” blame the Arab citizens for authoritarian rule, they completely ignore and cover-up Israel’s racist majority which solidly backs the incarceration and torture of hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy Palestinians.

To understand the Middle East gulag requires a discussion of US ‘aid policy’ which is central to sustaining the ‘jailhouse regimes’.

US Aid to Egypt: Billions for Dictators

The Egyptian police state anchors the US ‘arc of empire’ from North Africa to the Middle East. Egypt has been actively engaged in destabilizing Libya, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria and collaborating with Israel’s dispossession of Palestinians. The Mubarak dictatorship received $2 billion dollars a year from Washington – nearly $65 billion for its imperial services. US aid strengthened its capacity to jail, and torture pro-democracy and trade union activists. Washington continued its military support of dictatorial rule after the military coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected government, to the tune of $1.55 billion dollars for 2014 . Despite “expressions of concern” over the murder of thousands of pro-democracy protestors by the new military strongman General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, there was no cut in funding for so-called “counter-terrorism” and “security”. To continue funding the dictatorship under US Congressional legislation, Washington refused to characterize the violent seizure of power as a coup . . . referring to it as a “transition to democracy”. The key role of Egypt in US foreign policy is to protect Israel’s ‘eastern flank’. US aid to Egypt is product of the pressure and influence of the Zionist power configuration in Congress and the White House: US aid is conditioned on Egypt’s ‘policing’ of the Gaza border, ensuring that Israel’s blockade is effective. The White House supports Cairo’s repression of the majority of nationalist, anti-colonial Egyptians opposed to Tel Aviv’s dispossession of the Palestinians. Insofar as Israel’s interests’define US Middle East policy, Washington’s financing of Egypt’s jailhouse dictatorship is in accord with Zionist Washington’s strategy.

Israel: The US “Pivot” in the Middle East

Most independent and knowledgeable experts agree that US Middle East policy is largely dictated by a multitude of Zionist loyalists occupying key policymaking positions in Treasury, State Department, the Pentagon and Commerce as well as Congressional dominance by the Presidents of the 52 Major American Jewish Organizations and their 171,000 full time paid activists. 
While there is some truth in what some critics cite as the divergence of the ‘real’ US ‘national interest’ from Israel’s colonial ambitions, the fact is that US leaders in Washington perceive a convergence between imperial dominance and Israeli militarism. In point of fact a submissive Egypt serves wider US imperial and Israeli colonial interests. Israel’s war on Lebanon against the anti-imperialist Hezbollah movement served US efforts to install a docile client as well as Israeli’s effort to destroy a partisan of Palestinian self-determination. Washington’s divergence with Israel over Israel’s dispossession of all Palestine does run counter to Washington’s interest in a Palestinian mini-state run by neo-colonial Arab officials. 
As a result of Zionist influence, Israel is the biggest per-capita US aid recipient in the world, despite having a higher standard of living than 60% of US citizens. Between 1985-2014, Israel received over $100 billion dollars, of which 70% was military, including the most advance high technology weaponry. Israel ,the country which has the world record for political prisoners and military attacks on its neighbors over the past forty years, holds the record for US military aid. Israel as the premier ‘jailhouse democracy’ is a key link in the chain of gulags extending from North Africa to the Gulf States.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia competes with Israel as an incarceration center of pro-democracy dissidents; the Saudi’s recycle hundreds of billions of petro-rents through Wall Street, enriching local Saudi despots and overseas pro-Israel investment bankers. The Saudi-US-Israeli convergence is more than incidental. They share military interests in warring against pro-independence, pro-democracy Arab movements throughout the Middle East. 
Saudi houses the major US military base and the biggest intelligence operations in the Gulf. It backed the US invasion of Iraq. It finances thousands of Islamic mercenaries in the US-NATO proxy war against Syria. It invaded Bahrain to smash the pro-democracy movement. It intervenes with Washington in support of the Yemen police state. It is the biggest and most lucrative market for the US military-industrial complex. US military sales between 1951 – 2006 totaled $80 billion. In October 2010 it signed off on a $60.5 billion purchase of US arms and services.

Bahrain: A US Aircraft Carrier called a Country

Bahrain serves as the naval base for the US Fifth fleet – and an operative base for attacking Iran. It has been servicing the occupation of Afghanistan and US control of oil shipping routes. The Al-Khalifa dictatorship is extremely isolated, highly unpopular and faces constant pressure from the pro-democracy majority. To bolster their vassal rulers, Washington has increased its military sales to the tiny statelet from $400 million between 1993-2000 to $1.4 billion in the subsequent decade. Washington has increased its sales and military training program in direct proportion to the growth of democratic discontent, resulting in the geometrical growth of political prisoners.

Iraq: War, Occupation,and the Killing Fields of a Jailhouse Democracy

The US invasion and occupation of Iraq led to the slaughter of nearly 1.5 million Iraqis (mostly civilians, non-combatants) at a cost of $1.5 trillion dollars and 4,801 US military deaths. In 2006 the US engineered ‘elections’ led to the installation of the Maliki regime, buttressed by US arms, mercenaries, advisers and bases. According to a recent study for the Congressional Research Office (February 2014), by Kenneth Kilzman, there are 16,000 US military personnel and “contractors” currently in Iraq. Over 3,500 US military contractors in the Office of Security Cooperation bolster the corrupt Maliki police state. The jailhouse democracy has been supplied with US missiles and drones and over $10 billion dollars in military assistance :this includes $2.5 billion in aid and $7.9 billion sales between 2005 – 2013. For 2014 -2015 Malaki has requested $15 billion in weapons, including 36 US F-16 combat aircraft and scores of Apache attack helicopters. In 2013 the Malaki regime registered 8,000 political deaths resulting from its internal war.

Iraq is a crucial center for US control of oil, the Gulf and as a launch pad to attack Iran. While Maliki makes ‘gestures’ toward Iran, its role as an advanced link in the US imperial gulag defines its real ‘function’ in the Gulf region.

Yemen: The Desert Military Outpost for the American Gulag

Yemen is a costly military outpost for Saudi despotism and US power on the Arabian Peninsula. According to a study, Yemen: Background and US Relations by Jeremy Sharp for the Congressional Research Service (2014), the US has supplied $1.3 billion in military aid to Yemen between 2009-2014. Saudi Arabia donated $3.2 billion in 2012 to bolster the Saleh dictatorship in the face of a mass popular anti-dictatorial uprising. Washington engineered a transfer of power from Saleh to “President” Hadi and ensured his continuity by doubling military aid to keep the jails full and the resistance in check. According to the New York Times (6/31/13) Hadi was “a carry-over of dictator Saleh”. The continuity of a jailhouse democracy in Yemen is a crucial link between the Egypt-Israel-Jordan axis and the Saudi-Bahrain imperial gulag.

Jordan: Eternal Vassal and Mendicant Monarchy

Jordan’s despotic monarchy has been on the US payroll for over a half century. Recently it has served as a torture center for kidnapped victims seized by US Special Forces engaged in the “rendition” program. Jordan has collaborated with Israel in assaulting and arresting Palestinians in Jordan engaged in the freedom struggle. Currently Jordan along with Turkey serves as a training and weapons depot for NATO backed mercenary terrorists invading Syria. For its collaboration with Israel, Washington and NATO, the corrupt jailhouse monarchy receives large scale long-term military and economic aid. The monarchy and its extended network of cronies, jailers and family, skim tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid, laundered in overseas accounts in London, Switzerland, Dubai and New York. According to a Congressional Research Service Report (January 27, 2014), US aid to the Jordanian royal dictatorship amounts to $660 million per year. An additional $150 million for military aid was channeled to the regime with the onset of the NATO intervention in Syria. The fund was directed to build-up the infrastructure around the Jordan-Syria border. In addition, Jordan serves as a major conduit for arms to terrorists attacking Syria: $340 million destined for “overseas contingencies” probably is channeled through Amman to arm the terrorists invading Syria. In October 2012, Jordan signed agreements with the US allowing a large contingent of Special Forces to establish airfields and bases to supply and train terrorists.

Turkey: A Loyal Vassal State with Regional Ambitions

As the southern military bulwark of NATO, on Russia’s frontier, Turkey has been on the US payroll for over 66 years. According to a recent study by James Zanotti Turkey – US Defense Co-Operation: Prospects and Challenges (Congressional Research Service, April 8, 2011) in exchange for bolstering the military power of Turkey’s “jailhouse democracy”, the US secured a major military presence including a huge air base in Incirlik a major operational center housing 1,800 US military personnel. Turkey collaborated with the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and supported the NATO bombing of Libya. Today Turkey is the most important military operational center for jihadist terrorists invading Syria. Despite President Erdoğan’s periodic demagogic nationalist bombast, the US empire builders continue to have access to Turkish bases and transport corridors for its wars, occupations and interventions in the Middle East and South and Central Asia. In exchange the US has stationed missile defense systems and vastly increased arms sales, so-called “security assistance”. Between 2006 – 2009 US military sales exceeded $22 billion dollars. In 2013-14, tensions between Turkey and the US increased as Erdoğan moved to purge the state of the Gulenists, a US backed fifth column, which permeated the Turkish state and used its position to support closer collaboration with Israel and US military interests.


The expansion of the US Empire throughout North Africa and the Middle East has been built around arming and financing vassal states to serve as military outposts of the empire. These vassal regimes, ruled by dictatorial monarchies, and authoritarian military and civilian rulers, rely on force and violence to sustain their rule. The US has supplied the weapons, advisers, and financing allowing them to rule. The US arc of imperial military bases stretching from Egypt through Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Yemen, Iraq , Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, is protected by a chain of prison camps containing tens of thousands of political prisoners.

The US engagement, its pervasive presence throughout the region, is accompanied by a chain of jailhouse democracies and dictatorships. Contrary to liberal and conservative policy pundits and academics, US policy for over 50 years has actively sought out, installed and protected bloody tyrants who have pillaged the public treasury, concentrated wealth, surrendered sovereignty and underdeveloped their economies.

Pro-Israel academics at prestigious US universities have systematically distorted the structural bases of violence, authoritarianism and corruption in the Islamic world: blaming the victims, the Turkish and Arab people, and ignoring the role of US empire builders in financing and arming the authoritarian civilian and military rulers and absolutist monarchies and their corrupt military, judicial and police officials.

Contrary to the mendacious tomes published by the prestigious University presses and written mostly by highly respected pro-Israel political propagandists, the remaking of the Middle East depends on the strength of the democratic currents in Islamic society. They are found in the student movements, among the trade unionists and unemployed, the nationalist intellectuals and Islamic and secular forces who oppose the US Empire for very practical and obvious reasons. Along with Israel the US is the main organizer of the vast chain of political prison camps that destroy the most creative and dynamic forces in the region. Greater Arab vassalage provokes the periodic explosion of a vibrant democratic culture and movement; unfortunately it also results in greater US military aid and presence. The real clash of civilizations is between the democratic aspirations of the Eastern popular classes and the deeply embedded authoritarianism of Euro-American- Israeli imperialism

Useful Idiot, or Just Idiocy? Stephen Harper on Ukraine

Harper on Russia: America's Useful Idiot?

by Murray Dobbin - Rabble

Stephen Harper's acutely embarrassing behaviour regarding the crisis in Ukraine -- demonizing Vladimir Putin and upping the rhetoric -- must be welcomed in the U.S. which created the crisis in the first place and apparently believes it still has something to gain by isolating Russia. But it is not clear that Harper even realizes -- or cares -- what the larger game is. And that game may include a Russia-driven shift in global currency allegiance that could devastate the economies of the U.S. and Canada.

The generals surrounding him in the ridiculous war-room setting where he announced Canada was sending six fighter jets to bolster NATO's military build-up in eastern Europe looked very uncomfortable. Who likes being used as a prop for a faltering politician? The setting was a bad case of over-acting -- as if we were joining the Allies in another world war rather than engaging in what one expert called "incremental posturing."

Is Harper just a useful idiot to the U.S. -- ranting and raving about Russian expansionism and imperialism so that the U.S. position looks more reasonable by comparison?

He declared:

"When a major power acts in a way that is so clearly aggressive, militaristic, and imperialistic, this represents a significant threat to the peace and stability of the world, and it's time we all recognized the depth and the seriousness of that threat."

It is difficult to know what is going on in the fevered imagination of the prime minister but this time one has to really wonder if he has become genuinely unhinged -- always a possibility with someone both paranoid and narcissistic. While it is clear that genuine foreign policy execution always plays a distant second role to his micro-managing the electorate, it is still possible that Harper's domestic framing of foreign policy vis-a-vis Ukraine could inadvertently play a role that he didn't intend.

Why Putin doesn't want Ukraine

It is interesting that Harper virtually never talks about what is actually happening in Ukraine. The notion that Russia wants to occupy Ukraine or even invade it to protect ethnic Russians is far from the mark. The last thing Russia wants is responsibility for one of the worst basket-cases in all of Europe. Ukraine is a nearly failed state, all of its politicians are corrupt to a greater or lesser degree, it is bankrupt, has no effective police force, is held down by a crumbling infrastructure, decrepit industrial base, massive unemployment and a dysfunctional legal system. Putin is likely delighted to see the whole mess dumped into the lap of the U.S. and EU to try to sort out -- a process that will take a decade and tens of billions of dollars just to tread water.

In its current state it will never be invited to join the EU because then the EU would then be directly responsible for bailing it out. And trying now to bring Ukraine into NATO would be seen everywhere as madness -- a provocation to which Russia would reply by cutting off gas to western Europe. So Putin will watch with the comfort of an oligarch as the IMF puts the fiscal boots to a country already on its knees. And, of course, he can play mischief with gas prices any time he wants. The IMF prescription of drastic cuts to government programs could well cause widespread social unrest -- and play into the hands of the fascist parties given new prominence by the U.S.-inspired coup. It could also turn many ethnic Ukrainians against the West, making its task of establishing stability that much more difficult.

It is extremely unlikely that Putin will intervene to protect ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine either, unless there is a virtual bloodbath. He will calculate that even a few hundred deaths of Russian separatists will simply reinforce his public relations victory over the West -- confirming his framing of the issue as the ineptness and brutality of an illegal Kiev government that hates Russia and Russians. It makes far more sense for him to let the U.S. and EU deal with such a crisis and damage what's left of NATO's shaky credibility than it is to be the bad guy and intervene militarily.

In the meantime, the demonization of Putin and Russia is having a major influence on an issue that has barely been mentioned in the media: Putin's plan to create the petro-ruble and decouple Russia's energy exports from the dollar.

Abandoning the petro-dollar

It is arguable that this global issue is many times more important to the U.S. than anything that happens in the Ukraine but American efforts to isolate Russia is actually accelerating the process. It is also driving Russia to look to the East instead of Europe for its future prosperity -- aligning with China as both a market for its gas and a partner in undermining the petro-dollar. China is already headed there -- its yuan is the second most used currency, ahead of the euro, in international trade settlements. It recently "...opened two centers to process yuan-denominated trade flows, one in London and one in Frankfurt."

The emerging national economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are grouped under the acronym BRICS. According to journalist Peter Koenig:

"Other countries, especially the BRICS and BRICS-associates (BRICSA) may soon follow suit and join forces with Russia, abandoning the 'petro-dollar' as trading unit for oil and gas. This could amount to tens of trillions in loss for demand of petro-dollars per year ... leaving an important dent in the U.S. economy would be an understatement. ... Along with the new BRICS(A) currency will come a new international payment settlement system, replacing the SWIFT and IBAN exchanges, thereby breaking the hegemony of ... the Bank for International Settlement (BIS) in Basle..."

The prospect of the U.S. dollar losing its status as the world's trading currency is far and away the greatest threat to U.S. hegemony in the world as it would turn the country's $17-trillion (not counting unfunded liabilities) virtual debt problem into a real one. Until now, the huge external demand for U.S. dollars has allowed it to accumulate enormous debts without defaulting. With Russia, China and the rest of the BRICSA countries (Brazil, India, and South Africa) moving in this direction the U.S. is panic-stricken. It used to be said that the U.S. dollar was backed by the Pentagon. Indeed, plans to decouple from the dollar was a common feature of three countries which experienced the wrath of U.S. foreign policy and military intervention. Libya's Muammar Gaddafi was planning a gold-standard currency for all of Africa; Iraq was planning to quit using the dollar for its oil exports, as was Iran. Sanctions against the latter had as much to do with this plan as any other issue.

But Russia, China, Brazil and India are countries of a whole different order and out of reach of the Pentagon's threats. There is virtually nothing the U.S. can do to stop this movement, provoked in part by the massive printing of money in repeated "quantitative easings" and accelerated by NATO's adventurism.

A New Silk Road between China and Europe

If that were not a big enough headache for the U.S., Russia is well placed to detach Germany from the EU and U.S. efforts to isolate it. While Russia will suffer economically in the short term from sanctions, the longer term looks brighter. At the same time that BRICSA is planning its new international payment system, China and Germany are negotiating another initiative that guarantees Russia a prominent role in one of the world's most ambitious economic development schemes: the New Silk Road linking China and Europe. This initiative is intended to provide enormous impetus for development of western China and everything from there to Germany.

Says Koenig:

"Germany, the economic driver of Europe -- the world's fourth largest economy (US$ 3.6 trillion GDP) -- on the western end of the new trading axis, will be like a giant magnet, attracting other European trading partners of Germany's to the New Silk Road. What looks like a future gain for Russia and China, also bringing about security and stability, would be a lethal loss for Washington."

So the Russian president, at record highs in public approval and now fully justified in facing East after being provoked by the West, doesn't have to act: everything is in motion for advantage Russia. And our war-mongering prime minister will continue to aid Mr. Putin by demonizing him and justifying his eastern "pivot."

Murray Dobbin has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for 40 years. He writes rabble's State of the Nation column, which is also found at The Tyee.

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