Archive | March 30th, 2014

Masking Tragedy in Ukraine

NOVANEWS
Sinister Illusions
by CHRIS FLOYD

It is no secret that Barack Obama is one of the supreme illusionists of modern times. The disconnect between his words and his deeds is so profound as to be almost sublime, far surpassing the crude obfuscations of the Bush-Cheney gang. Their projections of unreality were more transparent, and in any case were merely designed to put a little lipstick on the pig of policies they were openly pushing (militarism, tax cuts for the rich, etc.). Indeed, the Bushists delivered their lines like bored performers at the end of a long run, not caring whether they were believed or not — just as long as they got what they wanted.

But Obama has taken all this to another level. He is a consummate performer, striving to “inhabit” the role and mouthing his lines as if they make sense and convey emotional truth. He is not just gilding his open agenda with some slap-dash lies; posing as a compassionate, progressive, anti-elitist peacemaker, he is masking a hidden agenda with a vast array of artifice, expending enormous effort to generate an alternate world that does not exist.

Take his astonishing attack on Vladimir Putin for “interfering” in Ukraine. That Obama could make this charge with a straight face — days after his own agents had been exposed (in the infamous “Fuck the EU” tape) nakedly interfering in Ukraine, trying to overthrow a democratically elected government and place their own favorites in charge — was brazen enough. But in accusing Putin of doing exactly what the Americans were doing in Ukraine, Obama also fabricated yet another alternate world.

Obama unilaterally declared that Ukraine should overturn the results of the 2010 election (which most observers said was generally “fair and free” — more so than elections in, say, the US, where losing candidates are sometimes wont to take power anyway, and where whole states dispossess or actively discourage millions of free citizens from voting). Instead, the Ukrainians should install an unelected “transitional government” in Kiev. Why? Because, says Obama, now channeling all Ukrainians in his own person, “the people obviously have a very different view and vision for their country” from the government they democratically elected.” And what is their vision, according to Obama the Ukrainian Avatar? To enjoy “freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, fair and free elections.” Something you might think they had enjoyed by having free elections 2010, and exercising freedom of speech and assembly to such a degree that a vast opposition force has occupied much of the central government district for months.

Now, this is not a defense of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s government. It is, by all accounts, a highly corrupt enterprise given to insider deals for well-connected elites who influence government policy for their own benefit. (I guess this might be a reason for overthrowing a democratically elected government with an armed uprising supported by foreign countries, but I would be careful about espousing this as a general rule if I were an American president.) But the reality in Ukraine is complex. Opposition forces have a legitimate beef against a corrupt and heavy-handed government. The Kremlin is obviously trying to manipulate events in Ukraine, just as the US is doing. Ukraine is polarized along several different lines — political, ethnic, historical, religious, linguistic — but these lines are not clear-cut, and often intersect, intermingle, are in flux. Many look to the West as a model, even a saviour, although the EU deal that Yanukovych turned down, precipitating the uprising, actually offered Ukraine little other than Greek-style financial servitude, while the Kremlin, at least, proffered cash on the barrelhead. The opposition itself is not a monolith of moral rectitude; one of its driving forces is an ultra-nationalist faction that spouts vile anti-Semitic rhetoric.

And the fact is, not a single one of the Western governments now denouncing Ukraine for its repression would have tolerated a similar situation. Try to imagine thousands of Tea Partiers, say, having declared that the elected government of Barack Obama was too corrupt and illegitimate to stand, setting up an armed camp in the middle of Washington, occupying the Treasury Building and Justice Department for months on end, while meeting with Chinese and Russian leaders, who then begin demanding a ‘transitional government’ be installed in the White House. What would be the government’s reaction? There is no doubt that it would make even Yanukovych’s brutal assault this week look like a Sunday School picnic.

So the situation in Ukraine is many-sided, complex, filled with ambiguity, change, nuance and chaos. But one thing that is not happening in Ukraine is Barack Obama’s fantasy that the entire Ukrainian people is rising to rid themselves of a tyrant so they can hold fair and free elections. They had such elections in 2010; and if the entire Ukrainian people now want to get rid of their president, there are free elections scheduled for 2015. It is likely that Yanukovych’s corrupt and maladroit performance in office — not least his reaction to the protest movement — would have guaranteed his peaceful defeat at the ballot box next year. But it is also likely that these elections will not be held now. One way or another,  Yanukovych will be forced from office by the violent chaos that he, and some opposition factions, and the machinations of Moscow and Washington have together produced. In any case, there is almost certainly more needless suffering in store for ordinary Ukrainians.

This is the reality, and tragedy, of the situation. But in the artfully hallucinated world of Barack Obama – a fantasy-land in which the entire American political and media elite also live – none of this matters. All that matters is the real agenda: advancing the dominance of a brutal ruling class through manipulation, militarism, and deception, whenever the opportunity arises.

Posted in UkraineComments Off on Masking Tragedy in Ukraine

Obama Pushes for Regime Change in Venezuela

NOVANEWS
Once Again, South America Says No
by MARK WEISBROT

When is it considered legitimate to try and overthrow a democratically-elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the U.S. government says it is. Not surprisingly, that’s not the way Latin American governments generally see it.

On Sunday, the Mercosur governments (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela) released a statement on the past week’s demonstrations in Venezuela. They described “the recent violent acts” in Venezuela as “attempts to destabilize the democratic order.” They made it abundantly clear where they stood.

The governments stated “their firm commitment to the full observance of democratic institutions and , in this context, [they] reject the criminal actions of violent groups that want to spread intolerance and hatred in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as a political tool.”

We may recall that when much larger demonstrations rocked Brazil last year, there were no statements from Mercosur or neighboring governments. That’s not because they didn’t love Dilma; it’s because these demonstrations did not seek to topple Brazil’s democratically-elected government.

The Obama administration was a bit more subtle, but also made it clear where it stood. When Secretary of State John Kerry states that “We are particularly alarmed by reports that the Venezuelan government has arrested or detained scores of anti-government protestors,” he is taking a political position. Because there were many protestors who committed crimes: they attacked and injured police with chunks of concrete and Molotov cocktails; they burned cars, trashed and sometimes set fire to government buildings; and committed other acts of violence and vandalism.

An anonymous State Department spokesman was even clearer, earlier in the week, when he responded to the protests by expressing concern about the government’s “weakening of democratic institutions in Venezuela,” and said that there was an obligation for “government institutions [to] respond effectively to the legitimate economic and social needs of its citizens.” He was joining the opposition’s efforts to de-legitimize the government, a vital part of any “regime change” strategy.

Of course we all know who the U.S. government supports in Venezuela. They don’t really try to hide it: there’s $5 million dollars in the 2014 U.S. federal budget for funding opposition activities inside Venezuela, and this is almost certainly the tip of the iceberg — adding to the hundreds of millions of dollars of overt support over the past 15 years.

But what makes these current U.S. statements important, and angers governments in the region, is that they are telling the Venezuelan opposition that Washington is once again backing regime change. Kerry did the same thing in April of last year when Maduro was elected president and opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles claimed that the election was stolen. Kerry refused to recognize the election results. Kerry’s aggressive, anti-democratic posture brought such a strong rebuke from South American governments that he was forced to reverse course and tacitly recognize the Maduro government. (For those who did not follow these events, there was no doub tabout the election results.)

Kerry’s recognition of the election results put an end to the opposition’s attempt to de-legitimize the elected government. After Maduro’s party won municipal elections by a wide margin in December, the opposition was pretty well defeated. Inflation was running at 56 percent and there were widespread shortages of consumer goods, yet a solid majority had still voted for the government. Their choice could not be attributed to the personal charisma of Chávez, who died nearly a year ago; nor was it irrational. Although the past year or so has been rough, the past 11 years – since the government got control over the oil industry — have brought large gains in living standards to the majority of Venezuelans who were previously marginalized and excluded. There were plenty of complaints about the government and the economy, but the rich, right-wing politicians who led the opposition did not reflect their values nor inspire their trust.

Opposition leader Leopoldo López – competing with Capriles for leadership — has portrayed the current demonstrations as something that could force Maduro from office. It was obvious that there was, and remains, no peaceful way that this could happen. As political scientist David Smilde has argued, the government has everything to lose from violence in the demonstrations, and the opposition has something to gain.

By the past weekend Capriles, who was initially wary of a potentially violent “regime change” strategy – was apparently down with program. According to Bloomberg News, he accused the government of “infiltrating the peaceful protests ‘to convert them into centers of violence and suppression.’”

Meanwhile, López is taunting Maduro on Twitter after the government made the mistake of threatening to arrest him: “Don’t you have the guts to arrest me?” he tweets. Hopefully the government will not take the bait.

U.S. support for regime change undoubtedly inflames the situation, since Washington has so much influence within the opposition and of course in the hemispheric media. It took a long time for the opposition to accept the results of democratic elections in Venezuela. They tried a military coup, backed by the U.S. in 2002; when that failed they tried to topple the government with an oil strike. They lost an attempt to recall the president in 2004 and cried foul; then they boycotted National Assembly elections for no reason the following year. The failed attempt to de-legitimize last April’s presidential election was a return to this dark but not-so-distant past. It remains to be seen how far they will go this time to win by other means what they have not been able to win at the ballot box, and how long they will have Washington’s support for regime change in Venezuela.

Posted in USA, VenezuelaComments Off on Obama Pushes for Regime Change in Venezuela

The Libyan Bedlam

NOVANEWS
General Hifter, the CIA and the Unfinished Coup
by RAMZY BAROUD

On Friday, Feb 14, 92 prisoners escaped from their prison in the Libyan town of Zliten. 19 of them were eventually recaptured, two of whom were wounded in clashes with the guards. It was just another daily episode highlighting the utter chaos which has engulfed Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Ghaddafi in 2011.

Much of this is often reported with cliché explanations as in the country’s ‘security vacuum’, or Libya’s lack of a true national identity. Indeed, tribe and region seem to supersede any other affiliation, but it is hardly that simple.

On that same Friday, Feb 14, Maj. Gen. Khalifa Hifter announced a coup in Libya. “The national command of the Libyan Army is declaring a movement for a new road map” (to rescue the country), Hifter declared through a video post. Oddly enough, little followed by way of a major military deployment in any part of the country. The country’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan described the attempted coup as “ridiculous”.

Others in the military called it a “lie.” One of those who attended a meeting with Hifter prior to the announcement told Al Jazeera that they simply attempted to enforce the national agenda of bringing order, not staging a coup.

Hifter’s efforts were a farce. It generated nothing but more attention to Libya’s fractious reality, following NATO’s war, branded a humanitarian intervention to prevent imminent massacres in Benghazi and elsewhere. “Libya is stable,” Zeidan told Reuters. “(The parliament) is doing its work, and so is the government.”

But Zedian is not correct. His assessment is a clear contradiction to reality, where hundreds of militias rule the country with an iron fist. In fact, the prime minister was himself kidnapped by one militia last October. Hours later, he was released by another militia. Although both, like the rest of the militias, are operating outside government confines, many are directly or loosely affiliated with government officials. In Libya, to have sway over a militia is to have influence over local, regional or national agendas. Unfortunate as it may be, this is the ‘new Libya.’

Some will find most convenient ways to explain the chaos: ‘East Libya is inherently unruly’, some would say; ‘it took a strong leader like Ghaddafi to maintain the national cohesion of a country made of tribes, not citizens,’ others would opine. But the truth is oftentimes inconvenient and requires more than mere platitudes.

Libya is in a state of chaos, not because of some intrinsic tendency to shun order. Libyans, like people all over the world, seek security and stability in their lives. However, other parties, Arab and western, are desperate to ensure that the ‘new Libya’ is consistent with their own interests, even if such interests are obtained at the expense of millions of people.

The New York Times’ David Kirkpatrick reported on the coup from Cairo. In his report, “In Libya, a Coup. Or Perhaps Not,” he drew similarities between Libya and Egypt; in the case of Egypt, the military succeeded in consolidating its powers starting on July 3, whereas in Libya a strong military institution never existed in the first place, even during Ghaddafi’s rule. In order for Hifter to stage a coup, he would need to rely on more than a weak and splintered military.

Nonetheless, it is quite interesting that the NYT chose to place Hifter’s ‘ridiculous’ coup within an Egyptian context, while there is a more immediate and far more relevant context at hand, one of which the newspaper and its veteran correspondents should know very well. It is no secret that Hifter has had strong backing from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for nearly three decades.

The man has been branded and rebranded throughout his colorful and sometimes mysterious history more times than one can summarize in a single article. He fought as an officer in the Chadian-Libyan conflict, and was captured alongside his entire unit of 600 men. During his time in prison, Chad experienced a regime change (both regimes were backed by French and US intelligence) and Hifter and his men were released per US request to another African country, then a third. While some chose to return home, others knew well what would await them in Libya, for reasons explained by the Times on May 17, 1991.

“For two years, United States officials have been shopping around for a home for about 350 Libyan soldiers who cannot return to their country because American intelligence officials had mobilized them into a commando force to overthrow Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader,” NYT reported. “Now, the Administration has given up trying to find another country that will accept the Libyans and has decided to bring them to the United States.”

Hifter was then relocated to a Virginia suburb in the early 1990’s and settled there. The news is murky about his exact activities living near Washington D.C., except for his ties to Libyan opposition forces, which of course, operated within a US agenda.

In his thorough report, published in the Business Insider, Russ Baker traced much of Hifter’s activities since his split from Ghaddafi and adoption by the CIA. “A Congressional Research Service report of December 1996 named Hifter as the head of the NFSL’s military wing, the Libyan National Army. After he joined the exile group, the CRS report added, Hifter began ‘preparing an army to march on Libya’. The NFSL, the CSR said, is in exile ‘with many of its members in the United States.”

It took nearly 15 years for Hifter to march on Libya. It also took a massive war that was purported to support a popular uprising. Hifter, as Baker described, is the Libyan equivalent of Iraq’s Ahmed Chalabi, a discredited figure with strong allies in Washington D.C. Chalabi was sent to post-Saddam Iraq to lead the ‘democratization’ process. Instead, he helped set the stage of the calamity underway in that Arab country.

It is no wonder why Hifter’s return was a major source of controversy. Since the news of his CIA affiliation was no big secret, his return to Libya to join the rebels in March caused much confusion. Almost immediately, he was announced by a military spokesman as the rebels’ new commander, only for the announcement to be dismissed by the National Transitional Council as false. The NTC was largely a composition of mysterious characters that had little presence within Libya’s national consciousness. Hifter found himself as the third man in the military ladder, which he accepted but apparently grudgingly so.

Despite the coup failure, Libya will subsist on uncertainty. Arab and Western media speak of illegal shipments of weapons arriving into various Libyan airports. The militias are growing in size. The central government is growing irrelevant. Jail breaks are reported regularly. And Libyans find safety in holding on tighter to their tribal and clan affiliations. What future awaits Libya is hard to predict, but with western and Arab intelligence fingerprints found all over the Libyan bedlam, the future is uninviting.

Posted in LibyaComments Off on The Libyan Bedlam

Will World War III be Fought on Twitter?

NOVANEWS
The China Threat Gravy Train
by PETER LEE

I would recommend that readers who have not yet done so create a Twitter account and subscribe to my feed (@chinahand).  To my embarrassment and surprise, I’ve churned out over 800 tweets since I started up my feed last November.

Some of it is meaningless ephemera, of course.  But sometimes the twitter stream carries in it telling or insightful tweets that illustrate the dynamics of debate over US foreign policy as it evolves over a month, a week, or maybe even a day and are worth retweeting.

And, of course, I put in my own two cents worth, hopefully in a telling and insightful fashion, on subjects that are perhaps too fleeting or developing too quickly for a post, but are significant nonetheless.

For instance, I’ve become more attuned to the back-and-forth between US pro-Japan China hawks and the (relative) moderates in the Obama administration and the role of the Abe administration’s role as observer, participant, and victim or beneficiary depending on how the debate evolves.

One set of my tweets addressed the PRC inserting itself into a spat between the United States and Japan concerning Japan’s footdragging in returning a few hundred kilos of weapon-grade plutonium.

On the simplest level, of course, the PRC wishes to sow doubts about the genuinely pacifist character of Japan as it carefully moves to full sovereign status as a military power, but at the same time tries to reap the PR benefits of its seventy-year experience under the so-called “pacifist” constitution by marketing its regional security initiatives as “active pacifism”.

On another level, the PRC appears to be discretely tweaking the United States to live up to the non-proliferation ambitions which justified the rather premature award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama.  So, when the PRC pointedly raised the issue, maybe the US decided to cater to the PRC by making a public issue of the plutonium.

This understandably infuriated the Abe government, which felt that this was a matter to be dealt with discretely between allies and not used as a shaming opportunity by the US in order to pander to the PRC.  Perhaps coincidentally, pro-Japan individuals and outlets in the US pooh-poohed the plutonium issue, and steered attention to the more looming PRC threat.

I think there was another issue at play as well.

Japan, and indeed any technically capable power, does not need weapons-grade plutonium to make a bomb.  Fuel grade will do just as well, thank you, if you’re willing to accept some less desirable yield/size/radiation outcomes.  So the few hundred pounds of weapons-grade plutonium is not really the issue.

The issue is the five tons or so of plutonium metal Japan has in country and the twenty-odd tons it has stored for it at reprocessing facilities in the UK and France (some Pentagon policy types made the rather ad hoc decision to console Japan for US normalization of relations with the PRC by letting Japan be the only US atomic partner, aside from the UK and France, to “close the fuel cycle” i.e. recover plutonium from spent fuel in order to avoid a uranium drought that, one might notice, has not materialized) and the rocket program that Japan, despite its unfavorable location far in the northern hemisphere (which renders commercial launches relatively uneconomical) has spent billions to develop.

Long story short, despite Japan’s vociferous and, in some circles, sincere professions of disinterest in nuclear weapons, it is by design a nuclear power en ovo, and will continue to be one until the Chinese nuclear and conventional military threat somehow evaporates.

As a reminder, I will quote the Prime Minister of Japan:

‘It is certainly the case that Japan has the capability to possess nuclear weapons, but has not made them.’

Prime Minister Hata made that statement before the Diet in 1994.  Please keep that in the back of your mind when the issue of Japan’s strategic helplessness comes up.  And that’s something that the PRC would like to see injected into discussions of Japan’s security posture.

One of the most interesting speculations about Iran’s nuclear program is that it modeled its tiptoe to the nuclear threshold on Japan’s example.

And, with this background, I always wondered if the US motive for elevating Yukio Amano to head of the IAEA (after finally seeing the back of the irritatingly independent ElBaradei) was that Amano, a veteran of Japan’s nuclear establishment, knew exactly how the stealth weaponization game was played, and would be disinclined to cut Iran any slack.  And I wonder if sub rosa the quid pro quo was that Amano’s steadfastness on the Iran dossier would be rewarded by turning a blind eye, nonproliferation Nobel be damned, on Japan’s carefully managed nuclear weaponization capabilities–and the thirty tons of plutonium to which it holds title.

And, to enter into 12-dimensional chess territory, I suspect that the Abe administration is quietly freaked out about Secretary of State John Kerry’s focus on the Middle East, where China, by virtue of its backing of Iran and Syria has a much more significant and meaningful role to play than Japan.

The fear would be that the PRC would promise—or deliver—meaningful assistance in the Middle East and expect in return a more conciliatory attitude toward the PRC by Kerry.

So maybe the plutonium incident did indeed represent a bone tossed by Kerry to his Beijing buddies–and a breaking of the original understanding that the US wouldn’t make an issue of Japanese nuclear weaponization capabilities.

In any case, on twitter there was a spate of commentary that Kerry was over-focused on the Middle East and was not devoting adequate time and attention to confronting the PRC threat.  Indeed, I was quite struck by the amount of hype devoted to the Chinese salami-slicing menace (the rather cringe-inducing term used to describe the PRC’s incremental steps to improve its de facto position in its maritime realm) and the insistence that the PRC’s thus far successful attempt to dodge militarization of these issues (a key PRC strategy given the overwhelming military superiority of the US) should be short-circuited by an overtly confrontational policy.

I feel pretty confident that a) this approach is nuts b) Kerry & Biden feel the same way and, while engaging in ostentatious chest-thumping against the PRC, are actually interested in reducing tensions rather than increasing them.

However, there’s no Washington constituency for reduced tensions.  The pro-Japanese alliance/China hawk  forces, on the other hand, have the enormous political, security, and financial attractions of a containment regime adding force and determination to their policy recommendations.  The growing enthusiasm for something called “dynamic deterrence”—pushback just short of confrontation—creates an environment of escalation (the PRC, of course, will upgrade its deterrence in response) that looks a lot like a self-fulfilling prophecy masquerading as a security doctrine. And it pushes US-PRC frictions closer to the military zone where US strategists feel the most comfortable.

For extra credit, questioning the policy undercuts deterrent and is can be considered, in a term bandied about with increasing frequency, “appeasement”. The self-identifying “appeasement” faction is, as one can expect, quite small.

The game in Asia is still economic, and I feel/hope the Obama administration thinks it can let the military/industrial/security/surveillance complex ride the “China threat” gravy train while the business of business goes on.

But if you want to see how the war with China might get fought, check out twitter.

Posted in ChinaComments Off on Will World War III be Fought on Twitter?

Is the Cuba Blockade Ending?

NOVANEWS
Stirrings of Disenchantment Among the Powerful
by W.T. WHITNEY

The U.S. economic blockade of Cuba, cruel and reviled across the globe, has lasted as long as did the stretch between the U.S. Civil War and World War I. But it may not last forever. Just recently, stirrings of disenchantment among powerful forces have cropped up nationally and in Florida, epicenter of Cuban émigré opposition to Cuba’s revolutionary government.

On February 11 the Atlantic Council released its poll on attitudes toward the blockade expressed during January. The Council surveyed 1000 people nationwide plus 617 Florida residents and 525 Latinos, all by telephone. The report became a main focus of news stories on blockade dissent appearing simultaneously.

Of those surveyed nationally, 56 percent – 62 percent of Latinos, – want normalization of relations, 61 percent oppose travel restrictions, 62 percent OK U.S. business dealings with Cuba, and 61 percent oppose Cuba’s designation as a terrorist nation. Among Floridians offering opinions, 63 percent call for normal relations and 67 percent oppose both travel restrictions and the terrorist label. And 52 percent of Republicans want normalization, as do 64 percent of Miami-Dade County Floridians.

“The majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle are ready for a policy shift,” concludes the Atlantic Council. “Most surprisingly, Floridians are even more supportive …This is a key change from the past.” And “Economic arguments prove to be most convincing for normalization.

The splash from this survey report coincided with other ripples. The Washington Post interviewed Cuban exile and international sugar magnate Alfonso Fanjul, “one of the principal funders of the U.S. anti-Castro movement” and someone, who with his brother, “amass[ed] one of North America’s great fortunes.” Fanjul discussed trips to Cuba in 2012 and 2013.

“I’d like to see our family back in Cuba,” he said, and “if there’s an arrangement within Cuba and the United States, and legally it can be done and there’s a proper framework set up and in place, then we will look at that possibility.” Cuban American businessman Paul Cejas, a former U.S. ambassador to Belgium, traveled with Fanjul: “The embargo is really an embargo against America ourselves, because Americans cannot do business with Cuba, where there are incredible opportunities for growth.”

Ex-Florida governor and former blockade apologist Charlie Crist, Democratic candidate to be Florida’s next governor, announced a change of heart. Lifting the blockade, he said, “could help the Florida economy, creating more jobs in the state and allowing Florida businesses to sell goods and services to an island that has been largely closed to most commerce with the United States for more than 50 years.

On February 10 the Miami Herald published Senators Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) and Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) op-ed piece entitled “Time for a new Policy on Cuba.”  Citing survey results a day before their release, they note that, “A majority of Americans, including Cuban-Americans, wants to change course,” and “so do we.”

While disparaging Cuba as repressive and an economic failure, the senators argue that “Trade with Latin America is the fastest growing part of our international commerce… Rather than isolate Cuba with outdated policies, we have isolated ourselves …Current policy boxes U.S. entrepreneurs and companies out of taking part in any of this burgeoning Cuban private sector.”

Remarkably, news in November, 2013 that President Obama had questions about U.S. Cuban policies quickly became old news. At a Miami political fundraiser he had suggested that “in the age of the Internet, Google and world travel,” old policies “don’t make sense.”

This time, news of the survey triggered real discussion even though, significantly, its findings were not new. In fact, annual Gallup polling on Cuba since 1999 has consistently demonstrated nationwide majorities in favor of re-establishing U.S. diplomatic relations” and ending the blockade. Other surveys yielded similar results.  A Florida International University opinion poll in 2008 showed that “a majority of Cuban-Americans now favor ending the … economic embargo and restoring diplomatic relations” with Cuba, 55 percent and 65 percent, respectively

In releasing its report, the Atlantic Council attached a remarkably forthright advocacy statement to its recitation of data. Its report surely may be useful for having updated long established trends, but why did it command the attention it did?

The Council is no bit player in establishment circles. Former Secretaries of State Dean Acheson and Christian Herter founded it in 1961 as a support mechanism for NATO.  It maintains close ties with prominent U.S. and European NGO’s involved with diplomatic and security issues. Weapons manufacturers are corporate members.  Directors, some honorary, include diplomatic, defense, and intelligence honchos like Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, George Shultz, Wesley Clark, Michael Hayden, and Robert Gates.

Perhaps now, with movers and shakers taking things in hand, change really is on the way. But a thorny detail may need attending to: Cuban leaders are unlikely to discuss big changes with U.S. leaders without, first, the Cuban Five political prisoners being sent home. That’s the opinion of Stephen Kimber, author of the only English language book (“What Lies across the Water”) on the case of the Five.

Some of the recent news stories on new attitudes allude to Cuban imprisonment of U.S. contractor Alan Gross – he violated Cuban laws – as accounting for U.S. intransigence on the blockade.  That brings to mind the possibility of a remarkable scenario: The Cuban Five prisoners are exchanged for Alan Gross so that talks may begin on establishing bi-national relations.

Posted in South AmericaComments Off on Is the Cuba Blockade Ending?

The US Played Hardball Against Ukraine…and the EU

NOVANEWS
How the Media Got Played … Again

by PETER LEE

When the EU mediated a deal between the opposition and the government, I thought Yanukovich had dodged the bullet.

Not quite.

In parsing the circumstances of Yanukovich’s downfall, it is interesting to look for the machinations of Victoria Nuland, the State Department neo-con (wife of Robert Kagan) who was apparently given a free hand in matters Ukraine by President Obama.

Consider this:

The background of Nuland’s notorious Fuck the EU audio was her feeling that the EU was insufficiently confrontational with the Ukranian government, especially on the issue of sanctions.

As to what “sufficiently confrontational” might look like, consider this AFP report from back in January that showed up in the Yahoo! Sports feed, since its subject, R. Akhmetov, is the owner of Ukraine’s most successful football outfit :

Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov, the owner of the Shakhtar Donetsk football club, is having a possibly decisive influence on Ukraine’s standoff between the security forces and protesters.

Akhmetov has long been seen as a leading ally of President Viktor Yanukovych. He has bankrolled the ruling Regions Party which he formerly represented in parliament as an MP, and harks from the eastern Donetsk region that is the president’s stronghold.

But in a possible turning point in a crisis that has raised fears of a prolonged civil conflict, Akhmetov on Saturday issued a strong statement warning that the use of force against protesters was unacceptable and the only way forward was negotiations.

…aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand…

…his reasons for being so strongly against the use of a state of emergency to forcefully end the protests may not be entirely altruistic.

According to the influential news site Ukrainska Pravda, visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland warned Akhmetov at a secret meeting when she visited Kiev in December that he and other wealthy backers of the Regions Party could face EU and US sanctions if the police used force against the protesters.

For a businessman with an international reputation and properties outside of Ukraine, including a luxury town house in London, this was clearly an unwelcome prospect.

…aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand more please:

Akhmetov was able to control a group of at least 40 MPs from the ruling Regions Party in the Verkhovna Rada parliament.

So what happened after the EU brokered a transitional, power-sharing sort of deal with the EU?

The truce broke.

How did the truce break?

Fearing that a call for a truce was a ruse, protesters tossed firebombs and advanced upon police lines Thursday in Ukraine’s embattled capital. Government snipers shot back and the almost-medieval melee that ensued left at least 70 people dead and hundreds injured, according to a protest doctor.

A truce announced late Wednesday appeared to have little credibility among hardcore protesters. One camp commander, Oleh Mykhnyuk, told the AP even after the alleged truce, protesters still threw firebombs at riot police on the square. As the sun rose, police pulled back, the protesters followed them and police then began shooting at them, he said.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand what happened in the parliament?

Ukrainian Parliament Deputy Speaker Ruslan Koshulynsky has announced that more parliamentarians have withdrawn from the Party of Regions faction.

In particular, Oleksandr Volkov, Yuriy Polyachenko, Vitaliy Hrushevsky, Volodymyr Dudka, Yaroslav Sukhy, Artem Scherban, and one more parliamentarian, whose name Koshulynsky pronounced unintelligibly, had left the Party of Regions faction.

Koshulynsky later announced the names of four other deputies who left the Party of Regions faction, i.e. Viktor Zherebniuk, Ivan Myrny, Hennadiy Vasylyev, and Nver Mkhitarian. He later added Larysa Melnychuk and Serhiy Katsuba to this list.

Hence, the Party of Regions has lost 41 deputies, including 28 on Friday and the other 14 on Saturday.

Don’t know if any of these were among Akhmetov’s 40 people.  Would be interesting to find out.  In any case, enough Party of Regions deputies bailed to give the pro-EU forces a majority and a free hand in parliament to undertake some sweeping initiatives, like unilaterally impeaching the president, repudiating a previous constitutional revision, and releasing Yulia Timoshenko from prison.

So, by a less-than-generous view, it might be suspected that the United States encouraged demonstrators to break the truce, with the expectation that violence would occur and Yanukovich’s equivocal fat cat backers, such as Akhmetov, would jump ship because the US had already informed them that their assets in the West would be at risk under US and EU sanctions.

If this is the case, the EU perhaps has additional reason to feel sore and resentful at the US.  By blowing up the truce and the transition deal, Nuland got Yanukovich out and “Yats”—the preferred US proxy, Arseniy Yatsenyuk—in, but at the cost of terminally alienating the Ukraine’s pro-Russian segment—a segment, it might be pointed out, was actually able to elect Yanukovich in a free and fair election a while back.

In any case, through some creative interpretation of the Ukrainian constitution, the now West-friendly parliament has constituted itself as the primary legitimate organ of government, selected a new prime minister, and scheduled elections for December.

Since this new government is flat-busted, needs somewhere north of $30 billion in fresh loans to make it through the year, one might think the West didn’t get much of a bargain.  However, it seems that everybody in the new government is gung-ho on accepting an IMF package through which, I suppose, the Ukraine will be comfortably chained in debt vassalage to the West for the foreseeable future and incapable of returning to the welcoming arms of Russia.

Whether the eastern and southern Ukraine—strongholds of pro-Russian feeling—will put up with the wrenching IMF restructuring that their western comrades appear so eager to implement is another question.

Don’t be surprised if this miraculous offspring of Obamian righteousness and neo-con callous bravado yields another nation-building triumph along the lines of Libya and South Sudan, but this time with the fiasco squarely in the lap of the Ukraine’s discombobulated EU neighbors.

It will also be interesting to see if Russia yields to its spiteful feelings and neglects to pony up the $15 billion it had originally promised in order to prop up Yanukovich.  (Interesting thought: was all this US-encouraged upheaval timed for the Sochi Olympics with the thinking that Putin wouldn’t dare intervene forcefully while his precious games were underway?  Hmmm.)

By openly supporting insurrection by a militant faction in order to subject the Ukranian government to a level of stress that it, and particularly its apparently incapable pres, Yanukovich, were incapable of handling, I think the US crossed something of a Rubicon.  It openly and enthusiastically backed a violent putsch against a democratically-elected government it didn’t happen to like.  Neo-liberal enthusiasts, it should be noted, splashed across this boundary without even getting their feet wet…except from the dull-witted drooling of Western correspondents apparently besotted by the contrived tire-burning, Molotov-cocktail tossing freedom-fighter narrative layered over the political struggle.

Reminded me of how the media let itself get played during the Iraq War, a period in history I’m old enough to remember, but perhaps some gormless young journos can’t…or won’t.

The Obama administration’s new-found affection for street riots to overthrow unfriendly elected government will get its next road test in Venezuela.  Caracas is starting to look like Kiev.  The conservative youth of the private universities are already on the street looking for trouble and the excuse to exercise righteous violence like their ultranationalist brothers in Ukraine.  If Carl Gibson’s article in Reader Supported Newsis quoting an authentic document, the USAID, with the help of consultants and Colombia, was already mapping out plans to destabilize the country through economic sabotage in late 2013 and, according to Gibson’s account, incite street confrontation:

“Whenever possible, the violence should cause deaths and injuries. Encourage hunger strikes of numerous days, massive mobilisations, problems in the universities and other sectors of society now identified with government institutions.”

I don’t think there’s any question that opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is America’s man in Caracas.  Gibson’s article also adds the detail that a Wikileaks cable apparently links Lopez to CANVAS, the US-funded democracy-promotion cum regime-change outfit that Yanukovich banned from Kiev just prior to his downfall.

Venezuela seems to fracture along class lines (not ethnic Russian vs. Ukrainian, or regional/tribal/Cyrenic/Tripolitan like Libya, or confessional Sunni/Shi’ite like Syria) so the task of catapulting a pro-US elite group into power may be bloodier and more prolonged than the adventure in the Ukraine.  But I’m sure the United States has sufficient money and patience for a prolonged struggle, especially when the suffering is a thousand miles away from Washington.

As for the People’s Republic of China, I think the takeaway will be

1) active US political subversion of its enemies is not just one of those myths that target governments console or terrify themselves with

2) don’t let opposition parties form, let alone get on the ballot 2) don’t let anybody in the downtown square and

3) pre-emptively treat any activists with US or Western ties as de facto subversives and counter-revolutionaries.

It is doubtful that heightened PRC vigilance will translate into anything near the democratic liberalization which the West ostensibly craves for China’s benighted citizens.  Instead, the regime will land on dissidents early and like a ton of bricks.

It is rather ironic that Barack Obama, the progressive paragon, took a few hits from the Dick Cheney regime-change crack pipe, and now apparently finds it irresistible.

Maybe he feels that he might as well grab for a few cheap foreign policy wins, damn the consequences, because in two years he’s outta here and President Clinton can deal with the mess.

I imagine that Alfred Nobel’s image on President Obama’s Peace Prize medal is weeping blood tears by now.

Posted in UkraineComments Off on The US Played Hardball Against Ukraine…and the EU

Ukraine’s Sickness

NOVANEWS
…and Europe’s Cure

by ERIC DRAITSER

The situation in Ukraine is evolving by the hour. Right wing ultranationalists and their “liberal” collaborators have taken control of the Rada (Ukrainian parliament) and deposed the democratically elected, though utterly corrupt and incompetent, President Yanukovich.

Former Prime Minister, and convicted criminal, Yulia Tymoshenko has been freed, and is now making common cause with Right Sector, Svoboda, and the other fascist elements, while the opposition’s nominal leaders such as Arseny Yatsenyuk and Vitali Klitschko begin to fade into the background.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin undoubtedly watches with anxiousness. In Washington, Victoria Nuland and the Obama administration rejoice. However, perhaps the most critical development of all is soon to emerge in Europe, as the forces of Western finance capital prepare to welcome Ukraine into the fold. They will come bearing the usual neoliberal gifts: austerity and “economic liberalization.”

With the overthrow of the Yanukovich government, the $15 billion of promised Russian financial assistance to Ukraine is in doubt. According to Moody’s rating agency, “Ukraine will require $24 billion to cover a budget deficit, debt repayments, natural gas bills and pension support just in 2014.” Without Moscow’s continued bond purchasing and other forms of financial aid, and with pro-EU forces taking control of the country’s economic and foreign policy, the outcome is not hard to predict: a rescue package from Europe with all the usual austerity conditions attached.

In exchange for European “aid”, Ukraine will be forced to accept the driving down of wages, significant cuts to the public sector and social services, in addition to a rise in taxes on the working class and slashing of pensions. Moreover, the country will be compelled to accede to a liberalization program that will allow Europe to dump goods into the Ukrainian market, deregulation and the further opening up the country’s financial sector to predatory speculation and privatization.

It doesn’t take psychic powers to predict these developments. One merely has to look at the wave of austerity in European countries such as Greece and Cyprus. Furthermore, Eastern European countries with similar economic and historical conditions to Ukraine – Latvia and Slovenia specifically – provide a roadmap for what Ukraine should expect.

The Model of “Success”

As Ukraine’s pro-EU “leadership” under Tymoshenko & Co. (and the fascist Right) begins to eye the future, they will immediately look to Europe to address the most pressing economic concerns. The Ukrainian people however would do well to examine the precedent of Latvia to understand what lies in store for them. As renowned economists Michael Hudson and Jeffrey Sommers wrote in 2012:

What enabled Latvia to survive the crisis were EU and IMF bailouts…Elites aside, many emigrated…Demographers estimate that 200,000 have departed the past decade – roughly 10 per cent of the population…Latvia experienced the full effects of austerity and neoliberalism. Birth rates fell during the crisis – as is the case almost everywhere austerity programs are imposed. It continues having among Europe’s highest rates of suicide and of road deaths caused by drunk driving. Violent crime is high, arguably, because of prolonged unemployment and police budget cuts. Moreover, a soaring brain drain moves in tandem with blue-collar emigration.

The myth of prosperity to follow EU integration and bailouts is just that, a myth. The reality is pain and suffering on a scale far greater than the poverty and unemployment Ukraine, especially the western portion of the country, have already experienced. The most highly educated, those most equipped to take up the mantle of leadership, will flee en masse. Those leaders who remain will do so while lining their pockets and ingratiating themselves to the European and American financiers who will flock to Ukraine like vultures to carrion. In short, the corruption and mismanagement of the Yanukovich government will seem like a pleasant memory.

The “liberalization” that Europe demands will create massive profits for speculators, but very few jobs for working people. The best land will be sold to foreign corporations and land-grabbers, while the resources, including the highly regarded agricultural sector, will be stripped and sold on the world market, leaving farmers and city dwellers alike in grinding poverty, their children going to bed hungry. This will be the “success” of Ukraine. One shudders to think what failure would look like.

In Slovenia, another Eastern European country that has experienced the “success” Europe strives for, the economic dictates of Brussels have ravaged the country’s working people and its institutions. The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) issued a 2013 report in which it recommended that, as a first step, Slovenia act to “help the banking sector stand on its feet again,” adding that, “additional and radical measures are necessary as soon as possible.”

Furthermore, the OECD recommended the full privatization of Slovenia’s banks and other major firms, despite predicting a more than 2% contraction of the economy. In laymen’s terms, Europe recommends that Slovenia sacrifice itself and its people to the forces of international finance capital, nothing less. Such is the cost of European “integration.”

Ukraine is undergoing a transformation of the worst kind. Its political institutions have been trampled upon by a motley collection of delusional liberals, slick politicians in fancy suits, and Nazi extremists. The social fabric is tearing apart at the seams, with each region searching for a local solution to the problems of what used to be their nation. And, in the midst of it all, the specter of profit-seeking financiers with dollar signs in their eyes is all the Ukrainian people can expect.

Posted in UkraineComments Off on Ukraine’s Sickness

Palestinian child describes details of torture and mistreatment during his arrest by Zio-Nazi Police

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Palestinian child describes details of torture and mistreatment during his arrest by Zio-Nazi Police

The return of polio: Another tragic consequence of Syria’s war

NOVANEWS

Samira Shackle

Syian child receiving polio vaccination
Polio is an entirely preventable disease that can cause paralysis, disability, and even death. It is incurable and highly contagious, but vaccination drives have meant that worldwide, cases have decreased by 99 per cent since 1988.

Until recently, the disease remained endemic in just three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Now, three years into the bloody conflict in Syria, the disease has re-emerged. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there are 25 laboratory confirmed cases in the country, with another 13 confirmations pending. However, Syrian doctors place the number of children with clinical symptoms much higher, estimating that there are at least 100 cases. For every victim, at least 200 people are carrying and spreading the virus.

This is a tragic situation, particularly given that polio was stamped out in Syria in 1999. It re-emerged last year due to the destruction of health infrastructure during the war. The conflict has meant that sanitation is poor, making it more likely that the disease will spread, while the population – displaced by fighting – is highly mobile, compounding the effect. Before the war, national figures show that 91% of children were vaccinated. In 2012, this number was just 68%. In rebel-held areas, where all the polio cases so far have occurred, immunization levels are significantly lower. The Syrian government says it has continued to vaccinate during the conflict, a statement corroborated by the WHO. However, Syrian doctors and foreign observers dispute this, suggesting that the regime has withheld vaccines from the rebel-held north of the country as another means of waging war on civilians. In a conflict that has included the deliberate targeting of medical facilities, this is certainly not inconceivable.

This has implications not just for Syria but for the wider region. It was reported this week that Iraq had recorded its first case of polio in 14 years. An unvaccinated six-month-old baby near Baghdad was paralysed. According to the Irin humanitarian news agency, the strain matched that found in Syria, although it is not known how the baby contracted the virus. It is thought to be related to the displacement caused by the ongoing violence in Anbar province in Syria and Iraq. The case illustrates one of the most tragic facts about polio: it tends to affect the very young, with children under five the most likely to be unvaccinated and therefore facing the highest risk.” When you have large population movements and system breakdown, implementation of vaccinations can be patchy, and then you have a perfect picture for the re-introduction of the virus,” said Marzio Babille, UNICEF representative in Iraq, told Irin. “That was the case in Syria and now this is the case in Iraq.”

The case has added to concern that the virus could spread across the Middle East. Lebanon, with a struggling health service and a large population of refugees, many of whom are unregistered, is at particularly high risk. In the months since polio was confirmed in Syria, the largest vaccination campaign in the history of the Middle East has begun. More than 22 million children in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt and Palestine have been vaccinated.

But is it enough? The UN agency responsible for dealing with the drive told the Guardian that this is perhaps “the most challenging outbreak in the history of polio eradication”. Continued conflict makes it difficult to track populations and ensure thorough coverage. The vaccine does not give a 100% guarantee, if a child’s immunity is lowered by malnourishment, contaminated water, or living in overcrowded conditions.

As the war shows no signs of slowing down, the reintroduction of the polio virus is yet another tragedy.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on The return of polio: Another tragic consequence of Syria’s war

The execution of the judiciary system in Egypt

NOVANEWS
By: Dr Amira Abo el-Fetouh
Egyptian boy with flag
The judges, who passed death sentences upon 529 Egyptian citizens in the case of the murdered police officer, passed the death sentence upon the whole Egyptian judiciary system, the same system which coup leaders and their supporters labelled as a “distinguished judiciary”.

On the other hand, the majority of the Egyptian people see the judiciary system as having reached its final resting place and have bade their farewells on its demised corpse. This is an unprecedented level of ruthless immorality which the judiciary system has reached.

The system, which has been a tool in the hands of the commander of the coup, striking his political opponents after failing to quash them using security forces during the continued people’s revolution despite the massacres, over 4,000 Egyptian citizens have been killed so far, and imprisonments which have surpassed 22,000.

These brave Egyptians suffered their fate for refusing to accept the military coup and resisted it peacefully with bare chests in the streets and squares, not fearing death and not intimidated by the brutal security forces. This has generated a level of hysteria amongst coup leaders, causing them to lose their senses and driving them to an irrational craze, wanting to burn the country with all it encompasses so it remains the only power in Egypt, even at the cost of all Egyptians!

The coup leaders are attempting to ignite the situation in Egypt, to fuel the youth and to provoke them to take up arms, and push the country into a civil war like in Syria, leading Egypt into a scene similar to Algeria’s bloody decade.

Indeed Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union, met with the Pro-Legitimacy National Alliance after the bloody coup and warned them that either they accept the new roadmap or they may face a scene similar to the one in Algeria. Ashton knows that they won’t accept the new roadmap, so it appears that they want to apply the Algerian and Syrian model on Egypt and Al-Sisi is to implement this model.

Al-Sisi, who allegedly does not speak falsely, had supposedly launched this bloody coup to prevent Egypt from falling into a civil war. The truth, which is as blatant and clear as the sun, can only be seen by those that are truly interested in the truth. I say this as there are many who prefer to live in a coma under the influence of the poisonous media which has completely destroyed their minds, leaving them mindless without the ability to think or understand!

Thankfully, the youth and anti-coup leaders are well aware of what the coup leaders and orchestrators want to push them to and are thus refusing to take up arms and refusing to let the country get dragged into a civil war. Naturally, the heaviest force in a civil war would be the army and all its military arsenals!

The general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Dr Mohammed Badie, said: “Our peacefulness is stronger than their bullets,” so they murdered his son Ammar to prove his theory wrong and that the bullet is stronger and that force will always lead.

But we will prove to them that truth and righteousness is above force, and that this truth that lies in the hands of the revolutionists provides them with a deep strength from God Almighty making them face bullets with their bare chest, and increases their faith and belief in victory, whilst they are the ones scared, hiding in their tanks or behind barriers and masks.

The coup leadership, in its sheer stupidity, has, through this latest order, accelerated the demise of the coup and awakened many people from their comatose state. Stupidity is one of God’s soldiers. The coup leaders don’t seem to realise: “And none can know the forces of thy Lord, except He” (Qur’an 74:31).

Posted in Egypt3 Comments

Shoah’s pages

www.shoah.org.uk

KEEP SHOAH UP AND RUNNING

March 2014
M T W T F S S
« Feb   Apr »
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31