Archive | April 4th, 2014

Zionist Billionaire George Soros behind major push for marijuana legalization

NOVANEWS
George Soros.(Reuters / Pascal Lauener) George Soros.(Reuters / Pascal Lauener).

Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros is no stranger when it comes to throwing around money, but the former hedge fund manager is making headlines over some major donations he’s made to help legalize marijuana.

On the heels of the approval of two of the United States’ first recreational laws in Colorado and Washington, other locales across the country are considering implementing policy changes that could decriminalize pot, ease penalties for users or eliminate weed laws altogether. Advocacy groups are leading the campaign to crush marijuana prohibition from coast-to-coast, and 83-year-old Soros is helping line the pockets of those making that push.

On Wednesday this week, Kelly Riddell at The Washington Times pulled back the curtain to reveal details about some of the roles that Soros has played in the pro-weed debate, and helped explain how the billionaire’s many foundations are fighting the war against pot prohibition.

Through a network of nonprofit groups, Mr. Soros has spent at least $80 million on the legalization effort since 1994, when he diverted a portion of his foundation’s funds to organizations exploring alternative drug policies, according to tax filings,” Riddell wrote.

The Soros-affiliated Foundation to Promote an Open Society donates roughly $4 million annually to the Drug Policy Alliance, Riddell added, a nonprofit group that describes itself as the nation’s leading organization promoting drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. Soros is among the group of board members who help steer policy reform efforts undertaken by that organization, which has contributed to the successful attempts in both Colorado and Washington state to legalize recreational marijuana, as well as in Uruguay where last year the South American country became the first in the world to allow for the regulation, distribution and sale of weed to legal adults.

Records obtained by the Times also reveal that Soros cuts other substantial checks annually to the American Civil Liberties Union, “which in turn funds marijuana legalization efforts,” Riddell wrote, as well as the Marijuana Policy Project which funds state ballot measures. In 2013, the MPP ranked Soros as the ninth most influential marijuana user in the US, behind President Barack Obama, television host Oprah Winfrey and a handful of other politicians and celebrities.

The co-director and spokesperson for that group, Mason Tvert, told the Times that MPP and the Drug Policy Alliance are planning to support full legalization measures in the near future in the states of Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana and Nevada, and Soros himself has advocated on behalf of previous attempts to abolish pot prohibition in at least one of those locales.

Ahead of an attempt in November 2010 to legalize weed in California through the failed Proposition 19, Soros wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he called the since-failed initiative “a major step forward.”

In many respects, of course, Proposition 19 already is a winner no matter what happens on Election Day,” Soros wrote then. “The mere fact of its being on the ballot has elevated and legitimized public discourse about marijuana and marijuana policy in ways I could not have imagined a year ago.”

Soros declined to be interviewed for the Times’ article published this week, but he’s more than likely enthused about the approval of pro-weed laws in Colorado and Washington carried out after Prop 19 was defeated in the polls. And with regards to initiatives up for vote during the 2014 election, Riddell wrote that Soros is once again playing a substantial role.

In Florida, Mr. Soros has teamed up with multimillionaire and Democratic fundraiser John Morgan to donate more than 80 percent of the money to get medical marijuana legalization on the ballot through its initiative ‘United for Care, People United for Medical Marijuana,’” Riddell wrote, and the MPP is “focusing a lot of time and resources passing bills” in Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, according to her report.

It’s only a matter of time before marijuana is legalized under federal law,” Tom Angell, founder and chairman of the Marijuana Majority advocacy group, told the Times. “We now have 20 states plus the District of Columbia considering legalization efforts, two states have already legalized it for all adults over the age of 21 — politicians will have to follow the will of the people on this.”

As RT reported previously, the results of a Pew Research Center poll released last year found that 52 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. Despite recently approved laws in Washington and Colorado, marijuana remains an illegal narcotic under federal law.

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Five noes, many lies: Naziyahu’s speech to Congress

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Naziyahu can’t reverse the tide of history

Zionist Prime Minister Naziyahu delivers an arrogant, racist and warmongering speech before both Houses of Congress, May 24

By Richard Becker, Western Regional Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition

Composed of roughly equal parts racism, war-mongering, fawning and fabrication, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of the U.S. Congress on May 24 was received with adulation by the assembled Democrats and Republicans alike. The reception was very different in the Middle East. There it was widely understood – including inside Israel itself – as closing the door on negotiations and further isolating the Zionist state.

The day after the speech, new Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil El-Araby announced that his country’s border with Gaza would be permanently opened on May 28, a significant blow to the blockade of 1.6 million Palestinians that has been exacting a severe toll for more than four years. The ousted Mubarak regime had maintained the blockade in collaboration with Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.

Netanyahu’s colonial-style, anti-Arab racism was not even thinly veiled in his Congressional performance. He quoted the 19th century English author George Eliot, saying that Israel “shine(s) like a bright star of freedom amid the despotisms of the East.” He ludicrously claimed that of 300 million Arabs, “less than one-half of one percent are free and they’re all citizens of Israel.”

The “shining light” theme continued: “Israel is not what is wrong with the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.” Repeating a tired Israeli mantra, Netanyahu repeatedly blamed the Arabs for all the conflicts in the region over the past six-plus decades, while asserting that, “We will never give up on our quest for peace.”

His attempt at a redo of history was unintentionally belied a sentence later by Netanyahu’s own words: “I remember what it was like before we had peace. I was nearly killed in a firefight inside the Suez Canal.” What was the future prime minister doing in the Suez Canal, which is part of Egypt, hundreds of miles from the claimed borders of Israel? He was a soldier in the Israeli military, which has repeatedly attacked and/or occupied Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan as well as Palestine since 1948. Such well-established facts did not deter another standing ovation.

Netanyahu devoted a considerable part of his speech to a call for more aggressive action against Iran, which is surrounded by U.S. military power and has been subjected to several rounds of United States and European Union economic sanctions. The leader of Israel, the only state in the Middle East which actually possesses nuclear weapons, said that “a nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”

Taking a page from U.S. and British propaganda in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war, Netanyahu lectured: “I want you to understand what this means. They could put the bomb anywhere. They could put in on a missile. It could be on a container ship in a port, or a suitcase on a subway.”

He called for a policy stipulating “that all options are on the table.” This position, shared by the Obama administration, is a coded way of saying that Iran could be the target of military attack, including the use of nuclear weapons.

The Israeli leader invoked the Torah as the basis of Israel’s right to all of Palestine. “No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.” In fact, nothing could distort history more than the use of religious scripture as a real estate document. Many peoples have inhabited Palestine over the past 4,000 years; for the past several hundred years until the 20th century European-based, Zionist settler project, the population was overwhelmingly Arab. Never mind, another standing ovation.

“In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability,” Netanyahu claimed. In fact, since World War II Israel and U.S. imperialism have been the most profoundly destabilizing factors in the region, both relentlessly striving to prevent independent development.

Netanyahu mixed boot-licking with arrogant condescension, both of which would have been found insulting by a body any less craven than Congress: “Providence [God] entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty . . . Thank you for ensuring that the flame of freedom burns bright throughout the world . . . May God forever bless the United States of America.” A final standing ovation.

The five noes

“We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state,” Netanyahu proclaimed, calling on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to “negotiate.” That these were nothing but empty words was as crystal clear as his preconditions on all the major issues:

  • No return to 1967 borders. “The border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.” On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a surprise attack on Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Israel occupied the remaining 22 percent of Palestine – the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – as well as Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights. Netanyahu asserted the right of Israel to keep and expand its illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land in the West Bank, and much of the Jordan Valley. “It is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River.”
  • No right of return for Palestinian refugees. By means of terror, 750,000 Palestinians were driven out to make way for the Israeli state in 1948, their homes, lands and other property confiscated. Today they and their descendants number more than six million, many of whom are still consigned to refugee camps. “This means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel,” stated Netanyahu.
  • No to the return of any part of Jerusalem. East Jerusalem was illegally annexed to Israel after the 1967 war and then expanded to take in much additional West Bank land. All Palestinian parties call for Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state. “Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”
  • No to a Palestinian state that can defend itself. “So it is therefore absolutely vital for Israel’s security that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized.” Thanks to hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. aid, Israel is ranked as the 4th or 5th military power in the world.
  • No negotiations at all with the Palestinians unless the recently signed Palestinian National Reconciliation Agreement is broken. “So I say to President Abbas, Tear up your pact with Hamas. Sit down and negotiate!”

The last point is the height of cynical maneuver. Above all, what Netanyahu wants is to continue the policy of talking peace while taking piece after piece of Palestinian land.

By setting pre-conditions that are impossible for the Palestinians to accept, he is attempting to make it look like they, not the Israeli side, are responsible for negotiations not taking place. To seal the deal, Netanyahu demands a breaking of the just-achieved Palestinian unity agreement which is supported by virtually the entire Palestinian population. It is at the same time a demand by one side to be able to designate who will represent the other side in negotiations – something no one, anywhere would accept.

But Netanyahu’s maneuvering, while hailed in the halls of Congress, has resolved nothing. It will likely lead to a deepening of the struggle in Palestine and the entire region which is in upheaval.

In his May 19 speech on the Middle East crisis, Obama sought to present the United States as a supporter of “democracy” and “self-determination,” including for the Palestinian people. That too was a maneuver, designed to strengthen the U.S. standing among people in rebellion, but it was effectively undercut by Netanyahu’s.

But neither maneuvers nor rhetoric can reverse the tide of history. Just like in South Africa, the Palestinian people – with the support of the Arab nation as a whole and all who stand for justice around the world – will overcome colonial occupation and win self-determination and the right of return.

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Palestine faces increased pressure from United States

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Video interview with Brian Becker on Russia Today

Brian Becker, national coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, discusses the effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks as representatives from the Middle East diplomatic quartet meet in Washington, D.C.

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SU students issue statement in support of ASA boycott

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Students reject SU’s pro-I$raHell stance

This statement initially appeared as a letter to the editor in the Daily Orange, an independent newspaper run by Syracuse University Students.

It is with extreme disappointment that we read Interim Chancellor Eric Spina’s statement against boycotts of Israeli academic institutions.

We also find it hypocritical that just more than a month after Spina issued a statement commemorating the legacy of Nelson Mandela — who led a revolution against a racist, apartheid state — he issued what is effectively a statement in support of another racist, apartheid state.

In 2008, a group of veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa led a delegation to the West Bank. Afterward, one of the delegates was quoted as saying, “The apartheid regime viewed the blacks as inferior; I do not think the Israelis see the Palestinians as human beings at all” (Ha’aretz, July 10, 2008).

In the West Bank, about half a million Israeli colonial settlers took over huge swaths of territory, diminishing the viability of a Palestinian state, while two million Palestinians live under direct military occupation. There are even “Jewish only” roads. This racist segregation is not only maintained by the official Israeli “Defense” Forces, but also by armed bands of Israeli settlers.

The purpose of the boycott is not to limit free expression, and it is certainly not to promote the abhorrent ideology of anti-Semitism. An academic boycott of Israeli institutions is an extension of the struggle for the equal rights for Jews and Arabs in Palestine/Israel. The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign strives to call into question the legitimacy of Israeli institutions that participate in racist, colonial-settler power structures.

We recognize that the Israeli apartheid state is a strategic deployment of U.S. hegemony in the Middle East, and our own government is responsible for the promotion of massive inequalities in the region. The fight against the Israeli apartheid state is also a fight against U.S. imperialism.

Spina’s statement, although inoffensive and neutral on the surface, does little more than serve to condone the apartheid policies of the Israeli state. This is not a question of respecting an open exchange of ideas. Paolo Freire, the creator of the critical pedagogy philosophical movement, said, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”

Progressive members of the SU community should oppose the racist policies of the Israeli state, encourage the BDS campaign against Israeli institutions and promote a socially just peace for Jews and Arabs in Palestine/Israel.

Michael Kowalchuk

Syracuse University Youth and Student ANSWER Coalition

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Syria’s fate must be decided by the Syrian people

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The Geneva II peace conference

Sept. 7, 2013 demonstration against U.S. war on Syria, Washington, D.C

The eyes of the world have turned towards Geneva, with the hopes that a conference there can provide a solution to the nightmare that Syria is going through. The Geneva II conference resulted, on Jan. 25, in face to face meetings between the Syrian state and representatives of the opposition rebels. The conference is expected to run for a week or more—ongoing at the time of this writing. As widely believed, however, such a conference is unlikely to make a significant breakthrough towards bringing an end to Syria’s civil war.

The recent conference is commonly referred to as Geneva II because it is a follow up to a June 2012 conference in the same city. The 2012 conference was headed by U.N. special envoy (and former secretary general) Kofi Anan. It was a gathering heavily composed of foreign governments and Syrian elements who wanted the state overthrown. It passed resolutions calling for a transition government.

At the time, the government was losing ground in the civil war and seemed unlikely to survive much longer. Feeding the notion of the imminent demise of Bashar Assad’s government was the United States’ oft stated “all options are on the table” motto. If heavy funding, training and arming of the rebels through U.S. client states Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey were not enough, it was expected that the United States would likely find a way to intervene directly. At the time, for the U.S., its junior allies and clients, the main challenge was forming a viable opposition political entity that could be installed in power.

The Libyan example was fresh in everyone’s mind. In Libya, it had quickly become clear that the predominantly right-wing rebels had no chance of winning the civil war. As the rebels were being routed, at the very time that their stronghold, Benghazi, was threatened, the U.S. and its imperialist allies rammed a “No Fly Zone” resolution through the United Nations Security Council. That was all the legitimacy that the U.S., France and the UK needed to start the bombing of Libya, devastate and destroy the country and overthrow the state.

Syria was not to become Libya 2.0. The Libyan model of the overthrow of an independent state was not to be repeated in Syria. Russia and China refused to sign on to a similar “No Fly Zone” resolution. In the late summer of 2013, the Obama administration made serious preparations for bombing Syria. The pretext was a poison gas attack for which responsibility had not been established and for which the Syrian state had had the least motive to perpetrate. However, Russia’s intervention and the agreement of the Syrian state to dismantle its chemical weapons deprived the Obama administration of its pretext to start a new war.
What sets Geneva II apart from Geneva I are the conditions on the ground. Over time, Syrians living in rebel-controlled territory experienced the true character of the rebels. Many people who had been opposed to Bashar Assad’s government grew to hate and fear what Syria under the control of the rebels would look like.

Rebel infighting kills nearly 1,400

Infighting among the rebels has been another significant cause of their setbacks. The rebels are not a homogeneous group and not highly centralized. But broadly speaking, they can be categorized into two broad camps. One is the forces associated with the so-called Free Syrian Army, led primarily by officers who have defected from the Syrian military. The FSA is the force that Western powers are supporting as a “pro-democracy” force. However, the only “democratic” thing about them is their allegiance to their imperialist benefactors. “Alawites to the Grave, Christians to Beirut,” a common chant in opposition rallies, reflects the true character of this “pro-democracy” opposition which seeks the extermination of religious minorities.

Another opposition camp has emerged as a formidable force in some rebel-held areas. This camp is comprised primarily of non-Syrian fighters, from many other countries including Iraq, Libya and even Chechnya. These forces have ties with, or are sympathetic to, al-Qaeda. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Syria) is one political formation that represents some, but not all, such forces. To these forces, the secular state of Syria, which grants equal rights to Alawite and Sunni Muslims as well as Christians, needs to be overthrown and replaced with the imposition of Shari’a law under a strictly sectarian Sunni state.

From the earliest stages of the civil war, clashes have occurred between different rebel groups. But in recent months, isolated clashes have escalated to an all-out war. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-imperialist outlet based in Europe, “the number of people killed in fighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Islamist and rebel forces since January 3 has risen to 1,395.” This fact is important to keep in mind as Western media and governments condemn Assad for “killing his own people.” By definition, in a civil war, each side kills their own people. In the case of the rebels, the people killed include government supporters, civilians and rival rebel factions.

Some aspects of Geneva II reflect the change in the balance of power. Unlike Geneva I, the Syrian state is represented in this conference. And Iran was briefly invited to the conference, although the UN Secretary General promptly rescinded the invitation under U.S. pressure.

Diplomacy reflects power relations

Still, diplomacy and international relations at any given time reflect the power relations. The strength of the imperialist camp means that a UN-mediated conference cannot be impartial, nor even realistically reflective of the balance of forces in the Syrian conflict. One indication of this is how all the funders and supporters of the Syrian rebels are present at the conference, while Iran is left out. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, arch-reactionary Gulf monarchies, have bankrolled the Syrian opposition from day one. NATO member Turkey, Syria’s neighbor, has turned its border regions into a staging ground for the rebels. Yet Iran is excluded from the conference due to its support for Bashar Assad’s government.

Another indication that imperialist pressure, not facts on the ground, largely shapes the proceedings of the conference is the representation of the opposition. Early in 2011, when the conflict in Syria started, then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was instrumental in forming the National Transitional Council, later renamed the Syrian National Council, which eventually morphed into the Syrian National Coalition. The SNC was to present a respectable, secular and pro-democracy face for an opposition within Syria that was far from being a secular political force yearning for democracy. The SNC is heavily comprised of intellectuals and academics from the Diaspora with no connection to Syria or the rebels. SNC’s elected presidents have included a university professor in Paris and a U.S. citizen who has resided in Texas for decades. Even the pro-imperialist FSA rebels regularly raise objections to the Syrian National Coalition representing them.

Not only do the Syrian opposition participants in the Geneva II conference not truly represent the Syrian rebels, they do not even represent the Syrian opposition abroad. The Syrian National Coalition held highly contentious and chaotic meetings in Istanbul trying to decide whether or not to participate in Geneva II. In the end, the Istanbul meeting sent delegates to Geneva II after boycotts and walkouts by its own members with what was clearly less than a 50 percent vote. The Syrian National Council, now one of the organizations forming the Syrian National Coalition, withdrew from the coalition on January 20 in opposition to the decision to attend the conference.

Therefore, Geneva II had representatives from the Syrian state but no representatives from the Jihadi rebels and highly questionable representation from the pro-West rebels. The Syrian state clearly has the upper hand in the civil war but, under imperialist pressure, the agenda is set as if the state is on the verge of collapse. Kerry repeatedly declared that Assad must step down: “There is no way, no way possible, that a man who has led a brutal response to his own people can regain legitimacy to govern”. SNC leader Ahmed Jarba called on the government to “immediately transfer power” to a transitional authority. In response to Kerry, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem stated: “No-one in the world has the right to confer or withdraw the legitimacy of a president, a constitution or a law, except for the Syrians themselves.”

As a general rule, cease fires and other agreements between adversaries reflect their relative strengths on the ground. Warring parties often attempt to make significant advances right before a major round of negotiations to improve their bargaining power at the table. But why is it that the Syrian opposition forces are so uncompromising in the negotiations while suffering defeat after defeat on the ground? Why does the representative of a side in a position of relative weakness call on its adversary to “immediately transfer power?”

Rebels rely on hopes of imperialist intervention

The answer is that the leaders of Syria’s imperialist-sponsored opposition do not operate on the basis of relying on their own strength. In all their calculations, they rely not just on funding, arming and support by the imperialists and their reactionary clients, but also on the hopes of direct military intervention by their Western patrons.

“Regime change” has long been the real U.S. policy towards Syria. And while the Obama administration’s efforts to build up support for a bombing campaign against Syria have failed so far, the danger still exists. The opposing sides in the Syrian conflict might long ago have reached a negotiated solution if it were not for the refusal of the opposition to settle for anything less than a complete capitulation by the state. The opposition refuses to negotiate realistically not because it is winning the civil war but because it counts on Western interference.

And this is the key point for the U.S. anti-war movement. U.S. interference to date is a major contributor to the disastrous living conditions that the Syrian people are suffering. In September 2013, nationwide protests led by the ANSWER Coalition played a major role in preventing a planned U.S. bombing of Syria. Going forward, we need to mobilize not just against the possible bombing of Syria, but also against other forms of U.S. interference that have been ongoing since the beginning of the Syrian conflict. The fate of Syria must be decided by the Syrian people. U.S. hands off Syria!

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An Iraq war veteran’s reflection

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“Two familiar faces at the State of the Union told us everything”

By Mike Prysner

The author is a former U.S. Army Corporal and Iraq war veteran. He is a co-founder of March Forward! and a member of the Board of Directors of Veterans For Peace.

Before President Obama even began the State of the Union address, two people I knew in the audience, from two defining points in my life, were much more significant to me. I thought their presence reflected the “State of the Union” better than anything the President could have said.

Post-war life is good for Odierno, along with
the other generals, politicians and CEOs
in his circles.

The first guest was General Ray Odierno, now the Chief of Staff of the Army. One of my most invasive memories is of my time on an outpost with his 4th Infantry Division, relentlessly attacked, in a rural farming area called Hawija. I would see him from time to time—in much safer places, of course. Long nights huddled in a smoke-filled bunker, feeling like nothing but target practice, was no place for a general.

I remember him as the happiest (and highest-ranking) person I encountered in country, always jovial and excited. I remember thinking then, at age 19, that he was so happy because he knew that deployment could make his career. And he was right; commanding an armored division during the biggest invasion and occupation of a country since Vietnam would certainly do that; especially when your soldiers end up capturing Saddam Hussein. The future was looking bright for Odierno in 2003.

Odierno even slept in Saddam Hussein’s main palace in Tikrit. Far away, his soldiers bled all over his outposts and drove over IEDs, earning him his “glory.” Iraqi civilians in his area of operations experienced what would lead to major criticism of the “belligerence” of his tactics as a commander.

The other guest was Carlos Arredondo, the “cowboy hat wearing hero” of the Boston bombing, famously photographed rushing a victim with severed legs to safety.

The first time I ever spoke publicly at an anti-war event, back in 2006, it was sharing a panel with Carlos. His first of two sons, Alexander Arredondo, was killed in Iraq in 2004, in different part of the country from Odierno and I.  He was just 20 years old. I didn’t say much that day, but just sitting there with him and his partner, Melida, was a source of strength and inspiration that would never leave me.

Carlos took this striking memorial to his son 
all over the country, for years, trying to end 
the war by sharing his pain.

Carlos—at the time an undocumented immigrant—reacted to the death of Alexander by dedicating his entire life to anti-war activism, touring the country with a striking visual memorial to his son, talking to everybody he encountered along the way about opposing the war. He became an icon of the Iraq war—a shattered, mourning father, pulling a flag-draped coffin with his son’s photo in front of the White House.

Odierno’s career had been made. He shot up to Four-Star General by 2008. Like all general officers, especially of his privileged West Point-graduate variety, very lucrative post-retirement “advisor” positions in the defense industry have opened up. He got the top staff position in the Army under Obama in 2011.

Carlos’s only surviving son, Brian, committed suicide that same year. It was just days before Christmas. He was only 24 years old. Suicide—another hallmark of the misery caused by that war for both veterans and families—became another cause Carlos would dedicate his life to.

Millions of lives were torn apart by the Iraq war. But not equally.

It was working-class and immigrant families who had to bear the hair-pulling horror of seeing their children come home in coffins. It was idealistic, college- and career-aspiring youth who were sent to be blown apart in those flimsy Humvees. It was Iraqi teachers, nurses, farmers, hotel workers—and their children, babies and grandparents—who were the so-called “collateral damage.”

It wasn’t the general officers who built their careers on having the most aggressive strategy, which they watched from computer screens in palaces while their soldiers were blown to pieces. It wasn’t the families of the CEOs of the defense and energy industry giants, bursting with profits from Pentagon contracts, or the families of the politicians they take to dinner.

Some got promotions and career boosts. Some got bonus checks and fat dividends. But most are shredded, in body and mind. Most will spend the rest of their lives overwhelmed with trying to recover; many on crutches and canes, many with pills. Most will forever struggle to choke back tears whenever a reminder of those years enters their minds.

Carlos and Odierno may have been guests at the same speech, but they live in two very different worlds.

Whatever Obama said in his address, from employment and immigration to foreign policy, it was all about fixing things within a world like that—where only one class (which constitutes majority) is made to make the biggest sacrifices, and another class—a much smaller one—is the supreme leader and benefactor.

A system set up like this can only replicate the same heart-wrenching tragedies for people like us.

No need to watch the State of the Union—we need a revolution.

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Salt and Terror in Afghanistan

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Rising Above Vengeance

Afghanistan

 

by KATHY KELLY

In late January in a room in Kabul, Afghanistan, I joined several dozen people, working seamstresses, some college students, socially engaged teenagers and a few visiting internationals like myself, to discuss world hunger. Our emphasis was not exclusively on their own country’s worsening hunger problems.  The Afghan Peace Volunteers, in whose home we were meeting, draw strength from looking beyond their own very real struggles.

With us was Hakim, a medical doctor who spent six years working as a public health specialist in the central highlands of Afghanistan and, prior to that, among refugees in Quetta, Pakistan.  He helped us understand conditions that lead to food shortages and taught us about diseases, such as kwashiorkor and marasmus, which are caused by insufficient protein or general malnutrition.

We looked at UN figures about hunger in Afghanistan, which show malnutrition rates rising by 50 percent or more compared with 2012. The malnutrition ward at Helmand Province’s Bost Hospital has been admitting 200 children a month for severe, acute malnutrition — four times more than in January 2012.

A recent New York Times article about the worsening hunger crisis described an encounter with a mother and child in an Afghan hospital: “In another bed is Fatima, less than a year old, who is so severely malnourished that her heart is failing, and the doctors expect that she will soon die unless her father is able to find money to take her to Kabul for surgery. The girl’s face bears a perpetual look of utter terror, and she rarely stops crying.”

Photos of Fatima and other children in the ward accompanied the article. In our room in Kabul, Hakim projected the photos on the wall. They were painful to see and so were the nods of comprehension from Afghans all too familiar with the agonies of poverty in a time of war.

As children grow, they need iodine to enable proper brain development.  According to a UNICEF/GAIN report, “iodine deficiency is the most prevalent cause of brain damage worldwide.  It is easily preventable, and through ongoing targeted interventions, can be eliminated.” As recently as 2009 we learned that 70 percent of Afghan children faced an iodine deficiency.

Universal Salt Iodization (USI) is recognized as a simple, safe and cost-effective measure in addressing iodine deficiency. The World Bank reports that it costs $.05 per child, per year.

In 2012, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) announced a four-year projectwhich aimed to reach nearly half of Afghanistan’s population – 15 million Afghans – with fortified foods. Their strategy was to add vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, folic acid, Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin A to wheat flour, vegetable oil and ghee, and also to fortify salt with iodine.  The project costs $6.4 million.

The sums of money required to fund delivery of iodine and fortified foods to malnourished Afghan children should be compared, I believe, to the sums of money that the Pentagon’s insatiable appetite for war-making has required of U.S. people.

The price tag for supplying iodized salt to one child for one year is 5 cents.

The cost of maintaining one U.S. soldier has recently risen to $2.1 million per year.  The amount of money spent to keep three U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in 2014 could almost cover the cost of a four-year program to deliver fortified foods to 15 million Afghan people.

Maj. Gen. Kurt J. Stein, who is overseeing the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, has referred to the operation as “the largest retrograde mission in history.”  The mission will cost as much as $6 billion.

Over the past decade, spin doctors for U.S. military spending have suggested that Afghanistan needs the U.S. troop presence and U.S. non-military spending to protect the interests of women and children.

It’s true that non-military aid to Afghanistan, sent by the U.S. since 2002, now approaches $100 billion.

Several articles on Afghanistan’s worsening hunger crisis, appearing in the Western press, prompt readers to ask how Afghanistan could be receiving vast sums of non-military aid and yet still struggle with severe acute malnourishment among children under age five.

However, a 2013 quarterly report to Congress submitted by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan shows that, of the nearly $100 billion spent on wartime reconstruction, $97 billion has been spent on counter-narcotics, security, “governance/development” and “oversight and operations.”  No more than $3 billion, a hundred dollars per Afghan person, were used for “humanitarian” projects – to help keep 30 million Afghans alive through 12 years of U.S. war and occupation.

Funds have been available for tanks, guns, bullets, helicopters, missiles, weaponized drones, drone surveillance, Joint Special Operations task forces, bases, airstrips, prisons, and truck-delivered supplies for tens of thousands of troops. But funds are in short supply for children too weak to cry who are battling for their lives while wasting away.

A whole generation of Afghans and other people around the developing world see the true results of Westerners’ self-righteous claim for the need to keep civilians “safe” through war.  They see the terror, entirely justified, filling Fatima’s eyes in her hospital bed.

In that room in Kabul, as my friends learned about the stark realities of hunger, and among them, I know, were some who worry about hunger in their own families, I could see a rejection both of panic and of revenge in the eyes of the people around me. Their steady thoughtfulness was an inspiration.

Panic and revenge among far more prosperous people in the U.S. helped to drive the U.S. into a war waged against one of the poorest countries in the world. Yet, my Afghan friends, who’ve borne the brunt of war, long to rise above vengeance and narrow self-interest.

They wish to pursue a peace that includes ending hunger.

Posted in AfghanistanComments Off on Salt and Terror in Afghanistan

Nuclear Diplomacy: the Great Charade

NOVANEWS
The Humiliation of Iran

by CARL BOGGS

Could the November interim agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, orchestrated by the Obama administration and backed by four other nuclear powers, produce the diplomatic breakthrough eagerly anticipated by large sectors of world opinion?  Could something of an “historic compromise” between Iran and the West be in sight, reversing the long trajectory toward possible U.S. and/or Israeli military attack?   While President Obama concedes that prospects for a durable outcome are “probably less than 50-50”, reasons for stronger pessimism exist:  demand for nothing less than total Iranian capitulation on the part of Israel and its U.S. lobby, Congressional readiness to “ratchet-up” already crippling economic sanctions, the extreme one-sided character of negotiations, and, most crucially, the very bankruptcy of international nuclear diplomacy.

With the six-month negotiating initiative set in motion, made possible by a softening of Iranian bargaining points, the Senate – under pressure from the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and allied groups – was considering even harsher sanctions legislation, SB1881, supported to date by 59 Senators, including 16 Democrats.  Introduced by Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the bill would effectively scuttle an already-fragile diplomatic process, revisiting prospects for military action.   For the boldest anti-Iranian groups, that seems to be precisely the hope: if tightened sanctions fail to provoke system collapse and possibly regime change, or at least complete jettisoning of nuclear activity, then the military option returns full-force.  For such warmongering hopefuls, the existence of an Iranian nuclear program as such could be nothing more than an essentially manufactured threat, a pretext for war.

The problem with nuclear diplomacy today is that it amounts to little more than an outright political instrument of the global atomic powers, led by the U.S., exerting leverage through the United Nations Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  In the months leading up to the interim deal Iran had been processing uranium at several locations, consistent with energy requisites (below 20 percent enrichment) and fully within its rights as longstanding member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  That level was reduced by the November accords to five percent.  After much hard-line U.S. negotiating – and maneuvering — Iran was able to gain sanctions relief equivalent to just seven billion dollars in domestic product over six months, leaving it an object of international economic isolation, its energy, banking, and trade sectors gutted by byzantine restrictions and obstacles, its civilian economy in shambles, its population hit hard by extreme shortages and inflation.

Despite generous concessions from Tehran, moreover, the U.S. still refuses to accept Iranian entitlement to peaceful atomic development, although at least 40 other countries (among the 190 NPT signatories) are known to possess nuclear programs at various stages of refinement without having to face crushing sanctions.  In Secretary of State John Kerry’s words: “There is no [Iranian] right to enrich uranium within the four corners of the NPT.  And this document [interim accords] does not do that.”  Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, denouncing the agreement as a treacherous “deal that keeps Iran’s nuclear train on track”, reiterated that nothing short of full Iranian abandonment of its nuclear program is thinkable – this from the militaristic leader of a nation with an arsenal of between 200 and 400 atomic warheads.  As in the past, Netanyahu wasted little opportunity in attacking the NPT, which Israel refuses to join, as “worthless”.

Joining forces with Israel and the lobby, Washington politicians in shamefully large numbers were still urging complete Iranian submission – on the feeble assumption that, as Senator Charles Schumer’s (D.-N.Y.) words, “Iran continues to be in hot pursuit of nuclear weapons.”   Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, insists the Iranian economy (that is, general population) must suffer material and social chaos so long as even the faintest signs of uranium enrichment remain.  While the Iranians have accepted further opening of enrichment facilities to International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) inspection, it is this very concession that Israeli leaders have long considered an outrageous violation of (their own) national sovereignty.  Sadly, global nuclear diplomacy is riddled with such deceit and hypocrisy, with all compromise favoring (and expected to favor) the existing nuclear states against weaker, targeted “offenders”.  For Iran, sanctions are reinforced by implicit (often explicit) military threats in the case intensified economic warfare fails.   Iranian and other regional efforts to force the IAEA to apply identical nuclear rules and standards to Israel have been repeatedly blocked, thanks to overriding U.S. and European power, while unimpeded access to Iranian research and military sites as become a taken-for-granted norm.

Behind the familiar outpourings of nonproliferation rhetoric, meanwhile, Washington has stepped up “modernization” of its own world-class arsenals, a favorite project of the weapons oligarchy.  Obama’s oft-praised Berlin speech of June 2013 called for a “world without nuclear weapons”, beginning with cuts in deployed strategic warheads below Cold War levels – in the tracks of the toothless bilateral START treaty with Russia, stipulating that the U.S. reduce its battlefield warhead total from over 5000 to 1550.

over the new few years.  Obama’s real-life military expansion, however, turns such projections into mockery while further subverting what is left of NPT credibility.  It is worth emphasizing that Article VI of the NPT requires all member states (especially nuclear-weapons states) to pursue negotiations toward ending the nuclear arms race and, eventually, full nuclear disarmament.

As U.S. politicians and media carry on about the dangers of nuclear proliferation, the warfare state is just as busy as ever with sophisticated new uranium-enrichment projects at sites in New Mexico, California, Tennessee, Missouri, Nevada, and South Carolina.   Touchstone of the weapons elites is “modernization”.  Streamlined warheads are being designed and redesigned at state-of-the-art Y-12 nuclear locations in New Mexico and Tennessee, consistent with priorities contained in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.  Largely unknown to the public, these expensive programs are insulated from fiscal pressures, political inquiry, and treaty obligations.  Modernization includes a fresh cycle of “replacement bombs” like the B61-12 warheads, which cost taxpayers roughly $25 million per bomb.  At Y-12 and related facilities a cycle of “life-extension” nukes is being researched and produced, upgraded from earlier designs.  Enhancements of this sort allow the U.S. to make inflated claims about reducing warhead totals while the actual deployments lose very little, if anything, in overall firepower.

While Iran has no proven nuclear-weapons capability or delivery systems, the U.S. (with Russia) possesses about 90 percent of warheads on the planet, while the U.S. – along with Israel — presently targets dozens of warheads on Iran.  Further, advanced uranium-processing facilities (UPFs) flourish not only in the U.S. but across the globe, with the nine nuclear-armed nations – including five in support of the anti-Iran sanctions – devoting more than $100 billion to upgrade and expand their arsenals.  Delivery systems (planes, ships, submarines, artillery, missiles) are being steadily improved, their apparent need legitimated by those WMD “threats” from inscrutable rogue nations like Iran.

According to a December 2013 Congressional Budget Office report, the U.S. is on line to spend $350 billion over the next ten years for ongoing nuclear refinements – better research centers, labs, weapons, delivery systems, command-and-control operations.  In the midst of supposed fiscal austerity and clamoring for “small government”, this largesse already exceeds by $150 billion the amount initially earmarked.  Air Force General Robert Kohler, head of the U.S. Strategic Command, has called for a “multi-decade effort to recapitalize our nuclear deterrent force and its supporting infrastructure.”  (Note that the world’s leading military power appears to need “deterrence”, but the country placed under economic, political, and military siege can perfectly well do without it!)

Within the U.S. Congress, bipartisan consensus holds sway around the goal of modernizing “strategic nuclear offensive forces” that Republicans (and some Democrats) want to fund through cuts in Medicare, Social Security, and other social programs.  Such political agreement is rooted in a deeply-entrenched nuclear establishment going back to World War II, the Manhattan Project, atomic bombings of Japan, and first rumblings of the Cold War.   Nuclear agendas have thus been an easy sell to politicians, academia, scientists, the media, and of course the military, whatever the costs; fears of nonproliferation and loyalty  to the NPT become distractions once insatiable demands of the warfare state and corporate profiteers like Raytheon, Northrop-Grumman, and Lockheed-Martin enter the picture.

The promise of a “world without nukes”, though uttered in Berlin, has gotten obscured in Europe: today, dictated by U.S. and NATO military interests, the continent hosts among the biggest concentrations of nuclear weaponry on earth.  Hundreds of warheads are dispersed, operational within the NATO doctrine of preemptive nuclear strike, meaning first-launch option.  Beyond sizable “official” French and British arsenals, Washington has deployed nearly 500 B61 nuclear bombs (tactical warheads) in Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and Turkey.  Many of these “smaller” nukes (still 13 times more powerful than the Hiroshima blast) are fixed on Russia and Iran.   Incirlik, Turkey alone is site of an estimated 90 such warheads.  Any military attack on Iran would surely involve some or all of these host nations.  While the IAEA is preoccupied with other matters, large-scale joint U.S.-European nuclear projects continue unimpeded, with the aforementioned B61-12 warheads (improved “precision” bunker-busters), slated for European deployment over the coming years, ready to counter the great Iranian military danger.

The B61-12 warheads amount to what the Federation of American Scientists calls “all-in-one nuclear bombs on steroids” – atomic weapons simultaneously more usable and more explosive.  Germany, not technically a nuclear state, is scheduled for dozens of these weapons, its super-fighters equipped to deliver massive atomic payloads.  In fact Germany today, despite its well-known anti-reactor stance, is among the most nuclearized of countries, with three atomic-friendly bases central to NATO strike options, maintained through illegal U.S.-German nuclear collaboration.

In fact the U.S. has for decades found ways to advance proliferation where it benefits geostrategic agendas – the NATO deployments being one example.  American technical and/or diplomatic assistance has lent outlaw nuclear programs – including those of India and Israel – combinations of material aid and political support. The U.S. even facilitated the Shah’s drive for Iranian nuclear power (and no doubt weapons) during the 1970s.   A watershed U.S.-India nuclear agreement in 2008 allowed New Delhi, long outside the NPT, to refine and expand its already highly-developed weapons program.  Since India was positioned as strategic counterweight to Chinese power in Asia, awkward questions about proliferation and NPT violations never surfaced.

As for Israel, it has long been an elite nuclear state, first given life by French technical assistance and later sustained by U.S. and European diplomatic cover.  The U.S. has worked tirelessly to shield its client from continuous U.N. demands that it join the NPT and open its clandestine atomic sites to international monitoring – most recently in September 2013, at a European meeting of IAEA delegates.   Both the U.S. and Israel fiercely resist for themselves the very openness, monitoring, and accountability they ritually demand of Iran under threat of sanctions and war.

As Iran is weakened by a cruel sanctions regime, Israel defiantly retains its status as lone non-NPT state in the Middle East, while President Hassan Rouhani’s perfectly reasonable call for Israel to join the treaty evokes only contempt.  While Israel hides behind the façade of “nuclear ambiguity”, Rouhani has been somewhat more forthcoming, insisting that “nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran’s defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions.”   While statements from ruling elites cannot generally be trusted, it is worth noting that no such affirmation has come from any Israeli leader.  Quite the opposite: the idea of “ratcheting up” sanctions pervades the ethos of Israeli politics, the domestic lobby, and Congress as SB1881 gains increasing resonance.  This is consistent with the pursuit of regime change, long harbored by the Israelis and sectors of the American right.

Here some might want to turn to the argument that Western fears have more to do with the dangers of nuclear power as such, especially in view of the Fukushima disaster.  While the risks of atomic energy should be obvious, this concern relative to Iran seems highly improbable.  Aside from Germany, nations behind the interim deal have robust nuclear energy facilities and rather ambitious plans of their own.   Moreover, as NPT signatories, countries throughout the world are freely exercising their atomic prerogatives, from Argentina to Brazil, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea – more than 40 all told.  None of these nations has faced economic sanctions, or even serious political opposition.  In fact nuclear energy is prized by Obama and most leaders around the world as a future “clean” alternative to fossil fuels, a strategy to fight global warming.  New reactors are planned for the U.S. – for example, at the Tennessee Valley Authority under the slogan “more nuclear, less coal”.   Abundant public resources are being thrown into nuclear energy on a global scale, eliciting little criticism from the IAEA or elsewhere — indeed scarcely a word from the high-minded monitors of international peace and safety.

A recent Foreign Affairs article (by Ernest Moniz) captures the mainstream Western obsession with the nuclear enterprise, under the heading “Why We Still Need Nuclear Power”.  The predictably clear-cut answer: to fight the perils of climate change.  This same message was focus of a 2013 CNN documentary, Pandora’s Promise, in which critics of nuclear power like Helen Caldicott and Ralph Nader are depicted as marginal, out-of-touch crazies.  Paradoxically, some proponents of nuclear energy argue that Iran should abandon its (irrational) nuclear hopes and generate more electricity from its massive reserves of fossil fuels.   The Iranians, for their part, proclaim an understandable desire for more diversified sources of electricity in a society that has seen energy consumption grow six times over the past two decades.

When it comes to Fukushima, Obama and other elites – falling in line with the extremely profitable (and highly-subsidized) nuclear industry – have been mostly silent about the catastrophe and its repercussions for future atomic-energy projects.  While nuclear reactors currently provide less than ten percent of electricity worldwide, the realistic industry hope is for a doubling or even tripling of that level within the next decade.  To date only one country – Germany – has moved to decommission its aging and dangerous reactors, owing to influence of the Greens and events in Japan.   The U.S. now possesses 104 such energy facilities, with more on the horizon.  Outrage over prospective Iran nuclear-power reactors seems very unlikely, not to mention hypocritical.

A deep, perhaps fatal contradiction of the interim deal lies in its flagrant political bias: coerced into a global cul-de-sac by the destructive impact of sanctions, the new Iranian leadership agreed to  nuclear-enrichment limits and more open inspections without getting much respite from the economic warfare being waged against it.  Responding to questions about the agreement, one Washington official was quick to insist that “sanctions relief” must be regarded as temporary and easily reversible, adding: “Iran is not open for business.”  Meanwhile, as noted, Iran’s NPT rights are being vigorously contested by the nuclear powers, meaning there will be no genuine sanctions lifting until Tehran fully relinquishes those rights – an improbable scenario.  Conflict becomes all the more intractable to the degree SB 1881, or similar punitive legislation, gains further political leverage in Washington.   It is worth asking whether nuclear diplomacy as presently conducted can have efficacy beyond an imperial paradigm in which the nuclear powers can with impunity target selected weaker states, ostensibly to enforce the NPT but in reality to secure geopolitical advantage.  The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was quoted as saying: “It cannot be that some countries that have developed nuclear energy can prohibit those of the Third World from developing their own sources.  We are not the ones developing atomic bombs; it’s the others, the nuclear powers, who do that.”

As the interim accords go into effect, Iran remains within the crosshairs of both the U.S. and Israeili militaries – armed with hundreds of nuclear warheads — the target having become thoroughly encircled while also debilitated by sanctions.   Dozens of sites across Iran have been identified for possible U.S. and/or Israeli air strikes, commando raids, and surveillance activity – the last of these now carried out daily by Pentagon or CIA drones and National Security Agency (NSA) monitors.

Any thawing of Iranian-West relations will probably depend on more or less full Iranian submission to Western demands — that is, willingness to suspend all uranium enrichment programs.  Of course this would be a function of sanctions-imposed coercion rather than the creative fruits of global diplomatic negotiations.  Unfortunately, the entire Iranian “crisis” represents a giant step backward in the struggle for nuclear nonproliferation – not to mention disarmament.  What the current state of “diplomacy” mostly reveals is blind refusal of the nuclear states to deal seriously with the general threat of continuing arms buildups engineered by leaders of those very states.  Efforts to isolate and target “rogue states” under U.N. cover have actually done great harm when it comes to addressing the overriding problem of nuclear stockpiles and deployments worldwide.

While Iran remains a Western idée fixe, pressing issues of arsenal expansion, modernization, assistance to non-NPT states, illegal deployments, and need for security guarantees have been entirely sidestepped.  Leading nuclear powers, the U.S. at the forefront, have resisted every move toward global nonproliferation, including serious reduction of their own arsenals, ignoring the original NPT injunction to setup binding conferences toward this end.  Hans Blix, former IAEA chief, pointed out in his Why Nuclear Disarmament Matters that “the NPT is under strain today because non-nuclear weapons states have over the years become increasingly dissatisfied that the nuclear-weapons state parties are not moving serious toward disarmament.  Moreover, the ambition to induce India, Pakistan, and Israel to adhere [to the NPT] has been abandoned.”

For non-nuclear states like Iran, constant military threats from abroad surely constitute a major incentive to acquire potent weapons.  Blix writes that “convincing states they do not need weapons of mass destruction would be significantly easier if all U.N. members practiced genuine respect for the existing restraints on the threat and use of force.”  Not only is Washington the biggest purveyor of military force in the world, it has waged lengthy wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries bordering Iran.   The interim agreement, meanwhile, says nothing about U.S. (or Israeili) security assurances for Iran.

Blix notes that Western intent to strip Iran of its NPT rights, humiliating enough in itself, demands the kind of concession no state can be justifiably expected to allow – although this does not stop the supposed guardians of nuclear sanity from pretending outrage at Iranian “intransigence” and “outlawry”.  Blix adds that the NPT is not, and has never been, “a treaty that appoints the nuclear-weapons states individually or jointly to police non-nuclear-weapons states and to threaten them with punishment.”   The salience of this point is accentuated when those enlightened nuclear interests do nothing to curtail illegal outrageous atomic proliferation among the three non-NPT (i.e.,outlaw) nuclear weapons states — India, Pakistan, and Israel.  Here as elsewhere what passes for nuclear diplomacy today has become so narrow, one-sided, and hypocritical – ultimately a mechanism for Western, especially U.S., geopolitical domination that logically works against most everything promoted by the NPT and IAEA.

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Black Sites Across America

NOVANEWS
Health Care in US Prisons: a Human Rights Issue Hiding in Plain Sight

by JAMES RIDGEWAY

There are 2.3 million people in US prisons in conditions that are often inhumane and at worst life threatening. An estimated 80,000 of US prisoners are locked up in solitary confinement, which means in a 6 ft x 9 ft cell containing little more than a bunk bed, toilet, sink, shelf, and unmovable stool. Prisoners in solitary confinement are let out in leg irons, handcuffs and belly chains for ‘exercise’ two or three times a week in dog kennel-type runs. Bathing is sporadic and the food often miserable and insufficient. One third of prisoners in solitary confinement are thought to be mentally ill and half are placed in solitary for nonviolent crimes.

Recently, the press has begun suggesting the situation in US prisons might be improving slightly. In part, this may be due to reforms pushed by the American Civil Liberties Union in Mississippi that forced reduction in numbers of men held in solitary and because of the hunger strikes in California which have brought small reforms there. Under steady pressure from citizen groups, Maine has reduced the numbers of men in solitary. Furthermore, reforms proposed by US Attorney General Eric Holder aim to reduce overall crowding in prisons by releasing the old and sick, and by loosening the hitherto mandatory drug laws.These laws have sent untold thousands into prisons on lengthy sentences for minor drug offenses.

As states cut costs, there is some pressure to shut down certain prisons, but the real story is business as usual. Cost cutting may shutdown prisons but also means that corrections officials double cell the inmates, that is, put two people in already cramped cells.  Individuals serving sentences in solitary confinement live under these cramped conditions, not for weeks or months, but for years and decades. Two men have been in solitary at Louisiana’s Angola prison for 41 years. I write to a man in New York State who has been in solitary for 26 years. In Colorado a man in solitary confinement has not seen the sun in 10 years.

The most striking aspect of this scene is the lack of decent medical care for prisoners in the US whether in solitary confinement or in the general prison population. Over the last two years I have corresponded with prisoners who have been waiting for years to have dental work, and end up pulling their own teeth. Women line up at 4 am in Alabama to receive aspirin. People with hearing impairments are thrown into solitary confinement because, unable to hear, they cannot respond to the orders of officers. According to one doctor in the south, a man with an ear ache was given drops for months but finally became so ill he was examined at a local hospital outside of prison and was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

I reported on a case of a woman in prison for a $11 non violent robbery who had received two consecutive life sentences. She was suffering from end stage renal disease. The subcontractor which provided health care to Mississippi prisons brought in a dialysis machine which broke down during treatment. Her condition eventually deteriorated and she was sent to a city hospital where the doctor warned the prison she would die if taken back. The prison put her back in the cell anyway. Eventually after pressure from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), this woman and her sister, who was also in prison, were released by the governor on grounds that the healthy sister gives a kidney to her sister.

Herman Wallace, 71, was shut up in solitary in Louisiana for 41 years. Five years ago he was diagnosed with hepatitis C. Last year he complained of stomach cramps and weakness. He was seen by a prison doctor who said he had a stomach fungus and administered an antibiotic. A short time later, Wallace, having lost 50 pounds, still living in his tiny cell where the temperature was 96 degrees (35.6oC), became so sick he was taken to a hospital outside the prison where he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. His friends and lawyers requested that the state grant him compassionate release and allow the man to spend his final days with family and friends.  And, indeed, shortly before Wallace’s death, a federal judge in Louisiana, disregarding the state’s opposition, set him free. Wallace spent two days as a free man before he succumbed to the cancer.

These are not isolated cases. Every day I receive letters from people in US prisons many of them are locked in solitary confinement; fifty letters in a week. Today a man being charged money for medications goes without because he has no money to buy them. Another man with kidney and bladder ailments fears to go to lunch in case he infuriates other inmates by ‘leaking’ on a chair. A man says he hasn’t slept for days because of the constantly burning neon lights. Another says that he only catches a few minutes sleep when people around him have stopped screaming. Others stifle at the smell of excrement smeared on the walls. A young man writes he is cutting into his arm, but please don’t stress his mom by telling her. He hopes to kill himself by tomorrow night.

I have raised the question with several doctors as to why the US medical profession – doctors, nurses mental health professionals, etc – show little interest in this enormous human rights issue on their doorstep, one directly affecting public health, and one which is even recognized and studied as an epidemic. To be sure there are medical practitioners who have plunged into this morass, but they are few and far between. And there are medical bodies, including Physicians for Human Rights and the American Psychological Association, which decry solitary. Physicians for Human Rights calls for independent evaluations and reform of health care policies. Much of this work is couched in the language of scholarly discourse, and often points to promising actions in the prison business. Sitting here, reading these letters, these academic statements seem utterly disconnected with what is going on.

Help is needed now, not only in the academic arena. As a layperson it seems to me unconscionable for the medical profession to turn its back on what has become a serious, large scale human rights issue; one that can be alleviated, at least to some extent, by medical professionals employing up to date technology, not, as reported above, broken down dialysis machines.

At the same time I meet doctors who long ago worked in Africa in the Peace Corps, still returning to places like Ethiopia each year to help provide medical care. American doctors fly into Haiti to spend exhausting weeks tending to desperately poor people. But these foul prisons in their own backyards are ignored. Doctors tell me it is too complicated dealing with prisons and that even if they should show interest the wardens will turn them away at the gates.

Why can’t doctors fight? Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (MSF) seems to get into all sorts of difficult places amidst mass starvations, horrid natural disasters, braving fire in combat areas. When I phoned to ask MSF if they could do anything in US prisons, the answer was a bureaucratic no – can’t do business in the US. The International Red Cross is a great force for the good, and has authority to visit US prisons, but, according to a representative I spoke with, can’t reveal which prisons it enters. The UN Rapporteur on torture travels around the world visiting dreadful places, but when it comes to the US, he must go through the bureaucratic labyrinth of first securing permission from the US mission to the UN, which denies we torture, then the state department, which says we don’t torture. The US constitution and subsequent laws ban torture. The president has reiterated these bans. The Rapporteur can be turned away by wardens of state prisons where most of the prison population dwells. The press is routinely denied entrance to solitary sections of US prisons.

Prisons in the United States have become our true `Black Sites’ – our new madhouses. They are warehouses for the poor and the sick. Located all over the country, they are hiding in plain sight.

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How the West Manufactures “Opposition Movements”

NOVANEWS
From Egypt, Ukraine, the Turkish-Syrian border, Cuba and Thailand

by ANDRE VLTCHEK

Government buildings are being trashed, ransacked. It is happening in Kiev and Bangkok, and in both cities, the governments appear to be toothless, too scared to intervene.

What is going on? Are popularly elected administrations all over the world becoming irrelevant; as the Western regime creates and then supports thuggish ‘opposition movements’ designed to destabilize any state that stands in the way of its desire to fully control the planet?

***

They are shouting and intimidating those who want to vote for the moderately progressive government that is presently leading Thailand. There is no dispute over the electoral process – voting is generally free, as both international observers and most of the local Election Commission members agree.

Freedom, legitimacy or transparency is not what is at stake now.

The rhetoric varies, but in essence, the ‘protesters’ are demanding the dismemberment of the fragile Thai democracy. Most of them are paid by the upper-middle and upper classes. Some of them are thugs, many hired for around 500 Baht a day (roughly US$ 15) in the villages of the restive southern provinces of the country. They are accustomed to the use of violence, their body language and facial expressions clearly show it.

Government officials of the legitimate government have to climb over blockades, or beg protesters to allow them to enter their own offices.

People who came to vote in the pre-election round were intimidated and insulted, and one man was almost strangled to death.

While life in the capital has been fully disrupted, the government does not dare to send in tanks or the police to clear the streets. It should. But it is too scared of the army and the monarchy – two pillars of this outrageous hybrid of savage capitalism and feudalism – comparable only to even worse regional nightmares, such as Indonesia and the Philippines.

It is all in the open now: the government speaks of its fear, while the military sends poisonous threats through the lackey media and through ‘leaks’.

What is happening and what is at stake? The Prime Minister’s older brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, while he was PM himself, attempted to bring in a modern capitalist system to this submissive and deeply scared nation. And not only that: he housed the poor, introduced an excellent free universal medical care system (much more advanced than anything ever proposed in the United States), free and very advanced primary and secondary education, and other concepts deemed dangerous to the world order, and to the local feudal elites, as well as the army.

Thai elites, whose love of being obeyed more than wealth, admired and feared, reacted almost immediately. The PM was exiled, barred from returning home to his country, and smeared. There were military coups, mysterious ‘alliances’, rumours, and ‘secret messages’ coming from a ‘very high place’. There was outright killing, a real massacre, when the so called ‘Red Shirts’, supporters of Mr. Shinawatra (ranging from moderate reformists to Marxists) were butchered by snipers, some shot in their heads.

But the people, the poor, the majority of Thailand, particularly those from the North and Northeast, reacted in a stoical and most determined fashion. Whenever elections were called, whenever the regime outlawed the pro-Shinawatra political parties, the new ones emerged, and kept winning the elections.

In 2011, Mr. Shinawatra’s sister, Yingluck, became Thailand’s Prime Minister.

‘Protestors’ blocked several central arteries of Bangkok, declaring that “Thailand is not ready for democracy”, and that “if elections should determine the country’s future, pro-Shinawatra forces would keep winning”.

That, of course, would be unacceptable to the elites and to many Western countries that have, for decades, benefited from the Thai feudal system.

One of Thailand’s generals, ‘refused to rule out the possibility of another military coup’.

What the opposition proposed was some hazy concept, of a government of technocrats, which would govern until Thailand ‘is ready’ to vote: read until people’s power is broken and it would become certain that a pro-elites, pro-monarchy and pro-military government would be ‘freely’ elected.

In the meantime, thugs are blocking public streets; cultural centers but not malls. They are described as ‘protesters’ in both Europe and the United States.

And here we are coming to the core of things: The terror of the military and feudalism was dressed up in the clothes of rebellion, even revolution. It was given legitimacy, even a certain romantic flair.

Fascism is raising its ugly head, once again. And the West is fully aware of it, and in fact it is openly supportive of the regime that is now de factogoverning Thailand from behind the curtains. Because it is the regime it helped to manufacture.

***

I left Bangkok and while in the air, one thought kept repeatedly coming to me: many of the places I had been writing about lately are living a very similar reality as Thailand is.

Those elected democratically, those progressive in their core, these governments all over the world have been under severe attacks by some armed thugs, bandits, and anti-social elements, even by outright terrorists.

I saw it on the Turkish-Syrian border. I heard the stories of many locals, in the Turkish city of Hatay, and in the countryside near the Turkish-Syrian border.

There, I was stopped, prevented from working, interrogated by the local police, army and religious thugs, when I was trying to photograph one of those ‘refugee camps’ built by NATO specially for Syrian fighters, who were housed, trained and armed in this area.

Hatay was overran by Saudi and Qatari jihadi cadres, pampered by the US, EU and Turkish logistics, support, weaponry and cash.

The terror these people have been spreading in this historically peaceful, multi-cultural and tolerant part of the world, could hardly be described in words.

Children from the borderline village described raids, theft and violence, even killing, by anti-Assad ‘rebels’.

Here, and in Istanbul where I worked with Turkish progressive intellectuals, media and academia, I was explained to again and again, that the anti-Syrian ‘opposition’ has been trained, financed and ‘encouraged’ by the West, and by Turkey (a member of NATO), causing the death and destruction of millions of lives in the entire region.

As I write these words, RT is broadcasting an exclusive report from the Syrian city of Adra, the city that had been plundered and destroyed by pro-al Qaida and the pro-Western ‘opposition’ forces, including the Free Syrian Army.

This is the city where, allegedly, one month ago, people were murdered, stoned alive, burned in barrels, and beheaded.

Instead of stopping support for the racist, bigoted and extremely brutal Syrian ‘opposition’, Washington continues demonizing Assad’s government, and threatening it once again with military action.

***

And those thugs, in the countries that elected their own patriotic or progressive governments, were hired by local elites on behalf of the Western Empire.

And before that, the so-called ‘elites’ were hired, funded, or at least trained/’educated’ by the West.

On an ‘intellectual’ level, the private media outlets have been fiercely competing with each other, over which one would become more submissive towards the foreign handlers. The militaries and the most regressive feudalist, even fascist forces all over the world (see Ukraine, for instance) are clearly getting back into the saddle, benefitting and taking full advantage of the trend.

All this has been happening in different degrees and with variable levels of brutality, in Thailand, China, Egypt, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Zimbabwe and many other places all over the world.

Right after reading my article about the situation in Thailand, published on 30 January, my Brazilian reader reacted:

“Similar to our Brazil: though in a faded… somewhat lighter environment but substantially the same… the local elites, right now in January 2014, are doing whatever they can, to prevent the re election of Ms Dilma Roussef… You are an experienced Latin America´s observer, you know very well…”

The process, the tactics, are almost always the same: Western-paid media, or Western media directly, discredit designated popular governments, then ‘scandals’ are created, colors designated to some newly constructed ‘opposition’ movement, thugs selected and paid, and finally deadly weapons ‘miraculously’ appear at the ‘protest sites’.

As long as the government is ‘nationalist’, really patriotic and defending the interests of its own people against international plunder, (not like the Abe’s government in Japan which is peculiarly described as ‘nationalist’, but in reality it fully sides with US foreign policy in the region), it gets marked, and it appears on an invisible but powerful hit list, old-fashioned mafia-style.

As Michael Parenti correctly and colorfully described: “You do it our way, or we break your leg, capice?”

I witnessed President Morsi of Egypt (I was critical of his rule at first, as I was critical of the government of Mr. Shinawatra, before real horror swept both Egypt and Thailand), being overthrown by the military, which, while in its zealous over-drive, managed in the process to murder several thousands of mainly poor Egyptian people.

I was then in Egypt, in and out, for several months, filming a documentary film for the South American television network, Telesur.

In disbelief and dismay I witnessed my revolutionary friends going into hiding, disappearing from the face of the earth. This happened as outrageously arrogant families cheered on the military murderers with no shame, openly.

The logic and tactics in Egypt were predictable: although still capitalist and to a certain extent submissive to IMF and the West, President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, were a bit too unenthusiastic about collaborating with the West. They never really said ‘no’, but that had not appeared to be enough for the Euro-North American regime, which, these days, demands total, unconditional obedience as well as the kissing of hands and other bodily parts. The regime demands old-fashioned, Protestant-style obedience, complete with self-deprecation and a constant feeling of guilt; it is ordering true and ‘sincere’ servility.

It appears that almost no country, no well-liked government can escape annihilation, if it does not fully submit.

It went so far that unless the government in a developing countries such as Philippines, Indonesia, Uganda or Rwanda, sends a clear message to Washington, London or Paris that “we are here simply to make you, in the West, happy”, it would risk total annihilation, even if it was elected democratically, even if (and actually ‘especially if’) it is supported by the majority of the people.

All this is nothing new, of course. But in the past, things were done a little bit more covertly. These days it is all out in the open. Maybe it is done on purpose, so nobody will dare to rebel, or even to dream.

And so, the revolution in Egypt has been derailed, destroyed, and cruelly choked to death. There is really nothing left of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, just a clear warning: “never try again, or else”.

Yes, I saw the ‘elites’ of Egypt dancing, and celebrating their victory. The elites love the army. The Army guarantees their continuous place at the zenith, their power. The elites even make their little children hold portraits of the military leaders responsible for the coup, responsible for thousands of lost lives, responsible for breaking the great hopes and dreams of the Arab world.

What I witnessed in Egypt was chilling, and it resembled the 1973 coup in Chile (a country which I consider my ‘second or third home’); the coup, which I am not old enough to remember, but footage of which I have seen again and again, in silent and never diminishing horror.

‘Or else’ could be the torture and murder of people in Bahrain. ‘Or else’ could be Indonesia in 1965/66. Or it could be the ‘collapse of the Soviet Union’. ‘Or else’ could be civilian airliners exploding mid-flight; a Cuban plane was destroyed by CIA agents. It could be ravaged Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, or Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, bombed into the stone ages. ‘Or else’ can easily be some fully devastated country like Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama or the Dominican Republic. Or ‘or else’ could mean ten million people butchered in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for both its natural resources and for the anti-imperialist outspokenness of its great leader, Patrice Lumumba.

Now in Egypt, Mubarak’s clique is rapidly coming back to power. He was a well-trusted ‘devil’, and the West quickly realized that to let him fall would be a serious strategic blunder; and so it was decided to bring him back; either personally, or at least his legacy, at the coast of thousands of (insignificant) Egyptian lives, and against the will of almost the entire nation.

The military of Egypt, of course, cannot be allowed to fall, either. The US has invested billions and billions of dollars in it, and the soldiers are now literally in control of half of the country. And it is a very reliable organization: it murders without scruple any being attempting to build a socially just society in this the most populous Arab nation on earth. And it plays with Israel. And it loves capitalism.

Two countries are separated by thousands of miles, and belong to two different cultures, located on two continents; Thailand and Egypt. In both countries, people spoke. They voted in their leaders. Not some Communist government, mind you: just a moderately socially-oriented one in Thailand, and a moderately nationalist/Islamic one in Egypt.

In both cases, the feudal and fascist elites went to work, immediately. Those that are behind them, that are financing them, and ‘morally’ supporting them, is, I believe, absolutely clear.

***

Ukraine is not a fresh victim of destabilization tactics of the European Union, which is so sickly greedy that it appears it, cannot contain itself anymore. It salivates, intensively, imagining the huge natural resources that Ukraine possesses. It is shaking with desire dreaming of a cheap and highly educated labor force.

European companies want to get into Ukraine, by all means. But one has to be careful not to allow the Ukrainian hordes to enter that sacred and thoroughly racist fortress – the European Union. Europe can plunder all over the world, but it is strict and brutal to those who want to get in and ‘steal its jobs’.

Of course the EU cannot do in Ukraine, what it freely does in many places like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It cannot just come and pay some proxy countries, as it pays Rwanda and Uganda (that are already responsible for the loss of over ten million Congolese lives in less than 2 decades), to plunder Ukraine and kill almost all those people that are resisting.

Europe, again and again, for centuries, has proven that it is capable of massacring entire nations without the slightest mercy, (while showing almost zero historic memory) and with almost no moral principles, at least compared to the rest of the world. But it is canny, and unlike the United States, it knows plenty about tactics, strategy and PR.

What the EU did in Libya is clear. Anyone claiming that the United States is acting on its own, must be exercising enormous discipline not to see how closely linked are the interests and actions of the old and new usurpers of Africa, Asia, Latin America, Middle East, Asia and Oceania. France is acting, once again, as the arch neo-colonial thug, particularly in Africa.

But Ukraine is ‘right there’, too near geographically, to the EU itself. It has to be destabilized, but it all has to appear very legitimate. ‘The rebellion’, ‘revolution’, ‘uprising of its people’; that is the way to handle things ‘properly’.

More than a month ago, a bizarre deal was proposed, where European companies would be allowed to enter and clean Ukraine of its natural resources, but the people of Ukraine would not be allowed to even come and work in the EU.

The government, logically and sensibly, rejected the deal. And then, suddenly, Thai-style or Egyptian-style thugs appeared all over the streets of Kiev, armed with sticks and even weapons, and went onto trashing the capital and demanding the democratically elected government to resign.

The groups of thugs include many neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and common criminals. They are emboldened by the Thai-style fear of the Ukrainian government, to use force. They are setting on fire police officers, blocking and occupying government buildings, preventing the administration from serving the people.

Just as their ‘orange’ predecessors, they have been manufactured and carefully crafted, before being released into the wider world.

***

In Africa, just to mention a few cases, tiny Seychelles, a country with the highest HDI (Human Development Index by UNDP) has for years been bombarded with criticism and destabilization attempts. The Government provides excellent totally free (including medicine) medical care and free education. The people of Seychelles are well fed and housed. It is definitely not a perfect society, but, together with Mauritius, it is the best the African continent has to show. But that does not seem to be relevant.

Propaganda from outside, as well as the mainly British-sponsored opposition press, is trashing the system.

One wonders why, but then, on closer scrutiny and understanding of the Empire, things become clear: The Seychelles used to cooperate closely with both Cuba and North Korea, on educational fronts and in other fields. It was too ‘socialist’ for the Empire. And for those retirees seeking an exclusive hedonist lifestyle, it would be acceptable to be surrounded by blue and maybe even by brown, but definitely not by red.

Eritrea, dubbed as the ‘African Cuba’, may be a proud and determined nation, but it was designated as total pariah and outcast state by most of the Western powers. It was hit by sanctions and punished for who knows what.

“We are trying to be inclusive, democratic and fair”, the Eritrean Director of Education recently told me, in Kenya. “But the more we do, the more we care about our people, the more infuriated Western countries appear to be.”

He was a very wise man and so he did not appear to be surprised. Both of us were just ‘comparing notes’.

Zimbabwe is another clear and extreme case. There, the West evidently and openly supports ‘the opposition’, against the government that is loved and supported by the great majority of citizens; the government of liberation struggle against colonialism and imperialism.

Provoked by outrageous lies disseminated by the mainly British mass media, I visited Zimbabwe last year, disputing point-by-point all the main propaganda points directed against Harare. Needless to say, my report, published by CounterPunchcreated outrage against Western propaganda, all over the African continent.

The West builds and feeds ‘rebellions’ and ‘opposition’ against Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Brazil, and Ecuador, to mention just a few countries high on its hit list.

In Venezuela, the US sponsored an aborted coup, and it directly pays for hundreds of organizations, ‘NGO’s’ and media outlets, with the direct goal of overthrowing the revolutionary process and the government.

In Cuba, the people of this proud and humanist nation have been suffering for decades. They have been enduring what can only be described as terrorism against their beautiful country. The US and the West have sponsored invasions, terrorist acts, even attempts to influence weather patterns and cause devastating droughts. Crops have been poisoned.

Any Cuban ‘dissident’, any thug that takes up arms against the Cuban system and the government, would get immediate funding and support from the United States.

Even Western media outlets, performing secret polls in Cuba, often come to the conclusion that the majority of Cuban citizens support their system. But that only infuriates the West further. Cuban people are paying a heavy price for their freedom, for their pride, for their independence.

There are many other examples how the ‘opposition’ and terror against ‘unpopular’ (in the eyes of the West) governments are built.

Bolivians almost lost their ‘white’ and-right wing province of Santa Cruz, as the US supported, many say financed the ‘independence movement’ there, obviously punishing the extremely popular government of Evo Morales for being so socialist, so indigenous and so beloved. Brazil, in one great show of solidarity and internationalism, threatened to invade and rescue its neighbor, by preserving its integrity. Therefore, only the weight of this peaceful and highly respectable giant saved Bolivia from certain destruction.

But now even Brazil is under attack of the ‘manufacturers of opposition’!

I don’t want to write at length about China here, in this report. Readers are already familiar with my stand, but in summary: The more high-speed trains the Communist government builds, the more public parks, free exercise machines, more public transportation lines and wide sidewalks, the more it attempts to make medical care free for all once again, the more it attempts to make education free and public – the more it is being smeared and called ‘more capitalist than capitalist states (while over 50% of country’s production remains firmly in state hands).

Russia, like China, Cuba or Venezuela, is demonized relentlessly, every day and every hour. Any oligarch, any deranged pop figure, who criticizes the government of President Putin, is immediately elevated by the US, German and other Western governments, to the level of sainthood.

All this is definitely not because of the Russian human rights record, but because Russia, like the Latin American countries and China, is determinedly blocking Western attempts to destabilize and destroy independent and progressive countries all over the world. It is also due to the increasing influence of the Russian media, particularly RT (Russia Today), which became a commanding voice of resistance to Western propaganda. Needless to say, this writer is proudly associated with RT and its efforts.

***

It is certain that what the world is experiencing now, could be described as ‘the new wave’ of a Western imperial offensive. This offensive is taking place on all fronts, and it is rapidly accelerating. Under the proud Nobel Peace Price winner, Barack Obama and his closest European Neo-cons and ‘socialists with brown insides’, as well as the re-elected fascist Prime Minister of Japan, the world is becoming an extremely dangerous place. It feels like some frontier town invaded by violent gangs.

The biblical perception of ‘those who are not with me are against me’ is gaining new depth.

And be aware of the colors. Be aware of the ‘uprisings’, or anti-government ‘protests’. Which one is genuine and which one is unnaturally created by imperialism and neo-colonialism?

It all appears to be extremely confusing to the majority of people who are getting stuffed on the corporate media feed. Actually, it is supposed to be confusing! The more confused people get, the less capable they are to rebel against real dangers and oppression.

But in the end, despite everything, on the 2nd of February, the people of Thailand voted! They climbed the barricades; they fought with those who were attempting to close polling stations.

And in Ukraine, the majority still supports their government.

And Venezuela and Cuba have not fallen.

And the jihadi cadres are not yet in control of Syria.

And Eritrea and Zimbabwe are still behind their leadership.

People are not cattle. In many parts of the world they are already realizing who their real enemies are.

When the US sponsored a coup against Chavez, the military refused to follow, and as a handpicked businessman was sworn-in as President, the military began moving tanks towards Caracas, in defense of the legitimate and elected leader. The revolution survived!

Chavez passed away, and some say that he was poisoned; that he was infected with cancer, that he was hit from the North. I don’t know whether it is true, but before he died, he was photographed, bold and sweating, suffering from an incurable disease, but determined and proud. He was shouting: “Here nobody surrenders!” And this one image and one short sentence, inspired millions.

I remember, last year in Caracas, standing in front of a huge poster depicting his face, spelling out his words. I would thank him; embrace him if I could, if he were still alive. Not because he was perfect – he was not. But because his life and his words and actions inspired millions, pulled entire nations from depression, from gloom and doom, from slavery. I read from his face this: “They try to screw you by all means, but you fight… You fall but you fight again. They try to kill you but you fight… For justice, for your country, and for a better world.” Chavez did not say this, of course, but that is how it felt, looking at his photograph.

By then, most of South America was free and united against Western imperialism, and hard to defeat. Yes, here, nobody surrendered!

The rest of the world is still very vulnerable and mostly in shackles.

The West is continuously manufacturing and then supporting oppressive forces, be they feudal or religious. The more oppressed people are, the less disposed they are to fight for justice and for their rights. The more scared they are, the easier it is to control them.

Feudalism, religious oppression and cruel right-wing dictatorships, all that serves perfectly well both the market fundamentalism of the Empire, and its obsession with controlling the planet.

But such an arrangement of the world is abnormal, and therefore temporary. Human beings are longing for justice and, in their essence, are a sharing and decent species. Albert Camus, correctly, arrived at the conclusion in his powerful novel “The Plague” (analogy to fight against fascism): “there is more to admire than to despise in humans”.

What the West is now doing to the world; igniting conflicts, supporting banditry and terror, sacrificing millions of people for its own commercial interests, is nothing new under the sun. It is called ‘ordinary fascism’. And fascism came and was defeated, in the past. And it will be again. It will be defeated because it is wrong, because it is against natural human evolution, and because people all over the world are realizing that the feudal structures that Western fascism is trying to administer all over the world, belong to the 18th century, not to this one, and should never again be tolerated.

Posted in USA, Egypt, SyriaComments Off on How the West Manufactures “Opposition Movements”

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