Archive | August 5th, 2017

US sanctions President Nicolas Maduro as Washington meddles further in Venezuela’s democracy

By Adam Garrie 

The United States continues to meddle in Venezuela’s democracy after yesterday’s nation wide vote for a Constitutional Assembly that will proceed with constitutional reforms aimed at ending the political deadlock between President Maduro and the country’s National Assembly which since 2015 has been controlled by the US backed right-wing opposition.

Before the results of the vote were even counted (they have yet to be fully tallied), the United States made it clear that Washington did not accept the vote. Washington’s Ambassador to the UN, the overzealous Nikki Haley Tweeted the following on the day of the vote. “Maduro’s sham election is another step toward dictatorship. We won’t accept an illegit govt. The Venezuelan ppl & democracy will prevail.”

Today, the US Treasury released the following statement, confirming that President Maduro is being personally sanctioned by the US government.

“The following individual has been added to OFAC’s SDN List: MADURO MOROS, Nicolas… President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”.

Far from the beginning of US meddling in Venezuela, the United States for decades has funded right-wing opposition groups in Venezuela, most notoriously, that led by Henrique Capriles Radonski. For most of these years, the US has sought to undermine the Bolivarian socialist government of Hugo Chavez who died in what some call mysterious circumstances in 2013.

Since then, Chavez’s socialist successor has been Nicolas Maduro who has barely had a day in office free of US meddling of one sort or another.

Supporters of Maduro argue that the Bolivarian government has helped to redistribute the wealth of Venezuela’s considerable resources including its vast oil reserves which for years were run by foreign hands prior to nationalisation under President Savage. Maduro’s opponents attest that socialist rule has caused stagnation.

Whatever one’s views of Venezuela’s internal situation, it is a sovereign state that no nation, not least the United States has a right to interfere in.

It is ironic, verging on the surreal that while the United States political elites tear themselves to pieces over alleged meddling by Russia in the 2016 US Presidential election, meddling that is not backed up by a single shred of evidence, that same United States is openly and brazenly trying to interfere in the political process of Venezuela by pumping money into the right-wing opposition while unilaterally sanctioning the President.

While the United States attempts to isolate Venezuela, the country continues to maintain good relations with many other countries including Russia and China. In October of 2016, President Maduro awarded Russian President Vladimir Putin the Hugo Chavez Peace Prize which President Putin graciously accepted.

President Maduro insists he is ready for dialogue, but the US continues to act in ways which suggests it is ready for something far more dangerous: illegal regime change, possibly through the use of force.

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on US sanctions President Nicolas Maduro as Washington meddles further in Venezuela’s democracy

Canada enables Barrick’s bad corporate behaviour

By Yves Engler 

Will the Canadian government continue to support Barrick Gold’s exploitation of mineral resources in Tanzania no matter what abuses the company commits?

Would the Trudeau government stop backing the Toronto-based firm if it bilked the impoverished nation out of $10 billion? Or, what if one thousand people were raped and seriously injured by Barrick security? Would Ottawa withdraw its support if one hundred Tanzanians were killed at its mines?

Barrick’s African subsidiary, Acacia Mining, is embroiled in a major political conflict in the east African nation. With growing evidence of its failure to pay royalties and tax, Acacia has been condemned by the president, had its exports restricted and slapped with a massive tax bill.

In May a government panel concluded that Acacia significantly under-reported the percentage of gold and copper in mineral sand concentrates it exported. The next month a government commission concluded that foreign mining firms’ failure to declare revenues had cost Tanzania $100 billion. According to the research, from 1998 to March 2017 the Tanzanian government lost between 68.6 trillion and 108.5 trillion shillings in revenue from mineral concentrates.

The controversy over Barrick’s exports led President John Magufuli to fire the minister of mining and the board of the Minerals Audit Agency. Tanzania’s parliament has also voted to review mining contracts and to block companies from pursuing the country in international trade tribunals.

While the political battle over royalty payments grows, human rights violations continue unabated at Barrick’s North Mara mine. A recent MiningWatch fact-finding mission discovered that “new cases have come to light of serious un-remedied harm related to encounters between victims and mine security and police who guard the mine under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the companies involved and the Tanzanian Police Force. New cases documented in June 2017 include: loss of limbs, loss of eyesight, broken bones, internal injuries, children hit by flying blast rocks, and by teargas grenades thrown by mine security as they chase so-called intruders into the nearby villages. As in past years, villagers reported severe debilitating beatings, commonly with gun butts and wooden batons. Some are seriously wounded by teargas ‘bombs,’ or by so-called rubber bullets. Others are shot, including from behind. As in past years there were a number of deaths.”

At least 22 people have been killed and 69 injured near or at the North Mara mine since 2014. Most of the victims were impoverished villagers who scratch rocks for tiny bits of gold and who often mined these territories prior to Barrick’s arrival. An early 2016 government report found security and police paid by Barrick had killed 65 people and injured 270 at North Mara since 2006. Tanzanian human rights groups estimate as many 300 mine-related deaths and the Financial Times reports that not a single police officer or security guard working for the company has been killed on duty.

Amidst the violence at North Mara and an escalating battle over unpaid tax, Canada’s High Commissioner set up a meeting between Barrick Executive Chairman John Thornton and President Magufuli. After accompanying Barrick’s head to the encounter in Dar es Salaam Ian Myles told the press:

Canada is very proud that it expects all its companies to respect the highest standards, fairness and respect for laws and corporate social responsibility. We know that Barrick is very much committed to those values.

Appointed by Trudeau last year, Myles – whose “passion for international development began” when he was 17, according to a University of Toronto profile – took a page out of Stephen Harper’s playbook. During a 2007 trip to Chile the former prime minister responded to protests against various ecological and human rights abuses at the firm’s Pascua Lama project by saying: “Barrick follows Canadian standards of corporate social responsibility.”

A Tanzania Business Ethics columnist was not happy with the High Commissioner’s intervention. In response, Samantha Cole wrote:

It is so insulting that these Canadians and British still think they can trick us with their fancy nonsense ‘spin’ politics and dishonesty. What values is Barrick committed to? Have our nation not witnessed with our own eyes killings? rape? arson and burning our homes? destruction to our environment? poison in our water? corruption? fraud? hundreds of legal cases with local Tanzanian companies who are abused, bullied and suffer? and the list goes on. What ‘values’ is Ambassador Myles boasting about? How dishonest and unethical to stand there and lie about values. He should rather say NOTHING because every country where Barrick operates has a long, long list of illegal activities and crimes.

Disregarding its election promise, the Trudeau government is openly throwing this country’s diplomatic weight behind Canada’s most controversial mining company in the country where it has committed its worst abuses. When asked about Canada’s massive international mining industry during the election the party responded:

The Liberal Party of Canada shares Canadians’ concerns about the actions of some Canadian mining companies operating overseas and has long been fighting for transparency, accountability and sustainability in the mining sector.

The Liberals’ statement included explicit support for An Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries, which would have withheld some diplomatic and financial support from companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. Similarly, the Liberals released a letter about the mining sector during the 2015 election that noted, “a Liberal government will set up an independent ombudsman office to advice Canadian companies, consider complaints made against them and investigate those complaints where it is deemed warranted.”

Nearly two years into their mandate the Trudeau regime has yet to follow through on any of their promises to rein in Canada’s controversial international mining sector. In fact, the Liberals have largely continued Harper’s aggressive support for mining companies.

If they are prepared to openly back Barrick in Tanzania one wonders what exactly a firm would have to do to lose Trudeau’s support?

Posted in Canada, TunisiaComments Off on Canada enables Barrick’s bad corporate behaviour

US sanctions won’t stop Russia’s pipeline project to Europe 


The latest US sanctions targeting Russia’s oil and gas sector will cause Gazprom some headaches in building the new gas pipeline to Germany, experts say. However, US restrictions are unlikely to stop the project.

“The price of any project automatically increases,” Tatiana Mitrova, director of the Skolkovo Energy Center told Reuters.

“Gazprom’s relationships with partners, subcontractors, and equipment and service providers are very complicated. They will all ask for a risk premium,” she added.

“This, however, does not mean that Nord Stream-2 won’t be built,” said Katja Yafimova of the Oxford Energy Institute.

However, while Gazprom’s major partners in the projects – ENGIE, OMV, Shell, Uniper, and Wintershall – are likely to accept the risks, smaller contractors will be more cautious.

“Not all partners can afford to see things through with Gazprom,” said Valery Nesterov, an analyst at Moscow-based Sberbank CIB.

It is still unclear whether the US President will enforce the restrictive measures. While Trump signed off on the new sanctions on Monday, he did so reluctantly, calling them “significantly flawed.”

“Unless Trump takes a really sharp turn, it is highly unlikely that companies that are supplying pipeline goods are going to be punished in the next year or so,” Richard Nephew, a former US deputy chief of sanctions told Reuters.

At the same time, Gazprom’s long-term projects can be affected.

“A lot of companies are now thinking: ‘I’ve got maybe 12, maybe 18 months in which I can do some stuff but after that maybe I won’t’,” he added.

The Nord Stream-2 pipeline plans to double the delivery capacity of Russian natural gas to Germany from the current 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

Posted in Europe, RussiaComments Off on US sanctions won’t stop Russia’s pipeline project to Europe 

Opposition journalist investigated for ‘treason & terrorism’ in Ukraine


Ukraine’s Security Service have launched an investigation into a journalist and blogger whom they accuse of treason as well as his alleged attempts to violate the country’s territorial integrity via publications critical of the government in Kiev.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) released a statement Wednesday, reporting that it had “ended the activity” of a journalist from the Zhitomir region in central Ukraine, who they claim worked on the “instructions of Russian curators” and “prepared and distributed anti-Ukrainian materials.”

“Since 2014 the journalist had been writing tendentious articles at the request of the Russian government propaganda news agencies,” the agency said without releasing the name of the suspect.

His work has had a “manipulative influence on the readers’ minds” and threatened “the sovereignty and independence of our state,” the SBU claimed.

The blogger, identified by the Ukrainian media as Vasily Muravitsky, was publishing his articles on at least six websites, the SBU said, adding, that the man initially signed his work under his real name, but started using aliases after that.

The journalist’s works also allegedly contained “calls to incite national enmity within the country and between Ukraine and neighboring friendly states,” the security agency added.

If found guilty the opposition journalist may face up to 15 years in prison, according to Ukrainian authorities.

The Russian foreign ministry has condemned the persecution of the journalist, saying in a statement the investigation of the blogger is “just another episode of the campaign led by Kiev and aimed at violent suppression of the opposition journalists and total cleansing of Ukraine’s information sphere for the benefit of the ruling regime.”

“The mass closure of Russian news and internet media outlets as well as persecution and oppression of the Ukrainian journalists conducted on a large scale are blatant violations of the fundamental principles of the freedom of expression that lie at the core of the civilized approach to the media and are embodied in the key documents of the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe,” the statement said.

The ministry further called on member states of the OSCE and the Council of Europe as well as other international organizations to join Russia in condemning “Kiev’s barbaric and criminal policy towards media.”

Posted in UkraineComments Off on Opposition journalist investigated for ‘treason & terrorism’ in Ukraine

Russia announces deal on safe zone in Syria’s Homs


The Russian army says it has reached a deal with foreign-backed militants in Syria to create a new de-escalation zone in the country’s northern parts of Homs province.

Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov made the announcement on Thursday, saying that new safe zone will span 84 towns and villages populated by more than 147,000 people in Homs.

The official noted that a ceasefire was to take effect in the area at 12:00 p.m. local time (0900 GMT) on Thursday.

The zone is the third to be established in Syria under a Russian-led initiative aimed at halting clashes in four key conflict zones between Syrian government forces and anti-Damascus militants.

Last Saturday, the warring sides agreed on a deal declaring Eastern Ghouta as a de-escalation zone.

Russia, along with Iran and Turkey, brokered the deal for establishing four de-escalation zones in mainly militant-held areas of Syria during ceasefire talks in the Kazakh capital city of Astana in May.

The plan, which came into effect at midnight on May 5, calls for the cessation of hostilities between militant groups and Syrian government forces.

It covers the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, northeastern areas of the western coastal province of Latakia, western areas of Aleppo province and northern parts of Hama province.

The parties to the Astana talks are now working on the details of the deal.

Syria has been fighting different foreign-sponsored militant and terrorist groups since March 2011. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated last August that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the crisis until then.

Posted in Russia, SyriaComments Off on Russia announces deal on safe zone in Syria’s Homs

Voting Machine Maker Says Venezuela Polls ‘Rigged’, Offers No Evidence

By Tony Cartalucci 

London-based voting machine maker Smartmatic claims the recent polls carried out in Venezuela this week were rigged. In their 5 minute video statement, however, they failed to provide any evidence.

An AP article titled,Election report: Venezuela vote ‘probably rigged’,” claims:

The number of Venezuelans who participated in the election for an all-powerful constituent assembly was tampered with – off by at least 1 million votes – in an official count, the head of a voting technology company asserted Wednesday, a finding certain to sow further discord over the super-body that has generated months of nationwide protests.

Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica said results recorded by his systems and those reported by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council indicate “without any doubt” that official turnout figure of more than 8 million participants was manipulated.

Mugica, however, claims in his full statement  (video here) that (emphasis added):

Our automated election system is designed to make it evident when results are manipulated, however, there must be people auditing the system and watching for that evidence. During the National Constituent Assembly elections there were no auditors from the opposition parties as they did not want to participate.

Thus, at best Mugica and Smartmatic can warn that irregularities might have occurred, since no one from the opposition was there to audit the final tallies and report any potential inconsistencies.

Since no opposition auditors were there, no evidence has been provided that such irregularities occurred. Neither AP’s article nor Mugica’s full statement provide any evidence or explanation as to how Smartmatic “estimated” the final count regarding participation was off by “one million votes.” Mugica doesn’t even explain whether it was one million more than reported, or one million less.

Smartmatic either failed to reveal information it has regarding the final count, or has simply lied on behalf of the Venezuelan opposition and the powerful foreign interests sponsoring it from Washington, London, and Brussels.

This latest announcement, absent of any evidence to substantiate these accusations, calls into question Smartmatic’s professionalism, ethics, and impartiality. Other nations considering Smartmatic machines must consider the possibility that the company’s CEO may attempt to use his machines and their role in tallying votes to manipulate their internal politics as well.

This announcement also once again calls the Western media into question for failing to note the very obvious inconsistencies between Mugica’s conclusions and the lack of evidence provided to substantiate them.

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on Voting Machine Maker Says Venezuela Polls ‘Rigged’, Offers No Evidence

‘Leaked transcripts show mania in DC – nothing too bad to do to Trump’


What could be more damaging to national security if the US president can’t talk to a foreign leader frankly without the fear of his or the other person’s comments going public, questions former US diplomat Jim Jatras?

The Washington Post published Thursday two leaked confidential transcripts of President Trump’s phone calls with foreign leaders.

Both calls took place in January and, according to the paper, the transcripts had been prepared by White House staff, but not released.

According to the call records, Trump insisted Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, stop publicly saying his country will not pay for Trump’s proposed wall on the US-Mexican border.

Additionally, the report revealed details of Trump’s phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the issue of refugees.

The leak comes a day before Attorney Jeff Sessions is scheduled to hold a news conference detailing efforts to crack down on leaks.

RT:  How damaging is it to US national security that the president’s confidential phone calls are leaked?

Jim Jatras: What could be more damaging if the President of the US cannot talk to a foreign leader frankly without fear of his comments going public, or those of the person he’s talking to? How do you conduct diplomatic business which should be the top priority of the president? The leaking of this information just simply shows the kind of mania we have here in Washington – that nothing is too bad to do to this president. He is such an illegitimate, such a bad president that all the rules can be broken and this criminal activity, this criminal leaking is – “sure, why not, it is actually patriotic to do that.”

RT:  Could these leaks of the president’s confidential phone calls make foreign leaders less apt to speak openly with the US president?

JJ: Of course, I think it is indeed a part of the purpose in leaking them in the first place – to put a chilling effect on anything this president might do while they continue to set him up for removal. I’ll be very interested to hear what Attorney General Jeff Sessions has to say. Frankly, from the day he walked in his office, the first thing he should have done was convene a high-level task force to track down these leakers, prosecute them and put them in jail. He should have impaneled a Grand Jury months ago.

Meanwhile, we hear today that Mr. (Robert) Mueller has impaneled a Grand Jury, even though we haven’t heard any evidence there has even been a crime committed. So there is a complete disconnect between the real criminality – we know it’s going on, it is not being dealt with – and these efforts to essentially bring down the constitutionally elected president.

RT:  White House staff reportedly made the two transcripts. What’s the likelihood there are one or more moles inside Trump’s team?

JJ: It is very unlikely this came from Trump’s team or the White House. Remember one of the last things Mr. Obama did, when he left the White House was to open up the purview for distribution of certain types of information, which means a lot more agencies and a lot more bureaucrats if you will ‘deep staters,’ have access to this information. And of course, the Washington Post is a primary outlet for this kind of information and has a very cozy relationship with their, if you will burrowed in sources, mainly in the intelligence community. I’m guessing that is partly where it came out. Is it going to be tough to track down – you bet it is. So that is why you need a top investigatory team, whose job is to find it.

RT:  Do you believe that those who would like to undermine Trump have gone too far in their effort to show him in a bad light?

JJ: It’s been going too far for quite some months now. Indeed from even before Mr. Trump took the oath of office these efforts were already underway. It is a conscious effort, if you will, a conspiracy to overturn the results of the election. This is simply another symptom of it, and you can bet that tomorrow and next week there’ll be another shoe dropping, and another shoe dropping, and another shoe dropping, and this will continue going on. These people want to remove Trump; they want to neutralize him, pending that. But let’s make no mistake about what the agenda is here.

Posted in USAComments Off on ‘Leaked transcripts show mania in DC – nothing too bad to do to Trump’

CNN’s ‘Exclusive’ Report on Russia Arming Taliban Debunked By Their Own Expert—Exposed as Propaganda


By Jay Syrmopoulos | Blacklisted News

Atlanta, GA – In just the latest example of CNN operating as a deep state propaganda outlet, on July 25, the cable news network published a bombastic report; releasing two exclusive videos intimating that the Russian government was covertly arming the Taliban, which has returned to significant prominence in Afghanistan since the 2014 cessation of NATO combat operations.

The large-scale anti-Russia propaganda operation, meant to indoctrinate Americans into a mindset that demonizes Russia as “the enemy,” and Putin as a dictator, has been pushed en masse to the American public at a steady rate since the end of the 2016 election cycle.

The explosive CNN report, which was widely reported across the media landscape, noted that two separate groups of Taliban fighters have received “improved weaponry … that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government.” The weaponry reportedly included Kalashnikov rifles, heavy machine guns, and sniper rifles. And while many of the weapons in the video appear to be of Russian origin, there is nothing to connect the Russian government to the weapons.

While the news made headlines and was shared widely across social media — the problem is that CNN’s report has lots of bark and no bite. Aside from a flashy headline, the report provided no evidence of the Russian government providing or transferring weapons to the Taliban. This was established according to weapons experts from U.S. Special Operations Command and several non-governmental conflict arms organizations.

“I’ve watched the video and frankly can’t see anything that is particularly unusual,” James Bevan, a weapons specialist, and director of Conflict Armament Research Ltd, told Task & Purpose in an email. “There are Russian weapons, and derivatives of those weapons manufactured in other states, circulating among state and non-state groups in every country in that region.”

According to the report by Task and Purpose :

The weapons experts consulted by Task & Purpose identified the weapons as Kalashnikov variants that have become pervasive among irregular forces; several U.S.-made M249 Squad Automatic Weapons that fire belt-fed 5.56×45mm NATO rounds, including a mid-90s variant with a long barrel and fixed rifle stock and the lightweight MK-49 paratrooper variant with a stub barrel; the TT-30 Tokarev pistol that’s been a staple of the Russian military since the 1930s, and the Soviet-made 7.62 mm general-purpose PK machine gun that’s been in service since 1961.

None of these weapons touted by the Taliban in the CNN video appear particularly modern, and all but the M249 are regular fixtures of the illicit small arms markets that accounted for 60 percent of the weapons flowing into and out of Afghanistan in the decades leading up to the U.S.-led invasion in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I suspect after years in Afghanistan, these are easy to get,” Capt. Jason Salata, said.

Additionally, the CNN report never establishes any type of chain of custody between Russia and the Taliban. Perhaps more importantly, they never noted that one of the Taliban groups had pillaged the equipment from a rival Taliban faction, while the other received a shipment of arms from across the Tajikistan border. CNN admits that the videos presented as “suggesting” a link between the Taliban and Moscow “don’t provide incontrovertible proof of the trade.”

Yet, somehow, they still attempt to stir the anti-Russia media pot and suggest the weapons could be the work of the Russian government. In reality, however, these types of weapons are readily available on the black market across the globe.

“There is nothing immediately visible to suggest the weapons are new or any indication (from the footage) that they are all of the same type and origin,” according to Bevan. “Governments that supply rebel and insurgent forces rarely supply new weapons and frequently refrain from supplying their own weapons stocks. This makes any connection between the manufacturing country and the supplier country problematic.”

Thus the CNN report, which notes that the weaponry appears “stripped of any means of identifying their origin,” essentially relies on the claims of a few Taliban members as the basis for the entire report.

“Unfortunately, CNN did not fully profile erased markings and other efforts to sanitize the weapons,” Bevan added. “This would be a clear indication of organized, state involvement, but also would be unlikely to incriminate any party without further evidence.”

In typical propaganda fashion, every arms expert in the CNN story was a Pentagon or Afghan government official, except for Benjamin King from the Small Arms Survey independent research group, who bluntly told CNN that the photos and videos he was given to analyze contained virtually no evidence of a recent arms transfer, let alone being able to attribute it to a specific state – such as Russia.

“[CNN] made some jumps that you certainly can’t make from the weapons themselves,” King told Task & Purpose“I certainly wouldn’t have made the claim that they were new imports. The generic Tokarev pistols and PK machine guns are old and could have been there for a long time. One of the rifles was an AK-74, so it could have been there for the last 40 years or so.”

Of course, the U.S. military need only look in the mirror should they want to understand the flow of foreign armaments into Afghanistan, as a declassified Pentagon audit from 2016 revealed that almost half of the 1.5 million firearms supplied to the Iraqi and Afghani military, including almost 1 million M4 and M16s, have turned up ‘missing’ due to shoddy record keeping and regulations.

Even more damning, in 2014, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction released a report that found that nearly 43% of arms provided to the Afghan National Security Forces likely ended up in the hands of ISIS or the Taliban.

In just the past few weeks, American and Afghan military personnel have faced off with modern weaponry and equipment in enemy hands. Afghan security forces are increasingly facing off against Taliban fighters armed with M4 carbines outfitted with night vision, infrared laser sights and Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight scopes, according to a July 25 report in the Military Times.

Additionally, a recent propaganda video released by the Taliban appeared to show an FN SCAR (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle) 7.62mm rifle decked out with a AN/PEQ 5 visible laser, which was likely procured during an ambush or raid on a weapons depot.

“Afghanistan is swimming in guns,” King told Task & Purpose. “These things are expected to show up everywhere.”

Many of these weapons are not Russian made, but instead, are usually deployed by Western militaries — and, like everything else in Afghanistan, they end up in Taliban hands sooner rather than later.

But CNN’s report conveniently fails to mention any of this, and attempts to prop up the demonization campaign against Russia, as a likely pretext to gain public support in the methodical and ongoing movement towards a direct conflict with the Russia.

Posted in USA, ArabicComments Off on CNN’s ‘Exclusive’ Report on Russia Arming Taliban Debunked By Their Own Expert—Exposed as Propaganda

British Army must stop recruiting child soldiers, veteran tells RT


By Claire Gilbody-Dickerson | RT

Britain should raise the military recruitment age from 16 to 18 because joining the services at such a tender age can cause irreversible psychological damage, a British Army veteran has told RT.

Wayne Sharrocks, who joined the army when he was 17, has spoken out against current military regulations, which allow recruiters to accept under 18s, who are effectively children based on international standards.

Sharrocks is calling for the recruitment age to be raised following a recent report published by Veterans for Peace (VFP) UK, which sheds light on the detrimental effects of army training on soldiers in general, and young people in particular.

Twenty-two out of every 100 British soldiers are under the age of 18. However, they are exempt from combat operations until they reach adulthood.

The 72-page report, ‘The First Ambush? Effects of army training and employment,’ says military training alone increases violent offending among recruits, with the rate of offenses rising again once they return from the front line.

The report, assembled through the testimonies of army veterans and more than 200 separate studies, also found recruits are twice as likely to drink heavily – all factors which may in turn lead to unemployment and homelessness.

Regardless of recruitment age, Sharrocks believes “military training and culture is damaging and not healthy for a person to go through.” But because young people’s minds are more “malleable” than those of adults, the effects of training are far worse for them.

It emerged last month that the British Army is actively trying to fill its ranks with young people from households with a £10,000 (US$13,000) annual income.

In a document for the British Army’s ‘This Is Belonging’ campaign, seen by the Independent and Child Soldiers International, the military says it is deliberately targeting 16 to 24-year-olds from social classes known as C2DEs – denoting the three lowest ranks of society.

The VFP report says the British Army “strategically” targets such youngsters from deprived neighborhoods by presenting a “romanticized” image of the soldier.

Members of the Scottish Parliament have backed a petition calling for further research into military recruitment of youth.

There have also been calls by the Scottish National Party (SNP) Youth for a review of the policy on military recruitment age, but a motion to raise it was opposed by senior MPs in December last year.

Sharrocks, who twice served in Afghanistan and left the army after being severely injured by an improvised explosive device (IED), said more information should be made available to young people so they know what they are signing up for.

Jay Sutherland, a Scottish 16-year-old student who has founded a campaign group against “militarism” in schools, said advertisements are “glossed over, with the military not even showing important regulations such as when you sign up you are locked in until 18 and the fact that younger recruits are twice as likely to be killed in Afghanistan than older recruits.”

An MoD spokesperson told RT it rejects claims it is targeting youth only, but said it is “proud” of offering young people in the Armed Forces opportunities that “aren’t always available elsewhere, from basic literacy education and support for postgraduate degrees, to high-quality accredited training and unique employment prospects.”

The spokesperson added that the Armed Forces allows for everyone, regardless of their background, the opportunity to reach their full potential, before adding it is encouraging young people to “aim higher” while “teaching them valuable skills”.

Dehumanizing training

Sharrocks claims military training requires soldiers to “follow orders without questioning them,” so that their “natural aversion” to killing is also “altered.”

The report itself reads: “To ensure that recruits will follow all orders and kill their opponents in war, army training indoctrinates unconditional obedience, stimulates aggression and antagonism, overpowers a healthy person’s inhibition to killing, and dehumanizes the opponent in the recruit’s imagination.”

Such practices can lead to long-lasting psychological issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can lead to suicide.

VFP UK describes the case of Dan, who joined the army at 18 and developed PTSD after training and service in Iraq.

When he returned to Britain, he served time in a military prison for assaulting a warrant officer.

“After the conviction the army wouldn’t support me, my mental health deteriorated and I was left feeling isolated and alone.

“I resorted to alcohol abuse and became homeless for a year, and I have suffered with chronic PTSD.

“I really believe that underlying all my problems was the effect of the training I was put through when I joined the army.”

Sharrocks accused the army of turning its back on soldiers, who are “pushed aside” once they are deemed no longer “useful.”

Because they have been in the army for so many years, Sharrocks says some veterans lack fundamental qualifications to get a decent job in civilian life, as they have the same skill-set of a 16-year-old who has “just left school.”

Many find themselves in manual, low-skill factory jobs.

Rather than leaving charities to pick up the pieces, Sharrocks appealed for more to be done to smooth the transition from soldiering to civilian life.

Writing for the ForcesWatch website, Douglas Beattie, a member of VFP UK, said soldiers are dehumanized right from the start, regardless of their age.

“This [process] begins with isolation – for the first few weeks trainees, heads shaved and in uniform, have no right to see family or friends; they are not allowed to leave base and cannot terminate their contract.”

He also said soldiers become targets of “beastings” – humiliating treatment involving both verbal and physical violence, aimed at the individual’s utter debasement.

Read more:

‘Used by the army’: British recruitment of child soldiers condemned by doctors & veterans

Posted in UKComments Off on British Army must stop recruiting child soldiers, veteran tells RT

US Regime Change in Venezuela: The Truth is Easy if You Follow the Money

By Tony Cartalucci  

Venezuela’s ongoing crisis is not driven by political ideology – it is not a battle of socialism versus capitalism or dictatorship versus democracy – it is the result of two centers of political power possessing opposing interests and colliding geopolitically.

The nation of Venezuela is currently under the control of Venezuelans who derive their support, wealth, and power from Venezuela itself – its people and its natural resource. This political order also receives aid and support from Venezuela’s economic and military partners both in the region and around the globe.

The opposition opposed to the current political order and seeking to supplant it represents foreign interests and more specifically, the United States and its European allies.

The Opposition is Pro-Washington, Not “Pro-Democracy”

As early as 2002, US-backed regime change targeting then Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, sought to violently overthrow Venezuela’s political order and replace it with one obedient to Washington. Current leaders of the opposition were not only involved in the 2002 failed coup, many are documented to have received political and financial support from the United States government ever since.

Maria Corina Machado, founder of Sumate, an alleged Venezuelan election monitoring group, funded by the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), meeting with US President George Bush who presided over the failed coup attempt against President Hugo Chavez.

This includes several founders of the opposition party, Primero Justicia (Justice First), including Leopoldo Lopez, Julio Borges, and Henrique Capriles Radonski. The latter of the three has been prominently featured in Western media coverage lately.

US State Department documents reveal that the department itself along with US-funded fronts posing as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been providing Venezuela’s opposition with support.

This includes a  report titled, “Status of Capriles and Sumate Cases,” referring to the above mentioned Henrique Capriles Radonski and Sumate, a US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funded front posing as an election monitor.

Currently, NED’s own website features an extensive list of activities it is engaged in within Venezuela’s borders. It includes leveraging human rights for political gain, electoral manipulation, building opposition fronts, and expanding pro-opposition media. While each activity is labelled with benign titles, it is clear that none of these activities are done impartially, and as State Department documents reveal, these activities are done specifically for the benefit of the US-backed opposition.

Wall Street and Washington’s Open Conspiracy 

After the death of Chavez in 2013, US-based special interests openly conspired to finally overturn the political order he built. Corporate-financier policy think tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) created a checklist of US foreign policy goals it sought to achieve in Venezuela. They included:

  • The ouster of narco-kingpins who now hold senior posts in government
  • The respect for a constitutional succession
  • The adoption of meaningful electoral reforms to ensure a fair campaign environment and a transparent vote count in expected presidential elections; and
  • The dismantling of Iranian and Hezbollah networks in Venezuela

In reality, AEI is talking about dismantling entirely the obstacles that have prevented the US and the corporate-financier interests that direct it, from installing a client regime and extracting entirely Venezuela’s wealth while obstructing, even dismantling the geopolitical independence and influence achieved by Chavez in Venezuela, throughout South America, and beyond.

The think tank would continue by stating:

Now is the time for US diplomats to begin a quiet dialogue with key regional powers to explain the high cost of Chávez’s criminal regime, including the impact of chavista complicity with narcotraffickers who sow mayhem in Colombia, Central America, and Mexico. Perhaps then we can convince regional leaders to show solidarity with Venezuelan democrats who want to restore a commitment to the rule of law and to rebuild an economy that can be an engine for growth in South America.

By “Venezuelan democrats,” AEI means proxies created, funded, and directed by Washington, including Primero Justicia and the street mobs and paramilitary units it commands.

More recently, another Wall Street-Washington policy think tank, the Brookings Institution, would publish in a paper titled, Venezuela: A path out of crisis,” a 5-point plan toward escalating the crisis in Venezuela (emphasis added):

1. The United States could expand its assistance to countries that until now have been dependent on Venezuelan oil, as a means to decrease regional support for and dependence on the Maduro government.

2. The United States could increase monetary assistance to credible civil society organizations and nongovernmental organizations able to deliver food and medicines to Venezuelans. By doing so, the United States should make clear that international pressure aims to support democracy, not punish the Venezuelan people.

3. The United States could support efforts by the opposition in Venezuela to build an “off-ramp” that would split moderate elements of the government away from hardliners, encouraging the former to acquiesce to a transition to democracy by lowering their costs of exiting government.

4. The United States could coordinate with international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to offer financial incentives for holding free and fair elections in 2018, and for the opposition to unify and compete in those elections. Such coordination would also involve developing and publicizing a credible plan to restart Venezuela’s economy.

5. As a last resort, the United States could consider raising economic costs to the government through an expanded sanctions regime that aims to limit Venezuelan earnings from oil exports and block further financing. This policy is risky, given that the Maduro government would be able to more credibly shift blame for the economic crisis onto the United States, and should be accompanied by well-publicized efforts to deliver humanitarian aid through credible civil society and nongovernmental organizations.

While the Western media attempts to frame Venezuela’s crisis as a result of “socialism” and “dictatorship,” it is clear by reading the West’s own policy papers that it is owed instead to a systematic assault on Venezuela’s sociopolitical stability and economic viability, spanning decades.

Venezuela is not the first nation in South America that the United States has sought to overturn by undermining its economy.

Within the CIA’s own online archives under a section titled, “CIA Activities in Chile,” it is admitted that in the 1970s, similar tactics were used to undermine and overturn the government of Chile. It states specifically: (emphasis added):

According to the Church Committee report, in their meeting with CIA Director Richard Helms and Attorney General John Mitchell on 15 September 1970 President Nixon and his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, directed the CIA to prevent Allende from taking power. They were “not concerned [about the] risks involved,” according to Helms’ notes. In addition to political action, Nixon and Kissinger, according to Helms’s notes, ordered steps to “make the economy scream.” 

These Cold War attitudes persisted into the Pinochet era. After Pinochet came to power, senior policymakers appeared reluctant to criticize human rights violations, taking to task US diplomats urging greater attention to the problem. US military assistance and sales grew significantly during the years of greatest human rights abuses. According to a previously released Memorandum of Conversation, Kissinger in June 1976 indicated to Pinochet that the US Government was sympathetic to his regime, although Kissinger advised some progress on human rights in order to improve Chile’s image in the US Congress. 

Considering America’s extensive list of interventions, wars, and occupations it is currently involved in worldwide and the manner in which each was presented to the public – with ideology and humanitarian concerns used to manipulate public perception, and considering Venezuela’s opposition is a documented recipient of US support, it is clear that yet another intervention is under way, this time in South America.

Unipolar vs Multipolar

In a world moving toward multipolarism and greater decentralization on all levels, Venezuela’s collapse and a victory for Washington would undo an increasingly balanced distribution of geopolitical power – both in South and Central America, as well as across the world.

As a major oil producing nation, US control over its people and natural resources would further allow the US and its allies to manipulate energy prices toward achieving future goals – particularly in terms of encircling, isolating, and dismantling other centers of political power dependent on oil production for economic prosperity.

One needs not be a fan of “socialism” to understand that the ultimate outcome of Venezuela’s collapse will be a further concentration of power in Washington and Wall Street’s hands. Such power, regardless of whatever ideology it is superficially wielded behind, will always be abused. Regardless of the alleged form of government a nation may take, as long as it is a step away from unipolar globalization, it is a step in the right direction.

The crisis in Venezuela is not one of socialism versus capitalism or dictatorship versus democracy – it is one of hegemony versus national sovereignty, of centralized unipolar power versus an increasingly multipolar world.

A sovereign and independent Venezuela allowed to pursue its own destiny is one in which its own people will naturally seek to decentralize and distribute power. While the current government may not provide the ideal conditions to accomplish this, conditions under a US client regime – as US-wrecked Libya, Afghanistan, or Iraq prove – would be significantly less ideal.

For geopolitical analysts, moving away from ideological talking points and examining the actual government and opposition, their interests, associations, and funding, as well as their base motives reveals a much simpler and consistent narrative, one that any analyst could discern, and a discernment that will stand the test of scrutiny and time. Those entrenched in left/right ideology risk being betrayed by the government’s floundering desperation and the true nature of an opposition that most certainly is not “capitalist” or “pro-democracy.”

Posted in USA, VenezuelaComments Off on US Regime Change in Venezuela: The Truth is Easy if You Follow the Money

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