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The Right-Wing Accepts Obama’s Tribalism When It Supports Israel

By Sheldon Richman | Free Association | March 29, 2013

The right-wing seemingly never misses a chance to go after Barack Obama for his collectivism and alleged dislike of America. Yet when Obama embraced blood-and-soil tribalism openly and implied that America was not the “land of the free” for everyone, the right-wing apparently had nothing to say.

Why? The subject was Israel, and the right-wing shares Obama’s tribalist premises on that subject.

In his speech in Jerusalem on March 21, Obama said:

For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations. It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice and pogroms and even genocide. Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home.  And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea — to be a free people in your homeland. That’s why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea — the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own.

The first half of the paragraph is full of fable and fabrication, though he’s right about suffering, prejudice, pogroms, and genocide. To understand what’s wrong with those sentences, consult Shlomo Sand’s two excellent books The Invention of the Jewish People and The Invention of the Land of Israel (both available for Kindle). Invention is not unique to the “Jewish people.” Many peoples and nations are the product of what Sand calls “mythistory.”

What I want to focus on in Obama’s statement is this:

And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea–to be a free people in your homeland.

Obama is saying that Jews need to live apart in Israel or they can’t be truly free. Think about the implications. Something about Jews makes it impossible for them to be really at home anywhere—including in what the right-wing (and presumably Obama) tout as the freest nation in the history of the world. So Jews need an ethno-religiously exclusivist state. That view amounts to a wholesale rejection of the western liberal tradition, which was inclusive and universalist and in which all people have the same rights without being seen as members of a tribe. Isn’t it the official line that this is what made America great? So why is Obama rejecting it? And why is the right-wing conspicuously silent?

Of course the right-wing can’t raise any objection because it is staunchly in Israel’s corner, which means endorsing its medieval notions. (Forgive me for writing as though the right-wing is monolithic. It is not. Suffice it to say there are honorable exceptions.) So the right-wing is stuck (like Obama) with a contraction: Jews aren’t fully free and at home in what they claim is the greatest and freest country on earth. This seems to be an insult both to Jews and the United States, but no one will say it. (And people wonder why Chuck Hagel once called the Israel Lobby “intimidating”—before being intimidated into withdrawing the charge.)

Obama and the right-wing would find their position untenable if they had a few facts. Throughout Jewish history, few Jews have had any desire or perceived obligation to move to Israel. (Most of those who went wished to die there in order to be near Jerusalem when the messiah comes and raises the dead.) When the Zionist movement was launched in the late 19th century, most American Jews rejected it firmly; for one thing, they couldn’t imagine a freer place than America. They also realized that there is no Jewish People—no race, no ethnic group, no tribe—but only many culturally diverse people worldwide who (in different ways) embrace Judaism. They were explicitly—vehemently—anti-Zionist and would have been even if Palestine were a “land without a people” (which it certainly was not).

Worldwide, Zionism was a minority position among Jews until World War II, at which point for most Jews it became a humanitarian cause on behalf of the survivors of the Nazi Judeocide. Besides the books linked to above, see Jack Ross’s Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism.)

Understand that Zionism did not begin as a humanitarian cause. The Zionist pioneers (many of whom were secular intellectuals) aspired to remake (invent) the “Jewish People” by getting them away from cities and towns and turning them into tillers of the soil in their own exclusivist nation.  (Theodor Herzl might well have been the first self-hating Jew.) The early Zionists wanted—indeed, expected—all Jews everywhere to take up permanent residence in Palestine. (That’s why the Palestinian Arabs had to be removed, violently if necessary, from the land they inhabited and worked for at least a thousand years.) By the in-gathering standard, Zionism has been a colossal failure. Few Jews want to move to Israel, and many in Israel are emigrating. When the Soviet Union let Jews leave, they overwhelmingly wanted to move to the United States, but the Israeli government conspired with the U.S. government to push them to Israel against their will. (See my “Let the Soviet Jews Come to America” [1991].)

Hence the old joke that Zionism amounts to one Jew raising money from a second Jew to send a third (poor) Jew to Israel.

As one rabbi put it recently,

When we say “Next year in Jerusalem’” [during the Passover Seder] we mean that all Jews should actually be in Israel and in Jerusalem (not just as tourists!). We mean Jerusalem as it is ideally meant to be – with the Temple, the Sanhedrin and a Jewish Monarch. We’re still waiting. Even we here in Jerusalem say “Next year in Jerusalem!” [Emphasis added.]

On the basis of Jews’ demonstrated preference, the rabbi will have a long wait.

Obama’s words are a reminder of the shameful double standard favorable to Israel that many people hold when it comes to the “Jewish state’s” crimes and offenses. As David Bromwich asks, can you imagine Obama’s saying: “Shiite Islam found extraordinary success in many parts of the world but its dream of national realization has attained its full expression in Iran.”

The right-wing wouldn’t have been so silent.

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli forces attack annual “Land Day” protests

Olive trees are planted to commemorate Land Day Olive trees are planted to commemorate Land Day (Photo credit – ISM)
Al-Akhbar | March 30, 2013

Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber coated bullets at Palestinians marking the annual Land Day in towns across the West Bank and Gaza on Saturday, local media reported.

Eyewitnesses told Ma’an News Agency that hundreds of Palestinians gathered in agricultural lands near the West Bank village of Jayyus to plant trees in commemoration of Land Day before Israeli troops stormed the area.

The soldiers fired tear gas canisters at the Palestinians, injuring dozens who inhaled the thick fumes.

In Ramallah in the central West Bank, Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets near the Qalandiya checkpoint which separates Ramallah and Jerusalem, a Ma’an reporter said.

In southern Gaza, east of Rafah, Israeli troops fired tear gas at Palestinian demonstrators, injuring several of them.

Palestinians also marked Land Day near Erez crossing and in the town of Beit Hanoun, both in northern Gaza.

Israeli forces had deployed heavily across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and on the northern border with Lebanon, since Friday in preparation for the yearly demonstrations.

Palestinians worldwide have marked every March 30 Land Day since Israeli police killed six Palestinians from inside the Green Line in 1976 who were protesting the theft of thousands of dunums of Arab land.

In Bethlehem, activists marked Land Day near Rachel’s Tomb where they raised Palestinian flags. Lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, joined the commemoration.

“Each day for our people is a land day during our battle with the occupation who steals our land and our future,” Barghouti said. “The only way to respond to the plots against our land is by escalating popular resistance across homeland.”

(Ma’an, WAFA)

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

UNASUR Supports Venezuela’s Electoral System

Agencia Venezolana de Noticias | March 28, 2013

Chief of an electoral observation mission of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Carlos Alvarez said Wednesday that Venezuela possesses a reliable and transparent electoral system that inspires “plenty of confidence”.

Alvarez said Venezuela’s election infrastructure satisfies the requirements of a free and fair democracy, reported Prensa Latina.

On April 14, the UNASUR Electoral Council will again observe Venezuelan elections, after first doing so last October.

On 7 October 2012, Alvarez recalled, there was high participation rate in Venezuela’s presidential elections, even though voting is not compulsory. In that process, Hugo Chavez won with 55.07 per cent of the ballot; 8,191,132 votes.

Secretary of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI), Alvarez added that on April 14 he will chair “a neutral mission, which allows UNASUR to gather information, knowledge and experience to have a stronger Electoral Council.”

“As UNASUR has an Electoral Council fully joined to regional tasks, the self-determination of its electoral processes will be… more guaranteed in the region,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez said that initiatives such as the council remove the need for supervision from the so-called developed nations. “Less and less countries request… international observation [from] the developed world.”

Latin America, he said, “has eliminated electoral fraud and the military coup d’etat, which used to be two tools for the [r]ight to prevent popular processes.”

Concerning the recent passing of the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez, he said that it “obviously left a very big emptiness, as in Venezuela as in Latin America, as in the rest of the world.”

Edited by Venezuelanalysis

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , | Leave a comment

Detroit and the International War of the Rich on the Poor

By RICH GIBSON – CounterPunch – March 28, 2013

Every Detroit teacher was fired in the fall of 2012.

Apparently, the nation did not notice. Hence, this story.

On March 26, 2013, 78% of the voting members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers ratified a contract which DFT president, Keith Johnson, called, “terrible.”

The contract mirrors, does not improve, an edict imposed on the union by an “Emergency Manager,” Roy Roberts, a black 74-year-old former manager at the failed General Motors corporation, once the most powerful company in the world now commonly called Government Motors. Roberts was appointed by Michigan Governor Snyder, effectively setting aside all the key actions of the elected Detroit School Board–the third state takeover in 25 years. None of them repaired the school system.

The DFT contract, though, does allow the union to continue to collect dues, the pacified labor of its members sold to Roberts for the term of the contract. DFT president Johnson will continue to receive his $142,000 salary as the rank and file accept another set of wage and benefit concessions.

Concessions, DFT members should have learned, don’t save jobs. Beginning in 1996, the DFT made concession on concession until, in the fall of 2012, every Detroit public school teacher was effectively fired and forced to reapply for a position. Hundreds of them, including teachers with 20 years and more seniority, one of them a former DFT vice president, have never been recalled.

Even before Roberts arrived, Detroit Public Schools had been shifted into a “Good School/Bad School” system, somewhat parallel to the “Good bank/Bad Bank” plan of the bailout days. Good schools get funded. Bad schools organize decay.

GM, at nearly the time of Robert’s birth, was, faced down in the Great Flint Strike of 1937 by the militant, class conscious, United Auto Workers union–seizing buildings, fighting back cops and troops. The first industrial contract was won by direct action. Where is the resistance today?

We shall see how the DFT, UAW, Johnson, Roberts, and the union movement reflect one another as the world, Detroit, and Michigan, writhe in a rising tide of barbarism–booming inequality and a real promise of endless war–that can only be combated by the potential of a mass, activist, class conscious movement which connects reason to power–for equality and justice.

The parent body of the DFT, the American Federation of Teachers, was among the first, along with the UAW, to openly redefine the relationship of unions, their members, and employers. Once defined best by the term, “contradiction,” both unions at the top adopted what once AFT president Al Shanker, and later NEA presidents, called “New Unionism.” The UAW was more direct: “Partners in Production.” Long before the 2008-09 bailouts, the union tops joined government officials and corporate bosses to declare their unity, not noting that meant the rank and file, and most of the rest of the world, would be on the other side.

The DFT now has but 4,000 members, one-third its size a decade ago, while the UAW looks at the same fate, but about 25% of its size in the union’s heyday. Wages for Detroit school workers, like auto workers, have collapsed while, in the schools and the factories, new hires work for half what the more senior employees earn.

The Detroit Public Schools were once heralded as the finest urban school system in the US, serving more than 299,000 students. Those schools, like all capitalist schools, were never truly public but always segregated by class and race, even within the city. Depending primarily on birth-class, students were taught different “facts,” by teachers (whose dress differed) using different methods, in distinctly different facilities.

Today, the divide is even more glaring. The Detroit Federation of Teachers, in 90% black Detroit, is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, the smaller of the two national teachers’ unions, representing for the most part, urban areas.

Suburban Michigan, overwhelmingly white, is represented by the Michigan Education Association, linked to the larger National Education Association. The racial divide between DFT and MEA hasn’t been demolished by the union leaders, and now it’s being used to demolish their members. MEA stood aside and let Detroit rot, doing nothing. Detroit’s conditions, and management demands for concessions, spread throughout the state–an injury to one preceding an injury to all, a slogan too dangerous for today’s labor bosses.

The same conditions prevail nationwide. Eighty percent of the US teaching force is white. Minority teachers mostly remain located in the most urban areas while suburban school kids are taught by a white teaching force. The national school system is as segregated as it was at the time of Brown vs. the Board of Education; white students being the most fully segregated body.

Not too long ago, most youth could project a somewhat better life than their parents. No more. The false promise of the Obama ruse, “Anyone can make it,” is statistically shattered by the fact that the generation exiting school will do worse that their elders; probably much worse.

It follows that the commonplace call to “Save Public Schools,” is rooted in myth. It’s a demand to more deeply empower what is now a full blown corporate state, promoting a unity which never existed, insisting on a tax increase that will invariably be aimed at those working people who still have jobs, and, importantly, it is a fountain of school worker opportunism: “Save my job, pay me, and I will implement the national curriculum, proctor racist high-stakes exams, and be silent about the militarization of every level of schooling.”

Inherent in “Save Public Schools” is the nationalist view that we all share a common goal to educate all kids in a democratic society. That’s never been the case. It is, though, a good way to make a war popular.

Better: Rescue Education from the Ruling Classes! 

“Save Public Schools” is usually followed by: “Stop Privatization;” targeting charter schools.

But privatization misreads reality.

The education project is an imperfect, but true, merger of the corporate, government, and military levels of US government–as were the bi-partisan bailouts of 2008 and the current bi-partisan wars.

Nearly all charter schools are, in fact, publicly funded, subject to public–if corporatized regulations.

In a word: state fascism. It cannot be made gentle nor more democratic. Why offer this perverse structure a cover of legitimacy and more power still?

Today, in fully segregated Detroit, there are less than 55,000 students. A charter system, mostly owned by private operations but funded with public money, holds another 55,000–if internal DPS figures can be trusted. Typically, they cannot. In DPS, for example, every employee at every level has had an interest in inflating attendance numbers. In capitalist schools, every child actually in a schoolroom represents a dollar value.

Corruption and incompetence ran rampant at every level of public life in Detroit for a century, but it hurt more as wealth left the city.

Days before the March 26th DFT contract ratification, the Council of Foreign Relations, led by war-hawk Condoleeza Rice (“We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,”) issued its Education Task Force Report, demonstrating in clear terms that the education agenda is a war agenda: class and empire’s wars.

“Human capital will determine power in the current century, and the failure to produce that capital will undermine America’s security…Large, undereducated swaths of the population damage the ability of the United States to physically defend itself, protect its secure information, conduct diplomacy, and grow its economy.”

In the midst of World War I, a general demanded that the schools become “human munition factories.” That capitalist schools serve a capitalist state is key to grasping the war project at hand.

We can restate that the education agenda is a war agenda from another standpoint: The school unions’ relationship with The National Endowment for Democracy and Education International. NED is a well-recognized CIA front while EI is the inheritor of the CIA sponsored international teacher unions.

Leaders from both school unions retire to Education International where their salaries are not disclosed. But NEA’s ex-president, Reg Weaver is there. He was paid $686,949 for his last year in office, in a union where many teachers live in house trailers. Former NEA president Mary Hatwood Futrell is at EI. Current NEA president Dennis Van Roekel ($465,000 a year and an expense account he can live on) will surely be there. He’ll join Ed McElroy who “serves on the board of directors of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Education International, and ThanksUSA. McElroy is a member of the board of directors for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)-a private, nonprofit organization created to strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts.” (AFT web site).

The vacillating reactionary, current for-profit press and education “reform” favorite, Diane Ravitch served at the NED and is still saluting the flag and God-blessing America with the best of them.

Labor imperialism, theoretically propelled by the idea that US workers will do better if the world’s workers do worse, and in practice the AFL-CIO’s backing of CIA-corporate adventures all over the world, may have served a relatively tiny number of US workers for a short time, but at the end of the day, it inevitably failed. The lack of international solidarity of working class people is destroying the lives of workers all over the world, and the members of the AFL-CIO as well. That the class war is also a classroom war is, due to de-industrialization, a significant particular, developing world-wide.

Inside the USA, both school unions’ leaders participated in the construction of the Bush No Child Left Behind Act, the Obama move of Race to the Top, and now the nationally regimented curricula, the Common Core standards which will redouble the frenzy around high-stakes testing–and merit pay. Elites know why they have schools, if the work force never considers it.

School workers produce value in capital’s markets. When educators and kids arrive in school, they confront a billion dollar business, more powerful than unorganized kids and teachers. This is part of the answer to the critical question that is rarely asked: Why have school? Educators shape the next generation of workers and military volunteers, labor power, and they generate hope, real or false; a lynchpin of social order, control. People in pacified areas become instruments of their own oppression.

In 2012, Michigan labor, the AFL-CIO and NEA combined, placed a bill on the state ballot to make collective bargaining a legal right. They were reacting to a legislative right-to-work bill the Governor said he would not sign. In effect, the bill sought to win by a vote what had never been won in that manner–rather, victory through building seizures a la Flint in 1937, strikes, and related job actions.

In an atmosphere in which unions had proved themselves to be concession machines on the one hand, and gobblers of the public treasury on the other, Michigan electors rejected the measure. Seeing that, Governor Snyder signed the right-to-work bill, which became law in 2013.

Instead of a vote; why not build for a statewide strike?

The last thing a labor leader in the US wants is a mass of truly class conscious workers who are ready to take direct action in order to control their work places on a daily basis. On one hand, if that was the case, the labor leaders would have nothing to sell the bosses, i.e., labor peace would not be theirs to peddle, but democratically controlled by the members and, on the other hand, such a conscious mass of people would never tolerate labor leaders who make four and five times the wages of average rank and filers, live completely different lives, more in common with employers.

Simultaneous to the issuance of the Council on Foreign Relations report, the Michigan legislature passed a bill that would spread “Emergency Manager” school powers throughout the state in an Education Achievement Authority. The EM is to identify and take over up to 50 state schools, those in the bottom five percentile on test scores. The school workers may be effectively fired, as in Detroit, and, if re-hired, have no collective bargaining rights. New hires would be placed outside the Michigan retirement system.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers, since 1997, did fight back. The members launched both authorized and wildcat strikes–the latter led by radical dissident Steve Conn, a teacher at Detroit’s Cass Tech High School. Conn led the 1999 wildcat, initiating it by shouting, “All in favor of the strike walk over here,” in a mass meeting in Cobo Hall. At least 90% of the members moved.

The DFT members struck again in 2006.  One of the more famous quotes by a teacher: “We asked for nothing and won less.” Time and again, DFT leaders lied about the nature of the contracts put up for ratification, until well after the votes were counted.

In each instance, the members were defeated, in the main, by their own elected leaders. In contract after contract, the DFT leaders, from John Elliot to Keith Johnson, urged concession on concession. Conn, who I believe was robbed of the DFT presidency in a fraudulent vote count in 2011, was “suspended” from membership for months–sidelined. He’s been silent since.

On the management side, a low was reached in 2010 when General School Superintendent Teresa Gueyser complained that Otis Mathis, school board president, “repeatedly fondled himself,” in front of her. Mathis was removed but not before current school board member Reverend (changed his name, not a “reverend”) David Murray complained, “well men do have these urges. He’s a young man. That’s just the way it is.” Murray has had his children removed from his care by Protective Services. And he was re-elected.

From the material angle, Detroit’s Takeover School boards, imposed by a succession of Governors beginning in the mid-nineties with former Wayne State University president David Adamany, did nothing to improve DPS by their own standard: test scores. School reform in the absence of social reform fails: think devastating poverty.

The Takeover leaders did build a dozen new schools in a district losing ten thousand students a year–and completely refurbished others, to the delight of suburban developers.

Now, the new schools sit empty, stripped by “Scrappers,” a respected local profession. When the district put fences around the empty buildings, scrappers took the fences.

In 2012, Arne Duncan, education attack dog for the demagogue Obama, called Detroit, “the worst school system in the country.” It’s a tough competition for the bottom, especially in Michigan, what with Flint, Benton Harbor, and other cities destroyed much like Detroit, but smaller.

When the Michigan right-to-work law banned dues check-off in 2012, DFT’s, Keith Johnson, complained in the union’s newspaper, the “Detroit Teacher,” that 86% of the teachers quit and wouldn’t re-sign.

Only a subsequent judge’s injunction now keeps the DFT financially afloat, a double-edged indicator-the courts want the union to exist since it has so helped heap concession on concession on the work force (10% pay cuts last year, gutted health benefits, etc., and this year, the contract imposed by the Emergency Financial Manager-EFM–even worse).

Interviewed in late 2012, Joel Scott, a former 15 year Cass Tech teacher, said, “Keith and AFT’s boss, Randi Weingarten, killed their own golden goose. What were they thinking? They must have known that even the last contract would kill the union, and now this one did. I think they must believe that the end is coming; they’ll grab whatever they can, keep deceiving people, and run away at the last moment. They’re the flip side of finance capitalists.”

Scott went on, “The real tragedy is for the kids and the rank and file members. Detroit kids will get doubly mis-educated, learn again not to like to learn, and the members are going to lose homes, after all their sacrifices.”

Now in Detroit, Scott says, “It’s a vampire city. All the lights on Warren are off; pitch darkness. [Warren is a major street on the west side]. Nobody is going to send their kids to a failed Detroit school. That will be the end of the system. It’s done.”

Emergency Manager Roberts projects a gloomy DPS future–but brighter than probably reality. He believes there will be 38,488 students by 2015. His predecessor, Robert Bobb, paid $450,000 a year, projected 58,000, but the slide continues while false hope in shape shifter forms is dangled before the kids and parents of the city–perhaps in real hopes of preventing another urban uprising.

The steady loss of students places the school system, like the city, on the edge of bankruptcy.

The ongoing sorting to the suburbs and to charters means that 20% of DPS kids are in special ed, requiring extra finances the system does not have.

In December 2012, the US Department of Education issued a report saying that only 7% of DPS kids in the 8th grade were “proficient in reading.” Only 4% were found proficient in math.

Schools, everyone from the Skillman Foundation to for-profit reporters to me, knew, are the key to the city’s survival. Detroit needed young people with kids, central to recreating the city’s tax system, filling the empty homes to overcome the scary crime rate and to make Detroit truly liveable, as it was, a delight, 40 years ago.

In the nineties, several literacy studies reported that nearly 50% of Detroiters are functionally illiterate. That is not my experience, not at that level, and having lived there half of my adult life, I say it’s a stretch, but I’ll agree the adult educational levels are more than troubling. A recent study concluded that half of Michigan residents read below the 6th grade level. In many cases, four generations of Detroiters never had a job. Unemployment among city youth is well over 50 percent.

Crime grows. Rapes and robberies were up 23% in the first months of 2013. Murders often do not get investigated: statistics are murky. Officially, murders were up about 10% at 379. A top official said, “We have lost respect for life in Detroit.”

Two-thirds of the buildings in the city, public and private, are vacant, the Mayor making unfulfilled promises year after year to bulldoze thousands of them.

Like the schools, Mayor Bing (yes, the suburban basket-baller) wants to divide the city into the Good Area/Bad Area zones. Pockets of the city are still peopled. Bing hopes to force those in areas which are mostly vacated to move into the more densely populated areas. But homes in Detroit are nearly worthless. Who will pay the moving expenses?

Detroit city government itself was taken over by an Emergency Manager on March 25th. The city, like the school system, is broke–in every conceivable way.

Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his father were convicted, in March, of a variety of felony embezzlement charges. The former police chief is in jail. Monica Conyers, wife of Congressman John, was just released. The chief of homicide has been charged with corruption and perjury. City Council President Charles Pugh had his home foreclosed.

The city has not produced a single honest and competent top leader since the death of popular radical lawyer Ken Cockrell Sr., more than twenty years ago: 1989.

Emergency Detroit Manager Orr is a bankruptcy specialist; worked on the auto bankruptcies. Many, probably most, see him using the weapon he plainly declared he held: a bankruptcy that could wipe out contracts, wages, benefits, and pensions, a la the auto bailout which cut auto workers pay by nearly half, with the UAW’s blessing and their cheers for the demagogue, Obama.

One way rulers stay in power is to choose and back the opposition’s leaders. Orr promised to keep City Council members’, and Bing’s, pay at current levels. A hug-fest ensued.

Poverty hustler Jesse Jackson quickly arrived in Detroit while the local preachers mounted a fake resistance. Mysticism, on the rise world wide, will not solve Detroit’s crisis. Proof? The counterfeit Arab Spring.

Other than the courageous fall 2012 Chicago Teachers Union strike, which has profound problems with its cries to “Save Public Schooling,” and “Save Our (sic) Schools” an ideological cul-de-sac which fails to address the whole of the problem, silent about the wars as well, there has been virtually no resistance from the US school worker force, the most unionized people in the US.

Indeed, even after four years of bashing from Democrat Arne Duncan, the personification of George W. Bush’s education program on hyper-speed, more than 95% 9,000 members of the NEA, rank and file teachers, voted to endorse an Obama second term. By the same percentage, they voted not to discuss the bi-partisan wars, an indicator of the power of the empire’s bribe.

What explains the absence of resistance in poor and working communities? Surely, there have been false flags. The Occupy movement, declaring neither leaders nor ideas, occupied nothing significant, was swept away by “hope and change!” and some minimal, if co-ordinated, police violence.

More:

*The initial anti-war marches involved hundreds of thousands of people early in 2002, yet they have vanished, evaporated. Why?

*The massive Mayday Immigrant Rights marches have been repeated, but only under nationalist and religious banners as they to begin to disappear.

*The anti-tuition hike actions, mainly in California but all over the US, were attacked, and seduced—gone.

*Wisconsin and Michigan were farcical electoral moves and both states are right-to-work bastions—where once unionism originated.

*The Arab Spring, posed in the corporate press as a series of revolutions, became the Muslim Brotherhood’s Summer.

Consumerism plays a role. With two-thirds of the US economy based on debt-driven consumption, American society is not likely to produce the solidarity built into industrial work places. Rather, the buyer faces the seller, at odds, each playing to get the better of the other.

Spectacles: the best in the Southwest being the annual Miramar (north San Diego) Air Show’s conclusion: The Wall of Fire. There, 250,000 people, adults holding babies aloft for a good view, witness a massive series of explosions, not merely a wall of fire, but burning napalm. Nobody seems to remember the burning children of Vietnam, echoing Chalmers Johnson’s thought: “Americans know so little history they cannot connect cause and effect.” Johnson predicted, before his death, the Drones would fly at home. Now they do.

Militarism: war means work and now, the military poses its mission as “a job, not an adventure,” as it moves to recruit women for combat because American men are too uneducated, too addicted, too convicted, and too unfit to fill the numbers needed for cannon fodder.

Nationalism. Racism. Sexism. The usual suspects added in do not sum up to a good explanation of the mass hysterical conversion crisis that produces a world of barbarians, top to bottom, Obama to Hillary to Kerry to Afghanistan’s Karzai to Morsi of Egypt to the guardians of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and the lowliest 14-year-old suicide bomber purchased by the Pakistan Taliban, or Al Qaeda, for $4,000.

With many people of the world rejecting Soviet-style socialism, never much more than capitalism with a party at the top promising benevolence in the distant future–which was all of socialism–and either rejecting, or failing to grasp, the West’s twins, capitalist exploitation and imperialist war, the project noted at the outset, connecting reasoned class conscious to unified power for equality and justice, is more urgent than ever, and surely more interesting than the shopping decade of the nineties.

More united than ever by systems of capital–transportation, communications, technology, science, exploration, marketing and more–the world is as divided as ever through nationalism, racism, sexism, mysticism, and the rise of fascism as a popular movement in varying forms–picking sides perhaps for World War III.

Even so, school workers are situated at the centripetal organizing point of North America’s de-industrialized life. They do not have to operate the school-to-war pipeline. Indeed, if they begin to recognize the contradiction between why they think they are there, and why elites want them there, perhaps those educators can rescue education from the ruling classes—then help to expose the false mandate from heaven that offers dishonest and incompetent leaders legitimacy they do not deserve,

At base: it’s vital to grasp the whole of why things are as they are and that it is right to rebel. Justice, however, demands organization. It is that, or barbarism.

Dr Rich Gibson is emeritus professor of Social Studies at San Diego State University. He lived most of his adult life in Detroit, most of that at Ardmore and Seven Mile Road. He worked as a foundry worker, an ambulance driver, a pot and pan washer, a teacher, a social worker, and as a Wayne State University professor in the College of Education. With about ten other people, he helped to found what is now the largest local in the UAW, local 6000, not auto-workers, but state employees. He can be reached at rgibson@pipeline.com

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment