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US Arms Makers Invest in a New Cold War

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | September 1, 2016

The U.S. military has won only a single major war since the end of World War II (the Gulf War of 1990-91). But U.S. military contractors continue to win major budget wars in Congress nearly every year, proving that no force on earth can resist their lobbying prowess and political clout.

Consider the steady march to victory of the biggest single weapons program in history — the planned purchase of advanced Lockheed-Martin F-35 jets by the Air Force, Navy, and Marines at a total projected cost of more than $1 trillion.

The Air Force and Marines have both declared the Joint Strike Fighter ready for combat, and Congress is now forking over billions of dollars a year to acquire what is slated to become a fleet of 2,400 jets.

Yet the world’s most expensive fighter bomber still doesn’t work properly and may never perform as advertised. That’s not “dezinformatsiya” from Russian “information warfare” specialists. That’s the official opinion of the Pentagon’s top weapons evaluator, Michael Gilmore.

In an Aug, 9 memo obtained by Bloomberg News, Gilmore warned senior Pentagon officials that the F-35 program “is actually not on a path toward success but instead on a path toward failing to deliver” the aircraft’s promised capabilities. He said the program “is running out of time and money to complete the planned flight testing and implement the required fixes and modifications.”

The military testing czar reported that complex software problems and testing deficiencies “continue to be discovered at a substantial rate.” As a result, the planes may fail to track moving targets on the ground, warn pilots when enemy radar systems spot them, or make use of a newly designed bomb. Even the F-35’s gun may not function properly.

Devastating Assessments

The internal Pentagon assessment was just the latest in a long list of devastating critical assessments and development setbacks for the plane. They include repeated groundings of the plane due to fires and other safety issues; the discovery of dangerous engine instability; and helmets that can cause fatal whiplash. The plane even got soundly beaten in a mock engagement with a much older (and cheaper) F-16.

Last year, an article in the conservative National Review argued that “the biggest threat the U.S. military faces over the next few decades is not the carrier-killing Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile, or the proliferation of inexpensive quiet diesel-electric attack subs, or even Chinese and Russian anti-satellite programs. The biggest threat comes from the F-35 . . . For this trillion-dollar-plus investment we get a plane far slower than a 1970s F-14 Tomcat, a plane with less than half the range of a 40-year-old A-6 Intruder . . . and a plane that had its head handed to it by an F-16 during a recent dogfight competition.”

Likening the F-35 to a previous failed fighter jet program, retired Air Force Colonel Dan Ward observed last year, “Perhaps the truly best scenario for the Joint Strike Fighter is for it to follow in the footsteps of the F-22 and provide a combat capability that is irrelevant to actual military needs. That way, when the whole fleet gets grounded because of an unsolvable flaw, the impact on our defense posture would be nil.”

Lockheed’s “Pay-to-Play Ad Agency”

Coming to the program’s defense most recently was military analyst Dan Goure, in the blog of the respected magazine, The National Interest. Goure belittled critics in the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office as “green eyeshade people, like the goblins at Gringott’s in the Harry Potter series.”Unknown

Describing the F-35 as “a revolutionary platform,” he declared, “Its ability to operate undetected in hostile airspace, gathering information and even targeting data on enemy air and ground targets, before launching surprise attacks demonstrates a decisive advantage over existing threat systems. . . . The Joint Strike Fighter test program is making progress at an accelerated rate. More to the point, even before it has completed the rigid performance template laid out by DOT&E, the F-35 has demonstrated capabilities that far exceed any current Western fighter.”

If that reads a bit like a Lockheed-Martin marketing brochure, consider the source. In his article, Goure identified himself only as a vice president of the Lexington Institute, which bills itself as “a nonprofit public-policy research organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.”

What Goure didn’t say — and the Lexington Institute doesn’t generally disclose — is that “it receives contributions from defense giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and others, which pay Lexington to ‘comment on defense,’” according to a 2010 profile in Politico.

Earlier the same year, Harper’s contributor Ken Silverstein called the widely quoted think tank “the defense industry’s pay-to-play ad agency.” He added, “Outfits like Lexington produce the press conferences, position papers and op-eds that keep military money flowing to defense contractors.”

Goure’s indirect association with Lockheed gives a hint as to why programs like the F-35 continue to thrive despite performance failures, gigantic cost overruns, and schedule delays that would otherwise trigger headline-grabbing congressional investigations and produce streams of indignant rhetoric from Fox News commentators about government failure.

Promoting the New Cold War

Think tanks like the Lexington Institute are prime movers behind the domestic propaganda campaign to revive the Cold War against the diminished Russian state and justify weapons programs like the F-35.

As Lee Fang observed recently in The Intercept, “The escalating anti-Russian rhetoric in the U.S. presidential campaign comes in the midst of a major push by military contractors to position Moscow as a potent enemy that must be countered with a drastic increase in military spending by NATO countries.”

Thus the Lockheed-funded Aerospace Industries Association warns that the Obama administration is failing to spend enough on “aircraft, ship and ground combat systems” to adequately address “Russian aggression on NATO’s doorstep.” The Lockheed- and Pentagon-funded Center for European Policy Analysis issues a stream of alarmist reports about Russian military threats to Eastern Europe.

And the highly influential Atlantic Council — funded by Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, the U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines, and even the Ukrainian World Congress — promotes articles like “Why Peace is Impossible with Putin” and declares that NATO must “commit to greater military spending” to deal with “a revanchist Russia.”

Origins of NATO’s Expansion

The campaign to portray Russia as a menace, led by contractor-funded pundits and analysts, began soon after the Cold War ended. In 1996, Lockheed executive Bruce Jackson founded the U.S. Committee on NATO, whose motto was “Strengthen America, Secure Europe. Defend Values. Expand NATO.”

Its mission ran directly contrary to promises by the George H.W. Bush administration not to expand the Western military alliance eastward after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Joining Jackson were such neo-conservative hawks as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Robert Kagan. One neocon insider called Jackson — who went on to co-found the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq — “the nexus between the defense industry and the neoconservatives. He translates us to them, and them to us.”

The organization’s intense and highly successful lobbying efforts did not go unnoticed. In 1998, the New York Times reported that “American arms manufacturers, who stand to gain billions of dollars in sales of weapons, communication systems and other military equipment if the Senate approves NATO expansion, have made enormous investments in lobbyists and campaign contributions to promote their cause in Washington. . . .

“The four dozen companies whose main business is arms have showered candidates with $32.3 million since the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe at the beginning of the decade. By comparison, the tobacco lobby spent $26.9 million in that same period, 1991 to 1997.”

A spokesman for Lockheed said, ”We’ve taken the long-term approach to NATO expansion, establishing alliances. When the day arrives and those countries are in a position to buy combat aircraft, we certainly intend on being a competitor.”

The lobbying worked. In 1999, against Russian opposition, NATO absorbed the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. In 2004, it added Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Albania and Croatia joined next in 2009. Most provocatively, in 2008 NATO invited Ukraine to join the Western alliance, setting the stage for the dangerous conflict between NATO and Russia over that country today.

The fortunes of American arms makers soared. “By 2014, the twelve new [NATO] members had purchased close to $17 billion worth of American weapons,” according to Andrew Cockburn, “while . . . Romania celebrated the arrival of Eastern Europe’s first $134 million Lockheed Martin Aegis Ashore missile-defense system.”

Last fall, Washington Business Journal reported that “if anyone is benefitting from the unease between Russia and the rest of the world, it would have to be Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT). The company is positioned to make large profits off what could very well be an international military spending spree by Russia’s neighbors.”

Citing a big contract to sell missiles to Poland, the newspaper added, “Officials from Lockheed aren’t explicitly declaring that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adventurism in Ukraine is good for business, but they aren’t shying away from recognizing the opportunity that Poland is presenting them as Warsaw continues to embark on a massive military modernization project — one that has accelerated as tensions grip Eastern Europe.”

Lockheed’s Lobby Machine

Lockheed continues to pump money into the American political system to ensure that it remains the nation’s largest military contractor. From 2008 to 2015, its lobbying expenditures exceeded $13 million in all but one year. The company sprinkled business from the F-35 program into 46 states and claims that it generates tens of thousands of jobs.

Among the 18 states enjoying a claimed economic impact of more than $100 million from the fighter jet is Vermont — which is why the F-35 gets the support even of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

As he told one town hall meeting, “It employs hundreds of people. It provides a college education for hundreds of people. So for me the question is not whether we have the F-35 or not. It is here. The question for me is whether it is located in Burlington, Vermont or whether it is located in Florida.”

In 1961, President Eisenhower observed that the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry” had begun to influence “every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government.”

In his famous farewell address to the nation, Eisenhower warned that “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

How right he was. But not even Ike could have imagined the extravagant costs to the nation of failing to hold that complex at bay — ranging from a trillion-dollar fighter jet program to the needless and far more dangerous resurrection of the Cold War a quarter century after the West achieved victory.

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012). Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews were “Risky Blowback from Russian Sanctions”; “Neocons Want Regime Change in Iran”; “Saudi Cash Wins France’s Favor”; “The Saudis’ Hurt Feelings”; “Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Bluster”; “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess”; and “Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.” ]

September 1, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

UN report on use of chemical arms in Syria erroneous: Ja’afari

Press TV – September 1, 2016

Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations has dismissed as flawed the findings of a UN-mandated investigation blaming Syrian forces for the use of chemical weapons, saying the report is based on “false testimonies.”

In an interview with Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen TV, Bashar al-Ja’afari said the allegations against Syrian soldiers have been “fabricated” to put pressure on the government in Damascus.

He said the UN Security Council and the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have yet to publish their final findings on the use of banned arms in Syria, adding that Damascus would present its own observations and notes to the world body before the joint report is out.

Last week, a report carried out by the Joint Investigative Mechanism of the UN and the OPCW claimed that Syrian forces had used chlorine in two separate attacks against militants fighting the Syrian government in 2014 and 2015.

The investigation was launched based on the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2235, which called for determining which party used chemical arms in Syria.

Syria rejected the allegations, with Ja’afari saying on Tuesday that the conclusions of the report “lack any physical evidence, whether by samples or attested medical reports that chlorine was used.”

The Syrian diplomat also said the report was “totally based on witnesses presented by terrorist armed groups.”

Russia, which has been backing the Syrian government in its war against the terrorists, also cast doubt on the report.

Moscow’s Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said he had “very serious questions” over the investigation’s findings and suggested the panel should gather more information.

“There are a number of questions which have to be clarified before we accept all the findings of the report,” Churkin said, while slamming calls on the UNSC by France and the United Kingdom for imposing sanctions on the perpetrators of the alleged chemical attacks.

“There is nobody to sanction in the report… It contains no names, no specifics, no fingerprints,” said the Russian diplomat, adding, “Clearly there is a smoking gun. We know that chlorine was most likely used, but there are no fingerprints on the gun.”

Syria was once accused of using chemicals against civilians and militants in an attack outside Damascus nearly four years ago.

The Damascus government rejected the allegations, but accepted to hand over its stockpiles of chemical weapons to the OPCW-UN joint mission in 2013 when it signed the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention under a deal brokered by Russia and the US.

September 1, 2016 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , | Leave a comment

Mumia Abu-Jamal denied life-saving hepatitis C treatment

RT | September 1, 2016

The world’s most famous prisoner, former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, has been denied vital treatment for hepatitis C by a federal judge.

The journalist was sentenced to death for killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981, but the sentence was overturned on constitutional grounds five years ago.

However, this new ruling could become a new death sentence if he does not survive the disease naturally.

After decades in prison, Abu-Jamal’s health has deteriorated – and after he was hospitalized in critical condition last year, he filed a lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania for the right to get anti-viral medication, the Guardian reports.

Despite having a 90 to 95 percent success rate, officials told Abu-Jamal he was not ill enough to be eligible for the 12-week treatment.

District court judge Robert Mariani on Wednesday claimed the lawsuit was wrongly aimed at the warden and the prison system’s medical chief, but should have been targeted towards four members of Pennsylvania’s hepatitis C committee instead.

His lawyers, however, said such a committee did not exist when the lawsuit was filed.

Mariani implied that Abu-Jamal was a “lower priority” health case despite his serious condition by using the testimony of one member of the committee, Dr Paul Noel, who was later added as a defendant to the case.

Judge Mariani cited Noel’s testimony to validate the state’s argument that procedures are designed “to identify those with the most serious liver disease and to treat them first, and then… move down the list to the lower priorities.”

Noel also said that prisoners with esophageal varices, or enlarged veins in their throats that started to bleed, would then “move onto immediate treatment,” but if they did not have varices, “they can wait.”

A lawyer on behalf of the state’s prison system also said “there simply is not enough money to treat every individual” with chronic hepatitis C and treating all prisoners with the disease “would cost approximately $600 million” which would “effectively cripple the department.”

But, while Abu-Jamal’s request for treatment was denied, the judge still found that the hepatitis C protocol used for prisoners fails to meet constitutional standards.

Evidence provided to the court revealed that Pennsylvania treats a mere handful of 6,000 prisoners who have hepatitis C.

The conditions of the prison infirmaries have been condemned by supporters of Abu-Jamal, such as Noelle Hanrahan, who said inmates were “dying in isolation, often chained to their beds,” the Guardian reports.

Up to 3.9 million people in the US have chronic hepatitis C and if the disease remains untreated, it can result in death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In response to the outcome, Abu-Jamal’s lawyers said they were “frustrated” he won’t get the treatment he needs.

Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned the treatment of Abu-Jamal during his time in prison – as well as his original trial which it deems “unfair.”

The human rights group has called his case “contradictory” and “incomplete,” expressing concern over the role the government played in a counterintelligence program called COINTELPRO that appeared to have Abu-Jamal among its targets.

COINTELPRO targeted many political activists including Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X.

Fred Hampton, a spokesperson for the Black Panther Party, was assassinated by members of the Chicago Police Department during a COINTELPRO operation in 1969. Relatives of Hampton then sued the government and received a settlement of $1.85 million 12 years later.

Abu-Jamal’s case is said to be one of the most debated in modern legal history.

September 1, 2016 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Historic: Peru Jails 10 Military Men for Brutal State Massacre

Claudia Pomacongo holds a card detailing the case of her husband, who was murdered in the Accomarca massacre.

Claudia Pomacongo holds a card detailing the case of her husband, who was murdered in the Accomarca massacre. | Photo: AFP
teleSUR – September 1, 2016

Among the military officials sentenced for the 1985 rape massacre of civilians was the Peruvian general nicknamed the “Butcher of the Andes.”

A Peruvian court Thursday sentenced 10 former military officials and soldiers to between 10 and 25 years in prison for the 1985 massacre of 69 civilians, mostly women and children, in the town of Accomarca, in one of the most iconic cases from the South American country’s so-called “war on terror.”

Three high-ranking military men, then-Lieutenants Telmo Hurtado and Juan Rivera Rondon and then-general Wilfredo Mori, were sentenced to 23, 24, and 25 years in jail as the masterminds behind the massacre. Judges singled out Hurtado — infamously known as the “Butcher of the Andes” — and Rivera Rondon as those principally responsible for carrying out the violence as the leaders of the patrols, while Mori was held responsible by giving the orders as the highest in the chain of the command.

Two other accused received 25 years in jail each, and another five were sentenced to 10 years each, all for carrying out the violent tragedy. Six were acquitted, including then-general Jose Williams Zapata. Sentences were not handed down for 11 others accused in the case, because one died before the trial was completed and 10 others are fugitives.

People gathered outside the National Criminal Court in Lima to await the results of the sentencing trial, which was delayed more than eight hours. Families of the victims and other Accomarca community members prepared food to share with those waiting to hear the announcement outside the court.

The outcome of the six-year-old case establishes a precedent for prosecuting similar crimes against humanity at the hands of the state in the guise of cracking down on left-wing insurgency in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Accomarca massacre trial is also groundbreaking because it is the only such case in Peru—aside from prosecutions of members of the military death squad known as Grupo Colina—that brings charges against the military’s entire chain of high command, according to local media.

On Aug. 14, 1985, at the height of the government’s conflict with the notorious Shining Path rebel army, the Peruvian military massacred at least 69 unarmed victims—30 children, 27 women, and 12 men—in Accomarca, located in Peru’s southern department of Ayacucho. Troops raped the women, then herded all the men, women, and children into houses before launching hand grenades at them. They finally burned the houses to kill every last victim.

The National Human Rights Coordinator and the Washington Office on Latin American had stressed in a joint statement leading up the the hearing the importance of the trial and the “need for a sentence that imparts real justice for one of the most heinous crimes and reminders of the internal armed conflict” in Peru from 1980 to 2000.

“Peruvian justice has an enormous debt with the victims in the Accomarca case,” said Jorge Bracamonte, executive secretary of Peru’s National Human Rights Coordinator, in a statement, stressing that the massacre has gone unpunished for too long. “We not only hope for an exemplary sentence, but we also hope that the court will order the collective return of the bodies of the Accomarca victims so that the families can bury their dead and close their grief.”

Human rights organizations have called for comprehensive reparations for victims as part of the process of seeking justice for acts of state terror.

“Justice not only seeks the punishment of those responsible, it also seeks to dignify the victims who, for so many years, have been sidelined and forgotten,” said WOLA’s Jo-Marie Burt in a statement.

In the sentencing hearing, judges also ordered reparations of US$44,000 be paid to the family of each of the victims of Accomarca.

The massacre took place under the state guise of Peru’s counterinsurgency strategy aimed at wiping out left-wing armed groups that challenged the state. But the Peruvian army killed scores of unarmed rural civilians accused of collaborating with guerrilla groups as part of the bloody conflict that claimed a total of 70,000 lives from 1980 to 2000.

Human rights groups have pointed to the Accomarca case as representative of the reign of state terror inflicted on poor and Indigenous communities.

“It has been shown that the Accomarca massacre was not an excess of the counterinsurgency fight nor an overreaction of soldiers overwhelmed by war,” said Burt, “but the result of a state policy of combating subversion using indiscriminate violence against the civilian population.”

September 1, 2016 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Rousseff’s impeachment – sad day for Brazil & democracy’

RT | September 1, 2016

Was the impeachment process against Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff justified? Is interim President Michel Temer credible? How will the people of Brazil react and are we likely to see protests escalating?

Suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was impeached on Wednesday, after the final vote in Senate. She was ruled to have mishandled Brazil’s budget, and misrepresented the state of the economy prior to her reelection in 2014.

Michel Temer, former Vice President under Rousseff, became acting president of Brazil in May after the start of the impeachment of Rousseff.

Watchdog groups say about 60 percent of the country’s lawmakers, as well as interim President Temer, who may potentially form a new government, have been accused of corruption and fraud.

Maria Mendonca, professor at the University of Rio de Janeiro called the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff “very sad for Brazil” and “a very sad day for democracy”. The result of the 2014 elections, when Dilma was reelected, “was not respected.”

“It is a process that reminds us of the military coup in 1964. That was not a real trial, because most Senators already had a position – they made up their minds even before the whole trial started. There was no legal basis for the impeachment. The public prosecutor already had cleared Dilma of all charges in terms of the mechanisms of basically issuing debt to pay for social programs, which is a regular mechanism in Brazil and also in other countries,” she told RT.

In her opinion, the impeachment was “a way for unpopular corrupt politicians to take power without going through an electoral process.”

According to Mendonca, it is now difficult to predict how the situation is going to develop and whether protests by Rousseff’s supporters – that have been going on for days now – may escalate.

“I think we’re going to stay in a situation of limbo for a while, of uncertainty, because the main rules of democracy were broken,” she said.

She added though that “the media in Brazil can manipulate public opinion,” and has been doing so since the beginning of the impeachment process.

“But once people realize that we’re going to have more instability: cuts in social programs, in health care, education, and we’re going to have more serious economic crisis, then people will realize that this was a manipulative process to get rid of a president that was democratically elected; and to implement austerity measures that would make the situation even more unstable politically and economically,” Mendonca said.

Good for Brazil in longer term

David Riedel, economic analyst from Riedel Research Group argues that Rousseff’s impeachment “is a good move” for Brazil as in the longer term it would benefit from a more “business friendly government.”

Dilma Rousseff has run “a very populist regime; she’s been giving a lot of support to social programs and other things,” he told RT. “I think you’ll probably see some social unrest, as those goodies and those free benefits start to be taken away from the population. But it’s a good move for Brazil in the medium and longer term. They needed to take this step. They were successful with the Olympics, which were great, and now they need to be successful in this transition of power to, I would argue, a more business friendly government, which is going to be very good for investors.”

If Michel Temer – who is running the country at the moment and is likely to become the next Brazilian President – “takes advantage of this populist, very expensive spending that the Rousseff and [Luiz Inacio] Lula [da Silva], before her, administrations had under way – that can protect the currency; it can help improve the investment environment,” Riedel said.

“International investors want Brazil to be a success – so they will give them the benefit without doubt if they see things headed in the right direction. So if they are business friendly and investor friendly and cut back on the profligate spending that has been such an issue across Latin America, I think that investors would give them a second look,” the analyst said.

Absolutely no justification

An independent investigation found there were no grounds for launching action.

Political scientist Daniel Shaw from the City University of New York says there’s “absolutely no justification” for the impeachment “from the prospective of millions of Brazilians who voted for Dilma Rousseff and now see the democratically elected president unconstitutionally removed from power.”

But in the minds of the Brazilian rich, the bourgeoisie –“they feel like they don’t need justification to continue to push things in a rightward direction and to continue to exploit the majority of Brazilians,” he said.

WikiLeaks has revealed that Brazil’s new interim president, Temer, was an embassy informant for US intelligence.

Some also suggest that the US could have orchestrated the “coup” against Rousseff.

Commenting, Shaw said: “If we look critically at the history of US foreign policy and how they’d been involved in supporting dictatorships from Pinochet to Somoza across Latin America, when all of the FOI requests are complete in 10-15 years, there’s no question there’ll come out the role that the US State Department played.”

“They are against the leftward trend that’s been going on since 1999 with Venezuela at the helm and, of course Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador. This is a blow, an attack not just on the Brazilian people but on the entire progressive current that was sweeping across Latin America,” he added.

September 1, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | Leave a comment

Behind the Bolivia Miner Cooperatives’ Protests and the killing of the Bolivian Vice-Minister

By Stansfield Smith | Dissident Voice | August 31, 2016

The Bolivian cooperatives’ protests and their August 25 killing of the Bolivian Vice Minister of the Interior Rodolfo Illanes requires us to question our assumptions about cooperatives. What are the Bolivian mining cooperatives? Most began during the Great Depression as miners banded together to work a mine in common. However, like many cooperatives in the US that arose out of the 1960s, they have turned into small businesses. Regardless of their initial intentions, cooperatives existing in a surrounding capitalist environment must compete in business practices or go under.

The Bolivian mining cooperatives themselves underwent this process, and have become businesses whose owners hire labor. Roughly 95% of the cooperative miners are workers, and 5% are owners.  It is common for the employed workers to be temps, or contracted out employees as we refer to them here. They have no social security, no job security, no health or retirement benefits.

The mining cooperatives made ten demands on the government, and during the second week of August, they announced an indefinite strike if the government did not meet their demands, later adding another 14 to the first 10.

The three most significant demands included rejection of the General Law of Cooperative Mines, which guaranteed cooperative employees the right to unionize, since they are not cooperative co-owners. The cooperatives owners did not want their workers represented by unions.

Reuters, and the corporate press, true to form, falsely claimed the opposite, that the cooperative miners were protesting against the government and demanded their right to form unions.

A second demand was loosening of environmental regulations for the mining cooperatives.

The third key demand was to revoke the law disallowing national or transnational businesses from partnering in cooperatives. At present cooperatives have 31 contracts with private businesses, most signed before the Evo Morales era.

The cooperatives want the right to form partnerships with multi-nationals and exploit the natural resources without the laws protecting the environment. Opening the cooperatives to such privatization ran counter to what was voted on in the Constitution: “The natural resources are the property of the Bolivian people and will be administered by the State.”

The Evo Morales government nationalized Bolivia’s natural resources in 2006.  Because of this the government share of the profits with corporations from the sale of gas and other natural resources has risen from around 15% to 85%. Previously under neoliberal governments, about 85% of the profits went to corporations. As a result, the Bolivian state has gained an extra $31.5 billion through 2015, which it has used to develop industry, infrastructure, schools, health care and hospitals to the mostly Original Peoples population. It has also provided many subsidies for the poor, benefiting 4.8 million Bolivians out of a population of just over 10 million. This has cut in half the number of Bolivians living in extreme poverty.

During the August cooperatives’ protests, the Evo Morales government had repeatedly stated it was open to dialogue, but pointed out it cannot violate the Constitution when faced with the demands of the cooperatives, which are thinking only of their personal profits.

Vice Minister Illanes went to meet with the miner cooperatives’ leaders of the FENCOMIN, Federacion de Cooperativas Mineras. He was tortured and killed and so far 9 have been charged, including the President of FENCOMIN, who was a leader in the violent protests.

Before this, Bolivian TV broadcast news of rioting miners charging at police, hurling stones and even sticks of dynamite. The police responded with tear gas to disperse the protesters. A number of police were injured during the protests. On August 24, two miners were shot at close range during the road blockades. If the police were responsible, it contravened the order of President Morales not only not to shoot, but to not bring firearms in the area of the road blockades.

Vice Minister of Coordination with Social Movements, Alfredo Rada, said after the murder that the issue of the mine cooperatives should be part of a national debate. He pointed out the cooperative workers are exploited by the owners, who have created a hierarchy inside the organizations for their private benefit. Rada added, “We respect true cooperativism, where all are equal, but these companies have been converted into semi-formal capitalist businesses.”

After the murder of Vice-Minister Illanes, Evo declared, “Once again, the national government has squashed an attempted coup.” He added that the miners had planned to entrench themselves at the roadblocks they had established and that documents confiscated from the offices of the cooperative miners mention “overthrowing the government.” He stated that some of the private business and cooperatives’ owners had deceived their workers.

The US has sought to undermine Evo Morales, going back to his first presidential election campaign. Bolivia’s Cabinet Chief Juan Ramon Quintana stated over the past eight years the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has funded around 40 institutions in Bolivia including economic and social centers, foundations and non-governmental organizations, at a total amount of over $10 million.  US soft coup efforts reached their heights during the separatist movement by the rich white elite in the Media Luna, and during the TIPNIS protests in 2011.

In the fall of 2015 the US developed the Strategic Plan for Bolivia to reverse the progressive popular changes in Bolivia and restore neoliberal-neocolonial rule. This was written by Carlos Alberto Montaner, a counter-revolutionary Cuban exile, US Congresspeople such as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, in charge of USAID for Latin America, and chief leaders of the Bolivian opposition. One early result was the defeat of the Bolivian referendum to allow Evo Morales to run for president for a third term.

Venezuelan President Maduro has pointed out that the Dilma coup and the killing of the Bolivian minister, are part of an imperialist attack on the progressive governments of Latin America. “It is a continent-wide attack by the oligarchies and the pro-imperialist right wing against all the leaders, governments and popular movements, progressive and revolutionary left” said Maduro. “With Dilma in Brazil, with Evo in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador, with Daniel in Nicaragua and with all the peoples and social movements of Latin America, Venezuela is going to struggle for a sovereign, independent, humane, and popular future.”

So far the US anti-war, anti-interventionist movements have not strongly responded to the escalating US coup attempts against progressive elected Latin American governments.

Stansfield Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity, is a long time Latin America solidarity activist, and presently puts out the AFGJ Venezuela Weekly.

September 1, 2016 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

Coca-Cola Accused of Funding Colombian Death Squad

teleSUR – September 1, 2016

U.S.-based Coca-Cola company along with more than 50 other companies were accused by Colombian courts of financing terrorism for their ties to the now-disbanded paramilitary organization, United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a fact trade union leaders have been denouncing for decades.

The cases against the companies will be heard in a transitional justice tribunal after the peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the government is signed.

Coca-Cola was accused of hiring hitmen from the AUC between 1990 and 2002 to kill at least 10 labor union leaders who were trying to organize Coca-Cola’s plants. U.K. oil company BP has also be taken to court for its funding of AUC, along with kidnapping and human rights abuses.

Other companies suspected of financing terrorism, commonly referred to as the “para-economy,” include Colombia’s largest beverage company Postobon, cement company Cementos Argos, state oil company Ecopetrol and banana distributor Chiquita Brands International.

In June, families of victims killed by paramilitary groups opened a federal lawsuit against Chiquita in the U.S. for supporting the AUC. The company was estimated to have made at least 100 payments to the group worth US$1.7 million between 1997 and 2004.

The right-wing AUC coalition, deemed a terrorist organization by the Colombian government, disbanded in 2006. The paramilitary group was responsible for a number of massacres, human rights abuses, kidnappings and extortions that resulted in the displacement of thousands of Colombians.

Some politicians and authorities have been sentenced in relation to links with the AUC, the majority of businesses involved have not been punished for their illegal financial activities.

Investigations and punishment of businesses involved with paramilitary groups have commonly stuttered over whether payments were voluntary or not and if companies received any benefits in return.

Brazilian Coca-Cola Manufacturer Accused of Slave Labor

September 1, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

California Lawmakers OK Bill Penalizing Companies Boycotting Israel

teleSUR – September 1, 2016

Both houses of California’s legislature have now approved a bill to ban state government agencies from awarding contracts to companies that choose to join the international boycott against Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine.

The bill, AB 2844, if passed, would be a serious attack on the worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israeli apartheid and its treatment of Palestinians.

Companies who choose to boycott Israel, would be accused of being in violation of the state’s civil rights law and would not be permitted to accept a California government contract of $US100,000 or more.

The bill, which has eight different amendments, was eventually passed 60 to 0 in the assembly, and will now go to Governor Jerry Brown for has to decide whether to veto or sign the bill into law by the end of September.

BDS and civil rights advocates have urged Brown to veto the bill, while supporters of the bill have made much of the trade ties between the U.S. and Israel, as well as Israel’s positive treatment of LGBTQ persons as a reason for supporting AB 2844 – ignoring Israel’s long history of oppressing and collectively punishing Palestinians.

“AB 2844 is both an attack on the constitutional rights of Californians and a waste of taxpayer money, estimated to cost upwards of $140 million annually, according to the California Department of Finance, which opposes it,” read a statement from the Coalition to Stop AB 2844, which includes over 100 civil society organizations.

“Government should not be in the business of punishing supporters of BDS, whether corporations, universities, organizations or individuals, by denying them contracts,” said Nasser Barghouti from the U.S. Campaign to End The Israeli Occupation.

A number of other states, including New York and New Jersey, have passed similar laws to outlaw the boycott of Israel.

September 1, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 1 Comment

Lessening the Zionist Grip on the Power to Name

By Thomas S. Harrington | CounterPunch | September 1, 2016

At a recent academic conference devoted to the historical analysis of culture, I spoke to a young Israeli colleague about the highly problematic nature of the term “terrorism”. As I spoke, he looked at me with genuine bafflement and then said, “I don’t understand what you are talking about”. And I really think that at that moment it was the case.

For this thirtyish resident of the self-proclaimed Jewish state there were—despite his professed interest in the historical evolution of languages and social ideologies—no semantic mysteries to be plumbed in this matter. No, for him, a terrorist was what the opinion-makers of his country had long told him it was: a person with malign and, more importantly, wholly irrational desire to harm members of his blood-bonded collective.

I then went on to explain that the powerful have long used the term terrorist to delegitimate the often quite understandable use of violence of their less lethally endowed adversaries, adducing a list of historical examples ranging from 19th century colonial Ireland to the South Africa of the 60s, 70s and 80s, where, of course, the now sanctified Nelson Mandela was considered the number one “terrorist” threat to the geboorteland.

Being a smart guy, he soon began to realize where this was going: to a place where his simplistic moral views of good and evil, rooted in cartoonishly ahistorical notions of causality, would not hold up too well. Not surprisingly, he changed the subject at the next socially appropriate juncture of the conversation

It is an experience I have had time and again over the years not only with Zionists, but their ideological first cousins, American Exceptionalists. Think of it as a form of tactical retreat designed prevent the further exposure of what spies sometimes refer to as “sources and methods”.

To engage in a discussion over the power of naming—which is to say, the descriptive shorthand used to generate more or less apprehensible (though not necessarily accurate) renderings of the enormous complexity of lived reality—is to admit the existence of the game. And to admit the existence of the game is to call attention to how power elites have long used it to deprive the less fortunate of the ability to craft an accurate and compelling narrative of their plight. The partisans of established power instinctively understand that they have nothing to gain, and everything to lose, in such dialogues. Hence, their vigorous attempts to head them off at the pass.

So, what are those of us on the other side to do when those comfortable with the status quo will not engage us on the very important matter of language usage?

Before answering that query, it might be useful to establish what we definitely SHOULD NOT do in such matters. First and foremost we need to stop engaging in the widespread fantasy, especially prevalent among liberals, of believing that “some how, some way” (it never ceases to amaze me how vague liberals can be on the operational details of their efforts within wars of ideas where the other side plans each move with great forethought and precision) we can substantially advance our cause from within the nomenclature the other side has established, and which it actively manages.

As long as we accept the blithe use of terms like “terrorist” to refer to Palestinians fighting for basic dignity and freedom, or, going in the opposite direction, accept the matter-of-fact description of Israel as a “democracy”, we lose the game. Why? Because those terms, and instructions for their effective deployment within dialectical confrontations, have been carefully designed by people like Frank Luntz to leave no room for a true dialogue of ideas. Indeed, their prime purpose is to stop sincere interchanges right in their tracks. So, as a first step we need stop expending our energies on arguments taking place within their parameters of thinkable thought.

One thing we CAN do is to politely, but firmly contest such usages in our everyday conversations. No need to get aggressive. Rather, when, in a dialogue, your interlocutor refers matter-of-factly to Palestinians as terrorists, or as people who widely “embrace terrorism” and who are bent on “ throwing Israel into the sea” you simply refer to the same people, as “resisters” “patriots” or “lovers of freedom” when it comes your time to speak.

Having grown used to employing such pejorative terms without reserve or circumspection for a long time, many will get annoyed. But if enough of us do it over time, they will begin to feel a lot less cocksure about their self-image as speakers of self-evident and unambiguous truths.

A version of this technique was used in Catalonia in the first years of the new Spanish democracy. During the nearly four-decade dictatorship of Franco, the use of Catalan in public spaces had been prohibited. With the coming of democracy in the eighties, linguistic and cultural activists made a point of always responding in Catalan (a more or less mutually intelligible language) to those that addressed them in Spanish. At first, this rankled the hell out of those who saw Spanish as the unquestioned first language of that cultural space. Over time, however, most came to accept it as least the co-equal of Spanish in their immediate surroundings.

Much more important in the long run, however, will be the construction of a readily apprehensible epic of the Palestinian experience of resistance and survival, and the creation of institutions—understood here in the broadest possible meaning of the term—that remind people of this very particular history.

Zionists have excelled at this practice during the last century. Granted, they have had many friends in the media to help them along. But, in the end, all such attempts to instrumentalize the past of a collective—an absolutely ubiquitous and essential element of all movements of national mobilization—begins with the psychological decision on the part of that movement’s partisans to invest themselves with the power to name, and from there, the power to generate their version of who has done what to whom over time.

For example, Yad Vashem has a special section devoted to the Righteous Among the Nations whose purpose, as the organization’s website makes clear, is to honor what they portray as the relatively few gentiles that rose above the generalized “indifference” and/or “hostility” toward the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust.

Not much shyness or ambivalence about naming there. With enormous self-assurance, the management team at Yad Vashem presumes that it is very much in its purview as representatives of a people who have suffered massive and grotesque destruction, to spell out who among the much larger collective of gentiles acted in morally acceptable fashion. Much like the US government in the post September 11th era, they effectively put a great mass of people in the position of being guilty until proven innocent. And in this realm who holds the exclusive keys to their symbolic exoneration, a.k.a. the right to be “unnamed” as morally suspect? Quite conveniently, this institution of the Zionist state.

Let me be clear, I fully support the Zionist right to engage in these acts of moral discernment.

What I am challenging is the decision among many of us outside the pale, so to speak, to allow Zionists to view [and] claim this pursuit as their near exclusive prerogative.

For example, what if those that support the Palestinian right to live in peace and dignity were to begin identifying and honoring “Righteous Jews”, that is, those people from Israel and the diaspora who have bucked the widespread social pressure of their communities to accept the logic of settler colonialism rooted in ethnic supremacism not only as normal and unremarkable, but as a great and admirable historical enterprise?

Sound jarring? Provocative? A little too “in your face”?

It shouldn’t.

The fact that it probably does conjure up these feelings in many reading these lines confirms just how much of our universal moral patrimony, our inherent individual and collective right to forthrightly “name” calculated acts of inhumanity in our midst as we each see fit, has been ceded to a small group of people with the incredible nerve to repeatedly present themselves and/or the group they belong to as having the Last Word™ when it comes to measuring the true comparative import of the targeted destruction of one nation by another, or deciding how others should or should not (e.g. the case of the nuns at Auschwitz) be able to commemorate such horrific tragedies.

The Zionist establishment its legion of paid and unpaid hasbarists have very seldom shown any reticence about playing dialectical hardball with those they perceive as their enemies, nor of using any and all linguistic tropes at their disposal to keep those inclined to criticize Israel’s consistently atrocious behavior toward the Palestinians back on their heels in a defensive posture.

I think it is time for us to demonstrate in a more coordinated and concrete fashion to our Zionist friends that the “name game” is now—and will be for the foreseeable future—much more of a two-way street.

Thomas S. Harrington is a professor of Iberian Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and the author of the recently released  Livin’ la Vida Barroca: American Culture in a Time of Imperial Orthodoxies.

September 1, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment