Archive | May 30th, 2014

India: Teen sisters allegedly gang-raped, hanged to death in Uttar Pradesh; Cops suspected


May 29, – Authorities in northern India said Thursday that they have arrested three men, including two police officers, suspected of gang-raping and killing two teenage sisters before hanging their bodies from a mango tree, sparking renewed public outrage over sexual violence in the country.

hromedia India Teen sisters allegedly gang-raped, hanged to death in Uttar Pradesh; Cops suspected intl. news2

Villagers found the girls’ bodies hanging from the tree Wednesday morning, hours after they disappeared from fields near their home in Katra village in Uttar Pradesh state, police Superintendent Atul Saxena said. The girls, who were 14 and 15, had gone into the fields because there was no toilet in their home.

Hundreds of angry villagers spent the rest of Wednesday in silent protest over alleged police inaction in the case. Indian TV channels showed video of the villagers sitting under the girls’ bodies as they swung in the wind, preventing authorities from taking them down from the tree until the suspects were arrested.

Police arrested the three men later in the day and were searching for four more suspects.

Autopsies confirmed the girls had been gang-raped and strangled before being hung, Saxena said.

The villagers accused the chief of the local police station of ignoring a complaint by the girls’ father Tuesday night that the girls were missing. The station chief has since been suspended.

The family belongs to the Dalit community, also called “untouchables” and considered the lowest rung in India’s age-old caste system.

India tightened its anti-rape laws last year, making gang rape punishable by the death penalty. The new laws came after nationwide protests over the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus in New Delhi that triggered nationwide protests.

Records show a rape is committed every 22 minutes in India, a nation of 1.2 billion people. Activists say that number is low because of an entrenched culture of tolerance for sexual violence, which leads many cases to go unreported. Women are often pressed by family or police to stay quiet about sexual assault, experts say, and those who do report cases are often subjected to public ridicule or social stigma.

Last month, the head of Uttar Pradesh state’s governing party told an election rally that the party was opposed to the law calling for gang rapists to be executed.

Press journalist for HRO media – Saurav Nag contributed to this report.

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The Bloody History of Baghdad

Easy to Take, Hard to Hold


Have any great cities in the world suffered as much continuous violence as Baghdad in the centuries since it was founded in 762? Today, there are daily bombings that kill scores of Baghdadis as they try to lead normal lives. A violent present has succeeded a violent past such as in 1256 when the Mongol general Hulagu destroyed most of the city or 1401 when Tamberlane’s soldiers heaped up 90,000 severed heads.

In his new book, Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood, Justin Marozzi is right in believing the history of this most extraordinary of cities deserves retelling from the beginning when it was founded by the Caliph Mansur on a bend in the Tigris River. As the capital of the Abbasid Empire stretching from Morocco to Central Asia, he boasted that his newly built round brick city, would be “the crossroads of the universe” and so, for several centuries, it could claim to be.

But, as Marozzi shows in his fascinating and intelligent study of the city, Baghdad’s position at the crossroads of the world proved to be a highly dangerous location. Few places have found themselves so frequently the target of invading armies, be they Mongol, Persian, Ottoman, British or American to name only the better known conquerors. But invaders have found that, while Baghdad may be easy to take, it is not easy to hold.

The city has many relics of past rulers seeking to give architectural substance to their temporary possession of power. Most obviously there are Saddam Hussein’s vast palaces and mosques, some of them half built with rusting cranes still standing beside them. But there is also a giant US embassy, much of which has never been occupied. An older sign of how swiftly victory can turn into defeat in Iraq is al-Rashid Street, once a main thoroughfare through


east Baghdad, which was cut by the Turks through existing housing in 1917 to celebrate their victory over the British at Kut. But within months of it being completed, the Turks had abandoned Baghdad and the British army was marching down the new street.

A second reason for the bloodiness of Baghdad’s history is that it has not just been the prey of foreign powers. I used to find it an exciting place because it was home to so many different ethnic and religious communities, though their numbers have been much reduced by war and persecution over the last century. The biggest division has always been between Sunni and Shia which Iraqis often like to imagine is a modern phenomenon. But sectarian violence in the city has, as Marozzi rightly points out, a far longer history and the ancient Sunni-Shia divide is “central to the story of Baghdad.” In 1055, for instance, after riots between the two communities, the great al-Khadmiya Mosque, holy to the Shia, was sacked.

Yet for a time under the early Abbasids Baghdad was home to the greatest mathematicians, doctors, poets and historians of the age and it remained so during its political decline. It was famous for its horse racing and pigeon racing, with the fastest pigeons being sold for vast sums (pigeon racing is still popular in Baghdad). The introduction of paper from China at about the time the city was founded increased literary production which included cook books with elaborate recipes and volumes on deportment with advice on how to keep one’s turban pristine “because it meets the eyes of the onlookers more than any other piece of clothing.”

Marozzi ends his book on an upbeat note stressing the capacity of people in Baghdad to endure repeated disasters, the most recent being Saddam Hussein’s wars and occupation and civil war that followed. The city has lost or is losing most of its minorities, which once gave a cosmopolitan feel, and there are few mixed areas left.

The Jews are long gone, the Christians are fleeing and the Sunnis have been pushed back into enclaves in a largely Shia city. Marozzi quotes a retired Iraqi diplomat as saying: “You have to wonder if the good caliph Mansur, if he had had the slightest foresight of the city’s bloody future, would have built his circular seat of power here.”

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Showdown in Ukraine

Putin vs. Comrade Wolf


“Comrade Wolf knows who to eat, and he eats without listening to anyone.”

– Russian President Vladimir Putin referring to the United States

The Ukraine crisis has its roots in a policy that dates back nearly 20 years. The origins of the policy can be traced to a 1997 article in Foreign Policy magazine by Zbigniew Brzezinski, titled “A Geostrategy for Eurasia.” The article makes the case that the United States needs to forcefully establish itself in Central Asia in order to maintain its position as the world’s only superpower. While many readers may be familiar with Brzezinski’s thinking on these matters, they might not know what he has to say about Russia, which is particularly illuminating given that the recent uptick in violence has less to do with Ukraine than it does with Washington’s proxy-war on Russia. Here’s what Brzezinski says:

“Russia’s longer-term role in Eurasia will depend largely on its self-definition…Russia’s first priority should be to modernize itself rather than to engage in a futile effort to regain its status as a global power. Given the country’s size and diversity, a decentralized political system and free-market economics would be most likely to unleash the creative potential of the Russian people and Russia’s vast natural resources. A loosely confederated Russia — composed of a European Russia, a Siberian Republic, and a Far Eastern Republic — would also find it easier to cultivate closer economic relations with its neighbors. Each of the confederated entitles would be able to tap its local creative potential, stifled for centuries by Moscow’s heavy bureaucratic hand. In turn, a decentralized Russia would be less susceptible to imperial mobilization.” Zbigniew Brzezinski, A Geostrategy for Eurasia, Foreign Affairs, 76:5, September/October 1997.

So is this the goal of US policy, to create “A loosely confederated Russia” whose economy can be subsumed into America’s market-based system?

Notice how easily Brzezinski chops Russia into smaller, bite-size statelets that pose no threat to US imperial expansion. Brzezinski undoubtedly envisions a Russia that will sell its vast resources in petrodollars and recycle them into US Treasuries further enriching the corrupt rent-skimmers in Washington and Wall Street. He foresees a Russia that will abdicate its historic role in the world and have no say-so in shaping global policy. He imagines a compliant Russia that will help facilitate US imperial ambitions in Asia, even to the point where it will pay to police its own people on behalf of US oligarchs, weapons manufacturers, oil magnates, and 1 percenters. Here’s the paragraph in Brzezinski’s piece that sums up Washington’s objectives in Ukraine, Russia and beyond. It is fittingly headlined with the following words in bold print:


“Defining the substance and institutionalizing the form of a trans-Eurasian security system could become the major architectural initiative of the next century. The core of the new transcontinental security framework could be a standing committee composed of the major Eurasian powers, with America, Europe, China, Japan, a confederated Russia, and India collectively addressing critical issues for Eurasia’s stability. The emergence of such a transcontinental system could gradually relieve America of some of its burdens, while perpetuating beyond a generation its decisive role as Eurasia’s arbitrator. Geostrategic success in that venture would be a fitting legacy to America’s role as the first and only global superpower.” Zbigniew Brzezinski, “A Geostrategy for Eurasia,” Foreign Affairs

Translation: The United States will police the world, dispatch troublemakers, and eliminate potential threats wherever it finds them. It will impose its neoliberal dogma (Austerity, privatization, structural adjustment, anti labor reforms, etc) across-the-board and on all participants. Also, minor partners–”Europe, China, Japan, a confederated Russia, and India”–will be expected to provide security for their own people at their own expense in order to “relieve America of some of its burdens.”

Nice, eh? So you even have to pay for your own jailers.

And what is “Transcontinental Security” anyway? Isn’t it just a fancy way of saying “one world government”?

Indeed, it is. It’s the very same thing. Here’s more from Brzezinski:

“Failure to widen NATO…would shatter the concept of an expanding Europe… Worse, it could reignite dormant Russian political aspirations in Central Europe.”

This is an oddly convoluted statement. In the first sentence, Brzezinski supports the idea of an “expanding Europe”, and then in the next breath, he worries that Russia might want to do the same thing. It’s another case of the pot calling the kettle black.

What’s clear, is that –in Brzezinski’s mind– EU and NATO expansion will help Washington achieve its hegemonic aspirations. That’s all that matters. Here’s what he says:

“Europe is America’s essential geopolitical bridgehead in Eurasia…A wider Europe and an enlarged NATO will serve the short-term and longer-term interests of U.S. policy… A politically defined Europe is also essential to Russia’s assimilation into a system of global cooperation.”

“Bridgehead”? In other words, Europe is just a means to an end. But what would that “end” be?

Global domination. Isn’t that what he’s talking about?

Of course, it is.

What makes the Ukrainian crisis so hard to understand, is that the media conceals the policy behind the impenetrable fog of daily events. Once the fog lifts though, it’s easy to see who’s causing all the trouble. It’s the party that’s calling the shots from abroad, the good old US of A.

Putin doesn’t want this war and neither do most Ukrainians. The whole thing was conjured up by Uncle Sam and his minions to stop the flow of Russian gas to Europe, to push NATO further eastward, and to break the Russian Federation into little pieces. That’s what it’s really all about. And these madmen are willing to raze Ukraine to the ground and kill every living organism within a 3,000 mile radius of Kiev to get their way. After all, isn’t that what they did in Iraq? They sure did. And did I mention that, according to this week’s Wall Street Journal, “Iraq’s Oil Output Surged to Highest Level in Over 30 Years” with all the usual suspects raking in hefty profits.

The point is, if they’d did it in Iraq, they’ll do it in Ukraine too. Because what Washington cares about is constituents not carnage. Carnage they can handle.

Brzezinski is not the only one supporting the current policy either. There’s also fellow traveler, Hillary Clinton. In fact, it was Secretary of State Clinton who first used the term “pivot” in a 2011 article in Foreign Policy Magazine titled “America’s Pacific Century”. Clinton’s op-ed described a “rebalancing” plan that would open up new markets to US corporations and Wall Street, control the flow of vital resources, and “forge a broad-based military presence” across the continent. Here’s an excerpt from the text of Clinton’s seminal speech:

“The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action.

As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point. Over the last 10 years, we have allocated immense resources to those two theaters. In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region…

Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology…..American firms (need) to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia…The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade. As we strive to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015, we are looking for opportunities to do even more business in Asia…

…as I talk with business leaders across our own nation, I hear how important it is for the United States to expand our exports and our investment opportunities in Asia’s dynamic markets.” (“America’s Pacific Century”, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton”, Foreign Policy Magazine, 2011)

“Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama”?

Does that sound like someone who wants to cultivate a mutually-beneficial relationship with their trading partners or someone who wants to move in, take over and run the show?

Washington’s plan to shift its attention from the Middle East to Asia is all about money. Clinton even says so herself. She says, “The region generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade…Asia’s markets … provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and…a vast and growing consumer base.”

Money, money, money. The upside-profit potential is limitless which is why Madame Clinton wants to plant Old Glory right in “the center of the action”, so US corporations can rake in the dough without fear of reprisal.

Brzezinski says the same thing in his magnum opus “The Grand Chessboard” Here’s an excerpt:

“A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions. A mere glance at the map also suggests that control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa’s subordination, rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania (Australia) geopolitically peripheral to the world’s central continent. About 75 per cent of the world’s people live in Eurasia, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources.” (Zbigniew Brzezinski, “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And It’s Geostrategic Imperatives”, page 31)

Get the picture? It’s a gold rush! Having successfully looted every last farthing from the battered US middle class and left the economy in a ghastly shambles, Brzezinski, Clinton and Co. are headed for greener pastures in Central Asia, home of the world’s largest oil producing nation, boundless reserves in the Caspian Basin, and zillions of voracious consumers who’ll need everything from I Pads to leisure wear, all graciously provided by US-owned corporations. Cha-ching!

So don’t get tripped up on the daily events in Ukraine. This isn’t a clash between pro-government forces and anti-government activists. This is the next big phase of Washington’s plan to conquer the world, a plan that will inevitably pit Moscow against the amassed military power of the United States of America. This is David vs. Goliath, Mother Russia vs. the Great Satan, Vladie Putin vs. Comrade Wolf.

Ukraine is just Round 1.

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Montana Couple Takes on Bank of America

Fraud and Foreclosure


White Sulphur Springs, Montana

Abraham and Betty Morrow have never met Sunil Kumar, of Hyderabad, India, but he is a key figure in their fraud lawsuit against Bank of America.

The lawsuit, alleging that the bank deliberately led them into foreclosure on their retirement home outside White Sulphur Springs, Montana had previously been dismissed by a district court judge. The Montana Supreme Court voted 4-2 on May 7 to overturn that decision, saying the Morrows’ lawsuit should proceed to trial.

John Heenan of Billings, one of the attorneys for the Morrows, said the case could have repercussions for hundreds of Montanans in similar circumstances, and potentially thousands of people all over the country.

“It’s a big deal, and that decision’s a big deal,” he said of the high court ruling.

Heenan said a key factor in the case is that Abraham Morrow is a retired accountant and small-business owner who kept meticulous notes of every conversation he had with Bank of America representatives.


From the deck of their house in the foothills of the Big Belt Mountains, Betty and Abraham Morrow have million-dollar views in every direction. Photo by Ed Kemmick/Last Best News.

One early conversation took place on Dec. 8, 2009. It was with a Bank of America representative who identified himself as “Brian.” Morrow said “Brian” told him that he and his wife were locked in for a loan modification program. If they successfully made reduced trial payments for three to four months, Morrow said he was told, their loan modification would be made permanent.

After the whole thing unraveled and the Morrows filed suit, one of the defenses made by Bank of America was that, according to its records, Morrow had not spoken with anyone by the name of Brian on the date in question. On Dec. 8, 2009, the bank said, Morrow spoke with a customer service representative in India by the name of Sunil Kumar.

Heenan later deposed Kumar by telephone. Heenan said Kumar told him, “We all use American names” when speaking with customers.

And what American name did Kumar use? “Brian,” he told Heenan.

If Morrow’s custom of taking good notes proved vital, Heenan said, it also illustrated how devious loan-servicing fraud can be.

“If people like that can be tricked, imagine everyone else,” he said.

Even more insidious, Heenan said, is that Bank of America was offering loan modifications under the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, for which it received federal bailout money designed to help keep people in their homes.

“They turned this HAMP program into a swindlers’ paradise,” Heenan said.

The Morrows’ other attorney is David K.W. Nelson of Helena. The attorneys for Bank of America, Kenneth Lay and Christopher Oliveira, also of Helena, did not respond to requests for comment.


Abraham Morrow built their 5,000-square-foot house himself. It sits on 50 acres. Photo by Ed Kemmick/Last Best News.

Falling in love with Montana

The Morrows are from South Carolina and first saw Montana on a cross-country motorcycle trip in 1995. They went across the northern part of the state on the way west, then traveled through southern Montana on their way back home.

When they began to think of retiring — they owned two successful sign businesses — their first choice was Montana. Myrtle Beach, S.C., where they lived, used to be a nice place, Morrow said, but over the years it changed from a quiet tourist town to “a year-round metropolis.”

They picked the site of their retirement home in 2003 — 50 acres in the foothills of the Big Belt Mountains about 15 miles southwest of White Sulphur Springs. Their house sits on a hill with million-dollar views in every direction. In addition to the Big Belts, you can see the Crazy, Bridger and Castle mountains from their land.

Abraham Morrow built their 5,000-square-foot house himself, most of it in 2006-07, and then an addition in 2008. Morrow said their house and property were appraised at $491,000, but because he built the house himself, their financing through Quicken Loans totaled $291,200. They had a 15-year term, with monthly payments of $2,301.

Their trouble started in 2009, when the man who bought their businesses in South Carolina defaulted on his payments. Morrow said the new owner basically took a $1 million business and reduced its value to $150,000 in a few years.

They would have walked away from the businesses, Morrow said, but they still owned the building the businesses were in. So, they went back to South Carolina in 2009 and spent most of their time there, running the businesses while looking for a new buyer, until May 2012.

They lived in their RV for a time and later in a house, to cut expenses, but they still called Montana home. Betty Morrow said the only thing they removed from their house near White Sulphur Springs was their clothes.

“This was our home,” she said. “All our possessions were here.”

They returned to Montana full-time in May 2012 and finally sold their businesses in 2013.

Enter Bank of America

Meanwhile, their home loan had been sold to Countrywide Home Loans Servicing. Bank of America later swallowed Countrywide and BAC Home Loans Servicing in a merger. That’s why all three companies were named in the Morrows’ lawsuit.

Because their retirement income was jeopardized by the business default in South Carolina, the Morrows first spoke with Bank of America about modifying their loan in May 2009. Abraham Morrow said they had never missed or been late on a payment to that point.

In October 2009, Morrow said, a Bank of America employee told them that to become eligible for a loan modification, they should intentionally miss the next month’s payment.

Their next conversation was with Kumar, a.k.a. Brian, who told them their new monthly payments would be $1,240, which would become permanent if they made payments for three to four months.

Over the next couple of years, according to the Morrows, they would speak with some 40 different Bank of America representatives by phone, none of whom ever gave their full names. They would give their employee number and first name — whether it was their real first name or not.

Barely two months after they made their first trial payment, the Morrows were informed by a letter from Bank of America that their loan was in default. On March 2, 2010, Abraham Morrow said he spoke with a bank employee who told him to ignore the letter and continue making reduced monthly payments.

The next day, March 3, Bank of America again informed Morrow, by letter, that the loan was in default. On April 22 the Morrows received another letter from the bank, inviting them to apply for participation in the Home Affordable Modification Program.

The letter from Bank of America said that if they qualified for the program they could begin making reduced trial payments. When the letter arrived, the Morrows said, they had already been making the trial payments for three or four months.

In its responses to the Morrows’ lawsuit, Bank of America said its employees would never tell a borrower to intentionally default on a payment. And Kumar, though he testified that he had no specific recollection of his conversations with the Morrows, said he would never tell customers on the phone that they had been approved for a loan modification.

Victory at the Supreme Court

The pattern continued. The Morrows received new notifications of default as well as phone calls from a collection company working for Bank of America. They were also told several times that their documents had been lost or misplaced. Every time they tried to clarify things, Abraham Morrow said, bank representatives would tell them by phone to ignore the letters or collection calls.

In October 2010, the Morrows filed a complaint with Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. In March 2011, a Bank of America employee told the Morrows their loan modification had been denied because they appeared to live in South Carolina, and the Montana home was not their primary residence.

“No one from Bank of America ever told me that” before, Morrow said.

Heenan said the issue of residency was never brought up until the Morrows filed their complaint. At that point, he said, the bank was “trying to cobble together a defense.”

The Morrows filed their lawsuit on May 6, 2011, in the Lewis and Clark County District Court in Helena. Not quite two years later, on April 3, 2013, shortly before the case was supposed to go to trial, a judge granted summary judgment to Bank of America.

The judge said the Morrows could not enforce an oral agreement to modify their loan because it had to be in writing. The judge also ruled that the bank was not negligent because “it was not the Morrows’ financial adviser and owed them no legal duty,” according to the Supreme Court’s synopsis of the case.

The high court reversed the summary judgment on the negligence claim, saying the bank had a duty to process the Morrows’ application promptly “and give them accurate information.”

As for an oral agreement vs. one in writing, the high court ruled that “the rule requiring written contracts in certain cases … exists to prevent fraud and should not be used as a defense by those who have allegedly committed fraud.”

The court also reversed the judgment in regard to the Morrows’ claims that Bank of America violated the Montana Consumer Protection Act. The court said the bank took 10 months to reach a decision on the Morrows’ modification application, instead of the three months that was the standard under HAMP.

The high court said that “these allegations, if proven to be true, represent practices substantially injurious to Montana consumers.”

‘Intentionally dysfunctional’

Heenan has compiled a thick file of affidavits consisting of sworn statements from a variety of former Bank of America employees. Among their allegations is that Bank of America routinely and intentionally delayed action on HAMP applications, falsified records and deliberately supplied customers with confusing, contradictory information.

“Bank of America’s customer-service model is completely dysfunctional,” Heenan said, “intentionally dysfunctional.”

Heenan said banks traditionally lent money to consumers and did all they could to keep them in their homes because they had “skin in the game.” But when banks took to managing loans for investors and had nothing to lose, the traditional relationship was turned on its head.

Also, Heenan said, while the banks received only a tiny portion of monthly mortgage payments, once a foreclosure was set in motion there were all sorts of special fees to be collected by the banks. Foreclosures, Heenan said, turned into “virtual cash cows.”

“In a perverse way, the loan servicers would rather see the homeowner in perpetual default,” he said.

Because the Morrow case apparently is the first one that has been ruled on by a state supreme court, Heenan said, “this is a really big case nationally.”

Thousands of similar cases have been filed around the country, but Heenan said he was told at a national consumer law conference two years ago that no cases had ever gone to trial. Bank of America, with unlimited funds for attorneys, “papers you to death,” he said, and borrowers end up settling for a pittance just to avoid the burden of taking on Goliath.

“How many borrowers can go toe to toe on that?” Heenan said.

Morrow said he never thought of giving in, despite the years of difficulties.

“I am very persistent,” he said.

Betty Morrow said it was as if Bank of America kept beating them down, expecting them to stay down.

“The fact is,” she said, “we got up each time.”


By the Numbers:

The Montana Legal Services Association filed a brief in support of the Morrows when they appealed their case to the Montana Supreme Court. In that brief, the MLSA said it had represented numerous clients “encountering the same wrongful loan servicing acts experienced by the Morrows.”

From June 1, 2012, until the brief was filed, the MSLA said, it had fielded 168 calls regarding loan servicing and foreclosure.

Of those calls, 52 alleged wrongdoing against Bank of America, and eight callers reported that the bank told them to miss payments or stop making payments altogether to qualify for loan modification.

Also, according to the MLSA, 22 callers said they had been forced to resubmit documents repeatedly to Bank of America. Ten of those callers said they had reapplied more than three times — and some as many as 15 times — for loss mitigation assistance from Bank of America.

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The CIA’s Vaccination Program

Polio and Espionage


Ankit Panda, writing in The Diplomat (May 21), opens with a mild, even slightly flattering assertion on CIA prowess. “While the general image of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency, in part thanks to its popular portrayal, is one of extreme competence, events through history have shown that the organization is prone to taking action without fully considering the consequences.”

During the phantom “war on terror”, ushered in by the Bush administration’s insistence that abstractions might, in fact, be the subject of military conflict, the CIA made full use of various undercover programs in Pakistan.  The object of such programs was, broadly speaking, the pursuit of Osama bin Laden; the means of doing so was running vaccination programs as a ruse.  Shakil Afridi, in receipt of CIA moneys, ran a hepatitis vaccine program in the military town of Abottabad, venue of Bin Laden’s killing. The measure was designed to obtain DNA from a member of the Bin Laden family, a concept that seemed positively astral in its conception.

In 2011, The Guardian[1] revealed that Afridi had been arrested by the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISIS) for cooperating with US intelligence agents.  Suspicion was cast on the operation when the doctor moved his operations from a poor neighbourhood called Nawa Sher, to the wealthier area of Bilal Town, where Bin Laden resided.  As an unnamed Pakistani official quoted in the report claimed, “The whole thing was totally irregular.  Bilal Town is a well-to-do area.  Why would you choose that place to give free vaccines?  And what is the official surgeon of Khyber doing working in Abbottabad?”  Room, perhaps, to doubt that legendary prowess.

On Monday, Lisa Monaco, a senior counterterrorism advisor in the White House, announced that the CIA would no longer be using such vaccination programs in its conduct of espionage operations.  Monaco’s announcement was outlined in a letter[2] to thirteen schools of public health on May 16, claiming, in addition to halting “operational use” of such programs that the CIA would not seek to “obtain or exploit DNA or other genetic material acquired through such programs.”

The letter itself is disingenuous more than touching, starting with the mandatory assertion of noble policy. “The United States strongly supports the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and efforts to end the spread of the polio virus forever.”  The point is stated as a direct response to concerns outlined by a group letter[3] by the deans from January 2013 expressing concerns to the President on the safety of vaccination workers.  “While political and security agendas may by necessity induce collateral damage, we as an open society set boundaries on these damages, and we believe this sham vaccination campaign exceeded those boundaries.”  In August 2013, CIA Director John Brennan did commit to a policy of avoiding using vaccination programs in CIA espionage operations, though those in Pakistan were none the wiser.

The entire effect of such operations moves far beyond any implication of good old deceit. Humanitarian considerations mixed with heavy realpolitik provides a heady concoction, and it proves revolting for many, and lethal for others.  Indeed, given the controversies, and the scepticism that can accompany usual vaccination programs, adopting them as covers for covert operations do wonders to blacken the name. Islamic militants, for one, have cited the possibility that such vaccination programs are intended to sterilise Muslim children.  This, in addition to the now standard assumptions that such groups are, in fact, CIA fronts.

The letter by the deans on the subject of workers’ safety was entirely pertinent.  Polio vaccinators have found themselves in the line of the politics and fire.  In June 2012, Taliban commanders in two districts of North and South Waziristan, banned polio vaccination teams.  The condition for their continued operation would be the cessation of US drone strikes.

A spate of killings of vaccine workers, notably those working in the field of eradicating polio, has also ensued.  Salma Farooqi[4], a 30-year-old polio vaccinator, was a notable casualty in polio-ridden Peshawar, having been abducted in front of her family, tortured and shot.  She is one of over 30 killed in the last two years, many associated with crews of the vaccinating “Lady Health Workers”.

Donald G. McNeil Jr. of The New York Times[5], writing in 2012, wondered whether, in their zeal to kill Bin Laden, an unintended victim had been created by CIA enthusiasm: the global drive to eradicate polio.  This could not have come at a worst time, given the resurgence of polio as a “global emergency”.  The statement[6] by the World Health Organization (WHO) this month asserts that, in the first few months of 2014, an acute rise in polio infections have been registered across the globe.  A “coordinated international response” is required.  Making it effective, free of suspicion of infiltration, is going to be a tall order.  Official reassurances from intelligence officials will continue to prove unconvincing.


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Venezuela’s Crossroads Lies in the Past

Untimely Meditations


Today, with President Nicolás Maduro more than one year in office, the situation in Venezuela seems rather bleak for the left. The right-wing opposition believes it’s hot on the trail of a wounded quarry. That is why they conspire in Miami and Washington and why they cleverly combine forms of pacific and violent struggle. Like Lenin in the autumn of 1917 (though with a completely different purpose) these pro-imperialist forces ask the question: Can the post-Chávez government retain state power? Can it last for years or even months? They believe it cannot last long.

Deciding the issue of the government’s longevity is not easy, but what is clear is that the riddle of contemporary Venezuela, for both the political left and right, is unanswerable without appealing to history. One can look squarely in the face of the current political situation, condemn Maduro’s government for its mediocrity, and prescribe ad nauseam that he rectify its course – as do such leftist commentators as Roland Denis and Toby Valderrama – but an understanding of Venezuela’s current quandary requires winding back the clock. This is because the future of the Bolivarian Republic, if that future is socialist, implies not going forward but going back… to a forking of paths that emerged some seven years ago.

The Bolivarian Process is hard to periodize. At first blush, the key watershed appears to be between the Chávez period (1998 to 2013) and the Maduro one (from 2013 forward). In favor of this breakdown, one can enumerate some obvious differences between these two periods. First, the Chávez years were characterized by powerful and innovative leadership, whereas Maduro’s thirteen months show dispersion and vacillation. Second, Chávez advanced with the masses (“talked and acted”), whereas Maduro retreats and negotiates (“merely talks”). Finally, Chávez lobbied for socialism, but Maduro opts at best for a Chinese-style mixed system.

Yet this superficial periodization falls apart in view of the many continuities between Chávez and Maduro. After all, did not the founder of the Bolivarian Process explicitly name Nicolás Maduro as his successor, referring to his “firm, irrevocable and absolute opinion” that the people should elect his second-in-command as the next president? More important, all of those who are now governing in Venezuela (including Diosdado Cabello, Jorge Arreaza, Elías Jaua, and Rafael Ramírez) were long part of Chávez’s team and schooled in his way of doing politics. These continuities lead us to a surprising conclusion: the current political crisis in Venezuela dates not from early 2013 with Maduro entering the presidency, but rather from 2007 when Chávez was apparently at the height of his power.

We should look closely at that crucial moment. In December of 2006, Chávez won his second-term elections (in which he had boldly announced socialism to be his future program) with a sweeping majority. Yet during the upcoming year his government faced serious blows from which its political project would never fully recover. In May of 2007, Chávez made good on his declaration that he would not renew the concession to RCTV, a television station which grouped right-wing commercial and political interests. This brought the middle-class university students out to the streets to protest. Though a new channel (TVES) replaced RCTV as planned, the right-wing emerged from this struggle with renewed confidence and vigor.

This meant that although the opposition had taken a real hit in the summer, it would successfully rally in the fall to defeat Chávez’s constitutional reform, which aimed to provide a legal framework for Bolivarian Socialism. Probably just as important and simultaneous with these external blows, the Chavist movement failed in its effort to develop an organizational structure that would allow it to build socialism hand-in-hand with the masses. That structure might have been the PSUV – the United Socialist Party of Venezuela that Chávez ushered hurriedly into existence in the course of 2007-8 – but it turned out to be an empty form.

A number of factors contributed to this failure, including the vested power of the cadres in Chávez’s existing MVR (Fifth Republic Movement), his military officer’s native distrust of spontaneity, and the chaotic nature of a society in which productive work is scarce. Whatever the reasons, the first PSUV congress in early 2008 saw the then vice-president Jorge Rodríguez squelching internal party democracy with the verticalist slogan: What Chávez says goes! (¡Lo que diga Chávez!). From this point forward the party would be an increasingly hollow giant. Though it includes nearly seven million militants in its registers, the PSUV is barely an electoral apparatus and is far from being the type of party that can take on the construction of socialism.

For the rest of his presidency and life, Chávez acted like an exemplary widow who, though he had been bereaved of the means to carry forward his project, did everything to keep up appearances. To be sure, the late President continued to talk enthusiastically about socialism and even went on making advances in its theorization. Yet without an organizational structure or organic popular movement, his project became increasingly mystified and messianic. Chávez either could not orwould not return to the problem that the 2007 crossroads presented to him: how to construct a socialist mass movement.

Maduro inherited this problem and – true to the example of Chávez’s last seven years – he works mainly to maintain appearances. Contrary to what some pessimists believe, it is unlikely that Maduro has lost any significant number of Chávez’s supporters, who may have become more apathetic but have not changed political color. Hence, if hegemony consists of securing first the support of allies and second the passive consent of enemies, it is only the latter that has changed. That is to say, in contrast with Chávez’s years, the Venezuelan opposition today no longer accepts its subordination: it is no longer “neutralized.”

In Maduro’s favor, one might adduce that he seems to be aware of a need to retrace steps and this is shown by his new discourse about “productive forces. Presumably, a positive outcome of the recent negotiations with the local bourgeoisie is the concerted project to build productive forces in Venezuela that could some day issue into socialism. Hence it might be argued that Maduro is stepping back to create this necessary condition for socialism: “Socialist accumulation.” But the error here is to forget that during the transition to socialism the political must dominate the economic. That is to say, the construction of productive forces (with either a NEP or Chinese model) is senseless in the absence of an organized socialist movement, and this by no means exists in Venezuela.

The real crossroads to which revolutionary Venezuelans must return is the political confrontation with the opposition in 2007. A dilemma which resonates with the confrontations of that year takes place now almost daily in the streets of Venezuela (a bit like an unresolved psychological trauma). The right-wing youth occupies the streets – “resists” in their mock heroic language – and who will remove them? This is the problem that Pepe Mujica recently alluded to, and it is equivalent to the question of who will respond to the “whip of the counterrevolution.” As long as the response comes primarily from the government or the National Guard and not from a socialist movement, there will be no real steps to socialism.

Of course, the question of how to create a modern socialist movement is by no means obvious. Arguably, now that so many parties of the Lenin-Lassalle tradition have run aground, the prospect of socialist organization is just as spectral today as it was in 1848 (when Marx and Engels wrote the famous opening lines of the Communist Manifesto). That is the bad news. The good news is that the left is in a better position than ever to overcome the fetishes that have hamstrung its projects over the years. Indeed, what better context to restore Marxism to its original spirit of creative activism, enemy of dogmas and absolutes, than in the active, vastly innovative processes in Latin America? In this continent, even the fight against the nationalist fetish that has so long beleaguered Marxism has the force of a two-hundred year project called Bolivarian integration.

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Domestic Cold War Casualties

France as Exemplar


In 1981 I read an article by Noam Chomsky that I have never forgotten. The article was published in the British Guardian, 15 June 1981. The title tells it all: ‘The cold war is a device by which superpowers control their own domains. That is why it will continue’. There we read:

There are four separate aspects of United States foreign policy that one can always identify. … fourthly, there is another class of victim – the domestic population. One significant feature of foreign policy is how it is constructed to deal with the problems posed by the domestic population, particularly if it is insufficiently apathetic or obedient.

Coincidentally, I was then researching the massive post-1945 political and propaganda assault by reactionary and corporate forces against those wanting a more egalitarian future. The New Deal was now the enemy to be de-legitimized. A broader and stronger wage labor, unionization belatedly legitimized by the 1935 Wagner Act, presented a gigantic threat to be brought to heel. Personnel with progressive politics in locations of potential influence – the bureaucracy, educational institutions, the arts – had to be castrated.

And thus it came to pass. The dangerous forces and programs were strategically tainted with association with the great Satan that was ‘communism’. We Westerners were kept well informed on the domestic hell behind the Iron Curtain – there one conformed to the letter or one was excommunicated (or sometimes exterminated).

But the US had its own blanket Loyalty Oath. If unevenly applied, it was comprehensive in scope. The formula was duly exported (along with murderous complementary organizations) to Europe, to the US’ backyard in Latin America, to the White Dominions of the British Empire, and to other satrap nations. Inflated mightily from promising beginnings with the ‘Red Scare’ after World War I, the bogeyman became the bedrock on which US Intelligence, now out of control, is grounded. The era has been endowed by our academic pundits with the benign moniker of Pax Americana.

* * *

But bursting into the limelight in France is Exhibit A for the prosecution.

In late 2012 appeared a documentary that was shown on national television in May 2013. ‘L’Honneur des gueules noires’ (The black throats’ honor), by Jean-Luc Raynaud. Then in March 2014 appeared a book by Dominique Simonnot, court columnist for Le Canard Enchainé –Plus Noir dans la Nuit (Darker at night).

The subject is the national coal miners’ strike in late 1948. This could be straight out of Balzac, Hugo, Zola, but it’s straight out of history. But first the background.

The miners inhabited a distinct world. Before World War II, coal miners lived in more than a company town, rather a companies’ region with Nord/Pas-de-Calais representative. A ruthless hierarchy prevailed, ameliorated by the structures (albeit rigorously policed) of a corporate paternalism. After Liberation, a wave of nationalizations included coal – the private companies were subsumed within a public giant, Charbonnages de France. But the hierarchy of the ‘Coal Barons’ remained in place.

The miners were then heros. They had struck in May 1941 under the German Occupation, for ‘bread and liberty’ and to inhibit French coal fuelling the Nazi war machine. The strike was brutally repressed. Some strikers were executed; 600 people were sent to concentration camps, with few returning. Post-war, Communist Party leader and later Deputy Maurice Thorez had urged in July 1945 to ‘roll up your sleeves’ to win the battle of coal. In two years, the miners had lifted production to pre-War levels. The miners were accorded a unique ‘contract’ (statut) in June 1946, reflecting their productivity achievements and the murderous conditions of work. The contract included a minimum wage and the institutionalization of the paternalistic structures in place.

Notes Dominique Conil (Mediapart, 3 May), reviewing Simonnot’s book:

… the town of Brebis, a decent place and triumph of paternalism. At Brebis, one has a cottage (typically small, far from the engineers’ fine residences, but that one has for the long term), one has free heating (at least from coal), one has the nursery, a doctor, the hospital for childbirth, the garden for the necessary vegetables, a community hall. A free library and public school. A decent street market, an intense social life.

But material deprivation remained a permanent threat amongst the miners and inflation was ramping up living costs. The price of basic commodities – bread, milk, meat, wine, cigs – had doubled on average in a year.

In September 1947 the (Socialist) Industry Minister, Robert Lacoste unilaterally and illegally broke the miners’ contract, eliminating structures that inhibited downward pressure on wages. In September 1948, Lacoste again unilaterally and illegally attacked the miners’ contract, decreeing a 10% reduction in the mining workforce, on-the-spot sackings for laxity, and the exclusion of union representatives from deliberations, handing to employers the sole right to determine life and death decisions regarding pit safety and the medical conditions of miners in threat of silicosis.

On 24 September the radical confederation CGT recommended rolling localized stoppages in protest. The miners’ union, the Fédération nationale du sous-sol, more militant, organized a secret ballot, with 84% (of 260,000) supporting a national strike. Union leaders met with Lacoste, to no effect.

On the eve of the strike, (Socialist) Interior Minister Jules Moch brought in the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (c/f the US National Guards), formed in 1944, and then the army (with tanks and heavy artillery). Troops were brought back from Morocco and Germany.

Thus the strike on the 4th October – involving 340,000 miners. The coal supply stops, but coal was ‘the bread of industry’. Electricity production plummets, and winter is approaching.

On the 7th, a miner in Lorraine was bashed to death with rifle butts by CRS personnel. The FNSS upped the ante, but Moch upped the brutal repression. There was much solidarity, including widely from abroad. Miners’ children in their thousands were farmed out across France to the care of sympathetic households. The CIO’s (ex-miner) John Lewis reputedly wrote to President Truman to ‘call for the French government to abandon its methods worthy of a totalitarian state and to cease making war against its miners at the expense of the American taxpayers’.

It was an unequal battle. On 19th November, the CRS invaded the camps in Lorraine holding North African miners, sacked their barracks and forced them into the pits. Miners began dribbling back through November, with the strike officially called off on 29th November.

The miners’ official status would change overnight from heros to traitors. Six miners were killed, many wounded. 3,000 were arrested and 1300 imprisoned (half from Nord/Pas-de-Calais) and fined impossible sums by partisan magistrates. The miners were found guilty of ‘impeding the freedom to work’, ignoring the miners’ right to strike embedded in both the 1946 Constitution and the statut. Striking miners taken back were forced into more dangerous jobs, with those with existing ailments condemned to certain death.

3,000 miners (of which half from Nord/Pas-de-Calais) were sacked. Designated militants were turned out of their homes, with all that that entailed. No unemployment relief. They were then blacklisted, with Charbonnages agents policing their exclusion from any job. Their rank from army and Resistance service was arbitrarily reduced. They had become non-persons. There was another purge in 1952. The blacklist was even extended to the next generation. The blacklisted and their families were thus condemned to immense hardship, some for a lifetime.

This a Cold War story. The Cold War blew up in 1947. The formulation and implementation of the Marshall Plan cemented the polarization. The significant French Communist Party was in an invidious position. Whatever Moscow wanted, or whatever the PCF and communist workers (ditto in Italy) wanted for themselves, the US with the resources was henceforth calling the shots. And the US wanted French (and Italian) communists emasculated.

Communist Party Ministers, an integral part of the victorious coalition now assertively engaged in Post-War reconstruction, were expelled from the Ramadier government in May 1947. It starts innocently enough, but the drift is almost inevitable. There is a strike at Renault in late April for a marginal wage increase. The Communist Deputies support it, the Communist Ministers are compromised. Out they have to go.

Lacoste and Moch, as with Léon Blum, were members of the SFIO that had been formed from those declining to join the Comintern in 1920. Lacoste and Moch were both active in the Resistance and collaborators with de Gaulle after the Liberation. Now they were implacably on the side of bourgeois order. The SFIO refined itself as a distinct third force between the Right and the Communists (joined by the Christian Democrat MRP to its Right), explicitly pro-Atlanticist and repudiating the post-War collaboration.

Strikes continued intermittently throughout 1947, including the October-November miners’ strike, thanks to Lacoste’s September decree. The high point is the end-of-year wharf strike, centred on war-torn and militant Marseille. The scene shifts to the Assembly where Moch is attempting to have passed a law to readily raise 80,000 troops as strike-breakers. Moch cites instances of sabotage as justification.

Simonnot reproduces an extraordinary exchange in the Assembly, 29 November, between the Communist Deputies (amongst whom multiple war veterans) and the ‘forces of order’ led by then Prime Minister, Christian Democrat Robert Shuman (later to be designated ‘the father of Europe’ and of NATO). Shuman, born in Lorraine under German rule, is mercilessly harangued as a Boche. Deputy Ambroise Croizat (PCF), paraphrasing the Archbishop of Paris, captures the essence: ‘How much will it cost? The workers are hungry. It’s a disgrace. Today we witness a furious assault by those who want to impose on the shoulders of the disinherited the immense burden of the War and of the reconstruction of France’.

Moch gets his troops. He also proceeds to cleanse the CRS of a culture hostile to worker repression. He is ready for October 1948.

But Moch has some help. From the unlikely source of Alfred McCoy’sThe Politics of Heroin we learn that the militant Marseille dockers, along with local Communist bureaucrats, are subject to assault from a criminal underworld. Marseille is crucial for Marshall Plan logistics (and next, for heroin). And so the Americans are in there, financing gangsters (as in Italy) to obliterate the home-grown opposition. The CIA was created in September 1947, and Marseille was one of its first jobs.

American money also simultaneously financed a split in the Communist-Socialist CGT, hence the creation of the accommodating and well-financed ‘apolitical’ splinter union Force ouvrière.

Moch, with spies everywhere, loose with the truth, spearheaded a fanatical fear campaign within a compliant media. He accuses the miner strikers of being directed from Moscow, prelude to an insurrection. The Communists, he claimed, are attempting to replicate the ‘coup de Prague’, when Czech Communists appropriated power in February 1948. The local newspaper, La Voix du Nord (it’s still going, albeit now sympathetic), called on the Socialist government to ‘prevent the perpetration of such crimes against humanity that serves the interests of Soviet Russia before that of the lives of France’s little children’.

Yet the 1948 strike was driven by material considerations prevailing in France and by provocations from the Socialist-led Government. In late October, after the death of another miner, the Communist Deputy Gabriel Roucaute, responding to lies from Lacoste regarding miners’ wages, cited a Gard mining village priest: ‘People say that there is politics in this strike, but there is above all destitution! All the troops in the world cannot silence the cry of destitution’. As another contemporary put it: ‘The Cominform’s best recruiting agent is the high price of butter’.

Moch had declared war on those seeking a living wage and the rule of law went out the window. In 2009, the non-person Norbert Gilmez claimed:

In reality, it was state terrorism, instigated by Jules Moch, that the miners had faced. In truth … all the crimes for which they have been condemned were only acts of resistance against state terrorism.

In compensation for its accommodation to US imperial designs in Western Europe, the SFIO (with the MRP) pursued la gloire de la France via a resurgent neo-colonialism. Lacoste, as key Minister in late 1950s governments, became one of the most virile defenders of French control in Algeria and of the concomitant repression of liberation forces. The strategy would end in the comprehensive destruction of the SFIO’s legitimacy. Rough justice.

Moch’s last book is titled Le communisme, jamais! (Communism, never!, 1978). Flailing the hierarchical character of Western Communist Parties and the crimes of the Stalinist USSR, the point of the book is nevertheless to denounce the common program of a French Socialist-Communist alliance after 1972. There is no mention in the book of the post-War period and Moch’s personal role in brutal étatist repression of workers expressing their democratic rights.

Decades go by for the non-persons. François Mitterand is elected in 1981 (following the Socialist-Communist alliance). A coterie of 17 miners (or widows), organized by representative victim Georges Carbonnier, imagines that finally the time has arrived when recognition and compensation will be possible. In 1948, Carbonnier was forced out of his house and community with only a handcart of possessions.

But the miners were to be disabused of their optimism. There follows over 20 years of pass the hot potato between Ministers and Ministries. This run-around featured Socialist Party luminaries like Lionel Jospin (in the Prime Minister’s office as Party First Secretary, later Prime Minister) and Martine Aubry (in the Social Affairs Ministry, later Minister of Employment and Solidarity under Jospin). No-one will deign to meet them. Thus is entrenched the permanent inaction of the Socialists in the face of this perfidy. Carbonnier and Gilmez collected a fat archive of industrial strength political doublespeak, with telling tidbits cited by Simonnot.

Mitterand himself is indicted. In 1948 he was spokesperson for the Government. Simonnot unearthed paperwork from a Press Conference given by Mitterand on 28 October 1948. She notes that she had to read it multiple times because she could not believe it (Marianne interview, 4 May). Mitterand offers salutations to the armed forces in the face of ‘a mass of men armed with tools and iron bars who attack them in force and cause perceptible harm’. Mitterand adds: ‘The renewal of these wild attacks obliges the government to decide that, in future, the forces of order, when they will be thus assailed, will be able (after the necessary warnings) to defend themselves’. A commenter on one site noted that his father (a miner at Montceau les Mines in Burgundy) had been sentenced to six months prison following a writ under Mitterand’s signature.

Ironically, in 2004 Nicholas Sarkozy, then Finance Minister, gave a miners’ delegation a sympathetic hearing. He agreed to the generous sum of €100,600 for each family for the abrogation of their housing and heating rights under the miners’ contract. Sarkozy’s advisers whittled it down to €14,500 each. Better than nothing. .

In 2005 Carbonnier decides to make a submission to the Haute Autorité de lutte contre les discriminations et pour l’égalité. He meets a radical labor lawyer, Tiennot Grumbach, who brings on board a foursome of committed lawyers. HALDE is sympathetic and in May 2006 recommends mediation – the other party being Charbonnages de France. It comes to nothing, skewered by one Mme Christine Lagarde, then Minister for Commerce & Industry.

Carbonnier dies in August 2006. The activist miners are thinning out. The cudgel is taken up by the unrepentant 86 year-old Norbert Gilmez. Thus the trail moves to the Conseil de prud’hommes (a labor relations tribunal), in October 2007. In the meantime, Charbonnages de France has been dissolved in December 2007, and defence is taken up by the liquidator and the Agence nationale pour la garantie des droits des mineurs, established in 2004 to handle the coal monopoly’s ongoing worker entitlements. The defence argues that the miners did not suffer discriminatory sacking because Charbonnages had managerial prerogatives that permitted the firing of employees at will.

The Conseil/tribunal, accorded a title of seeming dignity (albeitprudhommerie translates as pomposity), decides against the miners in September 2009 (and subsidiarily in March 2010) on a technicality – the years expired since 1948 have overtaken a 30-year statute of limitations.

Grumbach et. al. take the adverse decision to a court of appeal. Note the passage of the years. In March 2011, the appeal court decides for the miners. The court decreed that there existed a Constitutional right to strike and that the miners’ sackings were discriminatory. The court grants the 17 surviving miners and widows/descendants an indemnity of €30,000 each.

The dossier then lands in the lap of President Sarkozy’s Finance Minister, Mme Christine Lagarde. Gilmez had earlier submitted a sizeable dossier to Lagarde in December 2009. But Lagarde appeals the appeal court’s determination to the Cour de Cassation (c/f the US Supreme Court). In October 2012 the Cour de Cassation overturns the determination on the same technicality as did the Conseil de Prud’hommes.

This is the same Mme Lagarde who is simultaneously facilitating amassive giveway from the public purse to the shyster Bernard Tapie. Lagarde appeals against the pro-miners’ judgement just before she is moved out of reach into the IMF. These days, the French courts are belatedly but doggedly pursuing Lagarde’s role in the Tapie travesty.

On 29 January 2013 in the Assembly, the Nord Deputy Jean-Jacques Candelier noted that Norbert Gilmez turned 92 that day. He despaired that Mme Lagarde had left the country, intolerably, with ‘two weights, two measures’. Tapie gets a motza, whereas the miners still lack restitution of their rights and associated indemnities 64 years later. Candelier asked the Minister for Culture & Communication, Mme Aurélie Filippetti, ‘what are you doing about this impasse?’ Mme Filippetti, member of a government that offered so much promise in May 2012 but has since delivered so much disappointment, opined that the law was tricky but that they were looking into it.

Serendipitously, on 27 February 2013, the 24-member Left wing coalition in the Senate (predominantly Communist Party members) brought to the Senate a proposal for a law for amnesty of those criminalized (essentially during the Sarkozy Presidency) for union activism and social protest. The proponents sought to highlight the asymmetry by which a rampant finance capital was deindustrializing France post-haste but that it was the victims rather than the perpetrators who were being penalized, and harshly. The speeches, perspicacious and sober, make for instructive reading.

On this occasion, Senator Dominique Watrin (Communist, Pas-de-Calais) sought to incorporate an amendment that finally granted amnesty and moral rehabilitation to the 1948 miners. A general Amnesty Law had been passed in August 1981, rehabilitating workers in organizations nationalized post-War who had been penalized for dissenting activity. The 1948 miners were excluded from coverage. Confront that by this time, Vichy collaborators and the traitorous Algerian putschists have also been amnestied. The putschists’ rank and remunerations were reinstated in 1982 whereas miners whose ranks were downgraded lived a lifetime of humiliation.

Interventions by UMP Senators (notably M. Hugues Portelli) maintained that the miners had been dupes of Moscow and thus their treatment continues to be entirely justified. The Cold War survives on the Right of French politics.

M. Watrin reminded Senators of the then intolerable conditions facing miners. Apart from economic hardship:

 Certain among you want to rewrite history in forgetting that, in Nord-Pas-de-Calais alone, of a workforce of 126,500 underground miners, between 1 January 1948 and 1 October 1948, there were 90 killed in the mines, 1974 permanently incapacitated and 3,000 suffering from silicosis, unable to return underground.

Watrin’s amendment was accepted, and the proposed Amnesty Law passed, with Green and Socialist support, by a bare majority. But the proposal then goes to the Assembly’s Commission des Lois, which rejects the amendment. The Commission’s general recommendations for the Law are then debated in the Assembly on 16 May 2013 to a generally hostile audience. The Socialists talk of the unacceptable selective intrusion into the penal code and of maintaining ‘balance’. The Right rails about the Law being the thin end of the wedge, a recipe for chaos and a mad revitalization of moribund notions of ‘class struggle’. The forces of bourgeois order emerge victorious.

In early 2013, Hollande’s Finance Minister, Pierre Moscovici, no bleeding heart, apparently reinstated the appeal court’s 2011 indemnisation of €3,000 to the 17 miners and families. Small change really, but symbolically significant.

Tiennot Grumbach, who made it possible, dies in August 2013. At the funeral, Norbert Gilmez tells Simonnot (which ends her book): “I’ll keep going. It is well necessary, essential. Until we’ve had satisfaction. After that, well I’ll be able to die happy.” The miners and their families remain without acknowledged amnesty and justice.

* * *

Chomsky concluded his 1981 article thus:

The question now is whether people can overcome the attempt to beat the workforce and the poor into a chauvinist mood so as to tolerate the attack being launched against them. I believe that there is a real chance of doing so, which could have a substantial effect not only on foreign policy but on American institutions – something that the peace movement was never able to achieve.

Alas this optimism was dramatically misplaced. The Communist bogey is dead, or rather internalized. The Soviet Union has been upstaged by a new external enemy, even more profitable because phantom-like and renewable – that of Terrorism. The new enemy brings concomitant domestic victims.

The Cold War, thanks to the deathless Neo-Cons, has been resurrected. But the Cold War’s early role as a vehicle for the vitiation of domestic forces hostile to the unmediated rule of Capital is no longer necessary. The Cold War achieved a permanent victory to that effect (the wobble to hegemony in the 1960s-70s notwithstanding).

These days, the omnipresent flunkeys for the unmediated rule of Capital talk rubbish without bothering to sound plausible. They know that they have the game sown up – in the US, European Union countries from France to Greece, Ukraine soon to be hauled into the fold. Putsches undermine those (Venezuela, etc.) disinclined to conform. The vote has been comprehensively neutered. Protest is in the process of being comprehensively criminalized. Perhaps Fukuyama inadvertently had it right after all. Is it the end of History?

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Libya on the Brink of Civil War

A Nation Disintegrates


Libya is tipping toward all-out civil war as rival militias take sides for and against an attempted coup led by a renegade general that has pushed the central government towards disintegration.

In a move likely to deepen the crisis, the army chief of staff, whose regular forces are weak and ill-armed, called on Islamist-led militias to help preserve the government.

His call came after forces commanded by General Khalifa Hifter stormed the parliament building in Tripoli at the weekend, after earlier attacking Islamist militia camps in Benghazi.

The fighting has been the heaviest since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and there are signs that opposing militias and elements of the security forces in different parts of the country and with differing ideologies may be readying to fight a civil war.

A Libyan air force base in Tobruk in the east of the country on Monday declared allegiance to Gen Hifter while Benghazi airport has been closed after being hit with rockets. Some 43 people were killed and 100 wounded in fighting in Benghazi at the end of last week.

The attack on the parliament building in the capital on Sunday was made by militiamen armed with truck-mounted anti-aircraft guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The parliament leader Nouri Abu Sahmein – in sympathy with the Islamists – called on an alliance of Islamist militias known as the Libyan Central shield to stop Gen Hifter’s forces.

Al-Qa’ida type movements such as the Lions of Monotheism have pledged to resist Gen Hifter, a spokesman saying on its website that “you have entered a battle you will lose”.

The most powerful competing paramilitary movements are based in Misurata on the coast east of Tripoli and Zintan in the mountains to the west. Zintan appears to be backing Gen Hifter, whose own support inside and outside the country is shadowy, with the powerful Qaqaa and Sawaiq brigades.

The latest step in the dissolution of the Libyan state underlines the degree to which the opposition has proved unable to fill the vacuum left by the fall of Gaddafi. The war which led to his defeat in 2011 was largely fought by NATO air power.

Paradoxically, both the militiamen attacking and defending the government are paid out of the central budget. In addition, Gaddafi had 100,000 men under arms who still receive a monthly salary as if they were part of the regular forces, but few turn up to work.

Al-Qa’ida type militias such as Ansar al-Sharia are strongest in Benghazi where they are held responsible for much of the mayhem. In Tripoli, Islamist militia leaders and their staffs have taken over whole floors of the best hotels such as the Radisson Blu.

On news of fresh fighting in Libya, the international price of oil rose to $110 a barrel for Brent crude. The Libyan oilfields had just been reopened after a prolonged closure of oil export terminals in the east of the country but are now shut again. Libyan oil output has fallen to 200,000 barrels a day, compared to 1.4 million barrels a day produced last year.

Many people in Tripoli express sympathy with General Hifter’s denunciations of the Islamic militias as the popular mood becomes increasingly desperate over the collapse of civil order and the central state. Gen Hifter said “this is not a coup against the state, we are not seeking power. Terrorism and its servants want it to be a battle”. The general, who in the 1980s fought for Gaddafi in Mali but defected to the US, where he lived for many years, returned to Libya in 2011 but played only a limited role in the revolt. His hostility to the militias will go down well with many Libyans, but his forces are in practice just one more militia faction and dependent on his alliance with other militias.

Nevertheless, Libyans express growing support for anybody who can restore order and public safety by whatever means necessary.

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Syria calls on UN to act on foreign-charged terrorism

Syria’s permanent representative at the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari gestures during a press conference on the Syrian peace talks in front of the “Palais des Nations” at the United Nations headquarters on February 15, 2014 in Geneva.
Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari, has once again called on the UN Security Council to act against UN member states supporting terrorism in the country.

In a statement at the UN Security Council session held for reports of heads of committees tasked with combating terrorism, al-Jaafari stressed the importance of compelling all member states to refrain from offering any form of support to terrorism according to the UNSC resolution No 1373 for the year 2001.

Syria has been combating numerous terrorist groups, with different nationalities from around the world, which have poured in the country and topple the government.

The militant groups, many of them sharing radical beliefs and linked with terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, rely on huge amounts of money sent by their international supporters.

Syria has long been calling on the UNSC, dominated by states supporting the war in Syria for bringing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad down, to act over widespread terrorist activity within its soil, but its attempts have never been responded.

Jaafari criticized UN indifference to the presence of terrorist extremist groups, saying that, “Syria has received no answer for the tens of letters sent to various committees on terrorism in Syria and on the possession of the armed terrorist groups which are active in Syria”.

He expressed concern that these groups are in possession of chemical weapons and footprints of several regional countries can easily be seen in their tracks.

Damascus has been cooperating with the UN, since August 2013, over elimination of its stockpile of chemical weapons on fears of them falling into the hands of extremist groups.

The Syrian government has provided UN with reports of chemical weapons having been used by foreign-backed militant groups, but the US and its allies have been accusing Damascus of using the deadly toxic weapons.

The unrest in Syria has already killed more than 150,000 people and displaced millions.


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Zio-Wahhabi American citizen carries out suicide bombing for al-Qaeda in Syria

Abu Huraira al-Amriki, American suicide bomber in Syria
Abu Huraira al-Amriki, American suicide bomber in Syria
A United States citizen working in Syria with a militant group backed by Al-Qaeda has conducted a suicide bombing there on Sunday, in what is believed to be the first time an American has been involved in such an attack, American officials says.

The suicide attack first surfaced on Tuesday in Twitter messages from the Nusra Front, a terrorist group in Syria aligned with Al-Qaeda in the multi-national war in Syria.

American officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because intelligence matters were involved, declined to identify the American or provide any information about him. NBC News first reported that American government officials had confirmed the bomber was an American.

Syrian opposition social media sites reported that the American went by the name Abu Huraira al-Amriki and carried out the suicide truck bombing in the northern province of Idlib.

A photo circulated on extremist social media accounts showed a smiling young man who was said to be the bomber. He had a blond beard and was holding a cat to his chest.

A militant reached through Skype near the bombing site confirmed the attack and said he had seen the American before the bombing but had not spoken to him and did not know where he was from.

“I know he was an American, had an American passport and that he was with the Nusra Front,” said the activist, who gave only his first name, Ahmed, for fear of retribution.

Extremist groups in Syria with ties to Al-Qaeda have been trying to identify, recruit and train Americans and other Westerners who have traveled there to get them to carry out attacks when they return home, according to senior American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

These efforts, which the officials say are in the early stages, are the latest challenge that the conflict in Syria has created, not just for Europe but for the United States. The war has become a magnet for Westerners seeking to fight with the terrorists against the Syrian army.

American intelligence and counterterrorism officials say more than 70 Americans have traveled to Syria, mainly to fight for one of the hundreds of terrorist groups combating the Syrian government.

The FBI, CIA, National Counterterrorism Center and Homeland Security Department recently created a special team of analysts to try to prevent the American extremists from returning home undetected.


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