Archive | May 20th, 2014

Calls for Justice After Video Reveals Zio-Nazi Shooting of Innocent Palestinian Teens

NOVANEWS

Rights group says killings amount to “war crimes,” demands international probe

– Lauren McCauley

(Screenshot of video footage obtained by Defense for Children International Palestine)International outcry and condemnation came swiftly on Tuesday following the release of video footage showing two innocent Palestinian teenagers being shot dead by Israeli forces.

According to rights group Defense for Children International — Palestine, which obtained and circulated the security camera footage, Nadeem Siam Nawara, 17, and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh, 16, sustained fatal gunshot wounds on May 15 by Israeli Defense Forces after participating in a demonstration near the Ofer military prison in the West Bank. The teens were there to mark Nakba (or Catastrophe) Day, which commemorates the 1948 mass displacement of Palestinians, and express solidarity with the hunger striking prisoners currently held in the detention center.

After the video was made public, assistant UN secretary general for political affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco demanded an “independent and transparent” probe into the circumstances surrounding the boys’ deaths.

“It is of serious concern that initial information appears to indicate that the two Palestinians killed were both unarmed and appeared to pose no direct threat,” said Fernandez-Taranco.

“The UN calls for an independent and transparent investigation by the Israeli authorities into the two deaths, and urges Israel to ensure that its security forces strictly adhere to the basic principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials,” he said at a briefing of the UN Security Council.

Though the closed circuit television footage showed some rocks being thrown by protesters early on, as one witness reported, “at the moment of the killings, nothing was going on and no stone throwing was taking place.”

“The images captured on video show unlawful killings where neither child presented a direct and immediate threat to life at the time of their shooting,” said Rifat Kassis, executive director of DCIP. “These acts by Israeli soldiers may amount to war crimes, and the Israeli authorities must conduct serious, impartial, and thorough investigations to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The video below contains graphic and disturbing footage:

After viewing the video, people demanding accountability for the killings flooded Twitter under the hashtag “#Justice4NadeemandMohammad.”

Brad Parker, an attorney and International Advocacy Officer with DCIP,  told Vice News that their organization is currently in discussion with the victims’ families about pursuing complaints with both the Israeli Army and international bodies. However, he is not optimistic that they will be successful.

“We think the likelihood of having an impartial, open and thorough investigation opened is very slim,” he said. “But we think that the key to child protection in occupied Palestinian territories is accountability, because Israeli soldiers can do whatever they want at the moment with essentially no repercussions.”

The teens’ deaths raise the number of Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces in 2014 to four, according to data collected by DCIP. Since 2000, over 1,400 Palestinian children have been killed as a result of Israeli military and settler presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Reacting to the news, many expressed grief for the other Palestinian children whose deaths were not caught on camera.

 

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How Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls Became Propaganda for Imperial Policy

NOVANEWS

Glen Ford: Western intervention aims to make the region malleable to neoliberal economic policies and further militarize the continent

 

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A Deep Dive into the House’s Version of Narrow NSA Reform: The New USA Freedom Act

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A member of CodePink protests as Director of the National Security Agency Gen. Keith Alexander, right, breaks from a hearing before the House Select Intelligence Committee on October 29, 2013 in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on potential changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.NSA reform is finally moving in Congress. Last year, Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the USA Freedom Act, one of the first comprehensive bills to address multiple aspects of the NSA’s spying. The Senate version has languished since October, but last week the House Judiciary Committee (chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte) introduced and passed out of committee a heavily rewritten House version. As a result, two versions of the USA Freedom Act exist: the narrowed House version and the more encompassing Senate version. The movement in the House is a good indication that Congress is still engaged with NSA reform, but the House’s bill must be strengthened and clarified to ensure that it accomplishes one of its main intentions: ending mass collection.

Here’s how the House version of the USA Freedom Act compares to the Senate’s version, what the new House version of the USA Freedom Act does, and what it sorely lacks.

The Senate’s Version of USA Freedom Act

As we mentioned when the original USA Freedom Act was first introduced, it proposed changes to several NSA activities and limited the bulk collection of all Americans’ calling records. It would fix a key problem with Section 702 (.pdf) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FISAA), bring more transparency to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court (FISA court), and introduce a special advocate to champion civil liberties in the FISA court.

The House’s New Version of the USA Freedom Act:

The new USA Freedom Act concentrates on prohibiting the collection of all Americans’ calling records using Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Other sections of the bill would allow the FISA Court to assign amici, or non-parties who can brief issues before the court; create new government reports about the spying powers; and create new company reports detailing how many accounts and customers are affected by FISA Court orders.

First and foremost, the bill introduces a different conceptual approach to prohibiting mass spying under Section 215. Unlike the Senate version, which tries to stop the mass collection of calling records by mandating that the records sought “pertain to” an agent of a foreign power or their activities—an approach that we’ve worried about because “pertains to” and “relevant” are so similar—the House version mandates that a “specific selection term” (currently defined as uniquely describing a person, entity, or account) be the “basis for the production” of the records. The overall language may be stronger than in the old USA Freedom Act, but “specific selection term” must be further defined as “entity” could be construed expansively. After the order is filed, the government can obtain up to “two hops“—which should be further as it may be too expansive—from the selection term.

The bill also tries to tighten the “minimization procedures” that apply to government collection of records using Section 215 and other spying authorities like national security letters and the FISA Pen Register/Trap and Trace (PR/TT) provision. But the procedures only touch the FBI, not other agencies—like the NSA—that may be obtaining records using Section 215. In addition, the House version uses language we’ve seen in Section 702’s minimization procedures. If you remember, those procedures are horrendous. They allow for theovercollection, overretention, and oversharing of Americans’ communications “mistakenly” collected. The House must draft stronger minimization language to completely ensure improper information about untargeted users is not collected. For instance, simply inserting the word “acquisition” or “collection” would help.

Will Providers Be Forced to Decrypt?

Currently, Section 215 of the Patriot Act is intended for the government to obtain records created in the normal course of business. If the records don’t exist at the time of the order, then the government uses a different tool. Unfortunately, the House’s version of USA Freedom also includes a “provider assistance” clause. This means that a company served with an order must technically assist the government in obtaining the information.

One might think that “assistance” merely means helping to execute the order in a ministerial way, but we worry that it could be used much more broadly—especially when the clause mirrors language in the PR/TT statute that the Department of Justice has used to pressure secure email providers to warrantlessly disclose their encryption keys, potentially revealing private data of all of the service’s customers.

Another question the clause raises is whether or not the government could obtain an order for information not collected by the business, but with an assistance mandate that forces the company to collect such data in direct conflict with its ordinary business practice. This situation has already occurred in other contexts: under the bulk Internet metadata collection program, the government forced providers to collect information the providers were not initially collecting. The technological way in which the providers implemented the government’s demands ended up collecting the content of communications.

What Does “Basis for the Production” Mean?

While the new USA Freedom appears to strengthen the prohibition on using Section 215 to collect all Americans’ calling records, it permits overly expansive searches because the selection term mentioned above must only be used as the “basis for production” of the records sought. The bill does not require that the records belong to or be created by the person or entity identified by the selection term. So as written, the records could merely contain the selection term. Combined with “two hops,” the ambiguity presents the government with the ability to cast a potentially overbroad net to search with.

New USA Freedom Must Reform Section 702

The House’s version of USA Freedom drops many of the reforms dealing with Section 702 found in the Senate’s version. For example, one reform dealt with the “backdoor” loophole that the government uses to retain and search Americans’ emails and phone calls collected under the statute. The House version also fails to address other problems with Section 702, like “about” searching, the overbroad targeting procedures and minimization procedures, the definition of “foreign intelligence information,” and the rights of innocent users. Rep. Zoe Lofgren introduced amendments to fix many of these problems, but without success. At the minimum, the House must reincorporate the Senate’s fixes to Section 702.

The Senate Moves Forward

While the House’s USA Freedom Act may do a better job of addressing bulk collection under Section 215 and related statutes, it is much weaker in all other regards. Fortunately, the Senate version of the bill remains unchanged. Senator Leahy noted that he plans to push forward with the Senate’s version of USA Freedom over the summer. In the meantime, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will issue a comprehensive report on Section 702.

It’s good to see the House move forward on surveillance reform, but we must ensure Congress takes up all of the issues regarding NSA’s egregious activities. We urge EFF members to help us advance the stronger version of the USA Freedom Act by telling your Senator now to support the Senate version of the bill.

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My Poverty, My Trauma

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Living in constant poverty, writes the author, makes your “soul feels like a bottomless pit.” (Photo: philly.com)I have lived in Philadelphia, in poverty, for most of my life. I remember the smell of mold and mildew. I would watch as my most valuable possessions were destroyed by them. The smell of decay was all around me. I remember being cold and being in houses with no heat or hot water. My stepfather would use gray duct tape to wrap around the cords of the heaters when they burned out, so we could keep using it. Yes, it was a fire hazard, but who cared – the heater was keeping us warm. On occasion you would hear a sizzle and a pop from the heater.  Despite our efforts we were still cold.

We never had a working kitchen. My mom would cook food at her parents’ house and then we would take the food back to wherever we were staying at that moment. Most of the places we lived in had no running water and were very unsanitary. We would also go to my grandparents’ house to take baths and we got used to defecating in shoe boxes, putting it in plastic bags, getting on the bus and just throwing it out the window into a lot or something. People who are raised like this simply pass it on down the line. And you grow up thinking that it is ok to live like this.

As for food, we didn’t starve.  But we were hungry.  We ate whatever we could afford.  This is where the past affects the present. Today I’m somewhat of a food hoarder – I’m afraid of not having enough food for my family and me. I know what it feels like to be hungry but not have the food that you need or want. I have to constantly remind myself that I no longer live that way. But it’s the only way I’ve ever known. I don’t take showers, only baths, because I’m not used to it. If I do get cold or hungry I have learned how to deal with it. It’s like when you are being raped and you go out of your body to survive. That’s what it’s like when you are born into hunger and into a dirty, unhealthy environment.  This kind of living goes back in time, too.  If your parental figure is used to living that way, it’s likely because their childhood was the same way. You are stripped of your dignity. You are ashamed. Your soul feels like a bottomless pit. You feel less than human. The hell that I know came from the environment that I was born into. Now I am in my thirties, and I’m still haunted by the trauma and food insecurity.

My scars run long and deep – they will always be there. The long lasting effects of trauma stick with you. But I refuse to let my past dictate my future. My memories keep me humble. I’m shaped not by the commonly accepted “fact” that since I grew up in poverty I have to live in poverty now. Instead, I’m shaped by the idea that while you can’t change the past, you can change the future.

When I go into a market and see and smell food I feel bliss. It’s like I just won the lottery. To know that I can buy a steak if I want to or some seafood is a very priceless feeling. To be able to run hot and cold water is a blessing.

Today I am far from my childhood of mold, cold, and hunger. But even though I’ve healed so much and don’t have to live that way anymore, the effects of early poverty and trauma are still a part of my being. They shape me into the woman I am today. A woman who is motivated, and works hard to make sure that her daughter will have more opportunities than she had growing up. I take what I saw and experienced as a child, and use that to drive me to be a better person for myself, for my family, and for others who live through the trauma of poverty.

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Cries of ‘Injustice’ as Occupy Wall Street Organizer Sentenced to Prison

NOVANEWS

Cecily McMillan: ‘I stand resolved to keep fighting because your love ethic props me up and allows me to do so’

– Sarah Lazare

Cecily McMillan, the Occupy Wall Street organizer convicted of felony assault of the police officer she says sexually assaulted her, was sentenced Monday to three months in prison, five years of probation and community service.

In a case that has shined a spotlight on what critics charge are systemic failures in the U.S. justice system, the sentence was met with immediate condemnation.

In a statement following the sentence, support organization Justice for Cecily declared,

For many of us who consider ourselves to be part of the Occupy movement, there’s first and foremost a simple and deep sadness for a member of our community who has endured a painful and demeaning physical and sexual assault, and now has had her freedom taken away from her. And it’s painfully clear to us that Cecily’s case is not special. Sexual violence against women is disturbingly common, and there is a tremendous amount of over-policing and prosecutorial overreach by the police and the courts, enacted predominantly upon black and brown populations every single day, generation after generation.

The sentence was handed down by New York City Judge Ronald Zweibel despite widespread calls for no jail time from McMillan’s supporters, several city council members, and a majority of the jury that convicted her. A petition calling for McMillan to be released garnered over 170,000 signatures, and McMillan’s supporters said they delivered 700 letters to Zweibel calling for leniency, according to the Huffington Post.

Martin Stolar, criminal defense attorney affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild and co-counsel for McMillan’s case, has vowed to appeal the conviction.

Ahead of the sentencing, McMillan released a statement declaring:

Unlike most, when my trial began friends formed a support structure. Comrades came to court. Journalists reported injustices. When the verdict was read cries of outrage were heard, the news was spread, and sympathy was shared from around the world. Unlike most, during my weakest hour I had never felt more supported. Though I had never felt more oppressed, I had never felt so loved. I stand resolved to keep fighting because your love ethic props me up and allows me to do so. Unlike most, I am blessed with the support of so many, and though I am thankful, I am also thoughtful of the many forced to face such oppression alone.

Now 25 years old, McMillan was one of approximately 70 people detained late the night of March 17, 2012, when police violently cleared a memorial event marking the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. McMillan, who had stopped by the park to meet a friend, says she was sexually assaulted by police officer Grantley Bovell while she attempted to leave the area.

“Seized from behind, she was forcefully grabbed by the breast and ripped backwards,” according to a statement by support group Justice For Cecily. “Cecily startled and her arm involuntarily flew backward into the temple of her attacker, who promptly flung her to the ground, where others repeatedly kicked and beat her into a string of seizures.” Following the attack, McMillan underwent treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Despite numerous allegations that Bovell has inflicted excessive force while on duty, as well as photograph and video evidence of injuries sustained by McMillan—including a hand-shaped bruise on her chest, it was McMillan who was put on trial for felony charges of assaulting Bovell.

According to McMillan’s supporters, what followed was a trial riddled with injustice, in which Zweibel showed repeated favoritism towards the prosecution. Zweibel imposed a gag order on McMillan’s lawyers, excluded key physical evidence, and ruled that information about Bovell’s past violent behavior, and violence the night of McMillan’s arrest, was not relevant to the case.

Upon her guilty verdict, McMillan was denied bail and immediately sent to Rikers Island, where she is currently detained.

According to Justice for Cecily, “The message this verdict sends is clear: What Cecily continues to endure can happen to any woman who dares to challenge the corporate state, its Wall Street patrons, and their heavy handed enforcers, the NYPD.”

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They Can’t Outlaw the Revolution

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Cecily McMillan. (Photo by Lucy Parks CC-BY)RIKERS ISLAND, N.Y.—Cecily McMillan, the Occupy activist who on Monday morning will appear before a criminal court in New York City to be sentenced to up to seven years on a charge of assaulting a police officer, sat in a plastic chair wearing a baggy, oversized gray jumpsuit, cheap brown plastic sandals and horn-rim glasses. Other women, also dressed in prison-issued gray jumpsuits, sat nearby in the narrow, concrete-walled visitation room clutching their children, tears streaming down their faces. The children, bewildered, had their arms wrapped tightly around their mothers’ necks. It looked like the disaster scene it was.

“It’s all out in the open here,” said the 25-year-old student, who was to have graduated May 22 with a master’s degree from The New School of Social Research in New York City. “The cruelty of power can’t hide like it does on the outside. You get America, everything America has become, especially for poor people of color in prison. My lawyers think I will get two years. But two years is nothing compared to what these women, who never went to trial, never had the possibility of a trial with adequate legal representation, face. There are women in my dorm who, because they have such a poor command of English, do not even understand their charges. I spent a lot of time trying to explain the charges to them.”

McMillan says Grantley Bovell, who was in plainclothes and did not identify himself as a police officer, grabbed her from behind during a March 17, 2012, gathering of several hundred Occupy activists in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. In a video of the incident she appears to have instinctively elbowed him in the face, but she says she has no memory of what happened. Video and photographs—mostly not permitted by the trial judge to be shown in the courtroom—buttressed her version of events. There is no dispute that she was severely beaten by police and taken from the park to a hospital where she was handcuffed to a bed. On May 5 she was found guilty after a three-week trial of a felony assault in the second degree. She can receive anything from probation to seven years in prison.

“I am prepared mentally for a long sentence,” she told me this past weekend when I interviewed her at the Rikers Island prison in the Bronx. “I watched the trial. I watched the judge. This was never about justice. Just as it is not about justice for these other women. One mother was put in here for shoplifting after she lost her job and her house and needed to feed her children. There is another prisoner, a preschool teacher with a 1-year-old son she was breastfeeding, who let her cousin stay with her after her cousin was evicted. It turns out the cousin sold drugs. The cops found money, not drugs, that the cousin kept in the house and took the mother. They told her to leave her child with the neighbors. There is story after story in here like this. It wakes you up.”

McMillan’s case is emblematic of the nationwide judicial persecution of activists, a persecution familiar to poor people of color. Her case stands in contrast with the blanket impunity given to the criminals of Wall Street. Some 8,000 nonviolent Occupy protesters have been arrested. Not one banker or investor has gone to jail for causing the 2008 financial meltdown. The disparity of justice mirrors the disparity in incomes and the disparity in power.

Occupy activists across the country have been pressured to “plea out” on felony charges in exchange for sentences of years of probation, which not only carry numerous restrictions, including being unable to attend law school or serve on a jury, but make it difficult for them to engage in further activism for fear of arrest and violating their probation. McMillan was offered the same plea deal but refused it. She was one of the few who went to trial.

“I am deeply committed to nonviolence, especially in the face of all the violence around me inside and outside this prison,” she said in the interview. “I could not accept this deal. I had to fight back. That is why I am an activist. Being branded as someone who was violent was intolerable.”

McMillan’s case is as much about our right to nonviolent protest as it is about McMillan. It is about our right to carry out such protest without being subjected to police violence intended to crush peaceful and lawful dissent. It is about our right to engage in political organization without our groups being monitored and infiltrated by the security and surveillance state. It is about our right of free speech and free assembly, guaranteed under the Constitution but effectively stripped from us in a series of judicial rulings and through municipal ordinances that make it impossible to protest in many U.S. cities.

Judge Ronald A. Zweibel was caustic and hostile to McMillan and her defense team during the trial. He barred video evidence that would have helped her case. He issued a gag order that forbade the defense lawyers, Martin Stolar and Rebecca Heinegg, to communicate with the press. And, astonishingly, he denied McMillan bail.

The judge also assiduously protected Bovell against challenges to his credibility. He refused to allow the jurors to hear about or see the excessive police violence that was used to clear the park the night McMillan was arrested—violence many activists say was the most indiscriminate and abusive ever inflicted during the Occupy movement. He hid Bovell’s history of misconduct as a police officer from the jury. Bovell has been investigated at least twice by the internal affairs section of the New York City Police Department, the Guardian newspaper reported. Bovell and his police partner, in one of the cases, were sued for allegedly using an unmarked police car to strike a 17-year-old fleeing on a dirt bike. The teenager said his nose was broken, two teeth were knocked out and his forehead was lacerated. The case was settled out of court for a significant amount of money. There is also a video that appears to show Bovell relentlessly kicking a suspect on the floor of a Bronx grocery. In addition, Bovell was involved in a ticket-fixing scandal in his Bronx precinct. And Austin Guest, 33, a Harvard University graduate who was arrested at Zuccotti Park on the night McMillan was assaulted, is suing Bovell and the NYPD because the officer allegedly intentionally banged his head on the internal stairs and seats of a bus that took him and other activists in for processing. The judge barred the running down of the teenager on the dirt bike and Bovell’s alleged abuse of Guest from being discussed in front of the jury.

The case has galvanized many activists, who see in McMillan’s persecution the persecution of movements across the globe struggling for nonviolent democratic change. McMillan was visited in Rikers by Russia human rights campaigners of the group Pussy Riot. Hundreds of people, including nine of the 12 jurors and some New York City Council members, have urged Judge Zweibel to be lenient. Some 160,000 people have signed an online petition calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to intervene on her behalf. But so far pleas like these have failed to mollify the corporate state’s determination to use the McMillan case as a tool to prevent any new mass movements.

“I am very conscious of how privileged I am, especially in here,” McMillan said. “When you are in prison white privilege works against you. You tend to react when you come out of white privilege by saying ‘you can’t do that’ when prison authorities force you to do something arbitrary and meaningless. But the poor understand the system. They know it is absurd, capricious and senseless, that it is all about being forced to pay deference to power. If you react out of white privilege it sets you apart. I have learned to respond as a collective, to speak to authority in a unified voice. And this has been good for me. I needed this.”

“We can talk about movement theory all we want,” she went on. “We can read Michel Foucault or Pierre Bourdieu, but at a certain point it becomes a game. You have to get out and live it. You have to actually build a movement. And if we don’t get to work to build a movement now there will be no one studying movement theory in a decade because there will be no movements. I can do this in prison. I can do this out of prison. It is all one struggle.”

McMillan has been held in Rikers’ Rose M. Singer Center, Dorm 2 East B, with about 40 other women. They sleep in rows of cots. Nearly all the women are poor mothers of color, most of them black, Hispanic or Chinese. McMillan is giving lessons in English in exchange for lessons in Spanish.

McMillan has bonded with an African-American woman known as “Fat Baby” who ogled her and told her she had nice legs. Fat Baby threw out a couple of lame pickup lines that, McMillan said, “sounded as if she was a construction worker. I told her I would teach her some pickup lines that were a little more subtle.”

McMillan, who is required to have a prison activity, participates in the drug rehabilitation program although she did not use drugs. She is critical of the instructor’s feeding of “positive” and Christian thinking to the inmates, some of whom are Muslims. “It is all about the power of positive thinking, about how they made mistakes and bad choices in life and now they can correct those mistakes by taking another road, a Christian road, to a new life,” she said. “This focus on happy thoughts pervades the prison. There is little analysis of the structural causes for poverty and oppression. It is as if it was all about decisions we made, not that were made for us. And this is how those in power want it. This kind of thinking induces passivity.”

McMillan was receiving 30 to 40 letters daily at Rikers but during the week before the interview was told every day that she had none. She suspects the prison has cut off the flow of mail to her.

Because my pens and paper were confiscated during the two-hour process it took to enter the prison, after the visit I had to reconstruct the notes from our conversation, which lasted an hour and a half. The entry process is normal for visitors, who on weekends stand in long lines in metal chutes outside the prison. My body was searched and my clothing was minutely inspected for contraband, and I had to go through two metal detectors.

During the interview a guard asked McMillan to roll down her sleeves and admonished her once for crossing her legs. “You scratch a hole in the crotch,” McMillan said, running a fingernail up and down the crotch seam of her jumpsuit. “You make a small hole. And when the visitor slips you a cigarette you push up your vagina. I am learning a lot in prison. I have gotten very good at hiding books on my way to medical and stealing food to bring back to the dorm.”

“It is hard to read, it is hard to write,” she went on. “There is constant movement and constant noise.”

She was working Sunday on the statement she would read in court Monday. She said it draws heavily from Leo Tolstoy’s “The Kingdom of God Is Within You.”

McMillan had just finished writing a message to supporters who planned to rally in her support Sunday afternoon in New York City. She told them:

I came to New York the summer of 2011 to go to school—Rikers Island was definitely not on my list of intended experiences. Though I did call myself “a radical” that title stretched only as far to include plans to start a socialist student chapter and study welfare policy with aims of improving it. Within 1 week, these plans were railroaded by the Occupy Wall Street Movement—and for the following 3 months, I did little else.Like many, the eviction of Zuccotti left me lost, searching for that infectious energy that bound so many together in efforts to transform the world. Like many, I’ve spent the time since trying to understand what we had & striving to get back to it.

Like many I point to a lack of militancy in our movement—a commitment of one’s entire being—personally, politically, emotionally & physically—to the greater good. But I examined what action those beautiful words entailed, I exchanged “militancy” for the concept of “love ethic”—a distinction born of the belief that fights between “usses and thems” run counter to the collective “we”. “We” being human society with each person as an integral part—that must be seen, heard, felt & loved—in order to transform the whole.

Like many, I found my beliefs easy to come by but difficult to act on. I always strived, but often struggled, to see, hear, feel, to love—even as I expected as much in return. I began to question, “If it is such a struggle to solidify amongst a few, how can we hope to strengthen love ethic across the many?”

Unlike most, when my trial began: friends formed a support structure, comrades came to court, journalists reported injustices. When the verdict was read, cries of outrage were heard, the news spread, & sympathy was shared from around the world.

Unlike most, during my weakest hour, I had never felt more supported. Though I had never ever felt more oppressed, I had never felt so loved. I stand resolved to keep fighting, because your love ethic props me up and allows me to do so.

Unlike most, I am blessed with the support of so many. And though I am thankful, I am also thoughtful of the many forced to face such oppression alone. I know you have already done so much, but I’m going to ask for one thing more:

If you feel safe enough to share, please raise your hand if you have suffered police violence? If you have suffered sexual violence? If you have suffered the violence of the justice system? If you have suffered the violence of the prison system?

Oppression is rampant. Take a moment to try & really see, hear, feel the suffering of the many around you. Now imagine the power of your collective love ethic to stand against it.

Only through the pervasive spread of such a love ethic by the many for the many—not just the privileged few—will we finally have ourselves a movement.

McMillan takes comfort from her supporters and her family and from those of her heroes who endured prison for a just cause. She reads and rereads the speech Eugene V. Debs made to a federal court in Cleveland before he went to prison for opposing the draft in World War I. His words, she said, have become her own.

“Your honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth,” Debs said. “I said it then, as I say it now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

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A Challenge to Occupation? Pope Francis to Visit Palestinian Refugees in West Bank

NOVANEWS

“This visit will help us in supporting our struggle to end the longest occupation in history.”

– Lauren McCauley

(Photo: Creative Commons/Catholic Church England and Wales)On an upcoming trip to the Middle East, Pope Francis is expected to prioritize his visit with Palestinians, including a refugee camp, in a move interpreted by many as a ‘recognition’ of a future Palestinian state.

The papal “pilgrimage of prayer” is set to begin in Jordan next Saturday. From there, Francis is expected to take a helicopter directly to Bethlehem before heading to east Jerusalem, both recognized by the international community as part of Palestine.

According to Father Jamal Khader of the Latin patriarchate in Jerusalem, the decision to visit Palestine before Israel is “a kind of sign of recognizing Palestine.”

While in Bethlehem, the Pope will meet with the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmud Abbas, and then celebrate mass in front of the Church of the Nativity, before visiting a nearby refugee camp, AFP reports.

“He will have a lunch with Palestinians, with families suffering from the occupation… then he will visit Dheishe refugee camp to witness the suffering of Palestinian refugees,” Ziyyad Bandak, Abbas’s adviser for Christian affairs, told Voice of Palestine radio. “This visit will help us in supporting our struggle to end the longest occupation in history.”

According to Shoruq, an independent Palestinian refugee rights NGO, the Dheishe refugee camp in the occupied West Bank was established as a temporary sanctuary during the expulsion of the more than 750,000 Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe). Now home to the descedants of those expelled, the 13,017 refugees live on less than one square kilometer of land rented by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

“Knowing who he is, and his sensitivity for all those who suffer, I am sure that he will say something defending all those who are suffering, including the Palestinians who live under occupation,” Khader added.

While in east Jerusalem, the Pope is planning to take “brief forays” into Israel and will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Vatican-owned Notre Dame complex, which stands on the disputed border of east and west Jerusalem.

“I know that Israeli officials are not happy with this decision,” to begin his visit in Palestine and not Israel, Bandak added. “We welcome this visit and consider it as support for the Palestinian people, and confirmation from the Vatican of the need to end the occupation.”

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The Birth of a Eurasian Century: Russia and China Do Pipelineistan

NOVANEWS

China is building its own pipeline networks to help deliver Russia’s resources to its people and for export.HONG KONG — A specter is haunting Washington, an unnerving vision of a Sino-Russian alliance wedded to an expansive symbiosis of trade and commerce across much of the Eurasian land mass — at the expense of the United States.

And no wonder Washington is anxious.  That alliance is already a done deal in a variety of ways: through the BRICS group of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa); at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Asian counterweight to NATO; inside the G20; and via the 120-member-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Trade and commerce are just part of the future bargain.  Synergies in the development of new military technologies beckon as well. After Russia’s Star Wars-style, ultra-sophisticated S-500 air defense anti-missile system comes online in 2018, Beijing is sure to want a version of it. Meanwhile, Russia is about to sell dozens of state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-35 jet fighters to the Chinese as Beijing and Moscow move to seal an aviation-industrial partnership.

This week should provide the first real fireworks in the celebration of a new Eurasian century-in-the-making when Russian President Vladimir Putin drops in on Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.  You remember Pipelineistan,” all those crucial oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing Eurasia that make up the true circulatory system for the life of the region.  Now, it looks like the ultimate Pipelineistan deal, worth $1 trillion and 10 years in the making, will be inked as well.  In it, the giant, state-controlled Russian energy giant Gazprom will agree to supply the giant state-controlled China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) with 3.75 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas a day for no less than 30 years, starting in 2018. That’s the equivalent of a quarter of Russia’s massive gas exports to all of Europe. China’s current daily gas demand is around 16 billion cubic feet a day, and imports account for 31.6% of total consumption.

Gazprom may still collect the bulk of its profits from Europe, but Asia could turn out to be its Everest. The company will use this mega-deal to boost investment in Eastern Siberia and the whole region will be reconfigured as a privileged gas hub for Japan and South Korea as well. If you want to know why no key country in Asia has been willing to isolate Russia in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis — and in defiance of the Obama administration — look no further than Pipelineistan.

Exit the Petrodollar, Enter the Gas-o-Yuan

And then, talking about anxiety in Washington, there’s the fate of the petrodollar to consider, or rather the “thermonuclear” possibility that Moscow and Beijing will agree on payment for the Gazprom-CNPC deal not in petrodollars but in Chinese yuan. One can hardly imagine a more tectonic shift, with Pipelineistan intersecting with a growing Sino-Russian political-economic-energy partnership. Along with it goes the future possibility of a push, led again by China and Russia, toward a new international reserve currency — actually a basket of currencies — that would supersede the dollar (at least in the optimistic dreams of BRICS members).

Right after the potentially game-changing Sino-Russian summit comes a BRICS summit in Brazil in July. That’s when a $100 billion BRICS development bank, announced in 2012, will officially be born as a potential alternative to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank as a source of project financing for the developing world.

More BRICS cooperation meant to bypass the dollar is reflected in the Gas-o-yuan,” as in natural gas bought and paid for in Chinese currency. Gazprom is even considering marketing bonds in yuan as part of the financial planning for its expansion. Yuan-backed bonds are already trading in Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and most recently Frankfurt.

Nothing could be more sensible for the new Pipelineistan deal than to have it settled in yuan. Beijing would pay Gazprom in that currency (convertible into rubles); Gazprom would accumulate the yuan; and Russia would then buy myriad made-in-China goods and services in yuan convertible into rubles.

It’s common knowledge that banks in Hong Kong, from Standard Chartered to HSBC — as well as others closely linked to China via trade deals — have been diversifying into the yuan, which implies that it could become one of the de facto global reserve currencies even before it’s fully convertible. (Beijing is unofficially working for a fully convertible yuan by 2018.)

The Russia-China gas deal is inextricably tied up with the energy relationship between the European Union (EU) and Russia. After all, the bulk of Russia’s gross domestic product comes from oil and gas sales, as does much of its leverage in the Ukraine crisis. In turn, Germany depends on Russia for a hefty 30% of its natural gas supplies. Yet Washington’s geopolitical imperatives — spiced up with Polish hysteria — have meant pushing Brussels to find ways to “punish” Moscow in the future energy sphere (while not imperiling present day energy relationships).

There’s a consistent rumble in Brussels these days about the possible cancellation of the projected 16 billion euro South Stream pipeline, whose construction is to start in June.  On completion, it would pump yet more Russian natural gas to Europe — in this case, underneath the Black Sea (bypassing Ukraine) to Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Italy, and Austria.

Bulgaria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have already made it clear that they are firmly opposed to any cancellation.  And cancellation is probably not in the cards.  After all, the only obvious alternative is Caspian Sea gas from Azerbaijan, and that isn’t likely to happen unless the EU can suddenly muster the will and funds for a crash schedule to construct the fabled Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, conceived during the Clinton years expressly to bypass Russia and Iran.

In any case, Azerbaijan doesn’t have enough capacity to supply the levels of natural gas needed, and other actors like Kazakhstan, plagued with infrastructure problems, or unreliable Turkmenistan, which prefers to sell its gas to China, are already largely out of the picture. And don’t forget that South Stream, coupled with subsidiary energy projects, will create a lot of jobs and investment in many of the most economically devastated EU nations.

Nonetheless, such EU threats, however unrealistic, only serve to accelerate Russia’s increasing symbiosis with Asian markets. For Beijing especially, it’s a win-win situation. After all, between energy supplied across seas policed and controlled by the U.S. Navy and steady, stable land routes out of Siberia, it’s no contest.

Pick Your Own Silk Road

Of course, the U.S. dollar remains the top global reserve currency, involving 33% of global foreign exchange holdings at the end of 2013, according to the IMF. It was, however, at 55% in 2000. Nobody knows the percentage in yuan (and Beijing isn’t talking), but the IMF notes that reserves in “other currencies” in emerging markets have been up 400% since 2003.

The Fed is arguably monetizing 70% of the U.S. government debt in an attempt to keep interest rates from heading skywards. Pentagon adviser Jim Rickards, as well as every Hong Kong-based banker, tends to believe that the Fed is bust (though they won’t say it on the record). No one can even imagine the extent of the possible future deluge the U.S. dollar might experience amid a $1.4 trillion Mount Ararat of financial derivatives.  Don’t think that this is the death knell of Western capitalism, however, just the faltering of that reigning economic faith, neoliberalism, still the official ideology of the United States, the overwhelming majority of the European Union, and parts of Asia and South America.

As far as what might be called the “authoritarian neoliberalism” of the Middle Kingdom, what’s not to like at the moment? China has proven that there is a result-oriented alternative to the Western “democratic” capitalist model for nations aiming to be successful. It’s building not one, but myriad new Silk Roads, massive webs of high-speed railways, highways, pipelines, ports, and fiber optic networks across huge parts of Eurasia. These include a Southeast Asian road, a Central Asian road, an Indian Ocean “maritime highway” and even a high-speed rail line through Iran and Turkey reaching all the way to Germany.

In April, when President Xi Jinping visited the city of Duisburg on the Rhine River, with the largest inland harbor in the world and right in the heartland of Germany’s Ruhr steel industry, he made an audacious proposal: a new “economic Silk Road” should be built between China and Europe, on the basis of the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe railway, which already runs from China to Kazakhstan, then through Russia, Belarus, Poland, and finally Germany. That’s 15 days by train, 20 less than for cargo ships sailing from China’s eastern seaboard. Now that would represent the ultimate geopolitical earthquake in terms of integrating economic growth across Eurasia.

Keep in mind that, if no bubbles burst, China is about to become — and remain — the number one global economic power, a position it enjoyed for 18 of the past 20 centuries. But don’t tell London hagiographers; they still believe that U.S. hegemony will last, well, forever.

Take Me to Cold War 2.0

Despite recent serious financial struggles, the BRICS countries have been consciously working to become a counterforce to the original and — having tossed Russia out in March — once again Group of 7, or G7. They are eager to create a new global architecture to replace the one first imposed in the wake of World War II, and they see themselves as a potential challenge to the exceptionalist and unipolar world that Washington imagines for our future (with itself as the global robocop and NATO as its robo-police force). Historian and imperialist cheerleader Ian Morris, in his book War! What is it Good For?, defines the U.S. as the ultimate “globocop” and “the last best hope of Earth.” If that globocop “wearies of its role,” he writes, “there is no plan B.”

Well, there is a plan BRICS — or so the BRICS nations would like to think, at least. And when the BRICS do act in this spirit on the global stage, they quickly conjure up a curious mix of fear, hysteria, and pugnaciousness in the Washington establishment. Take Christopher Hill as an example. The former assistant secretary of state for East Asia and U.S. ambassador to Iraq is now an advisor with the Albright Stonebridge Group, a consulting firm deeply connected to the White House and the State Department. When Russia was down and out, Hill used to dream of a hegemonic American “new world order.”  Now that the ungrateful Russians have spurned what “the West has been offering” — that is, “special status with NATO, a privileged relationship with the European Union, and partnership in international diplomatic endeavors” — they are, in his view, busy trying to revive the Soviet empire. Translation: if you’re not our vassals, you’re against us.  Welcome to Cold War 2.0.

The Pentagon has its own version of this directed not so much at Russia as at China, which, its think tank on future warfare claims, is already at war with Washington in a number of ways. So if it’s not apocalypse now, it’s Armageddon tomorrow. And it goes without saying that whatever’s going wrong, as the Obama administration very publicly “pivots” to Asia and the American media fills with talk about a revival of Cold War-era “containment policy” in the Pacific, it’s all China’s fault.

Embedded in the mad dash toward Cold War 2.0 are some ludicrous facts-on-the-ground: the U.S. government, with $17.5 trillion in national debt and counting, is contemplating a financial showdown with Russia, the largest global energy producer and a major nuclear power, just as it’s also promoting an economically unsustainable military encirclement of its largest creditor, China.

Russia runs a sizeable trade surplus. Humongous Chinese banks will have no trouble helping Russian banks out if Western funds dry up. In terms of inter-BRICS cooperation, few projects beat a $30 billion oil pipeline in the planning stages that will stretch from Russia to India via Northwest China. Chinese companies are already eagerly discussing the possibility of taking part in the creation of a transport corridor from Russia into Crimea, as well as an airport, shipyard, and liquid natural gas terminal there. And there’s another “thermonuclear” gambit in the making: the birth of a natural gas equivalent to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that would include Russia, Iran, and reportedly disgruntled U.S. ally Qatar.

The (unstated) BRICS long-term plan involves the creation of an alternative economic system featuring a basket of gold-backed currencies that would bypass the present America-centric global financial system. (No wonder Russia and China are amassing as much gold as they can.) The euro — a sound currency backed by large liquid bond markets and huge gold reserves — would be welcomed in as well.

It’s no secret in Hong Kong that the Bank of China has been using a parallel SWIFT network to conduct every kind of trade with Tehran, which is under a heavy U.S. sanctions regime. With Washington wielding Visa and Mastercard as weapons in a growing Cold War-style economic campaign against Russia, Moscow is about to implement an alternative payment and credit card system not controlled by Western finance. An even easier route would be to adopt the Chinese Union Pay system, whose operations have already overtaken American Express in global volume.

I’m Just Pivoting With Myself

No amount of Obama administration “pivoting” to Asia to contain China (and threaten it with U.S. Navy control of the energy sea lanes to that country) is likely to push Beijing far from its Deng Xiaoping-inspired, self-described peaceful development strategy meant to turn it into a global powerhouse of trade.  Nor are the forward deployment of U.S. or NATO troops in Eastern Europe or other such Cold-War-ish acts likely to deter Moscow from a careful balancing act: ensuring that Russia’s sphere of influence in Ukraine remains strong without compromising trade and commercial, as well as political, ties with the European Union — above all, with strategic partner Germany. This is Moscow’s Holy Grail; a free-trade zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok, which (not by accident) is mirrored in China’s dream of a new Silk Road to Germany.

Increasingly wary of Washington, Berlin for its part abhors the notion of Europe being caught in the grips of a Cold War 2.0. German leaders have more important fish to fry, including trying to stabilize a wobbly EU while warding off an economic collapse in southern and central Europe and the advance of ever more extreme rightwing parties.

On the other side of the Atlantic, President Obama and his top officials show every sign of becoming entangled in their own pivoting — to Iran, to China, to Russia’s eastern borderlands, and (under the radar) to Africa. The irony of all these military-first maneuvers is that they are actually helping Moscow, Tehran, and Beijing build up their own strategic depth in Eurasia and elsewhere, as reflected in Syria, or crucially in ever more energy deals. They are also helping cement the growing strategic partnership between China and Iran. The unrelenting Ministry of Truth narrative out of Washington about all these developments now carefully ignores the fact that, without Moscow, the “West” would never have sat down to discuss a final nuclear deal with Iran or gotten a chemical disarmament agreement out of Damascus.

When the disputes between China and its neighbors in the South China Sea and between that country and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyou islands meet the Ukraine crisis, the inevitable conclusion will be that both Russia and China consider their borderlands and sea lanes private property and aren’t going to take challenges quietly — be it via NATO expansion, U.S. military encirclement, or missile shields. Neither Beijing nor Moscow is bent on the usual form of imperialist expansion, despite the version of events now being fed to Western publics.  Their “red lines” remain essentially defensive in nature, no matter the bluster sometimes involved in securing them.

Whatever Washington may want or fear or try to prevent, the facts on the ground suggest that, in the years ahead, Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran will only grow closer, slowly but surely creating a new geopolitical axis in Eurasia. Meanwhile, a discombobulated America seems to be aiding and abetting the deconstruction of its own unipolar world order, while offering the BRICS a genuine window of opportunity to try to change the rules of the game.

Russia and China in Pivot Mode

In Washington’s think-tank land, the conviction that the Obama administration should be focused on replaying the Cold War via a new version of containment policy to “limit the development of Russia as a hegemonic power” has taken hold. The recipe: weaponize the neighbors from the Baltic states to Azerbaijan to “contain” Russia. Cold War 2.0 is on because, from the point of view of Washington’s elites, the first one never really left town.

Yet as much as the U.S. may fight the emergence of a multipolar, multi-powered world, economic facts on the ground regularly point to such developments.  The question remains: Will the decline of the hegemon be slow and reasonably dignified, or will the whole world be dragged down with it in what has been called “the Samson option”?

While we watch the spectacle unfold, with no end game in sight, keep in mind that a new force is growing in Eurasia, with the Sino-Russian strategic alliance threatening to dominate its heartland along with great stretches of its inner rim. Now, that’s a nightmare of Mackinderesque proportions from Washington’s point of view.  Think, for instance, of how Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser who became a mentor on global politics to President Obama, would see it.

In his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard, Brzezinski argued that “the struggle for global primacy [would] continue to be played” on the Eurasian “chessboard,” of which “Ukraine was a geopolitical pivot.” “If Moscow regains control over Ukraine,” he wrote at the time, Russia would “automatically regain the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia.”

That remains most of the rationale behind the American imperial containment policy — from Russia’s European “near abroad” to the South China Sea. Still, with no endgame in sight, keep your eye on Russia pivoting to Asia, China pivoting across the world, and the BRICS hard at work trying to bring about the new Eurasian Century.

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Did the Federal Reserve Launder $141 Billion Dollars Through Belgium to Hide Massive Increase In Quantitative Easing?

NOVANEWS
Global Research

Did the Fed Take Drastic and Covert Action to Hide a Large Country Dumping U.S. Bonds?

That’s what former Assistant Treasury Secretary and Wall Street Journal editor Paul Craig Roberts alleges:

Is the Fed “tapering”? Did the Fed really cut its bond purchases during the three month period November 2013 through January 2014?

***

From November 2013 through January 2014 Belgium with a GDP of $480 billion purchased $141.2 billion of US Treasury bonds. Somehow Belgium came up with enough money to allocate during a 3-month period 29 percent of its annual GDP to the purchase of US Treasury bonds.

Certainly Belgium did not have a budget surplus of $141.2 billion. Was Belgium running a trade surplus during a 3-month period equal to 29 percent of Belgium GDP?

No, Belgium’s trade and current accounts are in deficit.

Did Belgium’s central bank print $141.2 billion worth of euros in order to make the purchase?

No, Belgium is a member of the euro system, and its central bank cannot increase the money supply.

So where did the $141.2 billion come from?

There is only one source. The money came from the US Federal Reserve, and the purchase was laundered through Belgium in order to hide the fact that actual Federal Reserve bond purchases during November 2013 through January 2014 were $112 billion per month.

In other words, during those 3 months there was a sharp rise in bond purchases by the Fed. The Fed’s actual bond purchases for those three months are $27 billion per month above the original $85 billion monthly purchase and $47 billion above the official $65 billion monthly purchase at that time.

***

Why did the Federal Reserve have to purchase so many bonds above the announced amounts and why did the Fed have to launder and hide the purchase?

Some country or countries, unknown at this time, for reasons we do not know dumped $104 billion in Treasuries in one week.

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The Kiev Putsch: Rebel Workers Take Power in the East

NOVANEWS
Global Research

Introduction
Not since the US and EU took over Eastern Europe, including the Baltic countries, East Germany, Poland and the Balkans and converted them into military outposts of NATO and economic vassals, have the Western powers moved so aggressively to seize a strategic country, such as the Ukraine, posing an existential threat to Russia.

Up until 2013 the Ukraine was a ‘buffer state’, basically a non-aligned country, with economic ties to both the EU and Russia. Ruled by a regime closely tied to local, European, Israeli and Russian based oligarchs, the political elite was a product of a political upheaval in 2004, (the so-called “Orange Revolution”) funded by the US. Subsequently, for the better part of a decade the Ukraine underwent a failed experiment in Western backed ‘neo-liberal’ economic policies. After nearly two decades of political penetration, the US and EU were deeply entrenched in the political system via long-standing funding of so-called non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), political parties and paramilitary groups.

The strategy of the US and EU was to install a pliant regime which would bring Ukraine into the European Common Market and NATO as a subordinate client state. Negotiations between the EU and the Ukraine government proceeded slowly. They eventually faltered because of the onerous conditions demanded by the EU and the more favorable economic concessions and subsidies offered by Russia. Having failed to negotiate the annexation of the Ukraine to the EU, and not willing to await scheduled constitutional elections, the NATO powers activated their well-financed and organized NGOs, client political leaders and armed paramilitary groups to violently overthrow the elected government. The violent putsch succeeded and a US-appointed civilian-military junta took power.

The junta was composed of pliant neo-liberal and chauvinist neo-fascist ‘ministers’. The former were hand-picked by the US, to administer and enforce a new political and economic order, including privatization of public firms and resources, breaking trade and investment ties with Russia, eliminating a treaty allowing the Russian naval base in Crimea and ending military-industrial exports to Russia. The neo-fascists and sectors of the military and police were appointed to ministerial positions in order to violently repress any pro-democracy opposition in the West and East. They oversaw the repression of bilingual speakers (Russian-Ukrainian), institutions and practices – turning the opposition to the US-NATO imposed coup regime into an ethnic opposition. They purged all elected opposition office holders in the West and East and appointed local governors by fiat – essentially creating a martial law regime.

The Strategic Targets of the NATO-Junta

NATOs violent, high-risk seizure of the Ukraine was driven by several strategic military objectives. These included:

1.) The ousting of Russia from its military bases in Crimea – turning them into NATO bases facing Russia.

2.) The conversion of the Ukraine into a springboard for penetrating Southern Russia and the Caucasus; a forward position to politically manage and support liberal pro-NATO parties and NGOs within Russia.

3.) The disruption of key sectors of the Russian military defense industry, linked to the Ukrainian factories, by ending the export of critical engines and parts to Russia.

The Ukraine had long been an important part of the Soviet Union’s military industrial complex. NATO planners behind the putsch were keenly aware that one-third of the Soviet defense industry had remained in the Ukraine after the break-up of the USSR and that forty percent of the Ukraine’s exports to Russia, until recently, consisted of armaments and related machinery. More specifically, the Motor-Sikh plant in Eastern Ukraine manufactured most of the engines for Russian military helicopters including a current contract to supply engines for one thousand attack helicopters. NATO strategists immediately directed their political stooges in Kiev to suspend all military deliveries to Russia, including medium-range air-to air-missiles, inter-continental ballistic missiles, transport planes and space rockets (Financial Times, 4/21/14, p3). US and EU military strategists viewed the Kiev putsch as a way to undermine Russian air, sea and border defenses. President Putin has acknowledged the blow but insists that Russia will be able to substitute domestic production for the critical parts within two years. This means the loss of thousands of skilled factory jobs in Eastern Ukraine.

4. The military encirclement of Russia with forward NATO bases in the Ukraine matching those from the Baltic to the Balkans, from Turkey to the Caucasus and then onward from Georgia into the autonomous Russian Federation.

The US-EU encirclement of Russia is designed to end Russian access to the North Sea, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. By encircling and confining Russia to an isolated landmass without ‘outlets to the sea’, US-EU empire builders seek to limit Russia’s role as a rival power center and possible counter-weight to its imperial ambitions in the Middle East, North Africa, Southwest Asia and the North Atlantic.

Ukraine Putsch: Integral to Imperial Expansion

The US and EU are intent on destroying independent, nationalist and non-aligned governments throughout the world and converting them into imperial satellites by whatever means are effective. For example, the current NATO-armed mercenary invasion of Syria is directed at overthrowing the nationalist, secular Assad government and establishing a pro-NATO vassal state, regardless of the bloody consequences to the diverse Syrian people. The attack on Syria serves multiple purposes: Eliminating a Russian ally and its Mediterranean naval base; undermining a supporter of Palestine and adversary of Israel; encircling the Islamic Republic of Iran and the powerful militant Hezbollah Party in Lebanon and establishing new military bases on Syrian soil.

The NATO seizure of the Ukraine has a multiplier effect that reaches ‘upward’ toward Russia and ‘downward’ toward the Middle East and consolidates control over its vast oil wealth.

The recent NATO wars against Russian allies or trading partners confirm this prognosis. In Libya, the independent, non-aligned policies of the Gadhafi regime stood out in stark contrast to the servile Western satellites like Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia. Gadhafi was overthrown and Libya destroyed via a massive NATO air assault. Egypt’s mass popular anti-Mubarak rebellion and emerging democracy were subverted by a military coup and eventually returned the country to the US-Israeli-NATO orbit – under a brutal dictator. Armed incursions by NATO proxy, Israel, against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as the US-EU sanctions against Iran are all directed against potential allies or trading partners of Russia.

The US has moved forcefully from encircling Russia via ‘elections and free markets’ in Eastern Europe to relying on military force, death squads, terror and economic sanctions in the Ukraine, the Caucasus, the Middle East and Asia.

Regime Change in Russia: from Global Power to Vassal State

Washington’s strategic objective is to isolate Russia from without, undermine its military capability and erode its economy, in order to strengthen NATO’s political and economic collaborators inside Russia – leading to its further fragmentation and return to the semi-vassal status.

The imperial strategic goal is to place neo-liberal political proxies in power in Moscow, just like the ones who oversaw the pillage and destruction of Russia during the infamous Yeltsin decade. The US-EU power grab in the Ukraine is a big step in that direction.

Evaluating the Encirclement and Conquest Strategy

So far NATO’s seizure of the Ukraine has not moved forward as planned. First of all, the violent seizure of power by overtly pro-NATO elites openly reneging on military treaty agreements with Russia over bases in Crimea, had forced Russia to intervene in support of the local, overwhelmingly ethnic Russian population. Following a free and open referendum, Russia annexed the region and secured its strategic military presence.

While Russia retained its naval presence on the Black Sea … the NATO junta in Kiev unleashed a large-scalemilitary offensive against the pro-democracy, anti-coup Russian-speaking majority in the eastern half of the Ukraine who have been demanding a federal form of government reflecting Ukraine’s cultural diversity. The US-EU promoted a “military response” to mass popular dissent and encouraged the coup-regime to eliminate the civil rights of the Russian speaking majority through neo-Nazi terror and to force the population to accept junta-appointed regional rulers in place of their elected leaders. In response to this repression, popular self-defense committees and local militias quickly sprang up and the Ukrainian army was initially forced back with thousands of soldiers refusing to shoot their own compatriots on behalf of the Western –installed regime in Kiev. For a while, the NATO-backed neo-liberal-neo-fascist coalition junta had to contend with the disintegration of its ‘power base’. At the same time, ‘aid’ from the EU, IMF and the US failed to compensate for the cut-off of Russian trade and energy subsidies. Under the advise of visiting US CIA Director, Brenner, the Kiev Junta then dispatched its elite “special forces” trained by the CIA and FBI to carry out massacres against pro-democracy civilians and popular militias. They bussed in armed thugs to the diverse city of Odessa who staged an ‘exemplary’ massacre: Burning the city’s major trade union headquarters and slaughtering 41, mostly unarmed civilians who were trapped in the building with its exits blocked by neo-Nazis. The dead included many women and teenagers who had sought shelter from the rampaging neo-Nazis. The survivors were brutally beaten and imprisoned by the ‘police’ who had passively watched while the building burned.

The Coming Collapse of the Putsch-Junta

Obama’s Ukraine power grab and his efforts to isolate Russia have provoked some opposition in the EU. Clearly US sanctions prejudice major European multi-nationals with deep ties in Russia. The US military build-up in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Black Sea raises tensions and threatens a large-scale military conflagration, disrupting major economic contracts. US-EU threats on Russia’s border have increased popular support for President Putin and strengthened the Russian leadership. The strategic power grab in the Ukraine has radicalized and deepened the polarization of Ukrainian politics-between neo-fascist and pro-democracy forces.

While the imperial strategists are extending and escalating their military build-up in Estonia and Poland and pouring arms into the Ukraine, the entire power grab rests on very precarious political and economic foundations- which could collapse within the year – amidst a bloody civil war/ inter-ethnic slaughter.

The Ukraine junta has already lost political control of over a third of the country to pro-democracy, anti-coup movements and self-defense militias. By cutting off strategic exports to Russia to serve US military interests, the Ukraine lost one of its most important markets, which cannot be replaced. Under NATO control, Ukraine will have to buy NATO-specified military hardware leading to the closure of its factories geared to the Russian market. The loss of Russian trade is already leading to mass unemployment, especially among skilled industrial workers in the East who may be forced to immigrate to Russia. Ballooning trade deficits and the erosion of state revenues will bring a total economic collapse. Thirdly, as a result of the Kiev junta’s submission to NATO, the Ukraine has lost billions of dollars in subsidized energy from Russia. High energy costs make Ukrainian industries non-competitive in global markets. Fourthly, in order to secure loans from the IMF and the EU, the junta has agreed to eliminate food and energy price subsidies, severely depressing household incomes and plunging pensioners into destitution. Bankruptcies are on the rise, as imports from the EU and elsewhere displace formerly protected local industries.

No new investments are flowing in because of the violence, instability and conflicts between neo-fascists and neo-liberals within he junta. Just to stabilize the day-to-day operations of government, the junta needs a no-interest $30 billion dollar handout – from its NATO patrons, an amount, which is not forthcoming now or in the immediate future.

It is clear that NATO ‘strategists’ who planned the putsch were only thinking about weakening Russia militarily and gave no thought to the political, economic and social costs of sustaining a puppet regime in Kiev when Ukraine had been so dependent on Russian markets, loans and subsidized energy. Moreover, they appear to have overlooked the political, industrial and agricultural dynamics of the predictably hostile Eastern regions of the country. Alternately, Washington strategists may have based their calculations on instigating a Yugoslavia-style break-up accompanied by massive ethnic cleansing amidst population transfers and slaughter. Undeterred by the millions of civilian casualties, Washington considers its policy of dismantling Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya to have been great political-military successes.

Ukraine most certainly will enter a prolonged and deep depression, including a precipitous decline in its exports, employment and output. Possibly, economic collapse will lead to nationwide protests and social unrest: spreading from East to West, from South to North. Social upheavals and mass misery may further undermine the morale of the Ukrainian armed forces. Even now, Kiev can barely afford to feed its soldiers and has to rely on neo-Fascist volunteer militias who may be hard to control. The US-EU are not likely to intervene directly with an Libya-style bombing campaign since they would face a prolonged war on Russia’s border at a time when public opinion in the US is suffering from imperial war exhaustion, and European business interests with links to Russian resource companies are resisting consequential sanctions.

The US-EU putsch has produced a failing regime and a society riven by violent conflicts – spinning into open ethnic violence. What, in fact, has ensued is a system of dual power with contenders cutting across regional boundaries. The Kiev junta lacks the coherence and stability to serve as a reliable NATO military link in the encirclement of Russia. On the contrary, US-EU sanctions, military threats and bellicose rhetoric are forcing Russians to quickly rethink their ‘openness’ to the West. The strategic threats to its national security are leading Russia to review its ties to Western banks and corporations. Russia may have to resort to a policy of expanded industrialization via public investments and import substitution. Russian oligarchs, having lost their overseas holdings, may become less central to Russian economic policy.

What is clear is that the power grab in Kiev will not result in a ‘knife pointed at the heartland of Russia’. The ultimate defeat and overthrow of the Kiev junta can lead to a radicalized self-governing Ukraine, based on the burgeoning democratic movements and rising working class consciousness. This will have to emerge from their struggle against IMF austerity programs and Western asset stripping of Ukraine’s resources and enterprises. The industrial workers of Ukraine who succeed in throwing off the yoke of the western vassals in Kiev have no intention of submitting themselves to the yoke of the Russian oligarchs. Their struggle is for a democratic state, capable of developing an independent economic policy, free of imperial military alliances.

Epilogue:

May Day 2014: Dual Popular Power in the East, Fascism Rising in the West

The predictable falling out between the neo-fascists and neo-liberal partners in the Kiev junta was evidenced by large-scale riots, between rival street gangs and police on May Day. The US-EU strategy envisioned using the neo-fascists as ‘shock troops’ and street fighters in overthrowing the elected regime of Yankovich and later discarding them. As exemplified by the notorious taped conversation between Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Kiev, the EU-US strategists promote their own handpicked neoliberal proxies to represent foreign capital, impose austerity policies and sign treaties for foreign military bases. In contrast, the neo-fascist militias and parties would favor nationalist economic policies, retaining state enterprises and are likely to be hostile to oligarchs, especially those with ‘dual Israeli-Ukraine’ citizenship.

The Kiev junta’s inability to develop an economic strategy, its violent seizure of power and repression of pro-democracy dissidents in the East has led to a situation of ‘dual power’. In many cases, troops sent to repress the pro-democracy movements have abandoned their weapons, abandoned the Kiev junta and joined the self-governing movements in the East.

Apart from its outside backers-the White House, Brussels and IMF – the Kiev junta has been abandoned by its rightwing allies in Kiev for being too subservient to NATO and resisted by the pro-democracy movement in the East for being authoritarian and centralist. The Kiev junta has fallen between two chairs: it lacks legitimacy among most Ukrainians and has lost control of all but a small patch of land occupied by government offices in Kiev and even those are under siege by the neo-fascist rightand increasingly from its own disenchanted former supporters.

Let us be absolutely clear, the struggle in the Ukraine is not between the US and Russia, it is between a NATO-imposed junta composed of neo-liberal oligarchs and fascists on one side and the industrial workers and their local militias and democratic councils on the other. The former defends and obeys the IMF and Washington; the latter relies on the productive capacity of local industry and rules by responding to the majority.

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