Aletho News


Are we headed for a new solar minimum?

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | June 27, 2016

We can conclude that the evidence provided is sufficient to justify a complete updating and reviewing of present climate models to better consider these detected natural recurrences and lags in solar processes. – Jorge Sánchez-Sesma

In pondering how the climate of the 21st century will play out, solar variability has generally been dismissed as an important factor by the proponents of AGW. However, I think that it is important that scenarios of future solar variability and their potential impacts on climate should be considered in scenarios of future climate change.

I have been cursorily following the literature on this topic. I have recently been in communication with Jorge Sanchez-Sesma. He has new paper that was just accepted for publication in Earth System Dynamics, an interactive open-access journal published by the EGU. I am featuring this paper in a post since it provides important new analysis and insights on this topic, and also provides a useful assessment of the literature and current state of knowledge on this topic.

The significance of this paper is reflected in the EGU metrics link  that indicates that this paper has been downloaded 1531 times so far (before it has been formally published).

This is a remarkable paper in many ways. This paper has a single author — Jorge Sanchez-Sesma, who is a climatologist (not a solar physicist). I have been in contact with Jorge and will be posting an interview with him in several weeks. He has a remarkable story to tell.

This paper indicates that the case is increasingly compelling for millennial-scale variations in solar activity. The arguments for a forthcoming Grand Solar Minimum are also increasingly compelling.

To what extent a Grand Solar Minimum will influence the Earth’s climate remains uncertain. As discussed on a previous blog post IPCC: solar variations don’t matter, the IPCC AR5 Ch 8 stated:

Nevertheless, even if there is such decrease in the solar activity, there is a high confidence that the TSI RF variations will be much smaller in magnitude than the projected increased forcing due to GHG.

The previous post also describes different perspectives on this from Svensmark and a 2013 NRC report (see also Effects of solar variability on climate; 21st century solar cooling.)

Solar indirect effects on climate remain at the knowledge frontier, and are associated with substantial uncertainty and ignorance. This uncertainty and ignorance is not a rationale for ignoring solar effects on the 21st century climate (and 22nd, 23rd centuries). And anyways, is the solar uncertainty (we understand the sign) really so much greater than that associated with the effects of clouds on climate (see my recent post The cloud climate conundrum), where even the sign of the feedback is uncertain and the magnitude of cloud forcing swamps greenhouse gas radiative forcings.

But we are starting to see some ideas emerge as to how these solar effects and processes could be included in climate models. Independently of climate models, the statistical forecast technique used by Sanchez-Sesma provides the basis for creating alternative scenarios of the 21st century climate. I find his arguments about lags to be particularly important as we sort out the solar-climate effects.

Tackling the variability of solar activity and solar indirect effects seems more tractable than the cloud-climate problem and untangling the myriad of scales of ocean oscillations, so I would hope to see much more emphasis put on unraveling the solar-climate connections.

The policy significance of this issue is clear:  if we are headed to a mid-20th century solar minimum, or a Grand Solar Minimum for the next two centuries, this will offset greenhouse warming to some extent. The extent of the offset depends on whether climate sensitivity to CO2 is on the larger or smaller end of the range of estimates, and the magnitude of the solar impact. But the sign of the solar offset is becoming increasingly clear: towards cooling.

Abstract and excerpts from the conclusions

June 27, 2016 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment

Hillary Clinton’s Memoir Deletions, in Detail

By Ming Chun Tang | CEPR Americas Blog | June 26, 2016

As was reported following the assassination of prominent Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres in March, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton erased all references to the 2009 coup in Honduras in the paperback edition of her memoirs, “Hard Choices.” Her three-page account of the coup in the original hardcover edition, where she admitted to having sanctioned it, was one of several lengthy sections cut from the paperback, published in April 2015 shortly after she had launched her presidential campaign.

A short, inconspicuous statement on the copyright page is the only indication that “a limited number of sections” — amounting to roughly 96 pages — had been cut “to accommodate a shorter length for this edition.” Many of the abridgements consist of narrative and description and are largely trivial, but there are a number of sections that were deleted from the original that also deserve attention.



Clinton’s take on Plan Colombia, a U.S. program furnishing (predominantly military) aid to Colombia to combat both the FARC and ELN rebels as well as drug cartels, and introduced under her husband’s administration in 2000, adopts a much more favorable tone in the paperback compared to the original. She begins both versions by praising the initiative as a model for Mexico — a highly controversial claim given the sharp rise in extrajudicial killings and the proliferation of paramilitary death squads in Colombia since the program was launched.

The two versions then diverge considerably. In the original, she explains that the program was expanded by Colombian President Álvaro Uribe “with strong support from the Bush Administration” and acknowledges that “new concerns began to arise about human rights abuses, violence against labor organizers, targeted assassinations, and the atrocities of right-wing paramilitary groups.” Seeming to place the blame for these atrocities on the Uribe and Bush governments, she then claims to have “made the choice to continue America’s bipartisan support for Plan Colombia” regardless during her tenure as secretary of state, albeit with an increased emphasis on “governance, education and development.”

By contrast, the paperback makes no acknowledgment of these abuses or even of the fact that the program was widely expanded in the 2000s. Instead, it simply makes the case that the Obama administration decided to build on President Clinton’s efforts to help Colombia overcome its drug-related violence and the FARC insurgency — apparently leading to “an unprecedented measure of security and prosperity” by the time of her visit to Bogotá in 2010.


The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Also found in the original is a paragraph where Clinton discusses her efforts to encourage other countries in the Americas to join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement during a regional conference in El Salvador in June 2009:

So we worked hard to improve and ratify trade agreements with Colombia and Panama and encouraged Canada and the group of countries that became known as the Pacific Alliance — Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile — all open-market democracies driving toward a more prosperous future to join negotiations with Asian nations on TPP, the trans-Pacific trade agreement.

Clinton praises Latin America for its high rate of economic growth, which she revealingly claims has produced “more than 50 million new middle-class consumers eager to buy U.S. goods and services.” She also admits that the region’s inequality is “still among the worst in the world” with much of its population “locked in persistent poverty” — even while the TPP that she has advocated strongly for threatens to exacerbate the region’s underdevelopment, just as NAFTA caused the Mexican economy to stagnate.

Last October, however, she publicly reversed her stance on the TPP under pressure from fellow Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. Likewise, the entire two-page section on the conference in El Salvador where she expresses her support for the TPP is missing from the paperback.



In her original account of her efforts to prevent Cuba from being admitted to the Organization of American States (OAS) in June 2009, Clinton singles out Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as a potential mediator who could help “broker a compromise” between the U.S. and the left-leaning governments of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua. Her assessment of Lula, removed from the paperback, is mixed:

As Brazil’s economy grew, so did Lula’s assertiveness in foreign policy. He envisioned Brazil becoming a major world power, and his actions led to both constructive cooperation and some frustrations. For example, in 2004 Lula sent troops to lead the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, where they did an excellent job of providing order and security under difficult conditions. On the other hand, he insisted on working with Turkey to cut a side deal with Iran on its nuclear program that did not meet the international community’s requirements.

It is notable that the “difficult conditions” in Haiti that Clinton refers to was a period of perhaps the worst human rights crisis in the hemisphere at the time, following the U.S.-backed coup d’etat against democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Researchers estimate that some 4,000 people were killed for political reasons, and some 35,000 women and girls sexually assaulted. As various human rights investigators, journalists and other eyewitnesses noted at the time, some of the most heinous of these atrocities were carried out by Haiti’s National Police, with U.N. troops often providing support — when they were not engaging them directly. WikiLeaked State Department cables, however, reveal that the State Department saw the U.N. mission as strategically important, in part because it helped to isolate Venezuela from other countries in the region, and because it allowed the U.S. to “manage” Haiti on the cheap.

In contrast to Lula, Clinton heaps praise on Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, who was recently suspended from office pending impeachment proceedings:

Later I would enjoy working with Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s protégée, Chief of Staff, and eventual successor as President. On January 1, 2011, I attended her inauguration on a rainy but festive day in Brasilia. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets as the country’s first woman President drove by in a 1952 Rolls-Royce. She took the oath of office and accepted the traditional green and gold Presidential sash from her mentor, Lula, pledging to continue his work on eradicating poverty and inequality. She also acknowledged the history she was making. “Today, all Brazilian women should feel proud and happy.” Dilma is a formidable leader whom I admire and like.

The paperback version deletes almost all references to Rousseff, mentioning her only once as an alleged target of NSA spying according to Edward Snowden.


The Arab Spring

By far the lengthiest deletion in Clinton’s memoirs consists of a ten-page section discussing the Arab Spring in Jordan, Libya and the Persian Gulf region — amounting to almost half of the chapter. Having detailed her administration’s response to the mass demonstrations that had started in Tunisia before spreading to Egypt, then Jordan, then Bahrain and Libya, Clinton openly recognizes the profound contradictions at the heart of the U.S.’ relationship with its Gulf allies:

The United States had developed deep economic and strategic ties to these wealthy, conservative monarchies, even as we made no secret of our concerns about human rights abuses, especially the treatment of women and minorities, and the export of extremist ideology. Every U.S. administration wrestled with the contradictions of our policy towards the Gulf.

And it was appalling that money from the Gulf continued funding extremist madrassas and propaganda all over the world. At the same time, these governments shared many of our top security concerns.

Thanks to these shared “security concerns,” particularly those surrounding al-Qaeda and Iran, her administration strengthened diplomatic ties and sold vast amounts of military equipment to these countries:

The United States sold large amounts of military equipment to the Gulf states, and stationed the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Qatar, and maintained troops in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, as well as key bases in other countries. When I became Secretary I developed personal relationships with Gulf leaders both individually and as a group through the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Clinton continues to reveal that the U.S.’ common interests with its Gulf allies extended well beyond mere security issues and in fact included the objective of regime change in Libya — which led the Obama administration into a self-inflicted dilemma as it weighed the ramifications of condemning the violent repression of protests in Bahrain with the need to build an international coalition, involving a number of Gulf states, to help remove Libyan leader Muammar Gaddhafi from power:

Our values and conscience demanded that the United States condemn the violence against civilians we were seeing in Bahrain, full stop. After all, that was the very principle at play in Libya. But if we persisted, the carefully constructed international coalition to stop Qaddafi could collapse at the eleventh hour, and we might fail to prevent a much larger abuse — a full-fledged massacre.

Instead of delving into the complexities of the U.S.’ alliances in the Middle East, the entire discussion is simply deleted, replaced by a pensive reflection on prospects for democracy in Egypt, making no reference to the Gulf region at all. Having been uncharacteristically candid in assessing the U.S.’ response to the Arab Spring, Clinton chose to ignore these obvious inconsistencies — electing instead to proclaim the Obama administration as a champion of democracy and human rights across the Arab world.

June 27, 2016 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Canada Oil Sands Output to Grow 1Mln Barrels Per Day by 2025

Sputnik — 27.06.2016

Production from western Canada’s oil sands is expected to increase by 1 million barrels daily in the next decade above the current output of about 2.75 million barrels, as extraction becomes more cost-efficient, the global consulting firm IHS said in a report on Monday.

“IHS anticipates oil sands investors will focus their investments onto the most economic projects: expansions of existing facilities,” the report stated. “IHS expects that over 80 percent of future activity in our outlook will be underpinned by expansions of existing facilities.”

The report noted that the existing facilities are well understood, quicker to first oil and cheaper to construct.

“This all equates to less risk at a lower cost,” the report added.

A press release accompanying the report explained that a price of about $50 is required for oil-sands projects to break even.

Since 2012, the oil-sands region in the Canadian province of Alberta has increased from 1.75 million barrels per day to its present level of about 2.75 million barrels, according to the report.

June 27, 2016 Posted by | Economics | | Leave a comment

Shadows of doom

By Gunnar Westberg | International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War | June 20, 2016

Peter Handberg, a writer and translator, has in the years since the end of the Cold War traveled many times in the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. He has visited many sites where nuclear weapons were kept, ready to destroy the world. Handberg has also spoken to military officers who once watched over these instruments of Armageddon. He has written an important book on the subject, Undergångens skuggor (Shadows of Doom). The book is not translated but a documentary film is planned.

Recently he led a group from Sweden to some of these bases, abandoned since 1987. We were about ten physicians from the Swedish section of IPPNW and ten others, including historians and people with an interest in the Baltic states.

I learned three important facts from the book and on the sites:

  1. The size of the Soviet nuclear complex in these small Baltic states was enormous, with at least 35 bases.
  2. The officers who watched over the missiles were—especially in 1983—convinced that an American attack was coming and they expected to launch their missiles.
  3. There were short distance missiles at some of these bases in the 1960s, but also much later, with a range of not more than 600 km—enough to reach southern Finland and eastern Sweden with a large number of 100-kiloton warheads, each equivalent to about six Hiroshima bombs. The reason “neutral” Sweden was targeted was that a US attack with bombers carrying nuclear weapons was expected to come over Swedish airspace, possibly using Swedish airfields.

Maybe the idea that Sweden would have been used as a platform for an American nuclear attack was correct. Thomas Reed, once the head of the US Air Force, describes such a scenario in his book, At the Abyss. Reed was a US defense analyst who, in the 1980s participated in the selection of enemy targets in the strategic plane called SIOP.

I cannot avoid comparisons with the situation today. My country moves ever closer to NATO and has, through the Host Country Agreement, prepared for NATO bases and for an attack to be carried out by NATO from our territory.

We are making ourselves a target.

June 27, 2016 Posted by | Book Review, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Official: 71 Palestinian prisoners have died of torture in Israeli jails since 1967


MEMO | June 27, 2016

As many as 71 Palestinian prisoners have died in Israeli jails as a result of torture since 1967, Abdel Nasser Farwana, head of the documentation and studies unit at the detainees and ex-detainees committee, said.

In a statement released on Sunday to mark the International Day Against Torture, Farwana said dozens of others died shortly after being released as an effect of the torture they had endured, adding that many more suffer from long-term physical and psychological disabilities.

“Israel practices a unique and atypical form of physical and psychological torture and it is the only country in the world that legalises torture in its jails and detention camps and protects its perpetrators,” he explained.

“Israel uses torture on institutional level against Palestinian and Arab detainees. According to our data, 100 per cent of the Palestinian prisoners were subjected to one form or another of torture,” he added.

Farwana called on international institutions and human rights organisations to take serious and effective steps to stop all forms of torture against Palestinian prisoners and to prosecute those who practice torture against them.

June 27, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

‘US right- and left-wing violence fabricated to manipulate public opinion’


RT | June 27, 2016

Most of the violence occurring between extremist groups in the US is “planned” by FBI informants to “manipulate public opinion” on the upcoming US elections, geopolitical analyst Patrick Henningsen told RT.

“The FBI has infiltrated all major and mid-major activist and movements in the United States over the last 60 years. Every single one whether a right-wing or a left-wing,” Henningsen said, adding that many of the groups have had “FBI informants in the top positions.

“If you look at the history [of] the FBI from the 1950s till the present [they] have infiltrated hundreds of groups – from civil rights groups to… the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)… The FBI has a history of gangs and counter gangs where they infiltrate and [foment] violence on both the right and left and then… arrests will be made and this will be politicized.”

What is more, almost none of the trials in the US that come following the arrests happen without intelligence service involvement, he maintained.

“If you go to any trial… normally half the cases on the prosecution are basically comprised of FBI informants testimonies… including the terrorist cases in the United States,” he said.

The latest violent scuffles in Sacramento, ahead of the Republican National Convention, are no exception and were also organized to “manipulate public opinion” on the US elections, Henningsen believes.

“In terms of groups battling in public it has happened before in the history in the US… The timing of this is no coincidence. We have the Republican National Convention right around the corner and… anti-fascist groups will be there as will the so-called right-wing extremist groups. There will be pitched battles maybe in the streets of Cleveland and all throughout the campaign should Donald Trump become Republican nominee,” he said.

The analyst said it was quite “extraordinary” that police were just “standing around, taking photos not arresting anyone” amidst clear signs of violent threat in Sacramento. Doubting the “authenticity” of the clash, Henningsen was “struck” by the fact that there was no mention of any arrests whatsoever.

“It makes me wonder how authentic this clash was in Sacramento,” he pointed out. On the whole, he said that he did not buy the reports the mainstream media as there is much “more going on behind the scenes.”

According to the analyst, what is actually happening in the US is no more than “a political game” and “drama being played out.”

“I really don’t put a lot of capital in the stories because a lot of this is done for political manipulation,” Henningsen explained saying it is unclear “who is actually pulling the strings” in the extremist groups.

He noted incidents such as the one in Sacramento would only benefit radical groups and “build them up.”

June 27, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | Leave a comment

US Hawks on Syria ‘Don’t Give a Damn’ About Fate of Ordinary People

Sputnik – June 27, 2016

Earlier this month, a group of State Department officials leaked a memo of dissent calling for the use of US military power to help end the bloody conflict in Syria. Offering a commentary, the French online investigative and opinion journal Mediapart suggested that the memo’s authors don’t actually care about the fate of ordinary Syrians.

The memo, signed by 51 diplomats, slammed Russian and ostensible Iranian military support for the Syrian government, and called for a “more muscular military posture under US leadership” willing and able to impose “consequences” on the Assad government for alleged ceasefire violations. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry met with 10 of the memo’s authors for a “collegial discussion,” according to State Department press secretary John Kirby.

Clearly aware that this ‘more muscular military posture’ could lead to disastrous consequences, considering the Russian forces operating on Syrian territory on the side of the Syrian government, the memo’s authors craftily suggested that “we are not advocating for a slippery slope that ends in a military confrontation with Russia. Rather, we are calling for a credible threat of targeted US military responses,” all supposedly in the interest of ‘enforcing the truce’.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry warned Damascus and Moscow that Washington’s “patience was not infinite” with alleged ceasefire violations in Syria, supposedly over Syrian government forces’ attacks on Islamist groups like Ahrar al-Sham, believed to be allied with the al-Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Also this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian media that Washington had explicitly asked the Kremlin not to target even al-Nusra Front, because there were also ‘moderate’ opposition groups in the territories held by the terrorists. It is noteworthy that Nusra, along with Daesh (ISIL) is not a member to the truce signed in February.

Commenting on the story, France’s Mediapart news and opinion journal suggested that while the stated goal of the memo and its call for US air strikes against the Syrian government is “to end a five-year war that has killed over a quarter million people and forced more than half the country’s population to flee,” the real motive is different, and infinitely more ominous.

At his meeting with the memo’s authors last week, Mr. Kerry indicated that the White House already had a policy, and that until further notice, President Obama’s course remains to refuse a direct US military intervention in Syria.

But the reason for the internal dissent, according to Mediapart, stems from the fact that the Kerry State Department’s own policy on Syria has resulted in a blow to US prestige.

“In 2013,” the journal recalled, Kerry “was one of the most bellicose supporters of direct intervention by the US military to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad, after the Obama administration announced its ‘red line’ over the use of chemical weapons. At that time he claimed (and this was later disproven) that Syrian government forces had been responsible for a chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus.”

Since then, Mediapart added, the Obama administration went from balking “at direct military intervention in the face of popular opposition to a new war in the Middle East and due to divisions among the leaders” in the army, the State Department and the CIA, to airstrikes (beginning in 2014) and the sending of several hundred special forces into Syria “under the pretext of fighting the Islamic State.”

Unfortunately for Washington, “these operations did not yield any results, allowing ISIL to invade Iraq and Syria.”

Ultimately, the journal noted, “only the Russian military intervention in Syria, with the support of [Syrian] government forces, would end up dealing a serious blow to ISIL and the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda which Washington continues to protect. In doing so, Vladimir Putin showed that he alone could seriously counter the Islamist militias. [Russia’s] prestige in much of the Middle East was increased at the expense of that of the United States.”

And this, Mediapart suggested, was the real reason behind the memo and its calls for a ‘more assertive military role’ for the US in Syria. “Damascus,” it added, “would be the first target” of Washington’s “judicious use” of air and missile strikes.

Calling out the memo’s ‘humanitarian’ call to “take steps to end death and suffering in Syria,” Mediapart recalled that this hypocritical suggestion was made “as if the bulk of the war in Syria was not caused by Washington” in the first place.

“In fact,” the journal noted, “the authors of the memo are not at all concerned about the fate of the Syrians. They implicitly seek to arrange an intervention that will lead to a military confrontation with Russia. This will become inevitable if US intervention leads to the series of ‘secondary effects’ hypocritically outlined by the memo.”

“Among them would be the inevitable deaths of Russian and Iranian soldiers deployed with Syrian government forces, the probability of the destruction of Russian military aircraft and an escalation of mutual hostilities. After that, as Putin recently warned, a Russian response may follow, which could cause an uncontrollable escalation.”

Ultimately, Mediapart warned, the Syrian crisis is unfolding in the context of escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow, already “at their highest since the Cold War. The ongoing NATO military exercises on Russia’s western border, and the deployment of anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe, designed to prepare for a ‘winnable’ nuclear war against Moscow, signal the growing danger of confrontation between the two major nuclear powers of the world.”

So far, President Obama has rejected the proposals in the dissenting State Department memo. “He does not feel able to arrange a new intervention so close to the November elections.”

However, the journal warned that in the upcoming election, supporters of war will bank on “ultra-militarist” Hillary Clinton to win the White House. As for Donald Trump, “there is no guarantee that he [too] could resist anti-Russian pressure, even if he has so far advocated a resumption of cooperation with Moscow. A false flag ‘incident’ provoked by the CIA which results in the death of US special services agents could force Trump to engage militarily on a large scale against Russia. A nuclear war could result,” Mediapart grimly concludes.

June 27, 2016 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Australian Foreign Policy: An Eerie Silence

By James ONeill – New Eastern Outlook – 27.06.2016

Australia has now completed more than six weeks of an eight-week election campaign. There have been the usual claims and counterclaims from the major parties, dubious statistics, hyperbole, and a relentless focus on peripheral issues at the expense of clarity and insight.

Expenditure promises totaling billions of dollars have been made, with the principal beneficiaries being electorates with very small majorities, and therefore most susceptible to changing allegiance with the vagaries of shifting sentiment for or against the governing party or the main opposition party.

What is completely missing from the election campaign rhetoric or promises however, is any discussion of foreign affairs, defence or refugee policy.

This coyness is not unique to this election. The past several decades have seen major decisions taken without discussion as to their strategic context, the objectives of the policy, any exit strategy when the decision involves foreign wars (invariably at the behest of the Americans). This is currently the case with the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Neither is there any discussion by the major parties as to whether the decisions taken about going to war, or taking steps that may lead to war, are advantageous or prejudicial to the national interest.

Also completely absent from debate is any attempt to understand and respond to a rapidly changing geopolitical context. The Asia-Pacific region is in a major state of realignment, but one would not know that from listening to the political leaders or reading the mainstream media.

The dilemma Australia’s foreign policy faces and which urgently needs addressing was set out by the former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser when he said that Australia’s relationship with the United States had “become a paradox. Our leaders argue we need to keep our alliance with the US strong in order to ensure our defence in the event of an aggressive foe. Yet the most likely reason Australia would need to confront an aggressive foe is our strong alliance with the US It is not a sustainable policy.”

It has become impossible in the Australian context to even contemplate, let alone discuss, a possible foreign policy stance independent of that alliance with the US. This is notwithstanding a series of foreign policy disasters and quagmires that are a direct result of that alliance, including but not limited to Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria.

That another potential disaster was only narrowly avoided has come to light in a lengthy essay by James Brown (Quarterly Essay #62, 2016).

Brown, a former Army Captain who happens to be the son-in-law of the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, recounts how former Prime Minister Tony Abbott sought planning contingencies from the Australian military about the possible deployment of a brigade (about 3000 troops) to Eastern Ukraine in the aftermath of the shooting down of MH17 on 17 July 2014.

The initiative by Abbott was apparently taken without reference to the Cabinet, without debate in Parliament, and certainly without reference to the Australian public.

Abbott was dissuaded from this hare-brained scheme on the advice of the Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and his own military advisers alarmed at the prospect that it could potentially lead to a direct conflict with Russia.

Although rightly critical of the lack of strategic planning in Australian foreign and defence policy, Brown is himself equally a victim of the Anglo-American mindset that bedevils Australian strategic thinking.

He refers for example, to what he says are the “brutal geopolitics” of Russian actions in Ukraine, and a “war for conquest remains a threat.” (at pp39-40).

That such a proposition could be seriously advanced is of deep concern. Brown completely ignores for example, the February 2014 American financed and organized coup d’état that violently overthrew the legitimate Yanukovich government of Ukraine.

Further, he ignores the fascist nature of the present regime in Kiev, its systematic discrimination against the Russian-speaking citizens of Eastern Ukraine, and the Kiev regime’s persistent violation of the Minsk accords. He also fails to note what is an extraordinary lack of judgment by Abbott in joining Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s Council of Advisers.

Brown is on stronger ground when he criticizes the procurement of 12 submarines and 72 F35 fighter aircraft. The submarines, which will not be delivered before 2030, are said to cost $50 billion, not including the additional $5-6 billion for their armaments.

The cost of the F35 fighters has been variously quoted at between $17 and $25 billion dollars.

The wisdom of these purchases, their strategic value if any, and the implications of their potential use in an actual war, is not open for discussion in the present election campaign. Nor are they likely to be properly analysed by whoever wins the 2 July election. Perhaps needless to add, public discussion and media coverage are conspicuous by their absence.

The 2016 Defence White Paper identified China as the most likely potential threat to Australia. Quite how this threat would manifest itself is unclear. China has no history of imperialism or military aggression in the Pacific region. Nothing in its present policy stances or conduct would suggest that is likely to change.

Australia actually fighting a war with China on its own is unthinkable. Any such conflict could only be as part of an American war, which takes one straight back to Fraser’s paradox quoted above.

When one looks at actual US behaviour in relation to China, then there is significant cause for concern that Australia could become embroiled in an American provoked war. The basis for such concern would include, for example, the American’s provocative behaviour in the South China Sea that Australia has publicly supported. Australian navy vessels take part in an annual exercise, Operation Talisman Sabre that practices blocking the vital Malacca Straits essential to Chinese trade.

Other developments, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, specifically exclude China, and are designed to assert American commercial interests at the expense of the national sovereignty of the non-American participants to the TPP.

America’s strategic policy, as set out in the 2002 Defence Department document Vision 2020 is based upon the assumption that America should exercise “full spectrum dominance” over the entire world, including for present purposes the Asia-Pacific region.

To this should be added the progressive increase in American military bases in the Asia-Pacific region, with nuclear weapon capability, and an American provoked war with China is far from unthinkable. There is of course historical precedent for current US policy, and that was the encirclement and economic warfare waged on Japan in the late 1930s early 1940s specifically designed to provoke a Japanese attack upon the US. That is exactly what happened.

American policy in the Asia-Pacific region is replicated in Europe, where it is pursuing equally provocative and dangerous policies on the Russian borders.

If Australia did become involved in a shooting war with China, as its current military and strategic posture would almost certainly guarantee, it is very difficult to see what role the hugely expensive submarines and F35 fighters would play.

That they would play any role at all would seem to depend on a number of assumptions. The war would have to start after 2030, as that is the earliest possible date for the delivery of the submarines.

It further assumes that the F35 fighter might actually fly in a combat effective manner. Neither assumption seems to have an evidential foundation.

Any Australian involvement in a war with China also appears to seriously underestimate the effectiveness of modern Chinese weaponry. Their supersonic cruise missile for example, would quickly eliminate the aircraft carrier based system the US Navy is built around.

Similarly, a single Dong Feng 41 supersonic ICBM missile would destroy the two crucial American military installations at Pine Gap and North West Cape that are a vital component of military communications and targeting. The Dong Feng 41 has 8-10 independently targetable nuclear warheads that would eliminate Australia’s major cities in addition to the specifically military targets noted.

Australia’s involvement in such a war would therefore last at most about 30 minutes, with huge casualties and its major cities smoking ruins. That is the very real risk Australia runs with its present alliance with the US. It is something that deserves proper debate, and this election, with both major parties complicit, is not providing such a debate.

The refusal to contemplate and discuss these military and geopolitical realities has a number of possible bases. An unspoken but potent spectre over Australian politics is the fate of the 1975 Whitlam Labor government. Whitlam had made clear his intention to close the Pine Gap spy installation, which while located in Australian territory was and is completely American controlled.

The evidence is now overwhelming that Whitlam was removed in a CIA orchestrated coup (Rundle 2015). After Whitlam was re-elected in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as the US ambassador. Green was known in American circles as the “coupmaster.” He had been instrumental in the coup against the Sukarno government in Indonesia in 1965 and Allende in Chile in 1973. His presence in Canberra in 1975 was not a coincidence.

It is doubtful if such an extreme step would be necessary in the foreseeable future. Both main political parties go to extraordinary lengths to remain on side with whoever occupies the White House.

This goes well beyond participating in the aforementioned wars of choice. It includes Australia’s voting record in the United Nations where it is a regular supporter of the Israeli regime, contrary to the overwhelming weight of opinion expressed in that body. Israel’s constant breaches of international law are never criticized by either the Australian government or the Opposition.

None of this is the subject of informed discussion and debate. It is not an overstatement to suggest a conspiracy of silence by the major parties to avoid asking what should be the obvious questions.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to point to any actual material benefit to Australia that flows from this ritual obeisance to American wishes. The illusion of security that it fosters, is as Fraser pointed out, a paradox and unsustainable as a policy.

The likelihood of a disastrous outcome for Australia from the American alliance is many times greater than any assumed benefit. The inconsistency of present foreign and defence policy with Australia’s national interests should be a matter of debate. It is not.

The geopolitical centre of the world is re-establishing itself in Eurasia, just as Halford Mackinder predicted more than a century ago. Russia and China, and other members of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are forging a new military, economic, financial and political framework. These changes are undermining the unipolar American centred world that has dominated for the past 70 years.

The question for Australia is whether it recognises the geopolitical realities dictated by its geography, its trade, and the wishes of its people for peace and stability ahead of the destruction being wrought by its traditional ally.

These are questions that need to be addressed. The major political parties and the media are failing in their obligations by refusing to discuss these issues. Their resolution is vital to the peace and prosperity of this nation.

Wilful blindness, strategic incoherence, and a misalignment of national interests are not a sound policy basis.

June 27, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Too many heads stuck in the sand on Brexit

By Jonathon Cook | June 27, 2016

There are some heads stuck deeply in the sand at the moment. Typical were the dismissive responses to my piece Brexit and the diseased liberal mind. I had focused on one exceptional piece by one Guardian writer, it was claimed.

I chose Zoe Williams’ article because it is fully representative of liberal reaction to Brexit in the British media. I could have cited hundreds of other examples – not least just about everything currently appearing on the BBC.

But Williams and the rest of the media are not making these arguments in a vacuum. After all, much of the Labour shadow cabinet has just resigned and the rest of the parliamentary party are trying to defy the overwhelming democratic will of their membership and oust leader Jeremy Corbyn. His crime is not that he supported Brexit (he didn’t dare, given the inevitable reaction of his MPs) but that he is not a true believer in the current neoliberal order, which very much includes the EU.

Here is what one of the organisers (probably a shadow cabinet minister) of this coup-in-the-making says:

The plan is to make Corbyn’s job as leader extremely difficult in the hope of pushing him to resign, with most MPs refusing to serve as shadow ministers, show up on the frontbench in the House of Commons, support him at PMQs or formulate policy under his leadership.

This was presumably said with a straight face, as though Corbyn has not been undermined by these same Blairite MPs since day one of his leadership. This is not a new campaign – it has simply been forced to go more public by the Brexit vote.

Labour MPs do not just want to oust a leader with massive support among party members. They have hamstrung him from the outset so that he could not lead the political revolution members elected him to begin. And now he is being made to pay the price because he privately backs a position that, as the referendum has just shown, has majority support.

This is where we on the progressive left are, and the Brexit vote is a huge challenge to us to face facts. We want to believe we are free but the truth is that we have long been in a prison called neoliberalism. The Conservative and Labour parties are tied umbilically to this neoliberal order. The EU is one key institution in a transnational neoliberal club. Our economy is structured to enforce neoliberalism whoever ostensibly runs the country.

That is why the debate about Brexit was never about values or principles – it was about money. It still is. The Remainers are talking only about the threat to their pensions. The Brexiters are talking only about the role of immigrants in driving down wages. And there is good reason: because the EU is part of the walls of the economic prison that has been constructed all around us. Our lives are now only about money, as the gargantuan bail-outs of the too-big-to-fail banks should have shown us.

There is a key difference between the two sides. Most Remainers want to pretend that the prison does not exist because they still get privileges to visit the living areas. The Brexiters cannot forget it exists because they are never allowed to leave their small cells.

The left cannot call itself a left and keep whingeing about its lost privileges while denouncing those trapped inside their cells as “racists”. Change requires that we first recognise our situation – and then have the will to struggle for something better.

June 27, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment