Saturday, April 04, 2015

Facing the Reality of Western Oligarchy


The Enduring Reality of Government by Wealth and Some of Its Consequences

by John Chuckman

If you really want to understand the world in which we live – its endless wars, coups, interventions, and brutality towards great masses of people – you need to start with a correct understanding of the political machinery at work.

Talk of liberal interventions or fighting for rights, Western values, and democracy are hopelessly na├»ve and mostly deliberately deceptive. America’s record in such matters is one of securing everything from bananas, copper, and crude oil concessions to, at the very least, foreign governments obedient to its mandates after removing a disliked leader, whether elected or not. There is no concern for principles outside of their being featured in blowhard, insincere political speeches.

The interests of America’s government do not match the interests of ordinary people, those in America or anywhere else, and, were the informed consent of the governed genuinely involved in launching bloody adventures, they likely never would happen.

The underlying reality of how people in the West are governed now compared to hundreds of years ago is surprisingly unchanged, much the way the rules governing how chemical bonds form have not changed despite a long and great parade of events and discoveries in the visible world. Despite all the revolts, revolutions, congresses, constitutions, and great movements over the centuries, we are in fact governed in the same essential way people

Of course to see this, you have to strip away the forms and rituals we have constructed over the centuries, forms and rituals which create impressive effects much like the green smoke and thunderous voice of the Wizard of Oz, a wizened old man who worked from his curtained control room, pulling levers and hitting buttons to create intimidating effects. Most Americans remain impressed with the smoke and thunder and cheap magic tricks, it requiring some dedicated effort to shake off well-done illusions, and, as I’ve written before, Americans work extremely hard in their jobs or live a kind of marginal life trying to scrape by on low wages or part-time work, either of which situations leaves little time or inclination to question what government is really doing and for whose benefit.

And so long as America remains under the rule of wealth, it is unlikely other states, as in Western Europe, will emerge from it because America’s establishment has such decisive influence – economic, financial, military, and political - over many of them.

What is considered as wealth changes over time and with economic development, and with those changes so do its interests as well as the practices of its power. Great deposits of copper ore or crude oil In the Middle Ages were virtually worthless. Wealth then was land for agriculture, forestry, and hunting, with the family names of owners determined by their estates. The revenue from that natural wealth was converted to great houses and jewels and the implements of war. War, too, was a source of wealth with most wars being little more than adventures for dominance and looting on a grand scale. Again, as in our own day, they were dressed up with slogans about principles or causes which had almost no meaning. The case of the “Christian” Crusades, which continued their pillaging and orgy of killing, on and off, for centuries, springs to mind. Soldiers and sailors, up until modern times, were not motivated by their paltry pay and poor supplies, it being understood as a condition of employment that they would enjoy a share of the bounty looted in any campaign.

Today, the forms wealth are as diverse and complex as is our society, and many of them are not apparent to ordinary people in the way great estates and hunting rights and obligations in war and peace to great lords were apparent in 800. Even as late as, say, 1850, wealth in the form of belching factories employing armies of people was often still quite apparent, but today’s complex banking and securities and financial institutions are not well understood by most people, although they represent immense wealth just as real in its demands and power as estates and obligations of the 9th century. Wealth today also comes from huge global manufacturing concerns of every description often with operations scattered out of sight, great shipping and transportation fleets, or electronic and communications empires. Land itself remains an important form of wealth where it can produce industrial-scale crops or contains deposits of valuable minerals or can generate flows of electricity or has been developed into great cities or resorts. War remains a source of wealth, only on a scale which could not have been imagined a few hundred years ago, but the spoils no longer go to soldiers in professional armies, they go to those responsible for the war, often in forms not easily recognized, as with special rights and concessions and secret arrangements.

As the nature of wealth evolved from the Middle Ages to the Modern Era, outward forms and rituals of government also changed. We have moved from the near-absolute power of kings and autocrats through aristocracies and republics with senates to a great variety of forms, parliaments and congresses, which appear designed to yield, to one degree or another, the consent of the governed.

But appearances, as in the case of the Wizard of Oz, can be deceiving.

Today, a single wealthy individual cannot make the kind of demands upon ordinary people that marked arrangements in the Middle Ages - although that must be qualified as I’m sure anyone who has become involved in a dispute with a wealthy neighbor or a great corporation will be happy to explain - but the class of wealthy people can indeed make just such demands, and they do so all the time. You will be taxed to pay for the schemes that their lobbying establishes, your water and air will contain the pollution of their manufacturing and mining, your children will be sent to kill and die in their wars, the ethics or morals you were taught as a child will be trampled upon, and virtually all important legislation will deal with the rights and interests of wealth, and not those of the broad mass of people.

In America, once in four years you will be asked to choose between two names, both of which have been closely vetted by the powers that be, to elect as head of government. Not only have they been vetted, but the immense costs of their campaigns in reaching you on television, at rallies, and with opinion polls to regularly fine tune their words will be paid almost exclusively by those whose real interests are at stake in every major election, the wealthy and their important serving institutions of government. The end effect is not really all that different than the old single-candidate Soviet elections at which the press trained Americans to sneer.

Many of America’s founding fathers had dark suspicions about the existence of wealth being secure in the presence of democratic government, and that is why they created forms – mostly adapted from Britain, a place no one regarded as a democracy then – to keep wealth safe. Over a couple of centuries, the original arrangements were modified, the country moving from a tiny one percent or so privileged voters – for perspective, that’s roughly the same as the percent of voters in China’s Communist Party deciding who rules the country – to something approaching universal suffrage, but always arrangements were made to safeguard wealth against the assumed predations of democracy.

In elections for the American Senate, the legislative body with real power, authority, and privilege, you again will be asked to choose between two well-vetted and well-connected candidates. Others may run, but they will be rendered helpless by the vetted candidates’ flood of money and resources, you will never hear their voices, and America’s press – itself an empire of wealth serving wealth – will waste no time on their views. In the case of the Senate, you will be asked once in six years to vote, with the elections staggered so that only one-third of that body faces election at any time – a perfectly-conceived formula for keeping the old bunch in charge despite issues which might have generated election discontent. In fact, you can never “throw the bums out” in America. Anyway, there really isn’t much risk for Senators running for re-election, with incumbents winning about 95% of the time. Senate seats are so secure they sometimes become family sinecures, handed down from father to son. After the election, unless you live in a small-population, insignificant state, you will never see or meet your Senator, and you will certainly have no opportunity to lobby. Virtually all seeing, meeting, and lobbying will be done by the wealthy sponsors of the successful candidates or by their hired help.

The average American Senator is said to spend two-thirds of his or her time securing funds for the next election, and such elections have now been bid-up to unbelievable amounts of money. The huge costs serve as what economists call “a barrier to entry,” a kind of high financial wall which keeps others from entering the political market, or, if somehow they do manage to enter, keeps them from effectively competing. Only the other wealth-vetted and connected candidate will have any hope of collecting a big enough pot of money to threaten an incumbent. The belief that people giving millions of dollars to candidates expect nothing in return is not even worth discussing. What they get – apart from goodies like important and prestigious appointments or valuable government contracts – is access, and access is exactly what most people never enjoy. Intimate access to politicians in high office, people always mindful of the necessity for another overflowing campaign war chest, is genuine power.

It is not impossible to have compatibility between democracy and wealth, but it requires a set of laws and regulations concerned with campaign financing, lobbying, and dis-establishing a political duopoly of two privileged parties, laws which simply cannot happen in America over our lifetimes. In America, law makes corporations persons, and the highest court, packed by judges appointed to serve wealth’s interests, has ruled that campaign money is free speech. These are not things easily turned around.

The American system of campaign financing not only assures the secure power of domestic wealth, it assures also the influence of wealthy lobbies serving the interests of foreign states, Israel being the most outstanding example. Other foreign states also exploit this system to varying degrees, but no other state has more than five million American citizens in great part keen to serve its interests. And many of them are successful, affluent, and well-placed people enjoying a connected set of organizations and well-funded lobbies. Other foreign states also do not enjoy having many of their lobbyists in America being dual-citizens, free to move back and forth between the country being lobbied and the country being lobbied for, surely an ethical issue for politics and foreign affairs of the first magnitude. It is a unique situation in many respects, and it has helped create a unique set of problems in the world.

The wealthy interests of America happen to share some important interests with lobbyists for Israel, including securing the Western world’s supply of energy and not permitting the rise of states of any power in the Middle East who disagree with America’s essential views. It is important to keep in mind that “America’s essential views” are not necessarily the views of most of the American people and that many of those “essential views” have never received genuine informed consent. Elections conducted the way America’s high-level elections are conducted are incapable of bestowing meaningful consent, especially in vitally important matters.

The Israeli-American alliance is something of an unholy one because in binding America so closely to Israel, some huge and unresolvable conflicts have been created. Israel is associated with a long series of wars and abuses in the region, and, ipso facto, so is America. Israel, given the nature of its founding, expansion, and practices, is not liked by any neighboring states, although many now cooperate secretly, and sometimes even openly, in areas of mutual interest and have learned to tolerate its existence, the way generally eased by large American bribes or equally large American threats.

Traditionally, states in the Middle East are not democracies. Their often short histories have given limited opportunity for wide-spread development and prosperity creating a strong middle-class, the sine qua non for democracy. With the United States always (insincerely) praising democracy – including Israel’s grotesque contradiction of “democracy for some but not others” – it has been caught in a bind between supporting what it says it opposes and opposing what it says it supports.

Its proposed solution was a huge CIA project, nick-named “the Arab Spring” by America’s wealth-serving and often dishonest press, a set of manufactured uprisings intended to bring a semblance of democracy to the region. It has been largely a failure, ending with some countries trapped in chaos or civil war and others, notably Egypt, briefly gaining a government Israel hated intensely, the truth being that genuine democracy in virtually any of these countries will not be friendly to Israel’s geopolitical ambitions in the region nor to those of its American promoter and protector. While the “Arab Spring” was allowed to proceed in some states, in others, where it was neither intended nor desired, such as Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, spill-over effects were deliberately and violently suppressed with American assistance. So the American-Israeli relationship now still locks the United States effectively in fighting against democracy in some countries and in supporting absolute monarchs and oligarchs in others, while in still others, such as Syria and Iraq, it is involved literally in smashing them as states, in violation of all international law and long-term good sense.

The entire situation is an ongoing disaster and is almost certainly not sustainable over the long term. How do you insist a huge country like Egypt remain a backwater without democratic rights indefinitely? How can you justify the destruction of an ancient and beautiful country like Syria? How can you justify supporting absolute monarchs and keeping their people in total political darkness? How do you continue supporting Israel in its abuse of millions, depriving them of every human right, or in its constant aggression to secure its hegemony? The drive for regional hegemony is all that is behind Israel’s constant hectoring of Iran, and how is that behavior different to the aggressive wars condemned by the Nuremberg Tribunal? It’s not, of course. Further, destructive, deliberately-induced conflicts like that in Syria, by degrading its economic advance, only slow the day for democracy’s having a real chance to emerge.

So here is America, self-proclaimed land of the free, mired in a vast situation where it works to suppress democracy, supports tyrants, and supports aggressive war because its leaders, with no genuine consent of the governed, have put it there, and this is just one of many unhealthy and destructive consequences of wealth’s rule in the United States. Wealth has no inherent interest in democracy, and it is entirely up to a people anywhere to demand respect for democracy through laws.

One Minute in Montreal: 75,000-Strong Counter Austerity Action

VIDEO: 75,000 against austerity, a one-minute time lapse

via Ricochet

Meet the student strikers on the front lines of a culture war

Today in the streets of Montreal an estimated 75,000 marched through a glorious sunny spring day, and the odd cloud of tear gas, to denounce the Quebec Liberal government's austerity policies.

This spectacular piece of time-lapse photography by videographer Mario Jean, aka MADOC, shows the view from the famous Berri overpass as the march passes underneath. In a single minute of advanced reality, tens of thousands stream past. Don't miss it, and be sure to share it.


 

Oil Price Blues: Canada's Capitalist Crisis Hope for Humanity?

Falling Demand for Oil: Crisis for capital, hope for humanity

by Al Engler - Dissident Voice


April 3rd, 2015

For capital in Canada and the U.S. the sudden drop in oil prices is a disaster. For humankind it is a signal that fossil fuel use must decline.

Thirty years ago scientists pointed out that the burning of fossil fuels was causing global warming. To prevent catastrophic climate change, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would have to be kept below 350 parts per million, a level that could be maintained only if three quarters of known reserves of conventional fossil fuels were left in the ground.

Corporate capitalism in Canada responded by investing tens of billions in tar sands, fracking, and oil pipelines. U.S. capital invested even more in off-shore drilling and fracking. Governments provided fossil fuel corporations with tax breaks and subsidies. By 2014 atmospheric carbon dioxide levels over North America on some days exceeded 400 parts per million.

In the 1980s when science first drew attention to global warming, it was to be expected that some would claim this was merely a theory. Now, the hypothesis of human-caused climate change has been tested and measured. Increases in global temperature continue to be historically unprecedented. As predicted, glaciers and polar ice caps are shrinking. Sea levels are rising. Droughts and floods have become more frequent. Storms, rainfall, hurricanes have become more severe. Carbon dioxide raining down from the atmosphere increase ocean acidity; crustaceans from coral reefs to micro organisms are losing the capacity to reproduce, undermining the ocean ecosystems on which all sea life depend.

Climate change skeptics may have been eased to the fringes, but corporate capitalism continues to ignore the impact of carbon emissions. 

For capital, profits from the exploration, development and transportation of coal, oil and natural gas are just too important. Profits in the automobile industry, air travel, agribusiness, and global trade depend on plentiful fossil fuels. Major financial institutions are heavily invested, directly and indirectly, in fossil fuels. In a time when most global markets for consumer and producer goods are stagnant and low interest rates have reduced the base return on capital, capital generally is dependent on profits from fossil fuels.

Unwilling to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, corporate interests in the U.S. and Canada insist that green energy is not a realistic alternative. To undermine expansion of green energy, they have persuaded federal governments to impose punitive tariffs on solar panels made abroad. They have persuaded states, counties, and utilities to deny local solar producers access to grids. Meanwhile, in China, India, Africa, Brazil, and even in some U.S. states wind and solar power is a growing source of electricity. Electricity from wind power will double by the end of this decade. With present technology solar power alone could replace all the electricity now provided by fossil fuels at no additional cost. As investments on wind and solar increase, the technology will advance, further reducing the cost and efficiency of green power.

To drive a wedge between industrial workers and environmentalists, corporate shills present green power as touchy feely, less industrial, less masculine than energy from fossil fuels. Yes, solar and wind are cutting-edge technologies. Many highly educated professional and technical specialists will be required in basic research, development and administration. Still, most employees will be engaged in manufacturing, transportation, installation and maintenance–traditional blue collar occupations that can be equally done by men and women. Work will be widely dispersed in all regions. By boosting employment, income, and markets, the massive expenditures required to convert to green energy would end the austerity promoted by capitalist interests. Employment and income will rise. Markets will revive.

The shift to green energy, motivated by human well-being, will have to be pushed from below. Although capitalist interests now have a death grip on political agendas, people acting together for the common good can counter capitalist influence. We are the vast majority. Industrial and service workers, professionals and technical specialists, students, the unemployed, pensioners all share a common interest in the continuation of the environments on which humankind depends. No more than five percent depend on marginal increases in profits.

Strikes, protests, boycotts, and civil disobedience can help speed up the shift away from fossil fuels. Community-owned utilities, cooperatives, and local capital can take initiatives. Electoral mobilizations can push federal, provincial, and state governments to shift to green energy and to provide funding for public transportation. Cities could be reconfigured to make it practical for people to walk and cycle to employment, services, entertainment and commerce. Publicly supported local food production could replace dependence on transnational corporate imports.

The funding required could in part come from excise taxes on fossil fuels, perhaps $50 a barrel, equivalent to the recent drop in the price of oil. Since capitalist profit is at the root of the problem, most of the revenues should come out of additional taxes on corporate income and private capital.


Al Engler is a long-time social activist, a retired towboat cook and trade union official. He is the author of books and numerous articles against capitalism and for economic democracy. Read other articles by Al.

Cold War 2.0: Back to a Doomed Future


Cold War 2.0, part I

by William Blum – The Anti-Empire Report #138  

April 2nd, 2015

In last month’s Anti-Empire Report I brought you the latest adventure of US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki trying to defend the indefensible.

She said then: “As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means,” which prompted me to inform my readers:

“If you know how to contact Ms. Psaki, tell her to have a look at my list of more than 50 governments the United States has attempted to overthrow since the end of the Second World War.”

On March 13 her regular attack on all things Russian included this exchange with Associated Press writer Matthew Lee:

Lee: On this issue, did you get any more about this request to the Vietnamese on Cam Ranh Bay and not allowing the Russians to - and not wanting them to allow - you not wanting them to refuel Russian planes there?

Psaki: Well, just to be clear - and maybe I wasn’t as clear yesterday, so let me try to do this again - it’s - our concern is about activities they might conduct in the region, and the question is: Why are they in the region? It’s not about specifically refueling or telling the Vietnamese not to allow them to refuel.

Lee: So there hasn’t been a request to stop refueling them, or there has?

Psaki: It’s more about concerns. It’s not as much about Vietnam as much as it - as it is about concerns about what activities they would be in the region for.

Lee: Okay. Well, you - I mean, there are U.S. planes flying over there all the time.

Psaki: Sure, there are.

Lee: So you don’t want Russian planes flying there, but it’s okay for U.S. planes to fly there? I mean, I just - it gets to the point where you - the suggestion is that everything the Russians are doing all the time everywhere is somehow nefarious and designed to provoke. But you can’t - but you don’t seem to be able to understand or accept that American planes flying all over the place, including in that area, is annoying to the Chinese, for one, but also for the Russians. But the suggestion is always that the American flights are good and beneficial and don’t cause tension, and that other people’s flights do cause tension. So can you explain what the basis is for your concern that the Russian flights there in the Southeast Asia area are - raise tensions?

Psaki: There just aren’t more details I can go into.

Cold War 2.0, part II 


On Saturday, the Obama administration released a series of satellite images that it said showed the Russian army had joined the rebels in a full-scale assault to surround troops in the area around the city. Russia has denied that it is a party to the conflict, and it was impossible to verify the three grainy black-and-white satellite images posted to Twitter by the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.
According to the United States, the images, commissioned from the private Digital Globe satellite company, showed artillery systems and multiple-rocket launchers Thursday in the area near Debaltseve.
“We are confident these are Russian military, not separatist, systems,” Pyatt tweeted. (Washington Post, February 15, 2015)

When the time comes to list the ways in which the United States gradually sunk into the quicksand, slowly metamorphosing into a Third-World state, Washington’s campaign of 2014-15 to convince the world that Russia had repeatedly invaded Ukraine will deserve to be near the top of the list. Numerous examples like the above can be given. If I were still the jingoistic nationalist I was raised to be I think I would feel somewhat embarrassed now by the blatant obviousness of it all.



For a short visual history of the decline and fall of the American Empire, see the video “Imperial Decay” by Class War Films (8:50 minutes).

During Cold War 1.0 the American media loved to poke fun at the Soviet media for failing to match the glorious standards of the Western press. One of the most common putdowns was about the two main Russian newspapers – Pravda (meaning “truth” in Russian) and Izvestia (meaning “news”). We were told, endlessly, that there was “no truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestia.”

As cynical as I’ve been for years about the American mainstream media’s treatment of ODE (Officially Designated Enemies), current news coverage of Russia exceeds my worst expectations. I’m astonished every day at the obvious disregard of any kind of objectivity or fairness concerning Russia. Perhaps the most important example of this bias is the failure to remind their audience that the US and NATO have surrounded Russia – with Washington’s coup in Ukraine as the latest example – and that Moscow, for some odd reason, feels threatened by this. (Look for the map online of NATO bases and Russia, with a caption like: “Why did you place your country in the middle of our bases?”)

Cold War 2.0, part III


Following the murder of Russian opposition leader, and former Deputy Prime Minister, Boris Nemtsov in Moscow on February 27, the West had a field day. Ranging from strong innuendo to outright accusation of murder, the Western media and politicians did not miss an opportunity to treat Vladimir Putin as a football practice dummy.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution urging an international investigation into Nemtsov’s death and suggested that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Council, and the United Nations could play a role in the probe.

US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham introduced a Senate Resolution condemning the Nemtsov murder. The Resolution also called on President Obama and the international community to pursue an independent investigation into the murder and redouble efforts to advance free speech, human rights, and the rule of law in Russia. In addition, it urged Obama to continue to sanction human rights violators in the Russian Federation and to increase US support to human rights activists in Russia.

So it went … all over the West.


Meanwhile, in the same time period in Ukraine, outside of the pro-Russian area in the southeast, the following was reported:

  • January 29: Former Chairman of the local government of the Kharkov region, Alexey Kolesnik, hanged himself.
  • February 24: Stanislav Melnik, a member of the opposition party (Partia Regionov), shot himself.
  • February 25: The Mayor of Melitopol, Sergey Valter, hanged himself a few hours before his trial.
  • February 26: Alexander Bordiuga, deputy director of the Melitopol police, was found dead in his garage.
  • February 26: Alexander Peklushenko, former member of the Ukrainian parliament, and former mayor of Zaporizhi, was found shot to death.
  • February 28: Mikhail Chechetov, former member of parliament, member of the opposition party (Partia Regionov), “fell” from the window of his 17th floor apartment in Kiev.
  • March 14: The 32-year-old prosecutor in Odessa, Sergey Melnichuk, “fell” to his death from the 9th floor.

The Partia Regionov directly accused the Ukrainian government in the deaths of their party members and appealed to the West to react to these events. “We appeal to the European Union, PACE [Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe], and European and international human rights organizations to immediately react to the situation in Ukraine, and give a legal assessment of the criminal actions of the Ukrainian government, which cynically murders its political opponents.”

We cannot conclude from the above that the Ukrainian government was responsible for all, or even any, of these deaths. But neither can we conclude that the Russian government was responsible for the death of Boris Nemtsov, the American media and politicians notwithstanding. A search of the mammoth Nexus news database found no mention of any of the Ukrainian deceased except for the last one above, Sergey Melnichuk, but this clearly is not the same person. It thus appears that none of the deaths on the above list was ascribed to the Western-allied Ukrainian government.

Where are the demands for international investigations of any of the deaths? In the United States or in Europe? Where is Senator McCain?

Torture via sanctions


Discussions on constraining Iran’s nuclear program have been going on for well over a year between Iran and the P5+1 (the five nuclear powers of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany), led by the United States. Throughout this period a significant stumbling block to reaching an agreement has been the pronouncements of Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA is the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, and its inspections are considered a key safeguard against countries using civilian nuclear energy technology to produce weapons. Amano has consistently accused Iran of failing to reply fully and substantially to queries about “possible military dimensions” of present and past nuclear activities, or failing to provide sufficient access to nuclear facilities.

Failure by Iran to comply fully with IAEA demands undermine Tehran’s efforts to win the lifting of crippling UN, US and other sanctions, which currently prohibit foreign companies from doing business with Iran and deny access to the global financial system. Media coverage of the negotiations regularly emphasize Amano’s claims of Iran’s insufficient responses to IAEA’s demands. It is thus worth inquiring just who is this man Amano.

In 2009 Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano became the head of the IAEA. What the Western media routinely fail to remind its audience is that a US embassy cable of October 2009 (released by Wikileaks in 2010) said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded the [American] ambassador on several occasions that … he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”

Even if Iran makes a superior effort to satisfy IAEA and Washington’s demands on all issues, it would remain questionable to what extent and how rapidly the sanctions would be removed, particularly under a Republican-controlled Congress. Iran specialist and author Gareth Porter recently wrote that “the United States and its allies have made no effort to hide the fact that they intend to maintain the ‘sanctions architecture’ in place for many years after the implementation of the agreement has begun. Last November, administration officials explained that US sanctions would only be removed after the International Atomic Energy Agency had verified that ‘Tehran is abiding by the terms of a deal over an extended period of time’ in order to ‘maintain leverage on Iran to honour the accord’.”

To appreciate the extraordinary degree of pressure and extortion the United States can impose upon another country we should consider the case of Libya in the decade-plus following the destruction of PanAm Flight 103 in 1988 over Scotland. To force Libya to “accept responsibility” for the crime, Washington imposed heavy sanctions on the Gaddafi regime, including a ban on international flights to Libya and payment of billions of dollars to the families of the victims. Libya eventually did “accept responsibility” for the crime, although it was innocent. As difficult as this may be to believe, it’s true. Read my account of it here.

Even after Libya accepted responsibility it still took years for the US to wipe out the sanctions, and it’s not clear that at the time of Gaddafi’s death in 2011 all of them had been removed. Once a nation becomes an Officially Designated Enemy of the empire the methods of torture can be exquisite and endless. Cuba is presently negotiating the end of US sanctions against Havana. They will need to be extremely careful.  
“Like others of his ilk - such as David Horowitz and Christopher Hitchens - he learned too much in college and too little since.” Sam Smith

I’ve never been too impressed by what college a person went to, or even if they attended college at all. Gore Vidal did not attend any college; neither did H. L. Mencken; nor did Edward Snowden, who has demonstrated a highly articulate and educated mind. Among the many other notables who skipped a college education are George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Hemingway, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Then we have graduates from Ivy League colleges like George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Tom Cotton. I don’t have to present the case for Bush’s less-than educated mind; we’re all only too familiar with its beauty. But Obama has matched Georgie Boy for stupidity and inanity time and time again. My favorite, which he’s used on at least five occasions, is his reply to questions about why his administration has not prosecuted Bush, Cheney, et al for torture and other war crimes: “I prefer to look forward rather than backwards”. Picture a defendant before a judge asking to be found innocent on such grounds. It simply makes laws, law enforcement, crime, justice, and facts irrelevant. Picture Chelsea Manning and other whistle blowers using this argument. Picture the reaction to this by Barack Obama, who has become the leading persecutor of whistleblowers in American history.

Is there anyone left who still thinks that Barack Obama is some kind of improvement intellectually over George W. Bush? Probably two types still think so: (1) Those to whom color matters a lot; (2) Those who are very impressed by the ability to put together grammatically correct sentences.

And now we have Mr. Cotton, Senator from Arkansas and graduate of Harvard undergraduate and law schools. He’ll be entertaining us for years to come with gems like his remark on “Face the Nation” (March 15): “Moreover, we have to stand up to Iran’s attempts to drive for regional dominance. They already control Tehran and, increasingly, they control Damascus and Beirut and Baghdad. And now, Sana’a as well.”

Heavens, Iran controls Tehran! Who knew? Next thing we’ll hear is that Russia controls Moscow! Sarah Palin, move over. Our boy Cotton is ready for Saturday Night Live.


Notes

Washington Post, February 15, 2015, “Amid doubts, truce in Ukraine appears to take hold
RT, March 12, 2015, “EU lawmakers demand international investigation into Nemtsov’s death
John McCain website, Press Release, “Senators John Mccain And Lindsey Graham Introduce Resolution Condemning Murder Of Russian Opposition Leader Boris Nemtsov
Research for this section was done by a person who was raised in the Soviet Union and now lives in the United States.
Middle East Eye, March 27, 2015, “Sanctions and the fate of the nuclear talks

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.


← Issue #137

Friday, April 03, 2015

Murder Most Foul: Removing Opposition to Kiev Coup the Old Fashioned Way

Mysterious Deaths in Ukraine

by William Blum via Consortium News

April 3, 2015

Mainstream U.S. news so in tank for post-coup Ukrainian government, anything negative – from neo-Nazi militias to apparent “death squad” operations – is ignored, including a string of mysterious deaths of anti-coup politicians, as William Blum notes at Anti-Empire Report.

Nazi symbols on helmets worn by 
members of Ukraine’s Azov battalion. 
(As filmed by a Norwegian film crew 
and shown on German TV)

Following the murder of Russian opposition leader, and former Deputy Prime Minister, Boris Nemtsov in Moscow on Feb. 27, the West had a field day. Ranging from strong innuendo to outright accusation of a Kremlin-directed political murder, the Western media and politicians did not miss an opportunity to treat Russian President Vladimir Putin as a football practice dummy.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution urging an international investigation into Nemtsov’s death and suggested that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Council, and the United Nations could play a role in the probe.

U.S. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham introduced a Senate Resolution condemning the Nemtsov murder. The Resolution also called on President Barack Obama and the international community to pursue an independent investigation into the murder and redouble efforts to advance free speech, human rights, and the rule of law in Russia.

In addition, it urged Obama to continue to sanction human rights violators in the Russian Federation and to increase U.S. support to human rights activists in Russia.

So it went … all over the West.

Meanwhile, in the same time period in Ukraine, outside of the pro-Russian area in the southeast, the following was reported:

  • Jan. 29: Former Chairman of the local government of the Kharkov region, Alexey Kolesnik, hanged himself.
  • Feb. 24: Stanislav Melnik, a member of the opposition party (Partia Regionov), shot himself.
  • Feb. 25: The Mayor of Melitopol, Sergey Valter, hanged himself a few hours before his trial.
  • Feb. 26: Alexander Bordiuga, deputy director of the Melitopol police, was found dead in his garage.
  • Feb. 26: Alexander Peklushenko, former member of the Ukrainian parliament, and former mayor of Zaporizhi, was found shot to death.
  • Feb. 28: Mikhail Chechetov, former member of parliament, member of the opposition party (Partia Regionov), “fell” from the window of his 17th floor apartment in Kiev.
  • March 14: The 32-year-old prosecutor in Odessa, Sergey Melnichuk, “fell” to his death from the 9th floor.

The Partia Regionov directly accused the Ukrainian government in the deaths of their party members and appealed to the West to react to these events.

“We appeal to the European Union, PACE [Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe], and European and international human rights organizations to immediately react to the situation in Ukraine, and give a legal assessment of the criminal actions of the Ukrainian government, which cynically murders its political opponents.”

We cannot conclude from the above that the Ukrainian government was responsible for all, or even any, of these deaths. But neither can we conclude that the Russian government was responsible for the death of Boris Nemtsov, the American media and politicians notwithstanding.

A search of the mammoth Nexus news database found no mention of any of the Ukrainian deceased except for the last one above, Sergey Melnichuk, but this clearly is not the same person. It thus appears that none of the deaths on the above list was ascribed to the Western-allied Ukrainian government.

Where are the demands for international investigations of any of the deaths? In the United States or in Europe? Where is Sen. McCain?

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others. [This article originally appeared at the Anti-Empire Report, http://williamblum.org/ .]

The Men Who Say War at Any Price

Better a War than an Agreement?

by TRNN

Phyllis Bennis says forces aligned in opposition to the Iran Framework Agreement in the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia would rather see war than a deal that brings Iran out of sanctions and back into play as a regional power.




Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow and the Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. She is the author of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer, Before and After: US Foreign Policy and the September 11 Crisis , Ending the US War in Afghanistan: A Primer and Understanding the US-Iran Crisis: A Primer.

Singing Yet Astride the Pope's Mount

Sing Another Song: Pope Francis and the Scourges of Our Time

by Kathy Kelly - VCNC.org

April 2, 2015


Here in Lexington federal prison's Atwood Hall, squinting through the front doorway, I spotted a rust-red horse swiftly cantering across a nearby field. The setting sun cast a glow across the grasses and trees as the horse sped past.

"Reminds me of the Pope," I murmured to no one in particular. "What's that?" Tiza asked.

I tried to explain that once, when I asked a close friend his opinion of the Pope, shortly after Catholic bishops had elected Pope Francis, my friend had said, "The horse is out of the stable! And galloping."

I love the image. Here is a Pope who, upon learning that a chaplain in a Chinese prison couldn't afford to buy the traditional "moon pies" for every prisoner to celebrate the harvest moon, cut a check to cover the remaining cost.

This Pope loves the tango dance. On his birthday, tango dancers filled St. Peter's Square at the time when ringing bells call on believers to kneel and recite the Angelus.

In September, 2015, Pope Francis will visit New York City, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. Tiza and I wondered if he would visit a prison. "If he does, he should come here," Tiza insisted, "and not go to some showcase place!" I don't think he'll be able to put Kentucky on his agenda, but it's not outlandish to imagine the Pope visiting a U.S. prison. He consistently emphasizes our chance to choose the works of mercy rather than the works of war: to visit those who are sick, those who are in prison; to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, bury the dead. Never to turn our heads, say "it was their own damn fault"; never to choose wars and weapons, the burning of fields, destruction of homes, slaughter of the living.


Women here pray for the Pope every week, their prayers guided by a Jesuit priest, a tall, balding man with a long, white beard and a kindly manner. "He's the one who looks like a mountain man," Tiza once told me.

At the beginning of a 40-day season of atonement called Lent, the priest's message was stark and simple: "Our world is very sick." He asked the women before him to recall how each might feel, as a mother, if her child is sick. "Nothing else matters," said the priest. "You're focused on your child." He urged us to focus on healing an ailing world with just as much fervor. Following his words, we joined in prayer for the Pope, a symbol of unity, collecting our desires for a world at peace, where people's basic needs are met and all children can thrive.

A few evenings later, while walking up the stairs toward my 3rd floor room, I heard a woman wailing. "Not my baby!" she cried, in pure anguish. "Not my baby!" She had collapsed to the floor in the middle of a phone call telling her that her four year old child had been rushed to the hospital, unconscious. Her closest friends were soon at her side, holding her, soothing her. Word spread through the prison. After the 9:00 PM "count," women did what they could. Dozens of women filled the first floor chapel, praying for hours for the prisoner, for her child, for the child's caregivers, for the hospital personnel. Word arrived, the next day, that the child had regained consciousness.

The good priest had chosen a metaphor that women here could readily understand.

Gypsi, one of my roommates, saves her funds for phone calls, twice a week, with her small daughters, age 3 and 5. Prisoners can make 15 minute calls, at 21 cents per minute.

One night, Gypsi came back from her call, red-eyed but smiling. Meekah, her younger daughter, can trade song verses with Gypsi. "Momma, let's sing one more!" Meekah had cried. "Please sing another song!" But, instead, a loud beep signaled that the call was over.

I just finished reading an exquisite book, Yashar Kemal's Memed My Hawk (2005, NYRB Classics 50th Anniversary Edition), with a subplot about two women wrongfully imprisoned. Iraz thinks longingly of her son Riza, while Hatche remembers Memed, the young love of her life.

"As the days passed, Iraz and Hatche… shared everything, including their troubles. Hatche knew Riza's height, his black eyes, his slim fingers, his dancing, his childhood, what he had done as a child, with what trouble Iraz had brought him up, the whole story... down to the last detail, as if she had lived through and seen it all herself. It was the same with Iraz. She too knew everything about Memed, from the day he and Hatche had first played together as children."

Yes, it's like that among women in prison. Tremendous focus. And yet, as Kemal adds, "Anyone going to prison for the first time is confused on entering so different a world. One feels lost in an endless forest, far away, as if all ties with the earth, with home and family, friends and loved ones, with everything, have been broken. It is also like sinking into a deep and desolate emptiness."

Broken. On empty.


Worldwide, impoverishment shackles women to unspeakably harsh conditions and makes them vulnerable to predators. Lacking protection, they are sold into human trafficking rings, subjected to forced labor, forced prostitution and forced removal. Widows and orphans find themselves penniless and defenseless.

More than 115 million widows live in extreme poverty around the world, with a half billion children dependent on their care and support: Gary Haugen, in The Locust Effect (2014, Oxford University Press), presents in careful and disheartening detail a discussion of the sea change needed to uphold the rights of impoverished women and children. Sadly, in many places, traditions and customs regard women as being less valuable, subordinating them and treating them as property.


Sometimes, we have to interrupt ourselves in our relative comfort and estimate how we can bring to bear our best resources in the name of changing criminal, wrongful patterns.

Pope Francis faces an extraordinary possibility. He could rely on Catholic teaching which proclaims that humans are all part of "one bread, one body," emphasizing that women and men are equal to each other; and he could promote an exemplary practical consequence of this teaching by embracing "the priesthood of all believers," welcoming women as well as men to follow a vocation into ordained ministry. It would be a dramatic change, an arrow pointing toward new expectations and possibilities regarding the status of women.

Coretta Scott King says that in the moments after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, her husband Dr. Martin Luther King turned to her and said, "This is what is going to happen to me also. I keep telling you, this is a sick society." She could only agree that he was right; and he was. Yet his service to equality and his fierce courage to reject violence couldn't be killed. He took us with him to that mountaintop, entrusting to us a new vision and a way forward.

Pope Francis must indeed feel the challenge of the past century's social justice visionaries, many of them cruelly vilified and rejected - many sent by violence from the world. Assassination is on the rise: the "kill list" is now an openly acknowledged part of U.S. policy. I know that women here will continue to pray for a sick society, and for the Pope, long after I leave.

I will continue to feel deeply moved by our "mountain man"'s humble, direct plea, asking us to focus for forty days on our very sick world. Lent ends today, "Good Friday" is tomorrow. Saturday is the anniversary of our loss of Dr. King, who, on an April 4th exactly one year before his death, told us that "we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway."

In just a few more weeks, I'll be moving on from here. The other members of our congregation will remain, and, along with so many of the world's most expendable people, will remain nearly invisible to corporate forces driving humanity to nightmarish war, horrifying inequalities in wealth and education, and the irreversible destruction of natural resources nearly as precious as the squandered hopes of these women.

Where you stand determines what you see. Transformation of the Jericho Road must begin with actually stopping there. In Atwood Hall, our "mountain man" earnestly spoke to us as the people with whom the transformation starts, as people both vital and central to the healing he yearns for. If it comes, it will have started in a million places like this one.

Recognizing our need to support one another, to overcome the scourges of our time, to pick up a pace commensurate to the needs of those surrounding us, focused on our sick society with the same determination to heal that we would bring to a very sick child, we all have the task of going beyond our places of comfort, of escaping the stable and trotting if we can't manage to gallop, of building new affinities in which to imagine and then co-create a better world. I hope the Pope will pick up the scent of spring renewal, maybe even imagine a Kentucky Derby, as he prepares to speak a clarion and expansive wake-up call, calling us to sing another song, a new song: just as we've called to him.


Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org) is in federal prison for participation in an anti-drone protest. She can receive mail at: KATHY KELLY 04971-045; FMC LEXINGTON; FEDERAL MEDICAL CENTER; SATELLITE CAMP; P.O. BOX 14525; LEXINGTON, KY 40512.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Death by Doctor: Neglecting Mumia Abu-Jamal to Death

Execution by Medical Neglect?

by Dave Lindorff - CounterPunch

 

Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical Philadelphia journalist convicted of killing a white Philadelphia police officer in a trial fraught with prosecutorial misconduct, witness coaching and judicial prejudice back in 1981, spent nearly three decades in solitary confinement in the deliberately designed hell of Pennsylvania’s supermax SCI Green prison before a panel of federal Appeals Court judges eventually ruled that he’d been unconstitutionally sentenced to death.

He, of course, received no apology for the state’s making him illegally and improperly spend all those years in solitary waiting to be wrongfully executed. Instead, with that ruling (after a few years of legal stalling by the Philadelphia district attorney’s office), he was simply switched over to a sentence of life without possibility of parole and moved to the SCI-Mahoney prison in central Pennsylvania.

Now, it appears the state, which lost its chance to execute him, may be trying to kill him another way, as word comes that this world-renowned political prisoner had to be rushed to the hospital this week, unconscious from an undiagnosed case of severe diabetes.

Incredibly, despite his having already spent the past two weeks in the prison infirmary, where he was suffering from a severe case of eczema, painful itching all over his body, lethargy, and frequent urination — all well-known side effects signaling possible diabetes — he was never tested for sugar in his blood or urine (or if was tested, nothing was done about the results). He was only finally diagnosed with the disease after his blood glucose level had risen to 779 — a level far above the normal range of 70-120 — at which point, unconscious, he was rushed to the Schuylkill Health Medical Center’s ICU and put on an insulin drip.

Supporters of Abu-Jamal say that since January he had been ill, complaining of chronic fatigue, painful itching and erupting skin, which only grew worse when the hospital doctors prescribed a topical ointment.

For years, as a prisoner, Abu-Jamal has enraged the state’s police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, and law-and-order politicians of both parties, first by successfully battling his death sentence and his conviction, and second by using his journalistic skills to expose the horrors of the state’s, and the nation’s brutal prison system, which he has properly labeled a “prison-industrial complex.” Now this high-profile prisoner is shining a bright spotlight on another ugly aspect of that network of organized horror houses: the medical neglect of the incarcerated.

Whether there was a deliberate attempt to “execute” Abu-Jamal slowly through neglect of his diabetes — a disease that can be brought on by poor diet and/or stress, among other things, and that can kill if left untreated — or whether it was just an example of the standard neglect and incompetence faced by all those locked up by the state, Abu-Jamal’s current crisis, and the way it is being handled by prison authorities, should make any person with a shred of humanity furious.

When Abu-Jamal was put in the infirmary initially, his family and his attorneys were not notified. Nor were they notified when he lost consciousness and was rushed out of the prison to a hospital ICU. According to Abu-Jamal’s family and legal team, they only learned about his situation because fellow inmates, concerned about what was happening to him, alerted them.

Legal team member Johanna Fernandez says she and others were up in the capital of Harrisburg at the time for a court hearing on a legislative bill that was passed specifically to silence Abu-Jamal, but ultimately all state prisoners to prevent them from publicizing what they considered their wrongful imprisonment. That’s where they got the word of his hospitalization.

At that point, she recounts, they had to use “detective work” to figure out where he was, since prison officials of the State Department of Corrections (sic) would not volunteer the information.

After they raced to the hospital, they managed to locate his room in the ICU, identifying it by the two prison guards at the door barring them entry to his room (where there reportedly were two more guards, though he was chained to his bed.

Though Abu-Jamal’s wife Wadiya and his older brother Keith Cook were present a the hospital, they were denied permission to see him. The hospital management, reportedly, said it was deferring to the wishes of the DOC, while prison officials for their part claimed it was the hospital following federal Health Information Privacy rules (though these are normally not applied to immediate relatives — particularly a spouse).

I called the hospital myself to check on who was limiting access to the patient. A spokesman would not even confirm that Abu-Jamal was in the facility. But then when I asked why his wife and brother were being denied access to him, I was told to contact the DOC. The DOC did the same when called, referring me to the hospital. The bottom line was that for a day and a night, while Abu-Jamal was being treated for a critical condition in the ICU, his wife and brother, just 20 feet away, were denied access to him — and denied information about his condition. Yesterday, they were finally granted brief access after a global campaign of calls flooded prison authorities. Abu-Jamal’s wife Wadiya was granted 30 minutes with her husband, who was at the time seated chained to a chair. She was able to give him ice cubes for his dry mouth. But a day later, on April 1, his relatives were again reportedly being being denied access, with the prison authorities saying they could only see him one time per week.

This kind of abusive treatment of family members of a seriously ill prisoner is gratuitous cruelty by a prison bureaucracy which thrives on a culture of punishment and oppression. Objectively, it makes no sense to punish the relatives of a convict. The only conceivable purpose of such tactics would be to further punish the inmate by making his loved ones suffer at his expense.

A cover article in the New York Times this past Sunday about the federal supermax prison in Colorado, Florence ADMAX, detailing a regime of inmate isolation and abuse worthy of Saddam Hussein or Joseph Stalin, makes it clear that the purpose of prison in the US is punishment, pure and simple, with inmate torture and abuse — and inmate family torture and abuse — the logical outcome.

Abu-Jamal’s current health crisis clearly illustrates this national atrocity, faced at any given time by some 2.2 million men, women and children.

Pennsylvania’s new governor, Tom Wolf, to his credit, has ordered a moratorium on executions in the state, which has one of the largest death row populations in the country. But he needs to go further and look at the broader horror of the state’s massive and sadistic prison complex.


Contribute to Mumia’s medical fund at: bit.ly/rise4mumia




Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press) and author of Killing Time: an Investigation Into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu Jamal.

Triple-Tangled Tales of a Dysfunctional American/Israeli/Iranian Relationship

The US-Israel-Iran Triangle’s Tangled History

by Robert Parry - Consortium News

April 2, 2015
 
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to accuse Iran’s Islamic State of seeking Israel’s destruction – and U.S. neocons talk openly about bombing Iran – the history of Israel’s cooperative dealings with Iran, including after the ouster of the Shah and the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979, seems to have been forgotten.

 
Ronald Reagan and his 1980 vice-presidential
running mate George H.W. Bush.

Yet, this background is important when evaluating some of Iran’s current political players and their attitudes regarding a possible deal with world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful purposes only. In the United States and Israel – for their own politically sensitive reasons – much of this history remains “lost” or little known.

The division inside Iran between leading figures who collaborated with the U.S. and Israel behind the scenes and those who resisted those secret dealings took shape in the early 1980s but remains in place, to some degree, to this day.

For instance, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s current Supreme Leader, was more the ideological purist in 1980, apparently opposing any unorthodox strategy involving Israeli and Republican emissaries that went behind President Jimmy Carter’s back to gain promises of weapons from Israel and the future Reagan administration.

Khamenei appears to have favored a more straightforward arrangement with the Carter administration for settling the dispute over the 52 American hostages who were seized from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, by Iranian radicals.

However, other key political figures – including Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mehdi Karoubi – participated in the secret contacts with the Republicans and Israel to get the military supplies needed to fight the war with Iraq, which began in September 1980. They were later joined by Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi.

In 1980, these internal Iranian differences played out against a dramatic backdrop. Iranian radicals still held the 52 hostages; President Carter had imposed an arms embargo while negotiating for the hostages’ release; and he was struggling to fend off a strong campaign challenge from Republican Ronald Reagan.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin was furious at Carter for pushing him into the Camp David peace deal with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat that required Israel returning the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for normalized relations.

Begin also was upset at Carter’s perceived failure to protect the Shah of Iran, who had been an Israeli strategic ally. Begin was worried, too, about the growing influence of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as it massed troops along the Iranian border.

At that time, Saudi Arabia was encouraging Sunni-ruled Iraq to attack Shiite-ruled Iran in a revival of the Sunni-Shiite conflict which dated back to the Seventh Century succession struggle after the death of the Prophet Mohammad. The Saudi prince-playboys were worried about the possible spread of the ascetic revolutionary movement pushed by Iran’s new ruler, Ayatollah Khomeini.

Upsetting Carter


Determined to help Iran counter Iraq – and hopeful about rebuilding at least covert ties to Tehran – Begin’s government cleared the first small shipments of U.S. military supplies to Iran in spring 1980, including 300 tires for Iran’s U.S.-manufactured jet fighters. Soon, Carter learned about the covert shipments and lodged an angry complaint.

“There had been a rather tense discussion between President Carter and Prime Minister Begin in the spring of 1980 in which the President made clear that the Israelis had to stop that, and that we knew that they were doing it, and that we would not allow it to continue, at least not allow it to continue privately and without the knowledge of the American people,” Carter’s press secretary Jody Powell told me in an interview for a PBS documentary.

“And it stopped,” Powell said — at least, it stopped temporarily.

Questioned by congressional investigators a dozen years later, Carter said he felt that by April 1980, “Israel cast their lot with Reagan,” according to notes I found among the unpublished documents in the files of a congressional investigation conducted in 1992. Carter traced the Israeli opposition to his possible reelection in 1980 to a “lingering concern [among] Jewish leaders that I was too friendly with Arabs.”

Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski also recognized the Israeli hostility. Brzezinski said the Carter White House was well aware that the Begin government had “an obvious preference for a Reagan victory.”

Begin’s alarm about a possible Carter second term was described, too, by Israeli intelligence and foreign affairs official David Kimche in his 1991 book, The Last Option. Kimche wrote that Begin’s government believed that Carter was overly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and was conspiring with Arabs to force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.

“Begin was being set up for diplomatic slaughter by the master butchers in Washington,” Kimche wrote.

“They had, moreover, the apparent blessing of the two presidents, Carter and [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat, for this bizarre and clumsy attempt at collusion designed to force Israel to abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Extensive evidence now exists that Begin’s preference for a Reagan victory led Israelis to join in a covert operation with Republicans to contact Iranian leaders behind Carter’s back and delay release of the 52 American hostages until after Reagan defeated Carter in November 1980.

That controversy, known as the “October Surprise” case, and its sequel, the Iran-Contra scandal in the mid-1980s, involved clandestine ties between leading figures in Iran and U.S. and Israeli officials who supplied Iran with missiles and other weaponry for its war with Iraq. The Iran-Iraq conflict began simmering in spring 1980 and broke into full-scale war in September.

More Straightforward


Khamenei, who was then an influential aide to Ayatollah Khomeini, appears to have been part of a contingent exploring ways to resolve the hostage dispute with Carter.

According to Army Col. Charles Wesley Scott, who was one of the 52 hostages, Khamenei visited him on May 1, 1980, at the old U.S. consulate in Tabriz to ask whether milder demands from Iran to the Carter administration might lead to a resolution of the hostage impasse and allow the resumption of U.S. military supplies, former National Security Council aide Gary Sick reported in his book October Surprise.

“You’re asking the wrong man,” Scott replied, noting that he had been out of touch with his government during his five months of captivity before adding that he doubted the Carter administration would be eager to resume military shipments quickly.

“Frankly, my guess is that it will be a long time before you’ll get any cooperation on spare parts from America, after what you’ve done and continue to do to us,” Scott said he told Khamenei.

But Khamenei’s outreach to a captive U.S. military officer – outlining terms that then became the basis of a near settlement of the crisis with the Carter administration in September 1980 – suggests that Khamenei favored a more traditional approach toward resolving the hostage crisis rather than the parallel channel that soon involved the Israelis and the Republicans.

In that narrow sense, Khamenei was allied with Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, the sitting Iranian president in 1980 who also has said he opposed dealing with Israel and the Republicans behind President Carter’s back. In a little-noticed letter to the U.S. Congress, dated Dec. 17, 1992, Bani-Sadr said he first learned of the Republican hostage initiative in July 1980.

Bani-Sadr said a nephew of Ayatollah Khomeini returned from a meeting with an Iranian banker, Cyrus Hashemi, who had led the Carter administration to believe he was helping broker a hostage release but who had close ties to Reagan’s campaign chief William Casey and to Casey’s business associate, John Shaheen.

Bani-Sadr said the message from the Khomeini emissary was clear: the Reagan campaign was in league with some of the Central Intelligence Agency’s pro-Republican elements in an effort to undermine Carter and wanted Iran’s help. Bani-Sadr said the emissary “told me that if I do not accept this proposal they [the Republicans] would make the same offer to my rivals.”

The emissary added that the Republicans “have enormous influence in the CIA,” Bani-Sadr wrote. “Lastly, he told me my refusal of their offer would result in my elimination.”

Bani-Sadr said he resisted the GOP scheme, but the plan ultimately was accepted by Ayatollah Khomeini, who appears to have made up his mind around the time of Iraq’s invasion in mid-September 1980.

Clearing the Way


Khomeini’s approval meant the end of the initiative that Khamenei had outlined to Col. Scott, which was being pursued with Carter’s representatives in West Germany before Iraq launched its attack. Khomeini’s blessing allowed Rafsanjani, Karoubi and later Mousavi to proceed with secret contacts that involved emissaries from the Reagan camp and the Israeli government.

The Republican-Israeli-Iranian agreement appears to have been sealed through a series of meetings that culminated in discussions in Paris arranged by the right-wing chief of French intelligence Alexandre deMarenches and allegedly involving Casey, vice presidential nominee (and former CIA Director) George H.W. Bush, CIA officer Robert Gates and other U.S. and Israeli representatives on one side and cleric Mehdi Karoubi and a team of Iranian representatives on the other.

Bush, Gates and Karoubi all have denied participating in the meeting (Karoubi did so in an interview with me in Tehran in 1990). But deMarenches admitted arranging the Paris conclave to his biographer, former New York Times correspondent David Andelman.

Andelman said deMarenches ordered that the secret meeting be kept out of his memoir because the story could otherwise damage the reputation of his friends, William Casey and George H.W. Bush. At the time of Andelman’s work on the memoir in 1991, Bush was running for re-election as President of the United States.

Andelman’s sworn testimony in December 1992 to a House task force assigned to examine the October Surprise controversy buttressed longstanding claims from international intelligence operatives about a Paris meeting involving Casey and Bush.

Besides the testimony from intelligence operatives, including Israeli military intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe, there was contemporaneous knowledge of the alleged Bush-to-Paris trip by Chicago Tribune reporter John Maclean, son of author Norman Maclean who wrote A River Runs Through It.

Maclean said a well-placed Republican source told him in mid-October 1980 about Bush’s secret trip to Paris to meet with Iranians on the U.S. hostage issue. Maclean passed on that information to State Department official David Henderson, who recalled the date as Oct. 18, 1980.

Since Maclean had never written a story about the leak and Henderson didn’t mentioned it until Congress started its cursory October Surprise investigation in 1991, the Maclean-Henderson conversation had been locked in a kind of time capsule.

One could not accuse Maclean of concocting the Bush-to-Paris allegation for some ulterior motive, since he hadn’t used it in 1980, nor had he volunteered it a decade later. He only confirmed it, grudgingly, when approached by a researcher working with me on a PBS Frontline documentary and in a subsequent videotaped interview with me.

Also, alibis that were later concocted for Casey and Bush – supposedly to prove they could not have traveled to the alleged overseas meetings – either collapsed under close scrutiny or had serious holes. [For details on the October Surprise case, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Military Shipments


Though the precise details of the October Surprise case remain murky, it is a historic fact that Carter failed to resolve the hostage crisis before losing in a surprising landslide to Reagan and that the hostages were not released until Reagan and Bush were sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981.

It also is clear that U.S. military supplies were soon moving to Iran via Israeli middlemen with the approval of the new Reagan administration.

In a PBS interview, Nicholas Veliotes, Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, said he first discovered the secret arms pipeline to Iran when an Israeli weapons flight was shot down over the Soviet Union on July 18, 1981, after straying off course on its third mission to deliver U.S. military supplies from Israel to Iran via Larnaca, Cyprus.

“It was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment,” Veliotes said.

In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan-Bush camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election.

“It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”

In the early 1980s, the players in Iran also experienced a shakeup. Bani-Sadr was ousted in 1981 and fled for his life; he was replaced as president by Khamenei; Mousavi was named prime minister; Rafsanjani consolidated his financial and political power as speaker of the Majlis; and Karoubi became a powerful figure in Iran’s military-and-foreign-policy establishment.

Besides tapping into stockpiles of U.S.-made weaponry, the Israelis arranged shipments from third countries, including Poland, according to Israeli intelligence officer Ben-Menashe, who described his work on the arms pipeline in his 1992 book, Profits of War.

Since representatives of Likud had initiated the arms-middleman role for Iran, the profits flowed into coffers that the right-wing party controlled, a situation that allowed Likud to invest in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and created envy inside the rival Labor Party especially after it gained a share of power in the 1984 elections, said Ben-Menashe, who worked with Likud.

The Iran-Contra Case


According to this analysis, Labor’s desire to open its own arms channel to Iran laid the groundwork for the Iran-Contra scandal, as the government of Prime Minister Shimon Peres tapped into the emerging neoconservative network inside the Reagan administration on one hand and began making his own contacts to Iran’s leadership on the other.

Reagan’s National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, who had close ties to the Israeli leadership, collaborated with Peres’s aide Amiram Nir and with neocon intellectual (and National Security Council consultant) Michael Ledeen in spring 1985 to make contact with the Iranians.

Ledeen’s chief intermediary to Iran was a businessman named Manucher Ghorbanifar, who was held in disdain by the CIA as a fabricator but claimed he represented high-ranking Iranians who favored improved relations with the United States and were eager for American weapons.

Ghorbanifar’s chief contact, as identified in official Iran-Contra records, was Mohsen Kangarlu, who worked as an aide to Prime Minister Mousavi, according to Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman in his 2008 book, The Secret War with Iran.

However, Ghorbanifar’s real backer inside Iran appears to have been Mousavi himself. According to a Time magazine article from January 1987, Ghorbanifar “became a trusted friend and kitchen adviser to Mir Hussein Mousavi, Prime Minister in the Khomeini government.”

In November 1985, at a key moment in the Iran-Contra scandal as one of the early missile shipments via Israel went awry, Ghorbanifar conveyed Mousavi’s anger to the White House.

“On or about November 25, 1985, Ledeen received a frantic phone call from Ghorbanifar, asking him to relay a message from the prime minister of Iran to President Reagan regarding the shipment of the wrong type of HAWKs,” according to Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh’s Final Report.

“Ledeen said the message essentially was ‘we’ve been holding up our part of the bargain, and here you people are now cheating us and tricking us and deceiving us and you had better correct this situation right away.’”

Earlier in the process, Ghorbanifar had dangled the possibility of McFarlane meeting with high-level Iranian officials, including Mousavi and Rafsanjani. Another one of Ghorbanifar’s Iranian contacts was Hassan Karoubi, the brother of Mehdi Karoubi. Hassan Karoubi met with Ghorbanifar and Ledeen in Geneva in late October 1985 regarding missile shipments in exchange for Iranian help in getting a group of U.S. hostages freed in Lebanon, according to Walsh’s report.

A Split Leadership


As Ben-Menashe describes the maneuvering in Tehran, the basic split in the Iranian leadership put then-President Khamenei on the ideologically purist side of rejecting U.S.-Israeli military help and Rafsanjani, Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi in favor of exploiting those openings in a pragmatic way to better fight the war with Iraq.

The key decider during this period – as in the October Surprise phase – was Ayatollah Khomeini, who agreed with the pragmatists on the need to get as much materiel from the Americans and the Israelis as possible, Ben-Menashe told me in a 2009 interview from his home in Canada.

Ben-Menashe said Rafsanjani and most other senior Iranian officials were satisfied dealing with the original (Likud) Israeli channel and were offended by the Reagan administration’s double game of tilting toward Iraq with military and intelligence support while also offering weapons deals to Iran via the second (Labor) channel.

The ex-Israeli intelligence officer said the Iranians were especially thankful in 1985-86 when the Likud channel secured SCUD missiles from Poland so Iran could respond to SCUD attacks that Iraq had launched against Iranian cities.

“After that (transaction), I got access to the highest authorities” in Iran, Ben-Menashe said, including a personal meeting with Mousavi at which Ben-Menashe said he learned that Mousavi knew the history of the Israeli-arranged shipments in the October Surprise deal of 1980.

Ben-Menashe quoted Mousavi as saying, “we did everything you guys wanted. We got rid of the Democrats. We did everything we could, but the Americans aren’t delivering [and] they are dealing with the Iraqis.”

In that account, the Iranian leadership in 1980 viewed its agreement to delay the release of the U.S. Embassy hostages not primarily as a favor to the Republicans, but to the Israelis who were considered the key for Iran to get the necessary military supplies for its war with Iraq.

Israeli attitudes toward Iran soured when the lucrative arms pipelines of the Iran-Iraq War dried up after the conflict finally ended in 1988. Iran’s treasury was depleted as was the treasury of Iraq, where Saddam Hussein lashed out at one of his oil-rich creditors, the Kuwaiti royal family, in 1990, invading the country and setting the stage for a U.S.-led Persian Gulf War that drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait.

With Iraq burdened by post-war sanctions and its military might restricted by weapons inspectors, Israel began to view Iran as its principal regional threat, a view shared by the wealthy Saudis. That common viewpoint gradually created the basis for a de facto Israeli-Saudi alliance which has begun to come out of the shadows in recent years. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Deciphering the Mideast Chaos.”]

Meanwhile, in Iran, this half-hidden history of double-dealing and back-stabbing remains part of the narrative of distrust that continues to afflict U.S.-Iranian relations. Even 35 years later, some of the same Iranian players are still around.

Though Mousavi and Karoubi fell out of favor when they were associated with the Western-backed Green Movement in 2009, Rafsanjani has remained an influential political figure and Khameini replaced the late Ayatollah Khomeini as Iran’s Supreme Leader. That makes him the most important figure in Iran regarding whether to accept a U.S.-brokered deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program — or not.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). 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.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

O! Canada, Do Not Go Where I've Been: A Warning Missive from the Permawar State

Canada, Do Not Follow U.S Into Permawar

by David Swanson and Robert Fantina - World Beyond War

O! Canada, to thine own self be true, not to thine heavily militarized neighbor. Robin Williams called you a nice apartment over a meth lab for a reason, and now you’re bringing the drugs upstairs.

We write to you as two U.S. citizens, one of whom moved to Canada when George W. Bush became U.S. president. Every wise observer in Texas had warned this country about their Governor Bush, but the message hadn’t gotten through.

We need the message to reach you now before you follow the United States down a path it has been on since its creation, a path that used to include regular invasions of your land, a path impeded a little by your generous sanctuary for those refusing war participation, and a path that now invites you to ruin yourself along with us. Misery and addiction and illegality love company, Canada. Alone they wither, but with aiders and abettors they flourish.

At the end of 2013 Gallup polls asked Canadians what nation they’d most like to move to, and zero of the Canadians polled said the United States, while people in the United States picked Canada as their most desired destination. Should the more desirable nation be imitating the less desirable, or the other way around?

In the same poll almost every nation of the 65 surveyed said the United States was the greatest threat to peace in the world. In the United States, bizarrely, people said Iran was the greatest threat — despite Iran spending less than 1% of what the United States does on militarism. In Canada, Iran and the United States tied for first place. You seem to be of two minds, Canada, one of them thoughtful, the other breathing the fumes of your downstairs neighbor.

At the end of 2014 Gallup asked people if they would fight for their country in a war. In many nations 60% to 70% said no, while 10% to 20% said yes. In Canada 45% said no, but 30% said yes. In the United States 44% said yes and 30% no. Of course they’re all lying, thank goodness. The United States always has several wars running, and everyone is free to sign up; almost none of the professed willing fighters do. But as a measure of support for war and approval of war participation, the U.S. numbers tell you where Canada is headed if it follows its southern friends.

A recent poll in Canada indicates that a majority of Canadians support going to war in Iraq and Syria, with support being highest, as might be expected, among Conservatives, with members of the NDP and Liberal parties offering less, but still significant, support. All this may be part of the Islamophobia that is sweeping much of North America and Europe. But, take it from us, the support is soon replaced with regret — and the wars do not end when the public turns against them. A majority of the U.S. public has believed the 2001 and 2003 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should never have been begun for the majority of those wars’ existence. Once begun, however, the wars roll on, in the absence of serious public pressure to halt them.

Recent polling in Canada also indicates that while over 50% of respondents feel uncomfortable with someone wearing a hijab or abaya, over 60% of respondents support their right to wear it. That’s stunning and praiseworthy. To accept discomfort out of respect for others is a top qualifying characteristic of a peacemaker, not a warmaker. Follow that inclination, Canada!

The Canadian government, like the U.S. government, uses fear-mongering to implement its war policies. But again, there is cause for some limited optimism. A recently-proposed anti-terror bill, that legal experts have decried as depriving Canada of some basic rights, has received significant opposition, and is being amended. Unlike the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act, which sailed through Congress with little if any opposition, Canadian bill C-51 which, among other things, would stifle dissent, has been widely opposed both in Parliament and in the streets.

Build on that resistance to every evil justified by war, Canada. Resist the degradation of morality, the erosion of civil liberties, the drain to the economy, the environmental destruction, the tendency toward oligarchic rule and rogue illegality. Resist, in fact, the root problem, namely war.

It has been several years since the U.S. media regularly showed pictures of flag-draped coffins arriving on U.S. soil from far-flung war zones. And most of the victims of U.S. wars — those living where the wars are fought — are shown hardly at all. But Canada’s media may do better. You may literally see the evil of your wars. But will you see your way clear to getting out of them? It is far easier to not launch them. It is far easier still to not plan and prepare for them.

We remember the lead you took, Canada, in banning land mines. The United States sells flying land mines called cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, which attacks its neighbors. The United States uses those cluster bombs on its own war victims. Is this the path you want to follow? Do you imagine, like some Las Vegas tiger tamer, that you’ll civilize the wars you join? Not to put too fine a point on it, Canada, you will not. Murder will not be civilized. It can, however, be ended — if you help us.