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French Public Activists Demand RT France’s Broadcasting License Be Revoked

Sputnik – December 20, 2017

PARIS – Several French public figures on Wednesday called on the county’s broadcasting watchdog to recall RT France’s license for operating on the country’s territory.

The letter was signed by author Galia Ackerman, historians Antuan Arzhakovskii and Wladimir Berelowitch, journalist Michel Eltchaninoff, as well as teachers and translators.

“In the context of the hybrid war, authorization for broadcasting in France, given to Russia Today, is a very grave issue, because it can lead to confusion of minds and dissension within the French … We are asking you in the name of preserving civilian peace to recall Russia Today’s license for operation on France’s territory,” the letter, published by Le Monde newspaper, read.

This comes two weeks after the Russian Justice Ministry labelled nine foreign media, including US government-backed Voice of America and Radio Liberty, as “foreign agents” for receiving foreign funding after the US Justice Department did the same to RT America.

Meantime, a senior Russian lawmaker has told Sputnik that french media working in Russia would face the kind of restrictions some US media have been targeted with if the recently accredited RT France broadcaster loses its license.

“If its license is recalled, French media in Russia will undoubtedly get a response – the same kind of measures that were taken against US media,” Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chair of the upper-house Federation Council’s foreign affairs committee, said.

RT France started broadcasting on Monday. In a letter to Olivier Schrameck, the president of the country’s Conseil superieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA), 11 public figures said that RT was accused by high-level officials in the United States and Europe of sowing discord and undermining democracy. Earlier, Schrameck said that the CSA would follow closely RT France’s activities.Over the past months, RT has faced pressure and allegations from a number of Western states. Particularly, in November, RT America registered as a “foreign agent” in the United States under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) upon the request of the Department of Justice. Other foreign state media outlets in the United States, such as the United Kingdom’s BBC, China’s CCTV, Germany’s Deutsche Welle and others, have not been requested to register under FARA. RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said the broadcaster was choosing between registering or being charged in a criminal case by the US government.

The request to register as a “foreign agent” in the United States followed months of claims about the broadcaster’s alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election. The outlet, as well as the Russian authorities, have repeatedly denied the allegations of meddling.

December 20, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Russophobia | | Leave a comment

The Other Side of the Post’s Katharine Graham

By Norman Solomon | Consortium News | December 20, 2017

Movie critics are already hailing “The Post,” directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. Millions of people will see the film in early winter. But the real-life political story of Graham and her newspaper is not a narrative that’s headed to the multiplexes.

“The Post” comes 20 years after Graham’s autobiography Personal History appeared and won enormous praise. Read as a memoir, the book is a poignant account of Graham’s long quest to overcome sexism, learn the newspaper business and gain self-esteem. Read as media history, however, it is deceptive.

“I don’t believe that whom I was or wasn’t friends with interfered with our reporting at any of our publications,” Graham wrote. However, Robert Parry — who was a Washington correspondent for Newsweek during the last three years of the 1980s — has shed some light on the shadows of Graham’s reassuring prose. Contrary to the claims in her book, Parry said he witnessed “self-censorship because of the coziness between Post-Newsweek executives and senior national security figures.”

Among Parry’s examples: “On one occasion in 1987, I was told that my story about the CIA funneling anti-Sandinista money through Nicaragua’s Catholic Church had been watered down because the story needed to be run past Mrs. Graham, and Henry Kissinger was her house guest that weekend. Apparently, there was fear among the top editors that the story as written might cause some consternation.” (The 1996 memoir of former CIA Director Robert Gates confirmed that Parry had the story right all along.)

Graham’s book exudes affection for Kissinger as well as Robert McNamara and other luminaries of various administrations who remained her close friends until she died in 2001. To Graham, men like McNamara and Kissinger — the main war architects for Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon — were wonderful human beings.

In sharp contrast, Graham devoted dozens of righteous pages to vilifying Post press operators who went on strike in 1975. She stressed the damage done to printing equipment as the walkout began and “the unforgivable acts of violence throughout the strike.” It is a profound commentary on her outlook that thuggish deeds by a few of the strikers were “unforgivable” — but men like McNamara and Kissinger were lovable after they oversaw horrendous slaughter in Southeast Asia.

Graham’s autobiography portrays union stalwarts as mostly ruffians or dupes. “Only a handful of [Newspaper Guild] members had gone out for reasons I respected,” she told readers. “One was John Hanrahan, a good reporter and a nice man who came from a longtime labor family and simply couldn’t cross a picket line. He never did come back. Living your beliefs is a rare virtue and greatly to be admired.”

But for Hanrahan (whose Republican parents actually never belonged to a union) the admiration was far from mutual. As he put it, “The Washington Post under Katharine Graham pioneered the union-busting ‘replacement worker’ strategy that Ronald Reagan subsequently used against the air-traffic controllers and that corporate America — in the Caterpillar, Bridgestone/Firestone and other strikes — used to throw thousands of workers out of their jobs in the 1980s and the ’90s.”

The Washington Post deserves credit for publishing sections of the Pentagon Papers immediately after a federal court injunction in mid-June 1971 stopped the New York Times from continuing to print excerpts from the secret document. That’s the high point of the Washington Post’s record in relation to the Vietnam War. The newspaper strongly supported the war for many years.

Yet Graham’s book avoids any semblance of introspection about the Vietnam War and the human costs of the Post’s support for it. Her book recounts that she huddled with a writer in line to take charge of the editorial page in August 1966: “We agreed that the Post ought to work its way out of the very supportive editorial position it had taken, but we couldn’t be precipitous; we had to move away gradually from where we had been.” Vast carnage resulted from such unwillingness to be “precipitous.”

Although widely touted as a feminist parable, Graham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography is notably bereft of solidarity for women without affluence or white skin. They barely seemed to exist in her range of vision; painful realities of class and racial biases were dim, faraway specks. Overall the 625-page book gives short shrift to the unrich and unfamous, whose lives are peripheral to the drama played out by the wealthy publisher’s dazzling peers. The name of Martin Luther King Jr. does not appear in her star-studded, history-drenched book.

Katharine Graham’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers was indeed laudable, helping to expose lies that had greased the wheels of the war machinery with such horrific consequences in Vietnam. But the Washington Post was instrumental in avidly promoting the lies that made the Vietnam War possible in the first place. No amount of rave reviews or Oscar nominations for “The Post” will change that awful truth.

December 20, 2017 Posted by | Film Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

76 UN members abstain & 26 vote against as Crimea human rights resolution passes

RT | December 20, 2017

A Kiev-sponsored UN resolution condemning the human-rights situation in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol failed to convince much of the UN General Assembly, as 76 countries abstained, 26 opposed, and 70 supported the motion.

Among those who voted against the resolution were Russia, China, India, Iran, Serbia, and Belarus; while the US and its allies approved. In all, countries representing nearly half the world’s population rejected the document.

The resolution called on Russia, described as an “occupying power,” to “take all necessary measures to immediately put an end to all violations and infringements of human rights against the inhabitants of the Crimea.” It also called on the country to rescind the “illegal establishment of laws, jurisdiction and management by the Russian Federation” in Crimea, and to provide “accessibility of education in the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar languages.” In addition, it requires Russia to annul its recognition of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People as an extremist organization.

Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN Yevgeny Zagainov said before the vote that the resolution was meant to divert attention from Ukraine’s violations of human rights with “torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, discrimination, political persecution, violations of freedom of expression,” and the impunity for those responsible for burning dozens of anti-government activists in Odessa in May 2014.

Zagainov said that the Ukrainian delegation and its patrons do not care about human rights in the Russian region or its inhabitants wishes, but rather aims to challenge the status of Crimea and distort realities on the ground through human rights rhetoric. He noted past actions by the Mejlis in Crimea in relation to organized provocations, blockages and attempts to increase inter-ethnic tensions.

With this resolution, they “encourage these very dangerous fantasies, creating the ground for Kiev’s provocations and enterprises and thus sharing responsibility for them,” warned Zagainov.

He said that Kiev had passed a controversial new law in September that “deprives hundreds of thousands of children of the opportunity to receive education in their native language.” Various European countries, such as Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland had complained in the OSCE about this language law and the rights of minorities in Ukraine. Zagainov’s concerns about Ukraine’s human rights problems have been confirmed in the reports of the UN mission deployed in Ukraine to monitor the human rights situation.

Following the coup in Ukraine, the rise of radical nationalist groups, and the worsening situation in Donbass, the population and authorities of Crimea feared a crackdown on the Russian people and language. They expressed their desire to rejoin Russia in a referendum that took place on March 18, 2014, when more than 80 percent of eligible voters participated. Some 96.7 percent voted for reunification in Crimea, including 95.6 percent in the city of Sevastopol. The same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree allowing the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol to join the Russian Federation.

Russian lawmaker blasts fresh UN resolution on Crimea as political provocation

RT | December 20, 2017

A senior representative of the Russian parliamentary majority party has called the UN resolution on human rights in Crimea a provocation aimed at justifying the growing expenses of supporting Ukraine and countering Russia.

MP Sergey Zheleznyak (United Russia) said on Wednesday that the resolution was prepared by anti-Russia politicians from Ukraine, the EU, and the US, adding that he personally was outraged by the fact that the Human Rights Monitoring Mission had prepared the document on the basis of statements made by Ukrainian politicians, without actually visiting the peninsula and looking into these claims.

“Respectable international organizations, such as the United Nations, must thoroughly study the true state of affairs, have a weighted approach to any political provocation and give their own assessment of the events that take place in the world,” Zheleznyak said.

He added that many Western politicians visited Crimea after its reunification with Russia and realized that “the true goal of Ukrainian ‘human rights advocates’ is only the creation of lies about our country.”

“Just as the previous Kiev initiatives, this one has nothing in common with the real situation concerning human rights, freedom of conscience, and school lessons in native languages… The real objective behind this resolution is heating up the anti-Russian tensions in order to justify the funds spent on containment of our country and on support of the Kiev regime,” he said.

On Tuesday, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution on human rights in Crimea. 70 nations, including most European countries and the US, voted in support of the resolution, with 26 voting against and 76 nations abstaining from voting. The document describes Crimea’s accession into the Russian Federation as “occupation” and gives 20 recommendations on how Moscow should stop the alleged rights abuses in the republic.

Soon after the resolution was passed, Sergey Aksyonov, the head of the Crimean Republic, wrote on his Facebook page that the document was just another collection of “propaganda myths from Kiev,” adding that the 2014 reunification with Russia was a free choice of the republic’s citizens.

READ MORE: Overwhelming majority in Crimea today would still vote to join Russia – German survey

December 20, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump’s grandstanding on national security could end in tragedy

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | December 20, 2017

None of the capitals singled out in the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy as being the United States’ prime adversaries – Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, Pyongyang – appear to feel particularly threatened by the fire and brimstone in that document, which was unveiled on Monday.

The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov shrugged the matter off, saying he could see traces of an “imperial nature” in the NSS “as well as unwillingness to abandon the unipolar world idea and accept a multipolar world.” Peskov saw “some positive moments” in the document where it signals a need to cooperate with Russia in the US’ self-interests, but thought that overall it was too bulky.

Peskov prudently left it to relevant Russia’s agencies to “thoroughly” study the NSS “in order to think it through” – although, prima facie, its “wordings are rather impressive.” The Russian Foreign Ministry had said nothing so far, at time of writing.

In a 673-word remark, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Beijing, Hua Chunying, poo-pooed the notion that China is in any strategic competition with the US. Hua asserted: “The Chinese people are full of confidence in the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics of their own choice. History and the reality have proven that this is a successful path … No-one and no country can stop the Chinese people from unwaveringly continuing following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics and reaping greater achievements.”

Hua wound up by offering some friendly advice: “We urge the US side to… abandon such outdated concepts as the Cold War mentality and the zero-sum game, otherwise it will only end up harming itself as well as others.”

Tehran was equally unimpressed, merely noting that the NSS is “devoid of any wisdom and realism” and advising that the US’ real task ahead should be to sort out its “self-made problems, mishaps and challenges, as the realities of the past one year alone testify.”

Trump’s NSS hasn’t set the Thames, or the Seine, or the Rhine, on fire, either. The big question is what purpose the document serves other than the fact that Trump is mandatorily obliged to come out with it in terms of past practice. Is the hoopla justified?

The NSS appears largely to be about grandstanding in front of the gullible folks in ‘Middle America,’ Trump’s core constituency, and signaling that the boss is going great guns. As for the world outside America, Robert Cohen at the New York Times thinks the NSS is downright farcical: “Trump believes everyone will do his bidding because he says so. Hello!” One cannot but agree.

The NSS outlines a road-map that is patently unrealistic and could turn out to be a catastrophic overreach. The US no longer has the capacity to enforce its will, as the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen show. The Houthis defiantly fired a ballistic missile on Tuesday at the royal palace in Riyadh while King Salman was holding a meeting.

The power to dictate that gave traction to Pax Americana has dissipated. That is where the danger lies. If the US tries to dominate, it could trigger tragic consequences. Peskov is spot-on.

But the real danger lies elsewhere. The NSS signals that the US could broaden its use of nuclear weapons as part of its new security strategy. The document says: “While nuclear deterrence strategies cannot prevent all conflict, they are essential to prevent nuclear attack, non-nuclear strategic attacks, and large-scale conventional aggression.”

This is the first time that any US administration has said that “non-nuclear strategic attacks” represent a category of threat that the US may use nuclear weapons to counter. The shift certainly anticipates the US’ Nuclear Posture Review, expected in the next few weeks.

But what is the definition of “non-nuclear attack” – and, importantly, who defines it? What if the attack is by a “non-state actor”? In September, Rob Soofer, America’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, mentioned cyber-attacks against US infrastructure in this category.

The US is unlikely to launch a nuclear war against existing nuclear powers. But the danger lies in it attempting something like Britain’s [war of choice] during the Suez crisis of 1956, when it forgot for a moment that the imperial era had ended – and overreached. It will be extremely difficult for Trump to swallow the humiliation as Anthony Eden (who resigned as British prime minister) did in such circumstances.

An even bigger danger lies in Trump creating a pathway for other countries to potentially wage nuclear war – India and Pakistan, for example. In fact, the NSS warns against an apocalyptic scenario in the Indian subcontinent: “The prospect for an Indo-Pakistani military conflict that could lead to a nuclear exchange remains a key concern requiring consistent diplomatic attention.”

December 20, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

What Is The Guardian Afraid Of When Attacking Honest Syria Reporters?

By Adam GARRIE | ORIENTAL REVIEW | December 20, 2017

The recent Guardian hit-piece against journalists Vanessa Beeley, Professor Tim Anderson and Eva Bartlett is something far more sinister than most people have yet to realise. The piece which can be read here is a very crude attempt to discredit the efforts of independent journalists who have exposed the links between a group called White Helmets and terrorists committing war crimes in Syria, in contravention of well known principles of international law.

The gist of the Guardian piece is that the findings of the aforementioned journalists are not credible because they are being “used by Russia” to justify Russia’s foreign policy in regards to Syria.

First of all, the Guardian’s premise is rather absurd to begin with, as according to international law, Russia’s presence in Syria is fully legal while that of the countries that back the White Helmets (the US, UK and France, among others) is illegal.

Consequently, the presence of a so-called NGO like White Helmets (in reality they are handsomely funded by western governments) is also illegal as they are operating in Syria without the consent of the Syrian government and without any mandate from the United Nations.

Therefore, the burden of proof in any criticisms of Anderson, Beeley and Bartlett, lies on those who are openly advocating for violations of international law.

But even more fundamentally, there is a fatal flaw in the Guardian’s hatchet job.

On the 2nd of November, an exhaustive report on the alleged chemical attack in Syria’s Khan Sheikhoun was released by the combined Foreign, Defence and Industry and Trade Ministries of the Russian Federation.

The findings of this forensic study affirm that the journalistic findings of Anderson, Bartlett and Beeley regarding both the White Helmets organisation as well as the bogus US narrative on the so-called chemical attack at Khan Sheikhoun.

The following are the crucial findings of the official Russian study:

–“Victims” of the alleged attack arrived at hospitals hours before the alleged attack was said to have occurred.

–The crater at Khan Sheikhoun was consistent with that created from a ground based crude incendiary device, not an explosive dropped from a Syrian fighter jet, as the US alleged.

–The video of White Helmets ‘medics’ responding to the ‘chemical attack’ is a forgery. Based on the protective wear and lack thereof, seen on the White Helmets ‘volunteers’, the men would have died instantly if dressed in such a way around a real Sarin gas attack.

–Forensic reports show that gas was poured into the crater in question, only after the staged ‘rescue operation’ had long concluded.

–The OPCW report’s findings on the issue were politicised due to the influence of the US government.

Even prior to the report from the 2nd of November, the Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that the White Helmets are known to travel in terrorist circles and have been guilty of terrorist atrocities themselves.

On the 27th of April, Zakharova stated,

“The White Helmets not only feel at home on territories controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State (Daesh) but also openly express positive attitude towards them, provide information and even financial assistance to them.

There is documentary evidence proving that White Helmets members participated in some operations carried out by Jabhat al-Nusra, as well as covered up the signs of civilian executions”.

Yet the Guardian’s piece about western journalists in Syria, whose independent findings were later confirmed by those of the Russian government, does not mention this fact.

In reality, the Guardian piece is more than a hit-job on Anderson, Bartlett and Beeley, it is an attack on the official statements and forensic reporting of all levels of the Russian government.

The independent findings of the western journalists and those of the Russian government have been backed up by copious amounts of evidence. By contrast, the Guardian hit-piece does not attempt to offer any exculpatory evidence in respect of the White Helmets. The report merely attempts to destroy the credibility of Anderson, Bartlett and Beeley on the basis that their work has become popular and that their findings have been discussed on the news outlet RT.

The Guardian piece neither proves nor disproves anything. It merely attempts to use crude talking points borrowed from the American “Russiagate” narrative in order to demonise anyone said to be associated with Russia, even though Anderson, Bartlett and Beeley are not associated with the Russian government.

However, unlike those alleging Russian interference in the 2016 US election, the Guardian did not have the courage  to attack the credibility of the Russian study which vindicates the findings of Anderson, Bartlett and Beeley.

Perhaps this is because Russia is more than capable of responding to such a frivolous attack, not least through the social media page of the Russian Embassy in the UK. Maybe however, even Guardian readers are growing tired of the anti-Russia narrative, so instead the Guardian thought they might be able to publish something more ‘exciting’ by attacking independent journalists?

Whatever the thinking of the Guardian’s editors might be, the fact of the matter is that unless the Guardian presents evidence from a study as exhaustive and as thorough as that which Russia conducted in the wake of the OPCW report which has been forensically refuted, the findings of Anderson, Bartlett and Beeley remain not only vindicated but validated.

December 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

In Latin America the Pendulum Swings to the Right

By James Petras | Axis of Logic | December 20, 2017


Clearly the pendulum has swung to the right in the past few years. Numerous questions arise. What kind of right? How far right? How did they gain power? What is their appeal? How sustainable are the right wing regimes? Who are their international allies and adversaries? Having taken power, how have the rightist regimes performed and by what criteria is success or failure measured?

While the left has been in retreat, they still retain power in some states. Numerous questions arise. What is the nature of the left today? Why have some regimes continued while others have declined or been vanquished? Can the left recover its influence and under what conditions and with what programmatic appeal.

We will proceed by discussing the character and policies of the right and left and their direction. We will conclude by analyzing the dynamics of right and left policies, alignments and future perspectives.

Right-Radicalism: The Face of Power

The right wing regimes are driven by intent to implement structural changes: they look to reordering the nature of the state, economic and social relations and international political and economic alignments.

Radical right regimes rule in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Guatemala, Honduras and Chile.

In several countries extreme right regimes have made abrupt changes, while in others they build on incremental changes constituted over time.

The changes in Argentina and Brazil represent examples of extreme regressive transformations directed at reversing income distribution, property relations, international alignments and military strategies. The goal is to redistribute income upwardly, to re-concentrate wealth, property-ownership upward and externally and to subscribe to imperial doctrine. These pluto-populist regimes are run by rulers, who openly speak to and for very powerful domestic and overseas investors and are generous in their distribution of subsidies and state resources – a kind of ‘populism for the plutocrats’.

The rise and consolidation of extremist right regimes in Argentina and Brazil are based on several decisive interventions, combining elections and violence, purges and co-optation, mass media propaganda and deep corruption.

Mauricio Macri was backed by the major media, led by the Clarin conglomerate, as well as by the international financial press (Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, etc.). Wall Street speculators and Washington’s overseas political apparatus subsidized his electoral campaign.

Macri, his family, cronies and financial accomplices, transferred public resources to private accounts. Provincial political bosses and their patronage operations joined forces with the wealthy financial sectors of Buenos Aires to secure votes in the Capital.

Upon his election, the Mauricio Macri regime transferred five billion dollars to the notorious Wall Street speculator, Paul Singer, signed off on multi-billion dollar, high interest loans, increased utility fees six fold, privatized oil, gas and public lands and fired tens of thousands of public sector employees.

Macri organized a political purge and arrest of opposition political leaders, including former President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner. Several provincial activists were jailed or even assassinated.

Macri is a success story from the perspective of Wall Street, Washington and the Porteño business elite. Wages and salaries have declined for Argentine workers. Utility companies secured their highest profits ever. Bankers doubled interest rate returns. Importers became millionaires. Agro-business incomes skyrocketed as their taxes were reduced.

From the perspective of Argentina’s small and medium business enterprises President Macri’s regime has been a disaster: Many thousands have gone bankrupt because of high utility costs and harsh competition from cheap Chinese imports. In addition to the drop in wages and salaries, unemployment and under employment doubled and the rate of extreme poverty tripled

The economy, as a whole, floundered. Debt financing failed to promote growth, productivity, innovation and exports. Foreign investment experienced easy entry, big profits and fast departure. The promise of prosperity was narrowly based around a quarter of the population. To weaken the expected public discontent – the regime shut down independent media voices, unleashed thugs against critics and co-opted pliable gangster trade union bosses to break strikes.

Public protests and strikes multiplied but were ignored and repressed. Popular leaders and activists are stigmatized by the Macri-financed media hacks.

Barring a major social upheaval or economic collapse, Macri will exploit the fragmentation of the opposition to secure re-election as a model gangster for Wall Street. Macri is prepared to sign off on US military bases, EU free trade agreements, and greater police liaison with Israel’s sinister secret police, Mossad.

Brazil has followed Macri’s far right policies.

Seizing power through a phony impeachment operation, the mega-swindler Michel Temer immediately proceeded to dismantle the entire public sector, freeze salaries for twenty years, and extend retirement age for pensioners by five to ten years. Temer led over a thousand bribe-taking elected officials in the multi-billion dollar pillage of the state oil company and every major public infrastructure project.

Coup, corruption and contempt were hidden by a system granting Congressional impunity until independent prosecutors investigated, charged and jailed several dozen politicians, but not Temer. Despite 95% public disapproval, President Temer remains in power with the total backing of Wall Street, the Pentagon and Sao Paolo bankers.

Mexico, the long-standing narco-assassin state, continues to elect one thieving PRI-PAN political regime after another. Billions in illicit profits flows to the overseas tax havens of money laundering bankers, US and Canadian mine owners. Mexican and international manufacturers extracted double digit profits sent, to overseas accounts and tax havens. Mexico broke its own miserable record in elite tax avoidance, while extending low wage-tax ‘free trade zones’. Millions of Mexicans have fled across the border to escape predatory gangster capitalism. The flow of hundreds of millions of dollars of profits by US and Canadian multi-nationals was a result of the ‘unequal exchange’ between US capital and Mexican labor, held in place by Mexico’s fraudulent electoral system.

In at least two well-known presidential elections in 1988 and 2006, left of center candidates, Cuahtemoc Cardenas and Manuel Lopez Obrador, won with healthy margins of victory, only to have their victories stolen by fraudulent vote counts.

Peru’s rightist mining regimes, alternated between the overtly bloody Fujimori dictatorship and corrupt electoral regimes. What is consistent in Peruvian politics is the handover of mineral resources to foreign capital, pervasive corruption and the brutal exploitation of natural resources by US and Canadian mining and drilling corporations in regions inhabited by Indian communities.

The extreme right ousted elected left-of-center governments, including President Fernando Lugo in Paraguay (2008-2012) and Manuel Zelaya in Honduras (2006-2009), with the active support and approval of the US State Department. Narco-presidents now wield power by means of repression, including violence against popular movements and the killing of scores of peasant and urban activists. This year, a grossly rigged election in Honduras ensured the continuity of narco-regimes and US military bases.

The spread of the extreme right from Central America and Mexico to the Southern Cone provides the groundwork for the re-assertion of US centered military alliances and regional trade pacts.

The rise of the extreme right ensures the most lucrative privatizations and the highest rates of return on overseas bank loans. The far right is quick to crack down on popular dissent and electoral challenges with violence. At most the far right allows a few rotating elites with nationalist pretensions to provide a façade of electoral democracy.

The Shift from the Center-Left to the Center-Right

The political swings to the far right have had profound ripple effects – as nominal center-left regimes have swung to the center-right.

Two regimes have moved decisively from the center-left to the center-right: Uruguay under Tabare Vazquez of the ‘Broad Front’ and Ecuador with the recent election of Lenin Moreno of PAIS Alliance. In both cases the groundwork was established via accommodations with oligarchs of the traditional right parties. The previous center-left regimes of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and Uruguayan President Jose Mujica succeeded in pushing for public investments and social reforms. They combined their leftist rhetoric while capitalizing on the global high prices and high demand for agro-mineral exports to finance their reforms. With the decline in world prices and the public exposure of corruption, the newly elected center-left parties nominated and elected center –right candidates who turned anti-corruption campaigns into vehicles for embracing neoliberal economic policies. The center-right presidents rejected economic nationalism, encouraged large scale foreign investment and implemented fiscal austerity programs appealing to the upper middle class and ruling class.

The center-right regimes marginalized the leftist sectors of their parties. In the case of Ecuador, they split the party, with the newly elected president realigning international policies away from the left (Bolivia, Venezuela) and toward the US and the far right– while shedding the legacy of their predecessor in terms of popular social programs.

With the decline in export prices the center-right regimes offered generous subsidies to foreign investors in agriculture and forestry in Uruguay, and mine owners and exporters in Ecuador.

The newly converted center-right regimes joined with their established counterparts in Chile and joined the Trans Pacific Partnership with Asian nations, the EU and the US.

The center-right sought to manipulate the social rhetoric of the previous center-left regimes in order to retain popular voters while securing support from the business elite.

The Left Moves to the Center Left

Bolivia, under Evo Morales, has demonstrated an exceptional capacity for sustaining growth, securing re-election and neutralizing the opposition by combining a radical left foreign policy with a moderate, mixed public-private export economy. While Bolivia condemns US imperialism, major oil, gas, metals and lithium multi-nationals have invested heavily in Bolivia. Evo Morales has moderated his ideological posture shifting from revolutionary socialism to a local version of liberal democratic cultural politics.

Evo Morales’ embrace of a mixed economy has neutralized any overt hostility from the US and the new far-right regimes in the region

Though remaining politically independent, Bolivia has integrated its exports with the far right neoliberal regimes in the region. President Evo Morales’s moderate economic policies, diversity of mineral exports, fiscal responsibility, incremental social reforms, and support from well-organized social movements has led to political stability and social continuity despite the volatility of commodity prices.

Venezuela’s left regimes under President Hugo Chavez and Maduro have followed a divergent course with harsh consequences. Totally dependent on extraordinary global oil prices, Venezuela proceeded to finance generous welfare programs at home and abroad. Under President Chavez leadership, Venezuela adopted a consequential anti-imperialist policy successfully opposing a US centered free trade agreement (LAFTA) and launching an anti-imperialist alternative, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA).

Advancing social welfare and financing overseas allies without diversifying the economy and markets and increasing production was predicated on continuous high returns on a single volatile export – oil.

Unlike Bolivia under President Evo Morales, who built his power with the support of an organized, class conscious and disciplined mass base, Venezuela counted on an amorphous electoral alliance, which included slum dwellers, defectors from the corrupt traditional parties (across the spectrum) and opportunists intent on grabbing office and perks. Political education was reduced to mouthing slogans, cheering the President and distributing consumer goods.

Venezuelan technocrats and political loyalists occupied highly lucrative positions, especially in the petroleum sector and were not held to account by workers’ councils or competent state auditors. Corruption was rampant and billions of dollars of oil wealth was stolen. This pillage was tolerated because of the huge influx of petro-dollars due to historic high prices and high demand. This led to a bizarre situation where the regime spoke of socialism and funded massive social programs, while the major banks, food distributors, importers and transportation operators were controlled by hostile private oligarchs who pocketed enormous profits while manufacturing shortages and promoting inflation. Despite the problems, the Venezuelan voters gave the regime a series of electoral victories over the US proxies and oligarch politicians. This tended to create overconfidence in the regime that the Bolivarian socialist model was irrevocable.

The precipitous drop of oil prices, global demand, and export earnings led to the decline of imports and consumption. Unlike Bolivia, foreign reserves declined, the rampant theft of billions was belatedly uncovered and the US-backed rightwing opposition returned to violent ‘direct action’ and sabotage while hoarding essential food, consumer goods and medicine. Shortages led to widespread black marketeering. Public sector corruption and hostile opposition control of the private banking, retail and industrial sectors, backed by the US, paralyzed the economy. The economy has been in a free-fall and electoral support has eroded. Despite the regime’s severe problems, the majority of low income voters correctly understood that their chances of surviving under the US-backed oligarchic opposition would be worse and the embattled left continued to win gubernatorial and municipal elections up through 2017.

Venezuela’s economic vulnerability and negative growth rate led to increased indebtedness. The opposition of the extreme right regimes in Latin America and Washington’s economic sanctions has intensified food shortages and increased unemployment.

In contrast, Bolivia effectively defeated US-elite coup plots between 2008-10. The Santa Cruz-based oligarchs faced the clear choice of either sharing profits and social stability by signing off on social pacts (workers/peasants, capital and state) with the Morales government or facing an alliance of the government and the militant labor movement prepared to expropriate their holdings. The elites chose economic collaboration while pursuing low intensity electoral opposition.


Left opposition is in retreat from state power. Opposition to the extreme right is likely to grow, given the harsh, uncompromising assault on income, pensions, the rise in the cost of living, severe reductions in social programs and attacks on private and public sector employment. The extreme right has several options, none of which offer any concessions to the left. They have chosen to heighten police state measures (the Macri solution); they attempt to fragment the opposition by negotiating with the opportunist trade union and political party bosses; and they reshuffle degraded rulers with new faces to continue policies (the Brazilian solution).

The formerly revolutionary left parties, movements and leaders have evolved toward electoral politics, protests and job action. So far they do not represent an effective political option at the national level

The center-left, especially in Brazil and Ecuador, is in a strong position with dynamic political leaders (Lula DaSilva and Correa) but face trumped up charges by right-wing prosecutors who intend to exclude them from running for office. Unless the center-left reformers engage in prolonged large-scale mass activity, the far right will effectively undermine their political recovery.

The US imperial state has temporarily regained proxy regimes, military allies and economic resources and markets. China and the European Union profit from optimal economic conditions offered by the far right regimes. The US military program has effectively neutralized the radical opposition in Colombia, and the Trump regime has intensified and imposed new sanctions on Venezuela and Cuba.

The Trump regime’s ‘triumphalist’ celebration is premature – no decisive strategic victory has taken place, despite important short term advances in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. However large outflows of profits, major transfers of ownership to foreign investors, favorable tax rates, low tariff and trade policies have yet to generate new productive facilities, sustainable growth and to ensure economic fundamentals. Maximizing profits and ignoring investments in productivity and innovation to promote domestic markets and demand has bankrupted tens of thousands of medium and small local commercial and manufacturing firms. This has led to rising chronic unemployment and underemployment. Marginalization and social polarization without political leadership is growing. Such conditions led to ‘spontaneous’ uprisings in Argentina 2001, Ecuador 2000 and Bolivia 2005.

The far right in power may not evoke a rebellion of the far left but its policies can certainly undermine the stability and continuity of the current regimes. At a minimum, it can lead to some version of the center left and restoration of the welfare and employment regimes now in tatters.

In the meantime the far right will press ahead with their perverse agenda combining deep reversals of social welfare, the degradation of national sovereignty and economic stagnation with a formidable profit maximizing performance.

James Petras’s most recent book: 

December 20, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Afghan Ghani takes on the ‘King of the North’

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 20, 2017

The simmering political feud between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and governor of Balk province in the north of the country Atta Muhammad Noor peaked on Monday. Ghani sacked Noor and claimed the latter ‘resigned’. Noor cries murder, saying he didn’t resign.

Noor, popularly known as the ‘King of the North’, is also the head of the Jamiat-i-Islami, the predominantly Tajik party wielding influence in the eastern, northern and western provinces, which traces its pedigree to Ahmed Shah Massoud and Burhanuddin Rabbani. Noor fought as a Jamiat commander during the jihad against the Soviet army in the 1980s and later was a key figure in the Northern Alliance during the anti-Taliban resistance under Massoud.

Noor is a hugely influential Tajik leader who, Ghani senses (rightly so), harbors presidential ambitions. The elections are due next July (ie., if Ghani chooses to hold them.) The ensuing power play in the recent months has led to this week’s showdown. Ghani is worried that a political alliance that Noor formed a few months ago is gaining traction. The other leading figures in the alliance include influential ‘warlords’ such as the Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum, Hazara leader Mohammed Mohaqiq, Tajik leader from Herat Ismail Khan and so on.

Ghani had thought that the Noor-Dostum-Mohaqiq alliance would unravel, but surprisingly it has not only held together but is also expanding its reach to the southern region. Ghani is determined to stay in power confident in the knowledge that so long as he serves American interests loyally, he has nothing to worry. But all the same, as the election draws closer, he is getting goosebumps.

The point is, Ghani is finding himself between the rock and a hard place. On the one hand, a powerful coalition is assembling to challenge his candidacy if elections are held next year. On the other hand, former President Hamid Karzai has raised the demand that a loya jirga should be convened instead to review the security policies and Afghanistan’s relations with the United States and also to select a new leadership in Kabul. Ideally, Ghani would like to avoid both – elections and loya jirga – and simply remain in power. But then, Karzai’s proposal is steadily gaining broader acceptance as it becomes increasingly clear that the likelihood of Ghani risking an election is indeed very low.

Of course, Ghani knows that a loya jirga would dump him without batting an eyelid. Which of course is Karzai’s agenda, too. Karzai somehow wants to get rid of the Americans and bring to an end the US occupation of his country. But on the pathway lies Ghani. The Americans themselves are horrified at the very mention of Karzai and loya Jirga, as they know that the groundswell of ‘anti-American’ feelings may surge if they are allowed to have their way. The US agenda is minimal – willy-nilly retain the military bases in Afghanistan.

An American puppet in Kabul is, therefore, an absolute prerequisite. Ghani has become irreplaceable. The recent Pentagon report to the US Congress beautifully puts across the paradigm – “We have a willing and able partner in President Ghani.”

Then, there are sub-plots. Jamiat has taken exception to Ghani’s sacking of Noor. It has alleged that Ghani’s move contravenes the understanding that led to the creation of the present National Unity Government after the disputed presidential election in 2014. The Jamiat has called for ‘civic action’ to protest but has warned that ‘if the aggression and threats increase against us, then we can use other options.’

The big question is where Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah stands in all this. Notionally, he is a Jamiat leader. If Jamiat decides to withdraw its support to Ghani, the decent thing to do is for Abdullah to resign. But will he? For one thing, he is also under the American thumb and if he quits now and brings the roof down on the Ghani government that the Americans built, it will annoy Washington.

Abdullah’s single-minded agenda is to replace Ghani. In effect, he would like to replace Ghani as the next American puppet. So, Abdullah finds himself in a quandary. ‘To quit, or not to quit,’ that’s the question. In all probability, he won’t quit since there is no guarantee either that Jamiat will field him as a presidential candidate when Noor has already voiced interest in Ghani’s job.

Ghani has matured as a first-rate manipulator. His tactic is to divide and rule. He has already caused split in Dostum’s party Jumbish; he is propping up one faction of Hezb-e-Islami, which doesn’t accept Gulbuddin Hematyar’s leadership; he now hopes to create havoc in the Jamiat camp as well. But things can spin out of hand. If these fractures and ethnic tensions get reflected in the Afghan state structures, especially the army and police – which they will (if not already) – new possibilities arise – such as coups and counter-coups and so on.

Meanwhile, the political vacuum in the north following Noor’s dismissal can only work to the advantage of the Taliban and the Islamic State. The developments have been sufficiently worrisome that German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel flew into Kabul today evening to meet Ghani and urge him to hold the elections on schedule next July. Gabriel offered that Berlin will defray the cost of the elections. The German contingent is based in Mazar-i-Sharif and Noor has been a valuable local ally. Above all, Berlin will have a problem dealing with the government in Kabul beyond July once it loses the last bit of legitimacy it can claim to have to continue in power.

What emerges is that the Trump administration was lying through its teeth when Pentagon presented a rosy picture of the Afghan situation in its six-monthly report to the US Congress in December. The chilling reality is that Afghanistan is heading south – in the direction of where the former South Vietnam found itself in the 1960s.


December 20, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘None of this was worth it’: Up to 11,000 civilians killed in battle to free Mosul, AP probe reveals

RT | December 20, 2017

The liberation of Mosul from Islamic State came at a high cost, according to an AP probe which found that between 9,000 and 11,000 civilians died during the process. The coalition acknowledges responsibility for 326 of the deaths.

The investigation cross-referenced independent databases from non-government organizations and analyzed the city morgue’s list of 9,606 names of people killed in the battle. The probe found that at least 3,200 civilians were killed by Iraqi or US-led coalition airstrikes, artillery fire, or mortar rounds between October 2016 and July 2017.

Most of those victims were described in Health Ministry reports as simply being “crushed.” However, the US coalition has acknowledged responsibility for just 326 of those deaths, while stating that it lacks the resources to send investigators to Mosul, according to AP.

Another one-third of the dead were killed in the final violent campaign of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). The causes of the remaining deaths could not be determined, as they were civilians who were trapped inside neighborhoods hit by airstrikes, IS explosives, and mortar rounds from all sides of the fight.

The numbers are likely a low estimation of the actual situation, as hundreds of dead civilians are thought to still be trapped underneath rubble in the city, which saw some of its 44 neighborhoods almost completely destroyed. Thousands are believed to be in mass graves in and around the city, and as many as 4,000 in the natural crevasse known as Khasfa. The AP toll does not include those figures.

Imad Ibrahim, a civil defense rescuer from west Mosul, has been tasked with excavating the dead, mostly in the Old City. “Sometimes you can see the bodies, they’re visible under the rubble, other times we dig for hours and suddenly find 15 to 30 all in one place. That’s when you know they were sheltering, hiding from the airstrikes,” Ibrahim said. “Honestly, none of this was worth it.”

AP also spoke to Radwan Majid, who lost both his children in a May airstrike. “There were three Daesh [IS militants] in front of my house, so when the airstrike hit it also killed my children… we can see their bodies under the rubble, but we can’t reach them by ourselves,” he said. “All I want is to give them a proper burial.”

Responding to AP’s questioning about civilian deaths in Mosul, coalition spokesman Col. Thomas Veale said “it is simply irresponsible to focus criticism on inadvertent casualties caused by the coalition’s war to defeat ISIS.” He went on to state that “without the coalition’s air and ground campaign against ISIS, there would have inevitably been additional years, if not decades of suffering and needless death and mutilation in Syria and Iraq.”

The coalition has not offered an official estimation of deaths resulting from the battle for Mosul, and relies on drone footage, video from cameras mounted on weapons systems, and pilot observations. Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told AP that only 1,260 civilians had been killed in the fighting.

Chris Woods, head of Airwars, an independent organization that documents air and artillery strikes in Iraq and Syria, told AP “it was the biggest assault on a city in a couple of generations, all told. And thousands died. There doesn’t seem to be any disagreement about that, except from the federal government and the coalition,” he added.

The databases used by AP in its investigation are from Amnesty International, Iraq Body Count, and Airwars. It also utilized a UN report in its research.

December 20, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Saudi blockade of Yemen violates US law: Trump nominee

Press TV – December 20, 2017

President Donald Trump’s nominee for the top legal adviser at the State Department has acknowledged that Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Yemen violates US and international law, according to a report.

In written statements to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before her confirmation Tuesday, Jennifer Newstead signaled a stricter interpretation of statutes that ban US foreign assistance to countries blocking or hindering the flow of humanitarian aid, the Foreign Policy magazine reported.

Newstead said warnings from international aid organizations “raise a substantial question” on whether the Saudi-led coalition has deliberately impeded the transport of aid to civilians in Yemen.

The United Nations has warned that millions of people will die in Yemen due to famine unless the Saudi-led coalition ends its devastating blockade on the southwestern port of Hudaydah, through which about 80 percent of food imports arrive.

A shortage of fuel has shut down many water treatment and pumping stations, aggravating an already deadly outbreak of cholera. The UN warned earlier this month that 8.4 million people were one step away from starvation.

International aid officials have described the situation in Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Newstead promised to provide firm answers to Congress on the issue within 30 to 45 days after being sworn in. Newstead’s responses indicate that the White House might be willing to take a tougher line with Saudi Arabia over the military aggression in Yemen.

The answers also cleared the way for Newstead’s confirmation on Tuesday, which had been blocked by Senator Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, and two of his colleagues over concerns about the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

Young and others have condemned Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen, particularly its blockade on vital shipments of humanitarian aid by air and sea to ports controlled by Houthis.

They accuse Riyadh of violating the Geneva Conventions and the US Foreign Assistance Act, which prohibits US aid for countries that impede the flow of humanitarian aid. The US president, however, can still make an exception and provide assistance to a country that hinders aid.

The US has been providing logistical support for the Saudi coalition as well as precision-guided munitions.

Tuesday marked the 1,000th day of the Saudi war in Yemen. Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets, condemning the deadly airstrikes and calling on Arab states to stop contributing to the Saudi-led coalition.

December 20, 2017 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Analyst Dismisses White House Claims Pyongyang Behind WannaCry

Sputnik – 20.12.2017

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Monday, White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert announced that North Korea is responsible for the May 2017 “WannaCry” global cyberattack that targeted Windows computers and was allegedly aided by leaked National Security Agency technology.

In the article titled, “It’s Official: North Korea Is Behind WannaCry,” Bossert points the finger at North Korea for being behind the cybercrime in which millions of users’ computer data was encrypted and then ransomed for bitcoins. The attack slowed down after a mistake in WannaCry’s code revealed a kill switch that prevented infected computers from spreading the virus.

“Cybersecurity isn’t easy, but simple principles still apply. Accountability is one, cooperation another,” Bossert wrote in his article. “They are the cornerstones of security and resilience in any society. In furtherance of both, and after careful investigation, the US today publicly attributes the massive ‘WannaCry’ cyber attack to North Korea.”

In a White House press briefing Tuesday morning, Bossert claimed that the US came to this conclusion after a “careful investigation.”

“We don’t do this lightly,” Bossert said during the briefing. “We do so with evidence and with partners,” adding that Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom all agree that North Korea is responsible.

“While victims received ransom demands, paying did not unlock their computers,” the homeland security adviser wrote. “It was cowardly, costly and careless. The attack was widespread and cost billions, and North Korea is directly responsible.”

On Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear, financial policy analyst Daniel Sankey asserted his belief that North Korea is not behind the cyberattack.

“I’m a little suspicious myself. The drums of war have been beaten against [North Korea] for some time now and it’s very convenient that now this severe cyberattack is being laid against the doors of North Korea,” Sankey told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

“And of course, as usual, we can take the intelligence community’s word for it because they know better than us and they published it in the Wall Street Journal — so it must be North Korea,” he added sarcastically.

“I am a little skeptical because a big part of the virus was extorting various users to send bitcoin in exchange for access to their files again. In the end, they stole about $55,000 in bitcoin and that’s not enough money for North Korea to trouble itself with,” Sankey said.

“Also, what is North Korea going to do with bitcoin? They need commodities, they need cash, they need access to different markets. They don’t need bitcoin. How are they going to turn that into oil or coal or various other things they need? How are they going to convert that into a convertible currency? It’s really not feasible.”

Although Bossert said that the US did “not make the allegation lightly,” he didn’t provide any solid evidence and simply alluded to National Security Agency and Microsoft research. He also referred to the UK’s determination in October that North Korea was responsible for the attack.

In May, security firms discovered a link between the ransomware and southern China during an investigation of the code’s notes, which revealed that WannaCry’s creators were fluent in a form of Chinese very common in that region.

According to security firm Flashpoint, which conducted the analysis, “A typo in the note, “帮组” (bang zu) instead of “帮助” (bang zhu) meaning “help,” strongly indicates the note was written using a Chinese-language input system rather than being translated from a different version. More generally, the note makes use of proper grammar, punctuation, syntax, and character choice, indicating the writer was likely native or at least fluent.”

Although the linguistic analysis of the code did not reveal any Korean, the US has still confidently asserted that North Korea is responsible, and Sankey believes it’s because the underlying problem behind the attacks actually has nothing to do with the hackers but with intelligence communities, who may be actually be responsible for the crimes.

“I think that the real problem is that intelligence communities are becoming aware of vulnerabilities in these systems, and rather than working with the private sector to protect consumers and peoples’ data, they are just sitting on those vulnerabilities so that they can use them later to hack systems.”

In his editorial, Bossert concludes, “Mr. Trump has already pulled many levers of pressure to address North Korea’s unacceptable nuclear and missile developments, and we will continue to use out maximum pressure strategy to curb Pyongyang’s ability to mount attacks, cyber or otherwise.”

With the Trump administration’s increased use of aggressive language against North Korea’s continued nuclear weapon tests and with this new allegation that the country is responsible for WannaCry, it doesn’t appear that the relationship between the two is going to be getting better anytime soon.

December 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | 1 Comment