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Billions of dollars promised for Haiti fail to materialize

By Isabel Macdonald – The Star – August 16, 2010

Nearly seven months after a devastating earthquake killed upwards of 250,000 people in Haiti, UN special envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton told Associated Press on Aug. 6 that international donors have yet to make good on their promises of billions of dollars to help the country rebuild.

Haiti’s rebuilding could cost $14 billion, according to a recent Inter-American Development Bank study. Yet only “five countries — Brazil, Norway, Australia, Colombia and Estonia — have so far provided $506 million, less than 10 per cent of the $5.3 billion pledged for Haiti at a March donors’ conference,” according to an Aug. 6 AP article.

Today, dozens of leading academics, authors and activists from around the world proposed a bold solution to this desperate financial shortfall.

Why not reimburse Haiti for the illegitimate “independence debt” it paid France?

In an open letter to French president Nicolas Sarkozy published today in the French national daily newspaper Liberation, 90 leading academics, authors, journalists and human rights activists from around the world urged the French government to pay Haiti back for the 90 million gold francs Haitians were forced to pay as a price for their independence.

There are “powerful arguments in favour of the restitution of the French debt,” as Harvard medical professor Paul Farmer (who was recently appointed deputy UN special envoy to Haiti) pointed out in his testimony at the 2003 hearings in France on the independence debt.

This historic payment was patently illegitimate, and, on several different scores, it was also illegal, according to a 2009 paper produced by the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.

Prior to independence, St. Dominique — the country that is now Haiti — was France’s most profitable colony, thanks in no small part to its particularly brutal system of slavery. In 1791, the slaves revolted, and in 1804, after defeating Napoleon’s armies, founded the world’s first black republic.

Following Haiti’s independence, former French slave owners submitted detailed tabulations of their losses to the French government, with line items for each of “their” slaves that had been “lost” with Haitian independence. In 1825, French King Charles X demanded that Haiti pay an “independence debt” to compensate former colonists for the slaves who won their freedom in the Haitian revolution. With warships stationed along the Haitian coast backing up the French demand, France insisted that Haiti pay its former colonizer 150 million gold francs — 10 times the fledgling black nation’s total annual revenues.

Under threat of a French military invasion that aimed at the re-enslavement of the population, the Haitian government had little choice but to agree to pay. Haiti’s government was also forced to finance the debt through loans from a single French bank, which capitalized on its monopoly by gouging Haiti with exorbitant interest rates and fees.

The original sum of the indemnity was subsequently reduced, but Haiti still disbursed 90 million gold francs to France. This second price the French exacted for the independence Haitians had won in battle was, even in 1825, not lawful. When the original indemnity was imposed by the French king, the slave trade was technically illegal; such a transaction exchanging cash for human lives valued as slave labour represented a gross violation of both French and international laws.

And Haiti was still paying off this “independence debt” in 1947 — 140 years after the abolition of the slave trade and 85 years after the emancipation proclamation.

A lawsuit launched by the Haitian government to recuperate these extorted funds was aborted prematurely in 2004, with the French-backed overthrow of the government that had the temerity to point out that France “extorted this money from Haiti by force and . . . should give it back to us so that we can build primary schools, primary health care, water systems and roads.”

The French government was similarly quick to suppress a Yes Men-style prank announcement last Bastille Day pledging that France would repay Haiti. On July 15 — one day after the hoax — a spokesperson for the French ministry told Agence France Presse that the French government was pursuing possible legal action.

August 16, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture | 1 Comment

How Israel helps eavesdrop on US citizens

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 3 November 2008

After the 11 September 2001 attacks, the United States government launched a massive program to spy on millions of its own citizens. Through the top secret National Security Agency (NSA), it has pursued “access to billions of private hard-line, cell, and wireless telephone conversations; text, e-mail and instant Internet messages; Web-page histories, faxes, and computer hard drives.” In his new book, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America author James Bamford casts light on this effort, including a detailed account of how spying on American citizens has been outsourced to several companies closely linked to Israel’s intelligence services.

It is well-known that the two largest American telecom companies AT&T and Verizon collaborated with the US government to allow illegal eavesdropping on their customers. The known uses to which information obtained this way has been put include building the government’s massive secret “watch lists,” and “no-fly lists” and even, Bamford suggests, to deny Small Business Administration loans to citizens or reject their children’s applications to military colleges.

What is less well-known is that AT&T and Verizon handed “the bugging of their entire networks — carrying billions of American communications every day” to two companies founded in Israel. Verint and Narus, as they are called, are “superintrusive — conducting mass surveillance on both international and domestic communications 24/7,” and sifting traffic at “key Internet gateways” around the US.

Virtually all US voice and data communications and much from the rest of the world can be remotely accessed by these companies in Israel, which Bamford describes as “the eavesdropping capital of the world.” Although there is no way to prove cooperation, Bamford writes that “the greatest potential beneficiaries of this marriage between the Israeli eavesdroppers and America’s increasingly centralized telecom grid are Israel’s intelligence agencies.”

Israel’s spy agencies have long had a revolving-door relationship with Verint and Narus and other Israeli military-security firms. The relationship is particularly close between the firms and Israel’s own version of the NSA, called “Unit 8200.” After the 11 September attacks, Israeli companies seeking a share of massively expanded US intelligence budgets formed similarly incestuous relationships with some in the American intelligence establishment: Ken Minihan, a former director of the NSA, served on Verint’s “security committee” and the former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official responsible for liaison with the telecom industry became head of the Verint unit that sold eavesdropping equipment to the FBI and NSA.

Bamford writes that “concern over the cozy relationship between the [FBI] and Verint greatly increased following disclosure of the Bush administration’s warrantless eavesdropping operations. At the same time that the tappers and the agents have grown uncomfortably close, the previous checks and balances, such as the need for a FISA warrant, have been eliminated.”

FISA — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 — required the government to seek court warrants for wiretaps where at least one target was in the US. In 2005, it was revealed that the Bush administration had been flagrantly violating this law. Last July, Congress passed a bill legalizing this activity and giving retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that had assisted.

Although there has never been any congressional oversight of the Israeli intelligence-linked firms operating in the heart of the US security establishment, American lawmakers and officials are not always so relaxed when it comes to foreign intrusion in the “national security” sphere. In early 2006, there was a national uproar when Dubai Ports World, a global company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), attempted to buy the business that manages six major American seaports.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers united against the Bush administration’s approval of the sale, claiming it would harm national security. Senator Barack Obama echoed many in both parties when he said at the time, “Over four years after the worst terrorist attack in our history, not only are we failing to inspect 95 percent of the cargo that arrives at US ports, but now we’re allowing our port security to be outsourced to foreign governments.”

A New York Times editorial justified such alarmism on grounds that “money to finance the 9/11 attacks flowed through” the UAE, although there was never an allegation that the country’s government or Dubai Ports World were involved in that. The newspaper also cited claims that “Abdul Qadeer Khan, the rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist, sent equipment to Libya and Iran through Dubai,” even though it also acknowledged that “port managers have little if anything to do with inspecting cargo or checking manifests” (“Reaping What You Sow,” Editorial, 24 February 2006).

Unlike the UAE, however, Israel has a well-established record of compromising American national security. The most notorious case was that of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. Although the full details of his crimes are still secret, he is thought to have passed critical information about US intelligence-gathering methods to Israel, which then traded those secrets to US adversaries. In 2005, Larry Franklin, a Defense Department analyst, pleaded guilty to spying for Israel. Most recently, Ben-Ami Kadish, a retired US army engineer, was indicted in April for allegedly passing classified documents about US nuclear weapons to Israel from 1979 to 1985. Two former officials of AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group, are still awaiting trial on charges that they passed classified information between Franklin and the Israeli government.

Nor have particular Israeli firms established a record of trustworthiness that would justify such complacency. Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, the former Israeli intelligence officer who founded Verint, fled the US to Israel in 2006 just before he and other top executives of a subsidiary were indicted for fraud that allegedly cost US taxpayers and company shareholders $138 million. Alexander eventually adopted a fake identity and hid in the southern African country of Namibia where he is now fighting extradition. In only once case did US officials block an Israeli high-tech firm from taking over an American company for security concerns.

Israeli companies do not assist the US only to spy on its own citizens, of course. Another Israeli firm, Natural Speech Communication (NSC), among whose directors is former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit, makes software that the US uses to electronically analyze and key-word search recorded conversations in “Levantine Arabic,” the dialects “spoken by Israeli Arabs, Jordanians, Lebanese and Palestinians.” Mexico and Australia are among other countries known to use Israeli technologies and firms to eavesdrop on their citizens.

Not surprisingly, some of Bamford’s claims have been criticized by pro-Israel activists for lacking evidence. Writing about a subject shrouded in secrecy is inherently difficult. But even what is solidly known ought to make Americans demand that Israeli intelligence activities (not less than their own government’s) be sharply curtailed. In his 2001 book Body of Secrets, Bamford contended that Israel’s attack on the US Navy signals ship USS Liberty during the June 1967 war was deliberately intended to prevent the Americans from learning about Israeli massacres of Egyptian prisoners of war. Thirty-four sailors were killed in the attack on the ship off the Sinai coast. Despite decades of demands by USS Liberty survivors, the US has never reopened the investigation.

So far Bamford’s latest revelations involving Israel have had scarcely more impact. Former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey gave The Shadow Factory a mostly glowing review in The Washington Post. But Kerrey, who was a member of the 9/11 Commission and is president of The New School University in New York, anxiously discounts Bamford’s contentions that the 11 September hijackers in any way “were motivated by anger over an Israeli bombing of Lebanese civilians in 1996” and reassures us their only motive was “radical Islamic fervor.” Kerrey concludes that Bamford’s “apparent negativity toward Israel is a significant distraction from the content of his book” (Bob Kerrey, “Big Brother’s Big Failure,” 12 October 2008).

When any material that raises legitimate questions about Israeli actions is automatically discounted by US elites, and the motives of critics immediately cast under suspicion, it is no wonder Israel gets away with so much.

August 16, 2010 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on How Israel helps eavesdrop on US citizens

Obama Warns Erdogan over Israel, Gives Ultimatum

Al-Manar – 16/08/2010

Britain’s Financial Times reported on Monday that the US President Barack Obama personally warned Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erodgan that Washington will not sell weapons to Turkey if it does not change its position towards Israel.

Obama said that Turkey’s strained ties with Israel and increasing support of Iran could hinder an arms deal between Ankara and Washington.

The ultimatum is particularly important to Turkey, who was reportedly planning to buy American drone aircraft to attack Kurdish group PKK after the US pulls out of Iraq next year.

“The president has said to Erdogan that some of the actions that Turkey has taken have caused questions to be raised on the Hill [Congress] about whether we can have confidence in Turkey as an ally,” one senior administration official told the Financial Times.

“That means that some of the requests Turkey has made of us, for example in providing some of the weaponry that it would like to fight the PKK, will be harder for us to move through Congress,” the official was quoted as saying.

Relations between Israel and Turkey have grown increasingly strained since Israel’s three-week-long Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, which was launched in December 2008. More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including 420 children and over 5300 others were injured.

Erdogan condemned the Israeli offensive in Gaza, and criticized the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave.

Following the offensive, Turkey called off a joint military drill with Israel, and relations were strained further after Israel rebuked the then Turkish envoy over a television show depicting Israeli soldiers as cold-blooded killers.

The most critical blow to Israeli-Turkish relations, however, came on May 31, when Israeli commandos raided a Turkish aid convoy trying to break the naval blockade on Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists. Turkey had threatened to cut off diplomatic ties with Israel, and continues to demand an official apology over the raid.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last week said Israel should admit sole responsibility for the killing of the nine activists.

“No one else can take the blame for killing civilians in international waters,” Davutoglu told journalists. “Israel has killed civilians, and should take the responsibility for having done so.”

Turkey, which is a NATO member and European Union member candidate, has also seen its capital rise sharply in the Muslim Middle East since Ankara’s vocal condemnation of the killings of nine pro-Palestinian activists aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship.

Ankara, together with Brazil, brokered a nuclear fuel swap in May in the hopes that the deal would draw Iran and major powers back to the negotiating table.

Turkey last week also said it would support gasoline sales by Turkish companies to Iran, despite U.S. sanctions that aim to squeeze the Islamic Republic’s fuel imports.

The U.S. administration official quoted by the Financial Times, however, said that Turkey needs to show it takes American national security interests seriously.

Washington is closely watching Turkish conduct to assess if there were “sufficient efforts that we can go forward with their request,” the official said.

August 16, 2010 Posted by | Wars for Israel | 11 Comments

Hezbollah ruins Israeli drone contract

Press TV – August 16, 2010

Hezbollah’s recent revelation in airing photos taken by Israel’s unmanned surveillance planes has markedly affected the sale of the drones.

On August 9, Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah said the Lebanese resistance movement had intercepted Israeli drone transmissions and used the intelligence in a deadly attack on Israeli commandos in the Lebanese coastal village of Antsaria back in 1997.

Nasrallah also presented footage taken by Israeli drones of routes taken by Lebanon’s slain Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri prior his assassination in February 2005, saying the video proved Israel’s involvement in the murder.

Citing a report by Jane’s Defense Weekly, al-Manar said the televised speech and the revelation has affected agreements between Tel Aviv and Moscow for purchasing Israeli surveillance drones.

Russian officials had reportedly launched talks with Israeli counterparts on a drone sale contract worth USD 300 million, but the Israeli side had to pull out of the negotiations due to security considerations.

Experts believe Hezbollah’s interception of the intelligence collected by the drones will affect the willingness of other countries such as Brazil, India and Turkey to purchase the spy aircraft.

August 16, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News | 1 Comment