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No War for Bernard Henri Lévy

By DIANA JOHNSTONE | September 3, 2013

The American people do not want US armed forces to get involved in the civil war in Syria. The United Nations will not back US bombing of Syria. The British Parliament does not want to get involved in bombing Syria. World public opinion is opposed to US bombing Syria. Not even NATO wants to take part in bombing Syria. So who wants the United States to bomb Syria?

The same people who brought us the war in Iraq, that’s who.

On August 27, the Foreign Policy Initiative, a reincarnation of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) that dictated the Bush 2 administration’s disastrous foreign policy, issued its marching orders to Obama. In an open letter to the President, the FPI urged “a decisive response to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s recent large-scale use of chemical weapons”.

The neocon “foreign policy experts” skipped over the pathos designed to arouse feelings of guilt in ordinary Americans for sitting in front of their television sets and “doing nothing”. Rather, their argument is based on power projection. Once Obama set a “red line”, he must react to “show the world”.

“Left unanswered, the Assad regime’s mounting attacks with chemical weapons will show the world that America’s red lines are only empty threats.”

The FPI told Obama that the United States should consider “direct military strikes against the pillars of the Assad regime”, not just to get rid of the chemical weapons threat, “but also to deter or destroy the Assad regime’s airpower and other conventional military means of committing atrocities against civilian non-combatants.”

At the same time, “the United States should accelerate efforts to vet, train, and arm moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition, with the goal of empowering them to prevail against both the Assad regime and the growing presence of Al Qaeda-affiliated and other extremist rebel factions in the country.” The United States should “help shape and influence the foundations for the post-Assad Syria”.

In short, what is called for is a full-scale regime change, getting rid of both the existing regime and its main military opposition, and putting in power supposed “moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition”, who by all accounts are the weakest in the field.

So, after failing to produce such nice, moderate results in Iraq or Afghanistan, try, try again.

The most familiar names among the 78 signatories included Elliott Abrams, Max Boot, Douglas J. Feith, Robert Kagan, Lawrence F. Kaplan, Joseph I. Lieberman, Martin Peretz, and Karl Rove. No surprises there.

The novelty on the list was the signature of Bernard-Henri Levy.

Not surprising either, when you stop to think about it. After all, Bernard-Henri Levy is widely credited with having persuaded former French president Nicolas Sarkozy to lead the charge that overthrew Kaddafi and delivered Libya to its current chaos. After such an accomplishment, the Parisian dandy naturally feels entitled to tell the United States President what to do.

I vividly recall Bernard-Henri Levy reacting with the mock indignation that serves as his usual shield from criticism to claims that the Benghazi rebels included Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda. Outrageous! he vociferated. He had been to Benghazi and seen for himself that the folks there were all liberal democrats who just wanted to enjoy free elections and multicultural harmony.  Not so very much later, liberated Benghazi was sending Islamist fighters to destabilize Mali, recruiting Islamists to fight in Syria and assassinating a U.S. ambassador. This turn of events has not fazed the media star the French call “BHL” in the slightest. Although widely ridiculed and even hated in France, his influence persists.

In 2010, the writer Jacob Cohen published a novel entitled “Le Printemps des Sayanim”*. Despite the usual disclaimer, the novel was a roman à clés. A main character, named MST, was described in this fiction by an Israeli diplomat in Paris as follows: “MST is of capital importance to us. He is worth more than a hundred sayanim. […] He covers a large part of the left for us. Inasmuch as he ‘criticizes’ Israel, what he says is taken seriously. That way he can get our interests into a lot of media.  […] Moreover, that man has incredible networks, in the most influential circles in Europe, in America. He can call Sarkozy whenever he wants, or the king of Morocco, or the president of the European Commission. […]”

No French reader would have any trouble recognizing BHL, although, of course, this was fiction.

But the question deserves to be raised: why has the real BHL been so keen to overthrow governments in Libya and Syria? Even if the countries fall apart?

Perhaps this flashy dilettante thinks these wars are good for Israel. BHL’s devotion to Israel is as conspicuous as his white v-neck shirts and back-swept hairdo.  Perhaps he fantasizes that if all the surrounding countries are in hopeless shambles, “the only democracy in the Middle East” will be the only tree left standing in the forest.

But even Israeli intelligence, which is a major source of US assessment of happenings in the region, doubts that Assad’s chemical weapons are a threat to Israel.

Giora Inbar, the former head of the IDF’s liaison unit in southern Lebanon, was quoted by the August 27 Times of Israel as saying that “there would be no logic in Assad attacking Israel”.

Inbar said that Israeli military intelligence made a priority of intelligence-gathering in Syria, was very well-informed, and was widely trusted. The United States was “aware of” Israel’s intelligence on the doings of the Syrian regime, “and relies upon it.”

Still, Israeli officials are not hyping the incident the way John Kerry did, insisting on deliberate murder of children.

The New York Times on Tuesday quoted an Israeli official as saying: “It’s quite likely that there was kind of an operational mistake here […] I don’t think they wanted to kill so many people, especially so many children. Maybe they were trying to hit one place or to get one effect and they got a much greater effect than they thought.”

All that is speculation. But the most plausible hypothesis so far is that the incident was an accident. Indeed, rebel sources themselves have been quoted as saying that the incident occurred as a result of their own mishandling of chemical weapons obtained from Saudi Arabia. In that case, the victims were the “collateral damage” so frequent in war. War is a series of unintended consequences. The most obvious unintended consequence of US air strikes on Syria, if they happen, will be the total collapse of whatever pro-American sentiment may be left in the world, and a furious backlash against Israel, which is widely seen as the influence behind US policy in the Middle East. Some Israelis are fully aware of this.

The New York Times quoted former Israeli ambassador to the United States Itamar Rabinovich as warning that it would be “a mistake to overplay the Israeli interest” in striking Syria. “It’s bad for Israel that the average American gets it into his or her mind that boys are again sent to war for Israel. They have to be sent to war for America.”

If not for Israel, why do boys, or girls, or missiles, have to be sent at all?

And the best way to prevent the backlash against Israel and its supporters is to call a halt to the whole project of using US military force in Syria.

But whatever happens, the reckless adventurer Bernard-Henri Levy can retire to his palatial villa in Marrakech, and dream up some new scheme.

*Sayanim is a Hebrew word (singular sayan) defined by Wikipedia “passive agents most usually called “sleeping agents” established outside Israel, ready to help Mossad agents out of feelings of patriotism toward Israel.

Diana Johnstone can be reached at diana.josto@yahoo.fr

Source

September 3, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

France investigates IMF chief over 2007 payout

Press TV – May 23, 2013

French authorities are interrogating International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde in connection with a controversial payout to a French tycoon during her term as France’s finance minister.

The 57-year-old appeared in France’s Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR) on Thursday.

The court, which investigates cases of ministerial misconduct, is probing Lagarde’s handling of a dispute in 2007 that resulted in 400 million euros (USD 515 million) payment to the former politician and controversial business figure, Bernard Tapie.

The CJR prosecutors suspect that he was granted the treatment in return for backing former President Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential race.

Lagarde, who was France’s finance minister at that time, is accused of being responsible for “numerous anomalies and irregularities” which could lead her to be charged for complicity in fraud and misappropriation of public funds.

The investigation focused on Lagarde’s move in 2007, when she asked a panel of judges to arbitrate in a row between Tapie and the partly state-owned Credit Lyonnais over his sale of sports group Adidas in 1993.

Tapie had accused the bank of defrauding him by deliberately undervaluing Adidas at the time of the sale. He further said that the state – as the former principal shareholder in the bank – should compensate him.

Tapie was previously jailed on charges of match-fixing when he was the president of French football club Olympique de Marseille.

The criminal charges are regarded as the second straight scandal for an IMF chief since Lagarde succeeded Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who quit over allegations of an assault on a hotel maid in New York.

Lagarde, however, has downplayed the investigation.

“There’s nothing new under the sun. Ever since 2011 I had known very well that I will be heard by the investigative commission of the Cour de Justice,” she said last month.

May 23, 2013 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sarkozy and Hollande on Middle East: La Même Chose

By Patrick Galey | Al Akhbar |  May 5, 2012

When the frontrunners in France’s presidential race took their seats on Thursday evening for a final televised debate, they did so with battle lines firmly entrenched.

Incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande had spent the previous month on a vitriolic campaign trail exposing deep rifts among the French electorate over the economy, immigration, and nuclear energy.

But the most significant player in Sunday’s election, which most opinion polls predict will go down to the wire, was not even in the studio.

Both Hollande and Sarkozy are mindful that the 6.4 million who voted for Marine Le Pen of the far right National front will have a large bearing on the outcome of Sunday’s run-off. That’s why they have sought to echo Le Pen’s strident anti-immigration rhetoric which reached out to disenchanted voters and hardliners alike.

Hollande vowed to cut economic migration at a time when France is feeling the pinch from the eurozone’s financial turmoil. Sarkozy went one step further, referencing Le Pen by name and claiming only he had the experience and gumption to put a meaningful cap on immigration’s pall over France by cutting the number of people entering the country in half.

Judy Dempsey, a senior associate at Carnegie Europe, said although immigration was being touted as a domestic stand from both candidates, using the issue as a sweetener to attract far-right voters could have an adverse effect on France internationally.

“Immigration is foreign policy and when they speak about immigration now in France it’s fortress Europe,” she said. “[Hollande and Sarkozy] don’t see immigration in a positive sense and it sends completely the wrong signal to the younger generation and the emerging business community in the Middle East.”

It was not until the final minutes of Thursday’s debate that the issue of foreign policy was raised. Here, both candidates demurred.

Sarkozy was quick to point out how he took the lead as France led the way in a number of international decisions while in office.

France’s president has often sought to paint himself as a highly experienced operator in the realm of global diplomacy. As well as inheriting French involvement in NATO’s Afghanistan mission, Sarkozy oversaw the stationing of French troops in the Middle East and Africa, largely in a peacekeeping capacity.

He played a prominent role in meditation between Tbilisi and Moscow in 2008 when the fight over Abkhazia and South Ossetia threatened to boil over into all out war.

And last year, Sarkozy’s France spearheaded NATO’s campaign for military intervention in Libya.

Sarkozy avoided mentioning Libya in Thursday’s debate after embarrassing allegations that his 2007 presidential campaign had received an offer of funding from Tripoli. Sarkozy is seeking legal action over the claim, but thought better of opening that particular can of worms in the closing moments of a potentially election-changing televised appearance.

Hollande’s public statements indicate striking Middle Eastern policy similarities to the current government. Like Sarkozy, Hollande has declared that an Iranian nuclear missile would be unacceptable for Europe. Like Sarkozy, Hollande has called for a two-state solution in Palestine while trumpeting Israeli security as a key French concern.

The Socialist leader has been necessarily vague over French foreign policy. He currently lacks a dedicated adviser for overseas affairs. Instead of laying out detailed plans for France’s global relations, the Socialist challenger has made a point of criticizing Sarkozy in this regard.

Looking ahead to the next term in office, Hollande has struck a remarkably similar tone to the current government.

Sarkozy and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe have been among the most hawkish European officials to address the Syrian crisis, closing the French Embassy in Damascus and calling multiple times for President Bashar Assad to leave office. Sarkozy has issued incessant calls for a full ceasefire in Syria, and has somewhat ominously compared the restive city of Homs to Benghazi, Libya’s erstwhile rebel stronghold.

Hollande, for his part, declared last month that he would support military intervention in Syria, “if done within a [United Nations] framework.” Juppe has offered words to the same effect in recent weeks.

According to Thomas Klau, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, both Sarkozy and Hollande will wait and see what happens in Syria before veering from the French course of public criticism of the Damascus government.

“The current government and Juppe have been very active on the Syria dossier and doing all they could to get Russia to move its stance,” Klau told Al-Akhbar. “I wouldn’t expect the French policy to be different under Hollande. Much of his policy will be determined by events on the ground and the success – or the lack of it – from the [U.N./Arab League Envoy Kofi] Annan’s mediation effort.”

Dempsey added that Hollande had raised the prospect of military intervention in Syria “because he can say it without the responsibility” of having to go through with it. As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, France still has some global clout, but not nearly enough to convince Russia or China to bless any advance on Syria. Both candidates know and accept this, and continuity in the French approach to Damascus is more likely than meaningful change.

In a similar way, with Paris’ pro-Israel lobby as influential among the Socialists as they are in Sarkozy’s UMP party, Hollande, should he win, is unlikely to depart from France’s current line on Palestine.

In spite of a few diplomatic gaffes, including branding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a liar,” Sarkozy has spent much of the last five years offering support to Israeli officials. Hollande, with influential pro-Israeli figures such as Dominique Strauss-Kahn having the ear of many Parisian socialists, will have a hard time departing from such engagement.

“Nicolas Sarkozy was personally convinced that the national interest of Israel was very close to French national interest,” Klau said. “With Francois Hollande, his attitude isn’t very significant. Neither of them place themselves in the Arabist tradition of French foreign policy, which has lost relevance anyway.”

So if foreign policy has provided so few soundbites in the French presidential election, it is because both candidates are largely in assent.

That is not to say Sarkozy and Hollande agree on every foreign policy area.

Hollande used Thursday’s debate to repeat a campaign promise that, if elected, he would withdraw all French troops serving with NATO from Afghanistan by the end of 2012 – a full year ahead of a planned pullout, and much to the chagrin of Sarkozy. The French president has said he’d prefer not to renege on the current withdrawal timetable agreed with NATO.

In recent months, Sarkozy has faced the wrath of Turkey, one of France’s major trading partners, by pursuing legislation that would make it illegal to deny the Armenian Genocide. Amid opprobrium from Ankara, the president has pushed ahead with the controversial bill, which critics have denounced as a cynical attempt to get France’s estimated 400,000 ethnic Armenians on his side ahead of elections.

Sarkozy has made no secret of his objection to Turkey applying for EU membership, and fallout over the genocide bill is just the latest of a series of spats with Ankara during his time in office. Hollande also indicated he would oppose Turkish EU accession if elected, but, significantly for officials in Ankara, he has not ruled out future negotiations.

“Sarkozy is openly hostile to the notion that Turkey should join the EU, whereas the Socialist position is that that door should remain open,” said Klau.

France’s poor diplomatic ties with Ankara can be counted as a black mark against Sarkozy’s foreign policy initiatives, something Hollande should seek to take advantage of, according to Dempsey.

“Sarkozy had something near contempt for Turkey and there is no love lost between Ankara and Paris,” she said. “This would change slowly under Hollande. It’s time France considered [engagement with Turkey] as its long-term strategic interest but that is one thing that Hollande might be able to change if he wins.”

With France mired in discontent over domestic issues, it is no surprise that neither Hollande nor Sarkozy has been overly willing to share their opinions on global affairs.

But whoever inherits control of one of NATO’s largest troop contributing countries will need to keep plans in place.

May 5, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sarkozy and Hollande on Middle East: La Même Chose

Disillusion With the Euro and Europe

French Elections: Cracks in the Neoliberal Consensus

By DIANA JOHNSTONE | CounterPunch | April 24, 2012

Democratic elections in the NATO member states serve one clear purpose. They contribute to the self-satisfaction concerning “our values” needed to justify military intervention in the imperfect internal affairs of other countries.  But do the citizens really decide policy through their votes, or is electoral democracy fatally corrupted by the power of money?

At least in its form, the French presidential election is a model of resistance to the power of money that so blatantly dominates presidential elections in the United States.

While the United States is locked in a two-party system where both parties depend on millions of dollars from rich donors, the French two-round system allows as many candidates as can gather the required number (500) of mayors’ signatures to run in the first round.  Then voters can decide between the two front-runners in the second round.

For the final phase of the first round campaign, which ended with the election this Sunday, April 22, all candidates receive equal television time to get across their message, without having to pay for it.

This time around, there were ten candidates, five of whom had at least a chance at the start to make it into the second round, even though polls showed the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialist Party candidate François Hollande leading the pack.  But an upset was at least theoretically possible, as happened in 2002, when the National Front candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen knocked out the Socialist Party candidate Lionel Jospin in the first round, handing Jacques Chirac a landslide victory in the run-off.

The most suspenseful aspect of the first round turned out to be the duel for third place between Jean-Marie’s daughter and political successor Marine Le Pen and the Left Front candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.  Marine set out to beat her father’s score ten years ago, while Mélenchon set himself the goal of beating her.  The two adversaries were the most charismatic of the ten candidates.  As candidate of the Left Front, Mélenchon lost his bid to come in third, but thanks to his extraordinary verbal skills has succeeded in reviving a political force to the left of the Socialist Party.

Percentage results of candidates in April 22 first round of French Persidential election     

François Hollande, Socialist Party                                             29 %

Nicolas Sarkozy, outgoing President                                          26 %

Marine Le Pen, National Front                                                    18 %

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Left Front                                                 11 %

François Bayrou, centrist                                                                9 %

Eva Joly, Greens                                                                                2 %

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, Social Gaullist                                  1.8%

Philippe Poutou, New Anti-Capitalist Party (Trotskyist)     1.2%

Nathalie Arthaud, communist (Lutte Ouvrière, Trotskyist) 0.7%

Jacques Cheminade, progressist (Lyndon Larouche influence)   0.2%

Participation was high, at around 80%.  The first round is altogether more entertaining and interesting than the second round. It provides more information about the real preferences of voters than the second round, which, like U.S. presidential elections, is often decided on the “lesser evil” principle, with increasing numbers of voters aware that whoever wins, the policies will be much the same.

A few observations:

Every candidate except Sarkozy, the self-styled centrist Bayrou and the Green candidate Eva Joly singled out the world of finance as the main adversary.  Hollande did so quite explicitly in his main campaign speech, although shortly afterwards he watered his wine considerably during a visit to London, the City oblige.  This hostility toward banks has horrified Anglo-American commentators, from The Economist to John Vinocur of the International Herald Tribune, for whom realism consists in docile obedience to the demands of “the markets”. Acting uppity toward finance capital is close to insanity. If “the right” is defined first of all by subservience to finance capital, then aside from Sarkozy, Bayrou and perhaps Joly, all the other candidates were basically on the left.  And all of them except Sarkozy would be considered far to the left of any leading politician in the United States. 

This applies notably to Marine Le Pen, whose social program was designed to win working class and youth votes.  Her “far right” label is due primarily to her criticism of Muslim practices in France and demands to reduce immigration quotas, but her position on these issues would be considered moderate in the Netherlands or in much of the United States. Even she stressed that the immigration problem, as she saw it, was not the fault of the immigrants themselves but of the politicians and the elite who brought them here.  The main tone of her political message was resolutely populist, attacking the “Paris elite”.  Demagogic, yes, often vague and playing fast and loose with statistics, but a model of reason compared to the utterances of the “Tea Party”.  Her political challenge was to hold onto her father’s ultra-conservative constituency while wooing discontented low income voters.  She apparently won more working class votes than Mélenchon.

Mélenchon left the Socialist party to found the Left Party in 2008.  As candidate for the broader Left Front, he has raised the spirits of the demoralized French Communist Party, which fell below 2% in the 2007 election and gave up running a candidate of its own.  Its militants have responded enthusiastically to Mélenchon’s revival of red flags and fiery rhetoric. He would put lower and upper limits on wages and salaries. His program, including calls for constitutional revision that would guarantee such progressive measures as gay marriage, assisted suicide and the right to abortion, surely goes far beyond the demands of his constituency, more concerned with jobs and wages, and reflects his personal adherence to the progressive philosophy of French Free Masonry.  It is certainly his quick witted debating skill that appeals to voters more than the details of his ambitious program.

Disillusion with the euro and Europe

The two leading candidates remain faithful to the dogma of “European construction”.  But elsewhere splits are beginning to show.  Marine Le Pen condemns the euro as a failure which had wrecked European economies and is doomed to disappear.

Certainly, François Asselineau, who has founded his own party, the Union Populaire Républicaine, with the sole object of leaving the European Union, has been totally deprived of any media coverage, and was unable to gather the necessary signatures for candidacy. But the social Gaullist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who is only beginning to be known to the French public, is adamant that France should return to the franc, retaining the euro only as a reserve currency around which EU member state currencies should be allowed to fluctuate.  Dupont-Aignan calls the euro a “racket” and a “poison” for EU economies, which are too diverse for a single currency.  To the objection that leaving the euro would cause huge inflation, he accuses present EU leaders of creating inflation by allowing private banks to borrow at 1% and then ruin member States by lending to them at higher and higher rates.  After France recovers its sovereignty by leaving the euro, Dupont-Aignan would have the Bank of France finance the state at zero interest, which would allow the government to reduce its debt and hire more teachers, policemen and researchers, instead of reducing their number.  He would also take measures to protect French industry from cheap imports.

In contrast, Mélenchon advocates strongly interventionist economic policies without accounting for the fact that they would go against European Union directives as well as the monetarist policy governing the euro. Mélenchon speaks of using the economic weight of France to persuade Germany to change its deflationist policies.  This raises the problem of the clear contradiction between social policies to which the French are attached and the European Union’s control of economic policy that is fatal to those social policies.

Foreign policy confusion 

Foreign policy has been almost entirely absent from this campaign. This could be because voters are not thought to be interested, or because there is no strong opposition between the candidates.  François Hollande conforms to the mainstream consensus, saying he would support military intervention in Syria if based on a UN resolution.  Much of the French left has swallowed the “Responsibility to Protect” ideology.

Already last year, Mélenchon dismayed a certain number of his admirers by supporting the war in Libya, on the grounds that it was based on a UN Resolution.  He now calls for withdrawal from NATO and construction of an independent United Nations intervention force.

Not surprisingly, the Gaullist Dupont-Aignan opposes arming the Syrian opposition, pointing to the fact that arms provided to Libyan rebels ended up in the hands of militias who are destabilizing the whole region.  He maintains that France should have acted differently in Libya and with Russia, instead of following the anti-Russian policy of the United States.

Among the leading candidates, the only clear anti-war policy is that of Marine Le Pen, who favors immediate withdrawal from both Afghanistan and the NATO command, describes the current French government policy of supporting the Syrian opposition as “totally irresponsible”, calls for recognition of a Palestinian State and opposes threats to bomb Iranian nuclear sites, which have not been proven to be military. And she adds: “As far as I know, no nation which has atomic weapons has ever asked for permission from anyone, neither the United States, nor France, nor Israel, nor Pakistan… Must we then plunge the world into a war whose extent we will not control because certain foreign counties ask us to?”

Marine Le Pen is regularly stigmatized as “racist” for her desire to reduce immigration.  But which is worse: refusing entry to Muslim immigrants, or bombing them in their home countries?

The worst is yet to come

Even before the vote, John Vinocur raged against the “miserable precedent” represented by the fact that what he dubbed the “Rejection Front” made up of Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon was almost sure to beat the first round score of either mainstream candidate. Thus, he said, France would have “legitimatized two political currents that spurn serious solutions for France’s economic grief, reject civility and common sense and variously propose regression through loony yet authoritarian economics, class warfare, class or racial prejudices, anti-Western instincts, and the politics of endless rage.”

Wow, take that you frogs.  Look to the calm, intelligent debate of  U.S. Republican primaries for guidance, and remember that whatever foolish things you want, like jobs, medical care or a roof over your head, it’s the markets that have the last word.

Exit polls pointed to a solid victory for Hollande in the second round.  The standard description of Marine Le Pen as “the far right” could suggest that her voters would turn to the right wing candidate, Sarkozy, in the runoff.  But this is far from the case.  The social and foreign policy positions of Marine Le Pen have won over a number of voters disenchanted with the left. Her voters may split fifty-fifty in the second round.  She herself clearly looks forward to the defeat of Sarkozy in order to become the undisputed leader of a recomposed right-wing opposition, which could make life difficult for the future President Hollande.   Perhaps the only thing that could save Sarkozy would be massive abstention, but that does not look likely.

Actually, the timing of this election is favorable to a fairly limp, ill-defined candidate like Hollande, because the future is as unclear as he is.  The Greek disaster, the financial woes of Portugal, Spain and Italy are ominous for France, and the French are worried.  But most French people are still too well off to be seriously alarmed.  The critics like Vinocur or The Economist seem to think that a French candidate for president should run on a campaign of telling people that they should happily prepare to give up all the comforts they enjoy, because that is what the financial markets demand.  If things are as bad as these champions of financial globalization are predicting, then this first round may provide better hints to the French future than the final round of the Hollande-Sarkozy election in two weeks time.

DIANA JOHNSTONE is the author of Fools Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions. She can be reached at  diana.josto@yahoo.fr

April 24, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Report: Greek aid likely conditioned on arms deals

Press TV – April 20, 2012

Financial aid to cash-strapped Greece is suspected to have been conditioned on the country’s managing to clinch arms deals with Germany and France, a report reveals.

“Speculation is rife that international aid for the country was contingent on Greece following through on agreements to purchase military hardware from Germany and France,” The Guardian said on Thursday.

Germany’s biggest arms market in Europe is Greece with around 15 percent of its total arms sales heading there.

Earlier in January, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a joint news conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Berlin, “We must see progress on the voluntary restructuring of Greek debt.”

Merkel and Sarkozy both insisted to press ahead with a greater “fiscal compact” in Europe, and tougher penalties for the countries that violated the eurozone’s budget rules.

Greece’s Deputy Prime Minister Theodore Pangalos regretted during a May 2010 visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Athens was spending so much money on arms.

He said the country was being “forced to buy weapons” and that the deals made him feel “national shame.”

Thanos Dokos, a leading Greek defense expert, said the country had 1,300 tanks, more than twice the number in the UK and far beyond its needs.

Greece has the highest debt burden in proportion to the size of its economy in the 17-nation eurozone. Despite austerity cuts and bailout funds, the country has been in recession since 2009.

In order to secure an EUR-130-billion bailout package funded mostly by the eurozone member states and the International Monetary Fund, the country had to adopt harsh austerity measures, including massive cuts to its private and public sector wages, pensions, as well as health and defense spending, which have worsened the economic recession, leading to thousands of job losses.

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Report: Greek aid likely conditioned on arms deals

French police raid ‘extremists’, arrest 19

RT | March 30, 2012

The Toulouse gunman may be dead and buried, but his dark legacy continues to stir up national passions in France. With French police arresting some 19 suspected Islamists in raids across the country, harsher anti-terror measures could be looming.

­Mohamed Merah, the gunman behind the tragic shooting which killed seven, including three school children, in one of France’s worst terror attacks was buried in Toulouse on Thursday.

The case set French security services on high alert and sparked a vigorous debate among French politicians with the presidential campaign in full swing.

“From now on, anyone who regularly consults Internet sites which promote terror or hatred or violence will be sentenced to prison. Any person going abroad for the purposes of indoctrination in terrorist ideology will be criminally punished,” declared France`s acting President Nicolas Sarkozi, who is seeking another term.

Sarkozi also advocates tightening border controls, saying there are “too many foreigners in France.” He has also promised to bar radical Muslim preachers from entering the country to participate in an Islamic conference next month.

On Friday Sarkozy announced that the domestic intelligence agency carried out a series of raids in Toulouse, Nantes, Lyon, Marseille, Paris and Nice, arresting 19 Islamist suspects. The president added that more such raids are planned.

He gave no details about the justifications for the arrests, but said the operation was conducted “in connection with a form of Islamist radicalism.”

Police say they seized some weapons, including at least one Kalashnikov rifle.

Although the raids mainly took place in Toulouse, police say they are not connected with the case of Mohamed Merah, AP reports citing an anonymous police source.

Another presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, from the far right National Front, is pushing for a more radical anti-immigration line.

“How many Mohamed Merahs are there in the boats and planes that arrive in France full of immigrants? Mohamed Merah is perhaps only the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

Le Pen has called for “war on these fundamentalist political religious groups who are killing our children,” saying that “the threat of Islamic fundamentalism has been underestimated.”

Politicians may be throwing out what they call solutions, but the question is whether these policy ideas on immigration or security are realistic means of addressing the real problem.

While some are alarmed by such harsh rhetoric, others say these proposals are solely being made to get votes, as emotions remain charged after the Toulouse tragedy.

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, False Flag Terrorism, Video | , , , , | 3 Comments

Questions emerge over police handling of Toulouse, France killings

By Alex Lantier | WSWS | 24 March 2012

Details emerging about Mohamed Merah, the alleged gunman in a series of murders in the Toulouse area from March 11 to March 19, raise serious questions about the conduct of French intelligence and police agencies.

Merah allegedly killed one paratrooper in Toulouse on March 11, two paratroopers in nearby Montauban on March 15, and a father and several children at a Jewish school in Toulouse on March 19. He was killed in an armed standoff with police at his Toulouse apartment Thursday, shot in the head by a sniper as he fell from his balcony.

Officials are scrambling to explain how Merah—though known to both French intelligence (DCRI, Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence) and to police—operated undetected for over a week, and why he was killed in the operation.

Speaking to Europe1 radio Thursday, Foreign Minister Alain Juppé admitted: “I understand why one would ask if there was an error or not. As I do not know whether there was an error, I cannot tell you what type of error, but we must shed light on this.”

Christian Prouteau, the founder of the GIGN (Intervention Group of the National Gendarmerie), a counterterrorism squad that rivals the elite police unit that killed Merah, criticized the assault yesterday. He said he was surprised that the standoff ended in Merah’s death: “How is it that the best police unit cannot arrest a lone man? They could have hit him with tear gas. Instead they threw armfuls of grenades at him. The result was that the criminal was put in a psychological state to continue his ‘war.’”

He added: “It may appear presumptuous, but in 64 GIGN operations under my command, there was not a single fatality.” Echoing comments by local Toulouse police, Prouteau asked why police did not simply wait in ambush outside Merah’s apartment and detain him as he left; this technique is apparently used often against Basque nationalists and mafia operatives.

These questions arose as incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy seeks to exploit the tragedy to push for wide-ranging police state powers, and to burnish his law-and-order credentials for next month’s presidential elections.

A recent CSA poll taken after the shootings showed Sarkozy increasing his vote, winning 30 percent of the vote in the first round of the elections versus 28 percent for Socialist Party (PS) candidate François Hollande. Hollande is still expected to win the second round of the elections, however, due to Sarkozy’s unpopularity outside the UMP’s voter base.

In a televised speech Thursday, Sarkozy called for “criminal punishment” of anyone reading internet sites that promote “terrorism” or “hatred,” traveling abroad for “indoctrination,” defending “extremist ideologies,” or promoting them inside prisons. Such proposals, couched in such broad terms as to allow the state to criminalize virtually any oppositional politics, trample basic constitutional rights of free speech and travel.

Magistrates Union official Marie-Blanche Régnier said Sarkozy’s call was a “political maneuver.” She rhetorically asked whether he would include Marine Le Pen, the neo-fascist candidate whose voters Sarkozy has aggressively wooed with anti-immigrant rhetoric, on the list of “extremists.”

Under conditions in which the PS, the Communist Party (PCF), and the New Anti-capitalist Party are not challenging Sarkozy’s calls for “national unity,” most objections to the investigations have come from police and security specialists. However, the details that have surfaced already make clear that, if Merah was indeed the killer, he was able to carry out the murders only due to a remarkable breakdown of French police and intelligence operations.

Given the immense political stakes in Sarkozy’s exploitation of the shootings, it is only logical to ask whether there is any connection between this breakdown of intelligence and Sarkozy’s attempt to save his chances in the upcoming elections.

Shortly after the March 15 Montauban killings, officials were already saying they were exploring “all possible suspects” in the murders. According to the daily Libération, when on March 19 Toulouse police provided investigators with a list of Islamist “radicals” in the Toulouse area, it had only six names on it, and Merah’s was at the top of the list. Merah was therefore well known to police.

After the Montauban killings, however, Merah was apparently not identified—even though his mother’s IP address was on a police list of computers that had been in contact with the March 11 victim. This list was examined carefully by investigators, and it eventually played a role in Merah’s capture. However, investigators apparently did not cross-check this list with the list of Islamists until Monday the 19, after the killings at the Ozar Hatoreh school.

Defense expert François Heisbourg told Libération, “There are only a few dozen Frenchmen who have traveled to Afghanistan, and only a few units in the Midi-Pyrénées region [around Toulouse]. One wonders why no one paid more attention to him! One can perhaps understand this before the Toulouse and Montauban killings—it’s surprising, but not shocking. But afterwards? This means that either the agencies involved are completely out of cash, or they are not doing their job.”

He added, “I am puzzled when I hear the Paris and Toulouse prosecutors explain that they did not have the suspect’s address. It seems the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DCRI) interrogated him in the autumn and concluded he was not dangerous. How did they contact him if they did not have his address?”

Heisbourg also raised questions about Merah’s training as a gunman, apparently acquired during a couple of trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan, though he spent most of his time working as a mechanic: “This ‘lone wolf’ acted in ways the most experienced mafiosi do not dare attempt. He ran his operation himself, and carried out the killings with an unprecedented degree of cold calculation and absence of hysteria. Even the September 11 terrorists were more unnerved. He has therefore received absolutely first-rate training. Who trained him and how?”

Indeed, some questions remain as to whether Merah in fact was the killer. He did not resemble the description given by witnesses at the Montauban shooting, who spoke of a corpulent figure with tattoos and a scar on the left cheek. By contrast, Merah was thin and had no facial markings.

March 27, 2012 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , , , | 2 Comments

Sarkozy bans Muslim cleric from visiting France

Al Akhbar | March 26, 2012

President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday that influential Qatar-based Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi was not welcome in France, adding to concerns that the French leader is fueling Islamophobia.

Egyptian-born Qaradawi, 86, has been invited to visit next month by the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF).

“I told the emir of Qatar himself that this gentleman was not welcome in the territory of the French Republic,” Sarkozy told France Info radio.

Qaradawi, who hosts a popular show on Al-Jazeera satellite television, backed Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and has launched a fund-raising effort for the Syrian opposition.

He had been due to attend the UOIF congress at Le Bourget near Paris on April 6 alongside renowned Egyptian preacher Mahmoud al-Masri.

“I said that a certain number of people, who have been invited to this congress and who maintain or who would like to take positions that are incompatible with the republican ideal, would not be welcome,” Sarkozy said.

Qaradawi, who has close ties with the leadership of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, left the country in the 1960s after being imprisoned by the regime of president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

He is accused of having made homophobic statements and was banned from entering Britain in 2008. He has been banned from entering the United States since 1999.

Sarkozy has fanned right-wing discourse ahead of French presidential elections this year in an attempt to win conservative voters wary of immigration and France’s large Muslim population.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan recently accused the French leader of inciting racism and Islamophobia in a bid to get re-elected.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Islamophobia | , , , , | 3 Comments

French President Sarkozy Sees Opportunity for Censorship, Seizes It

By Jillian C. York | EFF | March 22, 2012

In the wake of a horrific rampage, in which Mohamed Merah (now dead after a 32-hour standoff with police) reportedly murdered three French soldiers, three young Jewish schoolchildren, and a rabbi, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has begun calling for criminal penalties for citizens who visit web sites that advocate for terror or hate.  “From now on, any person who habitually consults Web sites that advocate terrorism or that call for hatred and violence will be criminally punished,” Sarkozy was reported as saying.

Apart from the obvious flaws in Sarkozy’s plan–users, can, of course, use anonymizing tools to view the material or simply access it from a variety of locations to avoid appearing as “habitual” viewers–there are numerous other reasons to be concerned about criminalizing access to information.

First, there’s no guarantee that criminalizing access to hate speech or terrorist content will end the very real problems of hate crime and terrorism.  Extremist violence didn’t start with the Internet and it won’t end with it, either.

Second, who defines “hate speech”?  In France, that definition includes Holocaust denial, which in the past resulted in Yahoo! discontinuing auctions of Nazi memoribilia (the collectors of which are not, by any stretch, all sympathizers).  And negative comments about France’s Muslim community have also resulted in criminal penalties, most notably in the case of actress Brigitte Bardot, who has been convicted five times for “inciting racial hatred.”  While Holocaust denial and comments about Muslims such as those made by Bardot may be deplorable, they should not be criminal.

Finally, while Sarkozy is not–yet–calling for websites to be blocked, it wouldn’t be a stretch; after all, France already offers mechanisms for blocking child pornography and “incitement to terrorism and racial hatred.” If Sarkozy were to decide censorship is the answer, one major risk would be overblocking: there’s nary a country in the world that censors the Internet without collateral damage (in Australia, for example, testing on a would-be censorship regime found the site of a dentist blocked, among others).

EFF has serious concerns about the implications of Sarkozy’s comments.  When a democratic country such as France decides to censor or criminalize speech, it is not just the French that suffer, but the world, as authoritarian regimes are given easy justification for their own censorship.  We urge French authorities to judge crime on action, not expression.

March 23, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Paris university pulls plug on “Israeli apartheid” talk

By David Cronin – The Electronic Intifada – 02/17/2012

A Paris university has withdrawn permission for a Palestine solidarity conference at the behest of the Zionist lobby.

In a statement issued today, the authorities at the University of Paris 8 said that the title of the conference – “Israel: an apartheid state?” – was “of a strongly polemical character.” Because there had been strong reactions to its theme, the university predicted there could be a “serious risk posed to public order” if the event scheduled for 27 and 28 February went ahead.

The complaint against the conference was made by the representative council for Jewish organizations in France, or CRIF as it’s better known. It had objected to the participation of Omar Barghouti, coordinator of the Palestinian campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Boycott Israel “shock”

Barghouti’s presence in Paris would be “shocking”, according to CRIF, because the ideas that he espouses have “been found on several occasions to constitute an offence of incitement to discrimination.”

CRIF’s claim is misleading. While a number of BDS activists have been accused (ridiculously) of flouting French laws on racism, there have also been important rulings that uphold the right to urge a boycott of Israel. In December last, a court in the eastern city of Mulhouse acquitted 12 campaigners who had urged customers of the supermarket Carrefour not to buy Israeli goods.

I was also one of the invited speakers for the conference, which was part of , a series of debates and actions on university campuses throughout the world. The group behind the event, Collectif Palestine Paris 8, wasn’t consulted ahead of the university’s decision to ban it.

This isn’t the first time that CRIF has attempted to muzzle criticism of Israel on French campuses. Last year it strong-armed the authorities at the École normale supérieure (ENS), another Paris college, into forbidding a Palestine solidarity discussion. The big cheese at the ENS succumbed to the pressure but were rebuked for doing so by the French Council of State, which answers government queries on legal issues. By refusing to allocate a room to debate Israeli apartheid, the ENS didn’t respect the freedom of assembly and expression of its students, the Council found.

The “miracle” of Israel

Earlier this month, CRIF underscored its political clout, when Nicolas Sarkozy addressed its annual dinner. The president used the platform to call Israel a “miracle,” marvelling at how “from the debris [of the Holocaust], a democracy has been born.”

On his best behavior now that he is seeking re-election, Sarkozy saluted the “courage” of Benjamin Netanyahu, a man who he has called a “liar” in private conversations with Barack Obama (that were overhead by journalists).

Anyone who has been following events in that “miracle” called Israel will know that Netanyahu and his foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman are waging a war of attrition against civil liberties. Aspects of that war have been exported to France, where calling out Israel as an apartheid state is considered a threat to public order or, worse, a crime.

February 17, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment