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Goodbye Miliband; Don’t Come Back

By Stuart Littlewood | Palestine Chronicle | March 28, 2013

The tears shed by assorted media at the news of David Miliband’s departure from British politics for a new life in New York had me reaching once again for the sick-bag.

“British politics will be a poorer place without David,” said brother Ed, leader of the Labour Party.

Will it? I’m pleased to see Peter Oborne’s straight-talking piece in The Telegraph putting Miliband D in his place.

“We are, after all, talking about someone who was at best a minor politician, no towering colossus,” writes Oborne. “After Labour’s 1997 election victory he was the poster boy of a new ruling elite which seized control of the commanding heights of British politics. Anti-democratic, financially greedy and morally corrupt, this new political class has done the most enormous damage. Since David Miliband was its standard-bearer, his political career explains a great deal about what has gone wrong with British public life, about why politicians are no longer liked or trusted, and about how political parties have come to be viewed with contempt.”

Oborne makes the point that Miliband set the pattern so many others, including his brother Ed, have followed. “Obsessed by politics at university, he has never had even the faintest connection with the real world. From life in think tanks he became a Labour Party researcher and special adviser, before being parachuted into the north-eastern constituency of South Shields as an MP.”

Miliband wrote Labour’s vacuous 1997 and 2001 election manifestos and was at the heart of the Labour machine when it generated the now notorious falsehoods over Iraq. Oborne also notes the irony of Miliband’s new job heading a humanitarian organisation “when the government of which he was such a loyal member created so many of the world’s disasters”.

We are reminded that Miliband was inexperienced and had no idea how the world worked, so was out of his depth when promoted to the Foreign Office. “During his short, undistinguished career, Mr Miliband has done grave damage to British politics. He is part of the new governing élite which is sucking the heart out of our representative democracy while enriching itself in the process… David Miliband has belittled our politics and he will not be missed.”

And having gone, many will be praying the Miliband brat won’t be back.

He will be forever remembered as the British foreign secretary who shamelessly apologized to Israel’s gangsters for the risk they ran of being arrested if they set foot in London. Back in 2009 Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and retired general Doron Almog, cancelled engagements in London for fear of ‘having their collar felt’. Israel complained bitterly and Miliband promised Lieberman that UK laws relating to ‘universal jurisdiction’ would be changed. He asked Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Justice Minister Jack Straw for urgent action.

When the general election ousted him from the Foreign Office, Miliband’s groveling promise was eagerly taken up by his replacement, William Hague, another fanatical ‘friend of Israel’, who declared that a situation where politicians like Mrs Livni could be threatened with arrest in the UK was “completely unacceptable… We have agreed in the coalition about putting it right, we will put it right through legislation… and I phoned Mrs Livni amongst others to tell her about that and received a very warm welcome for our proposals.”

Never mind that the arrest warrants were issued to answer well-founded criminal charges. Never mind that under ‘universal jurisdiction’ all states that are party to the Geneva Conventions are under a binding obligation to seek out those suspected of having committed grave breaches of the Conventions and bring them, regardless of nationality, to justice. And never mind that there should be no hiding place for those suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Human rights activists resorted to private arrest warrants because the government was in the habit of shirking its duty under the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention and dragged its feet until the birds had flown.

Bringing a private prosecution for a criminal offence is an ancient right in common law and, in the words of Lord Wilberforce, “a valuable constitutional safeguard against inertia or partiality on the part of the authority.” Lord Diplock, another respected Lord of Appeal, called it “a useful safeguard against capricious, corrupt or biased failure or refusal of those authorities to prosecute offenders against the criminal law”.

And the beauty of the private warrant was that it could be issued speedily.

The servile Miliband’s action disgusted those who will never forget that Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister, was largely responsible for the terror that brought death and destruction to Gaza’s civilians during the blitzkrieg known as Operation Cast Lead. Showing no remorse, and with the blood of 1,400 dead Gazans (including 320 children and 109 women) on her hands and thousands more horribly maimed, Livni’s office issued a statement saying she was proud of it. Speaking later at a conference at Tel Aviv’s Institute for Security Studies, she said: “I would today take the same decisions.”

Any British government minister who brings this degree of obsequiousness to his job and is prepared to undermine our justice system in order to make the UK a safe haven for the likes of her, deserves to be judged harshly.

Miliband is also remembered for not having the guts to visit Gaza, or even Iran, while in office. Yet he managed to reach Gaza in 2011 with Save the Children. “I had not been able to visit while in government for security reasons,” he said in an article in The Guardian. What nonsense. The only danger would have been from an air-strike by his psychopathic friends in Tel Aviv or a Mossad assassin. Those risks go with the job. You can’t be an effective foreign secretary wrapped in cotton wool.

He said the purpose of his eventual trip to Gaza was “to get a sense of life… to get a glimpse, albeit brief, of life for the people”. A pity he didn’t do that earlier instead of wielding his ministerial power in ignorance

While David Miliband headed up foreign policy it was frankly embarrassing to be British. What magical transformation has this pipsqueak recently undergone to make him the ideal candidate to run an organization like the International Rescue Committee? With the likes of Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, and Henry Kissinger on board, you might wonder about the IRC’s presence in vulnerable countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

No-one is about to forget Albright’s infamous remark about the human misery caused by the intervention and mayhem in Iraq, that “the price is worth it”.

Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, can now be read on the internet by visiting http://www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk.

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Honduran Cops, The Latest U.S.-Backed Killers

By NICK ALEXANDROV | CounterPunch | March 29, 2013

Official U.S. support for bands of killers dates back to the nation’s inception, likely one reason H. Rap Brown called violence “as American as cherry pie.” The country’s founding father helped start the trend when he sent General John Sullivan to Iroquois territory in 1779, giving him explicit instructions “that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed.” “It will be essential to ruin their crops,” the Town Destroyer—as Washington became known—emphasized. Sullivan and his men brought their adventure to a close when they “skinned the bodies of Indians from the hips downward, to make boot tops or leggings,” historian Ernest Cruikshank wrote in the late 1800s, prompting a contemporary, John Watts de Peyster, to wonder “which were the savages, the Continental troops or the Indians,” in the situation just described.

Scholars today tend to remark only that Washington seems “more a monument than a man,” as Gordon Wood never tires of pointing out; Wood spoke a month ago at an event celebrating Washington’s birthday, beginning with the premise that the first U.S. president was great, and proceeding from there. Bertrand Russell once criticized medieval philosophy for assuming in advance it knew the truth, thereby avoiding genuine inquiry—still apparently a prerequisite for academic success, given Wood’s reputation.

The belief that indigenous groups wasted the opportunities the land provided drove policies of dispossession and extermination, the latter being the term Jefferson, Jackson, and other luminaries favored. Little wonder Hitler admired this facet of U.S. history. During the California Gold Rush, whites murdered and raped the region’s native inhabitants, some of whom had known there was gold in the area, without valuing it as an exploitable resource. What could the land’s rightful owners do with such people? “Why not annihilation?” Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum asked in an 1890 editorial, capturing the zeitgeist.

These assumptions about the right to control territories, and the obstacles blocking enlightened developers from achieving their aims, grew more expansive after the Native American genocide. As WWII drew to a close, U.S. planners outlined a system of “foreign missions throughout the world” in conformity with corporate aims. “We are colonizing to some extent,” Representative Eugene Worley (D-TX) affirmed, not quite doing justice to Washington’s plans to copy the British imperial model—“a good goal to shoot at, because they are the masters,” the American Maritime Council’s John E. Otterson argued, voicing views his audience, a House subcommittee, received well. After listening to Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle’s 1943 discussion of U.S. intentions to govern the planet’s skies, Representative Charles A. Eaton (R-NJ) asked him to “define for us the difference in principle between Mr. Hitler’s program to obtain control of all land and all peoples and all oceans and seas, and the proposed program now for America to obtain control of all the air on earth[.]”

One of Eaton’s colleagues clarified the distinction: the U.S. sought “world power as trustee for civilization,” while Hitler wanted it merely “for the benefit of a bunch of Nazi gangsters.” Any student of U.S. history should have been able to recognize the country’s pure intentions—and if, for some reason, the examples of Town Destroyer and the Gold Rush proved unpersuasive, the coming decades would further testify to its benevolence. In 1976, we see that Secretary of State Kissinger encouraged the Argentine government to carry on with its dirty war, in which the military “disappeared” as many as 30,000 people. “The quicker you succeed the better,” the Nobel Peace Laureate stressed, and by the late ’70s the CIA was bringing Argentine officers into Honduras, so they could teach their Central American counterparts what they had mastered.

Doris Rosibel Benavides Tarrius, a young psychologist, experienced first-hand the Honduran students’ aptitude. Security forces abducted her in March 1987, taking her to a facility where they raped her, and strung her up on a metal bar to shock her feet and breasts, in what was called an “airplane position.” A decade earlier, an Argentine mechanic named Marcos Queipo watched as military planes passed over the Paraná Delta, dropping mysterious packages that plummeted to the riverbanks far below. Horacio Verbitsky, an investigative journalist, learned about these flights years later, when a stranger approached him in the Buenos Aires subway. “I want to talk to you,” the man said, explaining he had helped prosecute the dirty war. “You’ll see that we did things worse than the Nazis,” Adolfo Scilingo continued, subsequently telling of how he pushed several thousand suspected subversives, each drugged into a stupor but still alive, out of airplanes. Queipo saw some of their bodies in the packages he opened, though most of the murdered have never been found.

The killings continue in Honduras, where violence targeting lawyers, human rights defenders, LGBT people, women and others has intensified since the June 2009 coup. Two School of the Americas graduates helped topple the democratically-elected leader that month, and Obama supported the ensuing presidential election, a farce the mainstream media would have ridiculed had it taken place in, say, Venezuela. Last fall, the Honduran Commission of Truth identified several patterns of repression endangering the public, which the World Bank never mentions in the summary of its “Safe Municipalities Project,” ostensibly aimed at promoting “citizen security.” One of the Bank’s real goals seems to be expanding the Honduran police’s reach into areas like Choloma—“a dustbin industrial mecca for maquiladoras,” as scholar-activist Adrienne Pine described it. Juan Carlos Bonilla, accused of extrajudicial killings, oversees the entire Honduran National Police, even though the State Department tried to claim otherwise, saying it directed U.S. funds only to vetted units outside his purview.

Allegations of death squad-style murders have been leveled at Bonilla’s men in recent years, indicating the Bank’s “security” aims apply less to human beings then they do to the current economic model, in which agribusinesses thrive, while displaced peasants are forced into manufacturing work. The situation brings to mind the Bank’s steady lending to Guatemala in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when the genocidal government was slaughtering Mayans to free up the areas designated for the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam.

As in the past, only an enlightened few seem to grasp the land’s enormous potential as a profit source. The rest pay for their ignorance, often with their lives. It’s an old story, but no less infuriating for that—and the trend’s deep roots in the past indicate a combination of radical thinking and enormous effort is required to end the system enabling it.

Nick Alexandrov lives in Washington, DC.  He can be reached at: nicholas.alexandrov@gmail.com.

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Honduran Cops, The Latest U.S.-Backed Killers

Myths about Korean militarism

By David Whitehouse | Worxintheory | March 21, 2013

The frontier between North and South Korea is the most militarized border in the world. There is, of course, another partitioned state in Asia, India-Pakistan, where each side possesses nuclear weapons and commands hundreds of thousands of soldiers. In Korea, though, the stakes are especially high because one of the belligerents is a superpower.

On the opposite side, the world’s most likely superpower-in-the-making, China, is North Korea’s only close ally. It’s not clear that China would intervene militarily in the North’s defense, but the possibility of such action raises the stakes of confrontation even higher. The last war on the Korean peninsula, from 1950 to 1953, pitted the same two outside powers against each other. The Korean War produced well over 2 million civilian casualties.

At various times in the past 20 years, the Pentagon has estimated that one million Korean civilians, divided evenly between North and South, would die in the first days of an all-out war. More than 25 million people live in metropolitan Seoul, South Korea’s capital. The Pentagon refers to the area as the “kill box.”

US military power is overwhelming, but North Korea does possess some deterrents. That’s why there would be casualties on both sides. Chief among the North’s deterrents may be its set of more than 10,000 artillery pieces, dug into the mountains, which could bombard Seoul with explosive, incendiary or chemical weapons. There is no evidence that the North is technically capable of delivering or detonating a nuclear weapon in the South, but the regime has worked in recent years to develop suitable delivery systems and to turn their unwieldy nuclear “devices” into bombs.

In the standard media representation, the rulers of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK — North Korea’s official name) are uniquely bellicose, unpredictable and irrational. Some would say “inscrutable” if that word weren’t obviously racist. George W. Bush was an obvious racist, of course, so he was true to form when he called the regime’s then-General Secretary Kim Jong-il a “pygmy.”

Despite the media’s befuddlement over the regime’s motivations and intentions, they aren’t difficult to figure out. They come through quite clearly at the English-language site of the Korean National News Agency (KCNA) once you figure out how to read through the froth and invective. American reporters and editors are inclined to dismiss the KCNA’s reports because they’re pretty sure that the US can’t be “imperialist” or “arrogant,” as the KCNA claims, and because they treat State Department and Pentagon sources as generally honest and reliable.

These credulous attitudes may arise from complacency, unthinking patriotism, or the job pressures inside the corporate media. In any case, US news outlets consistently produce egregious distortions when they cover the DPRK’s conflicts with the United States. Sometimes the accounts of North Korean actions are accurate enough. Often what makes the picture false is the misrepresentation — or simple omission — of US actions.

As a result, the picture of US-DPRK relations is topsy-turvy. Below, I discuss three points that the media usually get backwards.

1) North Korea nuclearized the peninsula with its bomb test of 2006.

Wrong. The US threatened the use of nuclear weapons in the Korean War of 1950-1953, and President Eisenhower installed an ongoing nuclear arsenal beginning in 1958. The weapons included missiles, bombs and artillery shells. F-4 fighter planes were on constant alert — armed only with nuclear bombs.[1]

There were also portable “atomic demolition mines” (ADMs) that weighed just 60 pounds each. With an explosive yield equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT, the mines were more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. Korea specialist Bruce Cumings writes:

The ADMs were moved around in Jeeps and placed by special teams who carried them in backpacks; meanwhile, US helicopters routinely flew nuclear weapons near the DMZ [the Demilitarized Zone, which divides North from South Korea].… Meanwhile, forward deployment of nuclear weapons bred a mentality of “use ‘em or lose ‘em”; even a small North Korean attack might be cause enough to use them, lest they fall into enemy hands.[2]

President George H.W. Bush withdrew nuclear weapons from the peninsula in 1991 as a cost-free way to place the burden of disarmament on North Korea. The US, of course, was not disarming at all. The Gulf War had shown that the latest generation of “conventional” weapons could inflict suitably horrific damage, and besides, nuclear weapons would be ready-at-hand on offshore ships, submarines and planes.

2) North Korea is serial violator of the Armistice of 1953.

The DPRK regime declared on March 11 of this year that it was nullifying the armistice of 1953. Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations replied that the North could not nullify the agreement unilaterally. The UN is involved because the US fought the Korean War against North Korea and mainland China in the name of the UN. At the time, the anticommunist Taiwan government represented China on the Security Council — a fact that led the USSR to boycott the council. With mainland China excluded and the USSR boycotting, the war resolution passed without a veto.

The fighting ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, so the “UN coalition” is still technically at war with North Korea. I’m not sure why nobody mentions being at war with China, too.

The South Korean defense ministry declared in 2011 that North Korea had violated the armistice 221 times since 1953. This includes 26 claims of military attacks. Some of these attacks were serious, including a 2010 torpedo attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors and an artillery bombardment later in the same year that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians. In the first case, North Korea denies making the attack. In the second, the regime claims that South Korea shot first.

In fact, the regime often disputes accusations of violating the armistice, declaring that their actions were responses to violations by the US and South Korea. Unfortunately, nobody seems interested in keeping records about those violations. (If somebody finds a decent account, please let us know.)

The important thing to know about armistice violations is the big one: The US deployment of nuclear weapons violates an explicit ban on the introduction of “qualitatively new” weapons to Korea. The ban applies to the whole Korean “theater,” so offshore weapons are included.[3] The US has thus committed a major violation of the Armistice continuously for 55 years.

This nuclear posture was known in the Cold War as a “first-strike” policy, since it licensed the use of nuclear weapons even without a nuclear provocation. The US renounced the first-strike option in the European theater but not in Korea. “The logic,” writes Bruce Cummings, “was that we dare not use nuclear weapons in Europe because the other side has them, but we could use them in Korea because it doesn’t.”[4]

3) North Korea has violated the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The world’s great powers came up with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 as a way to maintain their monopoly on nuclear weapons. In the treaty, the nuclear states of that time — the US, Britain, France, the USSR and China — made a vague promise to negotiate their own disarmament in the future.

In order to induce non-nuclear states to sign, the treaty stipulated that nuclear-armed states would help the NPT’s non-nuclear members to develop nuclear power for peaceful uses such as energy production. As a further inducement, the nuclear-weapons states offered a side agreement (not in the NPT) in which they promised not to threaten non-nuclear signatories of the NPT with nuclear attack — or to carry out such attacks.

North Korea did not sign the NPT until 1985. At the time, the DPRK had a small reactor that produced plutonium waste and very little electricity. The Reagan administration feared that the waste could be stockpiled to make a weapon. The US encouraged Konstantin Chernenko, then premier of the USSR, to offer North Korea light-water reactors (LWRs), which produce no waste that can easily be converted into weapons-grade material. The energy-strapped DPRK accepted the deal and agreed to sign the NPT.[5] This was the kind of quid pro quo that the treaty’s authors anticipated when they wrote it.

The USSR was crisis-ridden in the 1980s and dithered over construction of the four promised LWRs, which would have cost about $1 billion apiece. When the Soviet state collapsed in late 1991, the DPRK lost one of its two patrons — the other was China — and entered a decade of natural disaster, economic regression and famine.[6]

With US technical help, and upon US insistence, the UN’s atomic agency (IAEA) began mandatory, intrusive inspections of the DPRK’s nuclear sites in 1992. Following the Gulf War of 1991, the US and the chief inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Hans Blix, improvised a new regime of mandatory inspections backed by the threat of Security Council sanctions. Iraq, Iran and North Korea were the intended target of these “special inspections.” The NPT does not authorize any of this.

IAEA inspectors did surmise in 1992-1993 that North Korea had probably stockpiled a significant amount of plutonium. US intelligence operatives looked over the IAEA data and concluded that the hypothesized amount of stockpiled plutonium would be enough to construct one or two nuclear weapons, although they believed that the DPRK was as yet technically incapable of making the plutonium into bombs. These intelligence estimates gave rise to an oft-quoted “worst-case scenario” according to which North Korea already possessed two nuclear weapons in the 1990s.[7]

Stockpiling plutonium may constitute a violation of the NPT, but if so, then Japan is many times more guilty than North Korea. With US approval, Japan has stored up enough plutonium to construct 5,000 warheads. Nevertheless, Japan’s nuclear sites have never been subject to UN “special inspections,” although the country’s nuclear safety record suggests that it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

North Korea declared Blix to be a stooge of the United States — which, of course, he was — and threatened to pull out of the NPT. Eventually, Clinton backed away from the crisis. He offered to provide the LWRs previously promised by the USSR in return for North Korea’s acceptance of further IAEA inspections. The deal was formally written up along with some other provisions, dubbed the “Agreed Framework,” and signed by both parties.

Like the USSR, the US never delivered the LWRs — never even broke ground on them. If we’re looking for violations of the NPT, that’s a clear one, since the NPT obligates nuclear-weapons states to help non-weapons states with nonmilitary nuclear projects.

The promise of LWRs may have been the part of the Agreed Framework that the Northern regime cared most about. For the entire time of its membership in the NPT, from 1985 to 2003, North Korea waited for assistance with nuclear electricity-production that never came. In Clinton’s second term, those who wanted to ridicule the DPRK began to point to nighttime satellite photos of East Asia that showed every country but North Korea lit up. They didn’t mention that the US played a role in turning out the lights.

Meanwhile, although the US had signed every updated version of its 1968 promise not to target non-nuclear-weapons states, Bill Clinton reaffirmed the first-strike policy against North Korea in 1993. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Clinton publicly approved the retargeting of ballistic missiles from Russia to North Korea.[8]

In January 2002, George W. Bush named North Korea, Iraq and Iran as members of an “Axis of Evil.” Then in March, a leak of Bush’s “nuclear posture review” reconfirmed the US first-strike policy. By the fall, Bush was building up troops in the Middle East to overthrow the Iraqi government. Kim Jong-il had good reason to believe that his government would be next.

In January 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT. The treaty itself authorizes a members’ withdrawal when its sovereignty is threatened:

“Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country.”

There’s no doubt that George W. Bush’s “global war on terror” qualified as a set of extraordinary events that jeopardized the DPRK’s supreme interests.

In 2010, Barack Obama confirmed once again that the US “nuclear posture” was to keep targeting North Korea. For North Korea and Iran, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates, “All options are on the table.” It’s a phrase that Obama has used many times since, and it suits his understated style: Threaten the maximum, but make it sound moderate.

[1] Bruce Cumings, Parallax Visions: Making Sense of American–East Asian Relations at the End of the Century (Duke University Press Books, 1999), 127-130.

[2] Ibid., 130.

[3] Ibid., 128.

[4] Ibid., 132.

[5] Don Oberdorfer, The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History (Rev. & upd. Basic Books, 2002), 245 and 289.

[6] For more detail on North Korea’s crisis, and on the imperial interests at play in Korea from 1985 to 2003, see my “What’s at stake in North Korea” in the International Socialist Review, March-April 2003. A PDF is available here.

[7] Oberdorfer, 276.

[8] Cumings, 142.

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Obama Chose War Over Peace in Syria

By Shamus Cooke | Worker’s Action | March 28, 2013

With Syria on the brink of national genocide, outside nations have only two options: help reverse the catastrophe or plunge this torn nation deeper into the abyss. Countries can either work towards a peaceful political solution or they can continue to pour money, guns, and fighters into the country to ensure a steady gushing into the bloodbath.

President Obama will have no talk of peace. He has chosen war since the very start and he’s sticking to it. A recent New York Times article revealed that President Obama has been lying through his teeth about the level of U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict since the beginning.

The President recently said that the U.S. government continues to give only “non-lethal” military aid to the rebels, but the New York Times revealed that the CIA has been actively funneling and distributing massive shipments of weapons to the rebels over the borders of Jordan and Turkey.

This “arms pipeline” of illegal gun trafficking has been overseen by the U.S. government since January 2012. It has literally been the lifeblood of the Syrian “rebels,” and thus the cause of the immense bloodshed in Syria.

The New York Times reports:

The C.I.A. role in facilitating the [weapons] shipments… gave the United States a degree of influence over the process [of weapon distribution]…American officials have confirmed that senior White House officials were regularly briefed on the [weapons] shipments.

The article also explains that a “conservative estimate” of the weapons shipment to date is “3,500 tons.”

So while Obama has repeatedly lied about “non-lethal” military aid, he has been personally involved in overseeing a multi-country flood of weapons into Syria, many of which are given to terrorist organizations. The only effective fighting force for the Syrian rebels has been the terrorist grouping the Al Nusra Front, and now we know exactly where they got their guns.

If not for this U.S.-sponsored flood of guns, the Syrian rebels — many of them from Saudi Arabia and other countries — would have been militarily defeated long ago. Tens of thousands of lives would thus have been spared and a million refugees could have remained in their homes in Syria. The large scale ethnic cleansing initiated by the rebels would have been preventable.

But Obama is so intent on war that he will not even discuss peace with the Syrian government. He has repeatedly stated that there are “preconditions” for peace negotiations, the most important one being the downfall of the Syrian government, i.e., regime change. If a toppling of a nation’s government is Obama’s precondition for peace, then Obama is by definition choosing war.

Never mind that Syria is a sovereign nation that should not have to worry about a foreign country making demands as to who is in power. Obama doesn’t seem to think this relevant. In fact, his administration has been very busy determining who the “legitimate” government of Syria is, by hand picking the “National Coalition of Syrian Revolution,” the prime minister of which is a U.S. citizen.

One of the preconditions for being on Obama’s National Coalition of Syrian Revolution is that there be no peace negotiations with the Syrian government. Of course most Syrians want to immediately end the conflict in Syria, since it threatens an Iraq-like destruction of the country.

The most popular leader of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution, Moaz al-Khatib, recently quit in protest because he was prohibited from pursuing peace negotiations by the U.S.-appointed opposition Prime Minister, Ghassan Hitto, a U.S. citizen who had lived in the U.S. for the previous 30 years.

The Guardian reports:

Immediately after his nomination as interim [Prime Minister], Ghassan Hitto [U.S. citizen], had distanced himself from Al-Khatib’s willingness to negotiate with elements of the Assad regime in a bid to bring an end to the civil war.

By appointing Hitto as the leader of the opposition, Obama has splintered the already-splintered opposition while making “no peace negotiations” the official policy of the U.S.-backed opposition, the so-called “legitimate” government of Syria.

Obama also recently pressured the Arab League — composed of regimes loyal to the United States — to install as a member the hand-picked National Coalition of Syrian Revolution as the official government of Syria. The appointment didn’t give as much credibility to the opposition as much as it degraded the Arab League’s legitimacy.

The rebel’s seat in the Arab league implies, again, that the U.S. and its allies are fully intent on “regime change,” no matter how many people die, no matter the existing political alternatives. They will not reverse course.

The Russian government called the Arab League membership decision “… an open encouragement of the [rebel] forces which, unfortunately, continue to bet on a military solution in Syria, not looking at multiplying day by day the pain and suffering of the Syrians…. Moscow is convinced that only a political settlement and not encouraging destructive military scenarios, can stop the bloodshed and bring peace and security to all Syrians in their country.”

Obama has rejected both Russian and Syrian calls for peace negotiations in recent months, as he has greatly increased the frequency of the weapons trafficking plan. Reuters reports on the Obama Administration’s reaction to peace proposals from Russia and Syria:

…[Syria’s Foreign Minister’s] offer of [peace] talks drew a dismissive response from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was starting a nine-nation tour of European and Arab capitals in London [to help organize support for the Syrian rebels].

Obama rejects peace because he cannot dictate its outcomes. When it comes to war the more powerful party decides what the peace looks like, and Obama’s rebels are — after two years — still in a poor position to bargain a favorable peace to the United States, no matter how many tons of guns the U.S. has dumped into Syria. This is because the Syrian government still enjoys a large social base of support, something you’ll seldom read about in the U.S. media.

Another sign of war lust from the Obama administration came after the Syrian government accused the rebels of a chemical weapons attack. The U.S. government initially dismissed the accusation, until the rebels later accused the Syrian government of the attack.

But even Syria’s rebels have admitted that the chemical weapons attack took place in a government controlled territory, and that 16 Syrian government solders died in the attack along with 10 civilians plus a hundred more injured. But the rebels make the absurd claim that the government accidentally bombed themselves with the chemical weapons.

No matter who is responsible, the Obama administration plans to hold the Syrian Government responsible for crossing the “red line” of a chemical weapons attack (Obama’s version of Bush’s infamous “weapons of mass destruction”). The red line refers to a direct military invasion, versus the prolonged blood-letting that has been U.S. policy so far.

Obama’s envoy for the United Nations, Susan Rice, issued a statement about the chemical weapons attack that, according to the New York Times, “… repeated previous American warnings that there would be “consequences” if the Assad government used or failed to secure chemical weapons.”

So, if the Syrian rebels get hold of chemical weapons and use them on the Syrian government — as seems to be the case — the Syrian government should be held responsible, according to the Obama Administration, “for not securing chemical weapons.”

There is zero room for truth with logic like this. But the perverse logic serves to protect Obama’s prized rebels, who’ve committed a slew of atrocities against the Syrian population, and who gain key political and media protection from the U.S.

Ultimately, the entire Syrian war was born amid the big lie that the battle began — and continues — as a popular armed struggle. But the real revolutionaries in Syria like the National Coordination Committee, have long ago declared that they want a peaceful end to this conflict.

Obama’s Bush-like determination to overthrow the Syrian government has led him down the same path as his predecessor, though Obama is fighting a “smarter” war, i.e., he’s employing more deceptive means to achieve the same ends, at the exact same cost of incredible human suffering.

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Israel admits: Just 0.7% of West Bank allocated to Palestinians

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies | March 28, 2013

In documents released on Thursday to the High Court of Justice, the Israeli government has admitted what Palestinians have been saying for decades: that the Israeli government has taken over 99.3% of the West Bank, allocating most of the land to illegal Israeli ‘Jewish only’ settlements.

The Israeli designation of 1.3 million acres of Palestinian land in the West Bank as ‘Israeli state land’ flies in the face of past Israeli claims that they are willing to negotiate in good faith with the Palestinians on the status of land in the West Bank.

The documents were released as part of a lawsuit filed by Israeli human rights group Yesh Din that challenged the construction of the illegal settlement of Hayovel on stolen Palestinian land. The Israeli government argues that the settlement and the road leading to it are on ‘uncultivated land’, and have declared that such lands are subject to takeover by the Israeli government.

After 1979, the Israeli government began wide scale takeovers of Palestinian land using a law that passed in the Israeli Knesset authorizing the Israeli government to take over any Palestinian land that had not been cultivated in ten years.

A study by Israeli researcher Dror Etkes found that the Israeli government has used land surveys that are meant to determine which land is cultivated and which is not as a political tool to take over nearly all of the land in the West Bank.

His report stated that his findings “prove the claims that Palestinian landowners have been consistently presenting over the past few decades: Under the aegis of the broad declaration of lands as state lands, which includes almost a million dunams, Israel has taken over extensive cultivated areas, which were stolen from their owners through administrative decisions over which public and legal oversight is minimal, because they were supposedly not cultivated.”

In the recent case of the outpost of Derech Ha’avot, the largest Israeli outpost colony in the West Bank, the Israeli High Court ruled that the takeover of private Palestinian land by the Israeli settlers was acceptable, leading the lawyers for Yesh Din (the Israeli human rights group representing the Palestinian landowners) to declare;

“Not only is the state reconciling itself to the breaking of the law, but it is also ultimately granting the usurped land to the lawbreakers. It is particularly outrageous that all the state authorities joined forces to accept the breaking of the law and are now attempting to provide an umbrella of state support, rather than combating organized ideological crime that violates human rights on a daily and hourly basis.”

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | 3 Comments

How Big Corporations are Unpatriotic

By Ralph Nader | March 28, 2013

Many giant profitable U.S. corporations are increasingly abandoning America while draining it at the same time.

General Electric, for example, has paid no federal income taxes for a decade while becoming a net job exporter and fighting its hard-pressed workers who want collective bargaining through unions like the United Electrical Workers Union (UE). GE’s boss, Jeffrey Immelt, makes about $12,400 an hour on an 8-hour day, plus benefits and perks, presiding over this global corporate empire.

Telling by their behavior, these big companies think patriotism toward the country where they were created and prospered is for chumps. Their antennae point to places where taxes are very low, labor is wage slavery, independent unions are non-existent, governments have their hands out, and equal justice under the rule of law does not exist. China, for example, has fit that description for over 25 years.

Other than profiteering from selling Washington very expensive weapons of mass destruction, many multinational firms have little sense of true national security.

Did you know that about 80 percent of the ingredients in medicines Americans take now come from China and India where visits by FDA inspectors are infrequent and inadequate?

The lucrative U.S. drug industry – coddled with tax credits, free transfer of almost-ready-to-market drugs developed with U.S. taxpayer dollars via the National Institutes of Health – charges Americans the highest prices for drugs in the world and still wants more profits. Drug companies no longer produce many necessary medicines like penicillin in the U.S., preferring to pay slave wages abroad to import drugs back into the U.S.

Absence of patriotism has exposed our country to dependency on foreign suppliers for crucial medicines, and these foreign suppliers may not be so friendly in the future.

Giant U.S. companies are strip-mining America in numerous ways, starting with the corporate tax base. By shifting more of their profits abroad to “tax-haven” countries (like the Cayman Islands) through transfer pricing and other gimmicks, and by lobbying many other tax escapes through Congress, they can report record profits in the U.S. with diminishing tax payments. Yet they are benefiting from the public services, special privileges, and protection by our armed forces because they are U.S. corporations.

On March 27, 2013, the Washington Post reported that compared to forty years ago, big companies that “routinely cited U.S. federal tax expenses that were 25 to 50 percent of their worldwide profits,” are now reporting less than half that share. For instance, Proctor and Gamble was paying 40 percent of its total profits in taxes in 1969; today it pays 15 percent in federal taxes. Other corporations pay less or no federal income taxes.

Welcome to globalization. It induces dependency on instabilities in tiny Greece and Cyprus that shock stock investments by large domestic pension and mutual funds here in the U.S. Plus huge annual U.S. trade deficits, which signals the exporting of millions of jobs.

The corporate law firms for these big corporations were the architects of global trade agreements that make it easy and profitable to ship jobs and industries to fascist and communist regimes abroad while hollowing out U.S. communities and throwing their loyal American workers overboard. It’s not enough that large corporations are paying millions of American workers less than workers were paid in 1968, adjusted for inflation.

Corporate bosses can’t say they’re just keeping up with the competition; they muscled through the trade system that pulls down on our country’s relatively higher labor, consumer and environmental standards.

Corporate executives, when confronted with charges that show little respect for the country, its workers and its taxpayers who made possible their profits and subsidized their mismanagement, claim they must maximize their profits for their shareholders and their worker pension obligations.

Their shareholders? Is that why they’re stashing $1.7 trillion overseas in tax havens instead of paying dividends to their rightful shareholder-owners, which would stimulate our economy? Shareholders? Are those the people who have been stripped of their rights as owners and prohibited from even keeping a lid on staggeringly sky-high executive salaries ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 an hour or more, plus perks?

Why these corporate bosses can’t even abide one democratically-run shareholders’ meeting a year without gaveling down their owners and cutting time short. To get away from as many of their shareholder-owners as possible, AT&T is holding its annual meeting on April 26 in remote Cheyenne, Wyoming!

Pension obligations for their workers? The award-winning reporter for the Wall Street Journal Ellen E. Shultz demonstrates otherwise. In her gripping book Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers, she shows how by “exploiting loopholes, ambiguous regulations and new accounting rules,” companies deceptively tricked employees and turned their pension plans into piggy banks, tax shelters and profit centers.

Recently, I wrote to the CEOs of the 20 largest U.S. corporations, asking if they would stand up at their annual shareholders’ meetings and on behalf of their U.S. chartered corporation (not on behalf of their boards of directors), and pledge allegiance to the flag ending with those glorious words “with liberty and justice for all.” Nineteen of the CEOs have not yet replied. One, Chevron, declined the pledge request but said their patriotism was demonstrated creating jobs and sparking economic activity in the U.S.

But when corporate lobbyists try to destroy our right of trial by jury for wrongful injuries – misnamed tort reform – when they destroy our freedom of contract – through all that brazenly one-sided fine print – when they corrupt our constitutional elections with money and unaccountable power, when they commercialize our education and patent our genes, and outsource jobs to other countries, the question of arrogantly rejected patriotism better be front-and-center for discussion by the American people.

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on How Big Corporations are Unpatriotic

When a Secretive Stingray Cell Phone Tracking “Warrant” Isn’t a Warrant

By Hanni Fakhoury | EFF | March 28, 2013

An Arizona federal court this afternoon will be the battleground over the government’s use of a “Stingray” surveillance device in a closely watched criminal case, United States v. Rigmaiden. And in an important development, new documents revealed after an ACLU of Northern California Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request should leave the government with some explaining to do.

“Stingray” is the brand name of an International Mobile Subscriber Identity locator, or “IMSI catcher.” A Stingray acts as a fake cell-phone tower, small enough to fit in a van, allowing the government to route all network traffic to the fake tower. We’ve warned that Stingrays are dangerous because they have the capability to obtain the contents of electronic and wire communications while necessarily sucking down data on scores of innocent people along the way.

The Fourth Amendment requires searches be “reasonable,” generally meaning they must be accompanied by a warrant. To get a warrant, the government must show there is probable cause to believe the place they want to search will have evidence of a crime. And it means the judge must ensure the warrant is “particular,” or limited to only allow searches into areas where the evidence is most likely to be found. The only way a judge can make these tough decisions is with the government being forthright about what it’s doing.

But when it comes to Stingrays the government has been extremely secretive about its use, withholding documents in FOIA requests, failing to explain (or even understand) the technology to a Texas federal judge and in Rigmaiden, misleading the court about the fact it’s even using one at all.

Daniel David Rigmaiden is charged with a variety of tax and wire fraud crimes. Hoping to pinpoint Rigmaiden’s precise location within an apartment complex, federal agents applied for an order requesting the court to order Verizon to help the agents pinpoint the physical location of a wireless broadband access card and cell phone they believed Rigmaiden was using. The order is clearly directed towards Verizon:

The Court therefore ORDERS, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(b); Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2703 and 3117; and Title 28, United States Code, Section 1651, that Verizon Wireless, within ten (10) days of the signing of this Order and for a period not to exceed 30 days, unless extended by the Court, shall provide to agents of the FBI data and information obtained from the monitoring of transmissions related to the location of the Target Broadband Access Card/Cellular Telephone…

Ultimately, it turns out the government did not just get Verizon to give it the data. It also used a Stingray device to find Rigmaiden, sucking up loads of other data from other electronic devices in the complex as well, which it deleted.

When Rigmaiden filed a motion to suppress the Stingray evidence as a warrantless search in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the government responded that this order was a search warrant that authorized the government to use the Stingray. Together with the ACLU of Northern California and the ACLU, we filed an amicus brief in support of Rigmaiden, noting that this “order” wasn’t a search warrant because it was directed towards Verizon, made no mention of an IMSI catcher or Stingray and didn’t authorize the government—rather than Verizon—to do anything. Plus to the extent it captured loads of information from other people not suspected of criminal activity it was a “general warrant,” the precise evil the Fourth Amendment was designed to prevent.

The FOIA documents bolster our argument that this isn’t a warrant. The documents are a series of internal emails from DOJ attorneys in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, the district where the order in Rigmaiden’s case was issued. The emails make clear that U.S. Attorneys in the Northern California were using Stingrays but not informing magistrates of what exactly they were doing. And once the judges got wind of what was actually going on, they were none too pleased:

As some of you may be aware, our office has been working closely with the magistrate judges in an effort to address their collective concerns regarding whether a pen register is sufficient to authorize the use of law enforcement’s WIT technology (a box that simulates a cell tower and can be placed inside a van to help pinpoint an individual’s location with some specificity) to locate an individual. It has recently come to my attention that many agents are still using WIT technology in the field although the pen register application does not make that explicit.

While we continue work on a long term fix for this problem, it is important that we are consistent and forthright in our pen register requests to the magistrates…

These emails, combined with the text of the disputed order itself, suggest agents obtained authorization to use a pen register without indicating they also planned to use a Stingray. Either at the time of the application or after the fact, the government attempted to transform that order into a warrant that authorized the use of a Stingray.

Judicial superivison of searches is most needed when the government uses new technologies to embark into new and unknown privacy intrusions. But when the government hides what it’s really doing, it removes this important check on government power. We hope the court sees its been duped, and makes clear to the government that honesty and a warrant are requirements to using a Stingray.

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Comments Off on When a Secretive Stingray Cell Phone Tracking “Warrant” Isn’t a Warrant

New study raises Hiroshima atomic bomb victim count

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Press TV – March 28, 2013

Officials in the Japanese city of Hiroshima have updated the number of victims from the Second World War atomic bombing by the United States, saying it is 15,000 more than the previously recorded figure.

According to a new report released on Thursday, the total number of the explosion-affected people from the 1945 nuclear bombardment of the city has climbed up to hit 557,478 people, Xinhua reported.

The report also updated the actual number of “direct victims” of the atomic bombing – those who were within the city and its neighboring towns and villages – to 384,743. It also put the number of victims who have died so far at 277,996.

The report primarily focuses on demographic changes in recent decades and was compiled as part of an over 30-year investigative project by the Hiroshima City on the atomic bombing victims.

Kaoru Ohsugi, Director of the research division of the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Department at the Hiroshima City Office, said that since there are still different ways to interpret the numbers concerning the A-bomb victims and damage, the division decided to update the figures, collecting new information and checking the details using computers.

“Considering the remaining time the survivors have to live and the verification procedures we can use, this report may be the last edition the city officially issues,” he said.

In the only instances of the use of nuclear weapons against another nation in history, the United States bombed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki within a space of three days, killing hundreds of thousands of people. The nuclear radiation continued to claim thousands of more lives over the following years.

March 29, 2013 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | Comments Off on New study raises Hiroshima atomic bomb victim count