Archive | January 23rd, 2020

Next Generation 5G and the US-China “Cellphone War”: The Arrest and Trial of Meng Wanzhou

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Trade War

5G is strategic.

The US is pressuring its allies including Canada to dump China’s Huawei. In turn the  extradition trial agains HuaWei Executive

In recent developments, the Trudeau cabinet met behind closed doors at a three day “cabinet retreat”. Canada’s Public Safety Minister Bill Blair intimated that geopolitical and strategic issues are being contemplated.

Careful timing: the weekend Winnipeg Trudeau cabinet meeting  gave the green light.

The Extradition Trial against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was launched in Vancouver on Monday, January 20 on trumped up charges of financial fraud.

The ultimate objective is to exclude China from obtaining 5G  contracts with Western telecom companies. 5G has also military and intelligence applications.

Consultations were also  held under the auspices of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence Group (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) which is largely dominated by US intelligence.

“The United States and Australia, allies of Canada in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group, have already barred Huawei … from supplying gear for their 5G networks.”

The Canadian government has previously said its 5G decision will hinge on security considerations and the advice of government experts.”  (Globe and Mail)

How will Beijing react?

NPR Scan

Michel Chossudovsky January 23, 2020

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The unspoken US policy objective behind the arrest of  Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on trumped up charges, consists in breaking China’s technological lead in wireless telecommunications. 

What is at stake is a coordinated US and allied intelligence initiative to ban China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd from the “next generation” state of the art 5G global mobile phone network.

The intelligence operation is led by “Five Eyes”, a so-called “intelligence-sharing alliance to combat espionage” between the US and its four (junior) Anglo-Saxon partners: UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. 

Western media tabloids repeatedly refer to legitimate “national security concerns” as a justification for the banning of China’s telecom equipment.

What is at stake is a fierce battle in the global wireless telecom industry. 

Spy Chiefs Meet Behind Closed Doors in Nova Scotia 

On July 17, the spy chiefs from the “Five Eyes” nations travelled from Ottawa to Nova Scotia for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (who was on a Nova Scotia tour including meetings with NS Premier Stephen McNeil)

The meeting with the “Five Eyes” spy chiefs hosted by Trudeau was held at an (unnamed) coastal resort in Nova Scotia. It was casually described by The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) as “an informal evening after intense talks in nearby Ottawa”. Nearby?

The encounter with Canada’s Prime Minister was neither informal nor spontaneous. His presence at that meeting served to provide a “political green-light” to the “Five Eyes”  “intelligence campaign” against China:

“Trudeau, …  dropped in on the gathering to share some thoughts about geopolitical threats [from China and Russia].

In the months that followed that July 17 dinner, an unprecedented campaign has been waged by those present – Australia, the US, Canada, New Zealand and the UK – to block Chinese tech giant Huawei from supplying equipment for their next-generation wireless networks.

This increasingly muscular posture towards Beijing culminated in last week’s arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, in Vancouver, over alleged breaches of US sanctions with Iran. (Sidney Morning Herald, December 13, 2018)

CIA Director Gina Haspel and Britain’s MI6 Chief Michael Younger were in attendance. The intent of this meeting was crystal clear. The arrest of Meng Wanzhou was part of a broader intelligence strategy directed against China which had been planned well in advance.

Trudeau’s July 16-17 tour in Nova Scotia was reported upon. Sofar, the Canadian media has failed to mention Trudeau’s July 17, 2018 meeting with the “Five Eyes” chiefs of intelligence.

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Screen-scan  of Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2018

Failure of the US Telecom Industries

It’s what you call “Fair Competition”. Bring in the Spy Chiefs!

Let’s face it : The US based telecom conglomerates are up against the wall.  The industry is in a shambles.

Moreover, the US no longer produces smart phones. Its manufacturing base in Silicon Valley has been closed down. US smart phone companies increasingly rely on China not only for cellphone production but also for the development of intellectual property.America’s “Cell Phone War” against China: HuaWei CFO Meng Wanzhou Held Hostage by Canada

China is not only the largest producer of cellphones Worldwide, it is a leader in wireless technology. According to an August 2018 report by Deloitte Consulting:

China is winning the race against the United States to build a faster nationwide wireless network that uses 5G technology, billed as the mobile industry’s future. Unless the U.S. moves more quickly, it will be at a major disadvantage when it comes to creating dominant new companies in the emerging space….

Accordingly, countries that adopt 5G first are expected to experience disproportionate gains in macroeconomic impact compared to those that lag,” the report’s authors said.

U.S. companies have been sounding the alarm over a purported race against China over 5G, perhaps playing to the fears and strategic desires of the Trump White House. (Fortune, August 7, 2018)

Global Research is based in Montreal.

The complicity of the Canadian government in the arrest of  CFO Meng Wanzhou on behalf of the Trump White House is reprehensible. It puts in jeopardy Canada’s longstanding economic, social and cultural ties with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

UPDATE

Did the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) play a role in the arrest of Ms. Meng Wanzhou on December 1, 2018?The arrest of Meng Wanzhou on December 1 in Vancouver coincided with the evening dinner meeting between presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump in Buenos Aires on the sidelines of the G-20 summit.

Moreover, according to China’s news agency Xinhua Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau had advanced knowledge of the arrest and did nothing to prevent it from happening:

“…He didn’t notify the Chinese side. Instead, he let this kind of nasty thing to happen and assisted the US side’s unilateral hegemonic behaviour – this has hurt the feeling of Chinese people.”

As outlined above, Prime Minister Trudeau had already granted the green-light to the “Five Eyes” intelligence chiefs at the July 17 secret meeting in Nova Scotia.

Huawei portrayed by CSIS as a threat to National Security

While news reports and official statements intimate that Huawei constitutes a potential cybersecurity risk, Ms. Meng Wanzhou was arrested on December 1, 2018 in Vancouver for allegedly having violated the US sponsored Iran sanctions regime.

What was the role of Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) in the arrest of Meng Wanzhou?  CSIS Director David Vigneault hosted the “Five Eyes” meeting of spy chiefs in Ottawa and Nova Scotia on July 17. Prime Minister Trudeau was present at the Novo Scotia meeting.

December 4, 2018: Three days after the arrest of Meng Wenzhou, Canada’s spy chief David Vigneault addressed a luncheon meeting at the Economic Club (EC) of  Canada in Toronto, intimating that “hostile states [China] are targeting large [Canadian] companies and universities”.  According to Vigneault:

 “Many of these advanced technologies are dual-use in nature in that they could advance a country’s economic, security and military interests.”

In his address, Canada’s spy chief warned of the danger of “state-sponsored espionage through technology such as next-generation 5G mobile networks.” (Globe and Mail December 4, 2018)

“Canadian Security Intelligence Service director David Vigneault’s comments come as three of the country’s Five Eyes intelligence-sharing allies have barred wireless carriers from installing equipment made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. in the 5G infrastructure they are building to provide an even-more-connected network for smartphone users.

On December 3, 2018, the head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, publicly raised security concerns about Huawei telecommunications being involved in his country’s communications infrastructure.

Both Canada and Britain are conducting security reviews of the Chinese company’s 5G technology.

Mr. Vigneault said large corporations typically hold the most valuable information but they try to put in state-of-the-art cyberdefences, while Canadian universities are largely unaware how they are vulnerable to economic espionage and the threat of infiltration by unnamed state actors who would use their expertise to gain an edge in military technologies. Huawei has developed research and development partnerships with many of Canada’s leading academic institutions.” (Globe and Mail, December 4, 2018, emphasis added)

It should be noted that the meeting and the specific theme of David Vigneault’s presentation at the Economic Club on December 4, 2018 had been scheduled well in advance of the arrest of Ms. Meng Wanzhou on December 1.  (See Economic Club ).

Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research,  Montreal, December 16, 2018, updated December 20, 2018

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Selected Article

America’s “Cell Phone War” against China: HuaWei CFO Meng Wanzhou Held Hostage by Canada

By Christopher Black,

It is clear the US is pushing the battle line to our door … We can completely regard the US arrest of Meng Wanzhou as a declaration of war against China.”

China’s Toughness v. Weak-Kneed Russia: Beijing’s Response to Arrest of Meng Wanzhou

By Stephen Lendman,

In response to the lawless arrest, detention, and mistreatment of Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou by Canadian authorities in Vancouver on December 1, acting as a Trump regime proxy, Beijing demanded her immediate release, warning of “grave consequences” otherwise.

“Five Eyes” Intelligence Agencies Behind Drive Against Chinese Telecom Giant Huawei.

By Nick Beams,

Evidence has come to light that US operations against the Chinese telecommunications giant HuaWei (华为) and the arrest and detention of one of its top executives, Meng Wanzhou, to face criminal charges of fraud brought by the US Justice Department are the outcome of a coordinated campaign by the intelligence agencies of the so-called “Five Eyes” network.

Trump and China: Towards a Cold or Hot War?

By Marc Vandepitte,

At first glance, the dispute between the US and China revolves around unfair competition and theft of intellectual property. On closer inspection it is about something much more fundamental, namely frantic attempts by Washington to preserve its hegemony over this planet. Are we heading for a clash between the two titans?

Video: Behind the US Attack on Chinese Smartphones

By Manlio Dinucci,

After having imposed heavy taxes on Chinese merchandise – 250 billion dollars – President Trump, at the G-20, accepted a “truce” by postponing further measures, mainly because the US economy has been struck by Chinese retaliation.

On World Human Rights Day, the Inhumane Treatment of Huawei Meng Wanzhou by Canadian Authorities Becomes Clearer

By Adam Garrie,

After summoning the Canadian Ambassador in Beijing, China has now summoned the American Ambassador to discuss the status of Meng Wanzhou – the Chinese political prisoner who remains behind bars in Canada in spite of having committed no wrongdoing.

Trump’s Trade War with China: Imagine What Would Happen if China Decided to Impose Economic Sanctions on the USA?

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky,

What Trump does not realize is that the trade deficit with China contributes to sustaining America’s retail economy, it also contributes to the growth of America’s GDP.

Posted in USA, ChinaComments Off on Next Generation 5G and the US-China “Cellphone War”: The Arrest and Trial of Meng Wanzhou

Trump’s Katyusha Conundrum: Unguided Artillery Deployed by Iraqi Insurgents against US Occupation Forces

By William Walter Kay

Global Research,

Katyushas are short-range, unguided artillery rockets typically fired in salvos from truck-mounted launch-tubes. Iraq’s insurgents deploy three types.     

The smallest is 107 millimetres in diameter and 1 metre long. Its 19 kilogram weight includes an 8 kg high-explosive, shrapnel-bearing warhead. The 107mm is often fired from a 12-tube launcher, however, infantry-portable single-tube tripods are common. An experienced crew with a standardised weapon can hit a 400 X 400 metre target from 8 kilometres away. During the Vietnam War the US Army considered the 107mm to be their adversaries’ most formidable weapon.

The 122mm ‘Grad’ Katyusha is 3 metres long and weighs 75 kg. Its warhead spans a third of its length and weighs 18 kg. It has a 20-kilometre range and a 30-metre lethal radius.

220mm Katyushas hurl 100 kg warheads 30 kilometres.

Katyushas have advantages over mortars. They deliver the same payload twice the distance and they fire multiple ordnance more rapidly. The globally ubiquitous BM-21 Grad fires forty 122mm rockets in three minutes. Reloading takes 10 minutes. Thus, Katyushas excel at “shoot-and-scoot” operations. As well, Katyushas’ flat trajectories permit line-of-sight attacks and their 700 metre-per-second velocities provide unique anti-building potential.

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After [allegedly] helping suppress the ISIS-led insurgency (2014-17) US forces defaulted to their previous occupation plan. Central to this program are segregated compounds situated inside Iraqi Armed Forces bases. These installations, always near airstrips, contain mere hundreds (not thousands) of US and Coalition troops who ride herd over the Iraqi Army whilst grooming and directing Iraq’s 15,000-strong Special Forces.

Embassies and consulates are integral to the occupation. The sprawling US Embassy compound dominates Baghdad’s fortified “Green Zone” which also houses Coalition partners’ embassies, and the headquarters of the many NGOs insinuated throughout Iraqi society.

The occupation facilitates local activities of American and European businesses. These require office blocks, oil-field infrastructure; and, gated communities for imported talent.

Pre-2011 Americans relied on bases containing thousands of troops. These were remotely located and allocated substantial resources to thwart indirect (mortar and rocket) attacks through: counter-artillery, drone surveillance, and fighting patrols. Despite this, indirect fire inflicted 3,000 casualties (including 211 fatalities) on American forces; many occurring inside ‘secure’ bases.

The US-led Coalition’s current archipelago of military, diplomatic, intelligence, business and NGO installations are ill-equipped to defend themselves against indirect fire. Proximity to cities makes them sitting ducks.

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In September 2018 persons unknown began targeting US installations with Katyushas. This list chronicles these attacks.* (A dozen mortar attacks are not listed; Katyushas being the weapon of choice.)

  1. September 8, 2018 – four rockets (three 107mms and one 122mm) fall near the Green Zone.
  2. September 8, 2018 – two salvos of 107mms land near the US Consulate beside Basra Airport.
  3. September 28, 2018 – three 107mms are fired at the Basra Consulate; two land on site.
  4. December 27, 2018 – two 107mms are fired at Al-Asad Airbase (160 kilometres west of Baghdad) during Trump’s visit.
  5. February 2, 2019 – an attack on Al-Asad Airbase is aborted. Three ready-to-launch 122mms are captured.
  6. February 12, 2019 – three 107mms hit Q-West Airfield (an off-the-books base south of Mosul).
  7. May 1, 2019 – two 107mms hit Camp Al-Taji: a ‘training’ institute, 40 kilometres north of Baghdad.
  8. May 19, 2019 – two rockets land near the US Embassy.
  9. June 10, 2019 – rocket attack on Camp Al-Taji.
  10. June 12, 2019 – rocket attack on a “northern air base” starts a fire.
  11. June 13, 2019 – rocket attack on Nineveh Command Headquarters (Mosul Presidential Palace).
  12. June 14, 2019 – a rocket lands near the US Embassy.
  13. June 17, 2019 – three rockets hit Camp Al-Taji.
  14. June 18, 2019 – Nineveh HQ is attacked by two 122mms; one hits, one misses.
  15. June 19, 2019 – rockets strike a gated community outside Basra (home to Exxon staff).
  16. September 23, 2019 – two rockets hit the Green Zone; one lands near the US Embassy.
  17. October 30, 2019 – two rockets hit the Green Zone, killing an Iraqi soldier.
  18. November 8, 2019 – seventeen rockets target Q-West Airfield.
  19. November 17, 2019 – rockets hit the Green Zone.
  20. November 29, 2019 – a rocket hits the Green Zone.
  21. December 3, 2019 – Al-Asad Airbase is “rocked” by five 122mms.
  22. December 5, 2019 – five 107mms hit Balad Airbase (80 kilometres north of Baghdad).
  23. December 6, 2019 – a 240mm rocket lands near Baghdad Airport (then housing a US base).
  24. December 9, 2019 – four 240mms strike Baghdad Airport killing 2, and wounding 5, Iraqi soldiers.
  25. December 11, 2019 – two 240mms land outside Baghdad Airport.
  26. December 27, 2019 – thirty-six 107mms hammer K1 Base (15 kilometres northwest of Kirkuk); killing an American translator and wounding several US troops.
  27. December 29, 2019 – four rockets hit Camp Al-Taji.
  28. December 29, 2019 – five rockets hit Al-Asad Airbase.
  29. January 4, 2020 – two rockets hit Balad Airbase.
  30. January 4, 2020 – several rockets hit the Green Zone. One lands near the US Embassy; another closes a major street.
  31. January 5, 2020 – six rockets are fired at the Green Zone; three hit the target.
  32. January 8, 2020 – two rockets hit the Green Zone.
  33. January 12, 2020 – eight rockets hit Balad Airbase, wounding several Iraqi soldiers.
  34. January 14, 2020 – a five-rocket attack on Camp Al-Taji.
  35. January 20, 2020 – three rockets hit Green Zone. They were fired from Al Zafraniya (15 kilometres away).

Attacks are becoming more frequent and are trending toward bigger rockets and higher volume salvos.US Middle East Forever Wars

The insurgents’ strategy is working. Katyusha attacks shuttered the US Basra Consulate in September 2018. Attacks in May and June 2019 forced Exxon to evacuate much of its foreign staff. Throughout 2019 the US State Department extracted personnel and the Defense Department consolidated bases into more secure facilities. By late 2019 US authorities were begging Iraqis for help whilst threatening retaliation.

The last straw came December 27 when the barrage onto K1 Base killed an American translator. The US responded with airstrikes on five Kata’ib Hezbollah bases (90 casualties) and with the January 3 assassination of Iranian General Soleimani. (The decision to assassinate Soleimani – in the event of an American fatality – was made June 24, 2019 following a week of near daily Katyusha attacks.)

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While Iran and Iran’s Iraqi allies are blamed for these attacks; this is dubious. Reportage following attacks invariably drops the phrase “no one claimed responsibility” – which is notable because perpetrators often boast of such achievements. Ten years ago, when Kata’ib Hezbollah targeted US facilities with “lob bombs” (improvised rockets), they posted videos of their handiwork. They deny involvement in these recent attacks as do other Iranian-linked militias.

The reportage often describes the attacks as “mysterious” or as a “whodunit.” Authors relay US intelligence theories of Iranian involvement …without evidence.

On several occasions insurgents abandoned launchers and/or launch vehicles after the attack, often with fail-to-launch rockets inside. Investigators also possess fragments of successfully fired rockets. Tellingly, US officials, renowned for straining at gnats for evidence of Iranian complicity, do not utilise this material to incriminate Tehran.

The launchers themselves are obviously manufactured by local artisans. Moreover, an article from Kurdistan24 describes the rockets as “locally made.” Even globalist-militarist instrumentalities like the Washington Institute, Long War Journal, and Center for Strategic and International Studies concede some Katyushas are manufactured in Iraq.

Iraq has a burgeoning steel industry and, due to the calamities of the past 20 years, an enormous scrap metal industry. Katyushas’ cardinal virtue is their simplicity.

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Circa 2014 twelve countries hosted non-state armed groups that deployed Katyushas. (Post-2014 Yemen’s Houthis joined this list, then outdid the pack in innovation and output.)

During the 2003-11 era Iraqi insurgents looted Katyushas from local arsenals. Other Katyushas came from Iran (officially or via the black market) and possibly from any of 32 other countries manufacturing them. Experts bemoan the difficulty of determining a rocket’s origin.

Circa 2008 Iraqi artisans manufactured a variety of launchers. A 2009 raid in Maysan Governorate discovered 107mm, 122mm and 220mm rail launchers; and 1,700 carjacks. (Jacks were affixed to the bottoms of stationary tripods to permit changes in launch angle.) Insurgents developed creative mobile launch platforms i.e. inside ice cream trucks or towed behind motorcycles etc. They debuted remote control triggers and GPS reconnaissance.

Circa 2011 poor quality of locally acquired rockets compelled insurgents to continue to rely on imports. The insurgents were, however, manufacturing “lob bomb” rockets and anti-armour mines; although Iran stood accused of being their sole supplier.

Post-2011 insurgents honed their craft. Remember: Hamas, operating inside Gaza with a tiny fraction of the resources of Iraq’s insurgents, manufactures crude Katyushas.

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Prime suspects in the Katyusha campaign are not pro-Iranian militias; but rather the milieu around Mahdi Army successor, the Promise Day Brigades (PDB). This political tendency, nominally led by Moqtada al-Sadr, is concentrated in Iraq’s densely populated central and southern regions, but boasts a militant contingent in Mosul. This milieu overlaps the Saairun Alliance which includes Iraq’s far left; who carry their own legacy of armed struggle.

The insurgency’s Von Braun might be Jawad al-Tulaybani. An Iran-Iraq War veteran, al-Tulaybani possesses 40 years of combat rocketry experience. A war wound left him partially disabled. He appeared on US radar in 2008 after masterminding a barrage that wounded 15 US soldiers.

The org-chart of the Saairun/PDB/al-Sadr movement remains obscured. Notably, on January 8, 2020 al-Sadr counselled refrain from military actions. Four Katyusha attacks happened since.

What is clear is that this general political tendency is not particularly beholden to Iran. They appear non-sectarian, if not secularist, and they advance a left-nationalist agenda. Prior to the 2018 election (wherein Saairun emerged as the most popular bloc) Iran’s Foreign Minister warned Iran would never tolerate an Iraq run by “liberals and communists” – meaning Saairun.

Then again, Trump’s thrill kill of Soleimani (and Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units’ Deputy Commander) completely reshuffled the deck, creating unprecedented unity amongst hitherto rivals.

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As Katyushas veto pacification efforts, US forces return to square one. They must retreat to sprawling, remotely situated camps equipped to suppress indirect fire. This, however, means surrendering Iraq’s political theatre to adversaries who will marshal Iraqi Government resources against them.

Katyushas are driving the Trump Administration’s Iraq policy. Prisoners of groupthink they react by doubling-down on the Big Lie that Iraq’s national liberation movement consists only of “Iranian terrorists.” In reality, their most effective opponents are as indigenous and legitimate as the French Resistance.

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Note on Sources

Data came from scanning 1,000 articles then parsing several dozen of them. Preference went to state media: i.e. Voice of America, Al Jazeera, Xinhua et al; although Military Times and Kurdistan-24 proved germane. Rogue Rocketeers: Artillery Rockets and Armed Groups (Small Arms Survey, Geneva Switzerland, 2014) is a must-read. Data on the first 7 Katyusha attacks was lifted without corroboration from Michael Knights’ Responding to Iranian Harassment of U.S. Facilities in Iraq (Washington Institute, May 21, 2019). As Knights is the only analyst to grasp the seriousness of the Katyusha attacks. His reports are a trove. Being intimately connected to US and Israeli intelligence, he slavishly relays the anti-Iran party line.

Major attacks generate scores of reports. Lesser attacks are mentioned only in passing. Some articles tally the attacks but the numbers do not jibe. Certain attacks go unreported. Probably, 50+ mortar and Katyusha attacks hit US facilities between September 8, 2018 and January 14, 2020.

Posted in USA, IraqComments Off on Trump’s Katyusha Conundrum: Unguided Artillery Deployed by Iraqi Insurgents against US Occupation Forces

Impacts of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC). Ease or Exacerbate China-India Rivalry?

By Andrew Korybko

Global Research,

The eventual completion of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) will either ease or exacerbate the Sino-Indo economic rivalry of the past few years depending on how New Delhi responds to Beijing’s latest trans-regional integration initiative, but whatever it decides to do, it’s clear that CMEC is destined to be a real game-changer one way or the other.

President Xi’s visit to Myanmar last weekend was marked by the clinching of 33 agreements that are in one way or another connected with the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC). This latest trans-regional integration project of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) aims to pioneer a CPEC-like connectivity corridor to the Afro-Asian (“Indian”) Ocean that would complement its predecessor in the northwestern corner of this body of water by further strengthening Beijing’s economic influence in South Asia. Beijing’s intentions are benign because its grand strategic goal is simply to ensure its reliable non-Malacca access to the Afro-Asian Ocean through which a sizeable percentage of its foreign trade traverses, but its moves have been interpreted by New Delhi (with a wink and a nod from Washington) as part of a plot to “encircle” it.

This state of affairs lays the basis for their “strategic dilemma” with one another that has contributed to their economic rivalry over the past few years, which dramatically reached a new height after India refused to sign on to the Chinese-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at the very last minute during last November’s summit in Bangkok. At the same time, however, India has been playing a double game that it deceptively describes as “multi-alignment” by attempting to re-enter into economic talks with the People’s Republic as part of its so-called “balancing” strategy of supposedly pursuing equidistant relations with the world’s premier Great Powers. The signing of “phase one” of a more comprehensive US-Chinese trade deal, however, put India in a tough spot entirely of its own making which will shape its reaction to CMEC.

Not only didIndia fail to take advantage of the so-called “trade war” to position itself as a leading destination for Western companies re-offshoring from China like Vietnam did, but it now has to contend with China’s gradual economic reforms which will by default make the People’s Republic even attractive to Western companies in the long run especially since many of them already have an impressive footprint in the country. India also didn’t agree to a free trade deal with the US after the RCEP fiasco since it considered America’s demanded terms to be lopsided (though a deal might nevertheless soon be signed), but after “phase one”, Washington has no reason to “compromise” all that much since it already reached an important deal with Beijing. At the same time, the expansion of Chinese economic influence into South Asia continues apace with CMEC.

India also has strategic economic interests in Myanmar as well, namely in the country functioning as a transit state for New Delhi’s overland trade with ASEAN through the Trilateral Highway that will connect it with Thailand. CMEC and the Trilateral Highway are perpendicular to one another and both intersect in the centrally positioned city of Mandalay, so these connectivity initiatives can either complement one another or compete depending on whatever New Delhi decides. On the one hand, India might use Myanmar as a backdoor to China via RCEP, but on the other, China doing the same to India via the latter’s free trade agreement with ASEAN might defeat the entire purpose of New Delhi declining to join RCEP in the first place. In other words, Mynamar’s “economic multi-alignment’ between China and India makes both scenarios possible.

This naturally leads to the conclusion that India’s trade ties with Myanmar and ASEAN more broadly after their incorporation into the Chinese-led RCEP is the main issue which will have to be settled by New Delhi sooner than later. India has made spent a lot of time promoting its so-called “Act East” policy of ASEAN engagement, but it can’t continue with it at the same scale as before because of RCEP and CMEC unless it either modifies its relations with the neighboring bloc or accepts that it and especially Myanmar will function as the bridge more closely connecting the Indian and Chinese economies. Therein lies the dilemma, however, since India wants to keep China at arm’s length out of fear that its “Make in India” program of domestic industrial development will be hamstrung by the predicted large-scale influx of cheap Chinese goods through RCEP and Myanmar.

There were serious protests in India in early November before it officially declined to join RCEP precisely over these fears, and considering the current political unrest that’s spread throughout the country in a more wider way than those previous purely economic protests, the ruling BJP might not want to risk further inciting the populace by being seen as supposedly “selling out” to China. Even so, the only way to avoid the eventuality of closer Sino-Indo trade ties via Myanmar is to publicly call for the reformatting of Indian-ASEAN relations, which would risk ruining the goodwill that it’s fostered with the bloc over the past decade and make it seem like the country is economically isolating itself. New Delhi’s development vision for its restive Northeastern States (“Indian Balkans“) also hinges on ASEAN connectivity, so a chain reaction of regional uncertainty might ensue.

As a result of these interconnected strategic calculations, it’s clear to see that CMEC will either ease or exacerbate the Sino-Indo economic rivalry. The consequences of New Delhi’s decision to follow the former scenario would be the country’s further integration into the Chinese-led economic order that’s emerging all throughout Asia whereas its choice to pursue the latter scenario would contribute to its growing isolation and potentially also spark further unrest in the “Indian Balkans” if the government fails to do good on its previous pledge of bringing development to this long-neglected region. Given the observable tendency of the Indian leadership to tacitly “contain” China in cooperation with the US, the odds are that it’ll opt for the second scenario unless something unexpectedly changes, which would only work out to America’s strategic benefit.

Posted in China, MyanmarComments Off on Impacts of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC). Ease or Exacerbate China-India Rivalry?

The Trump Coup to Come

By Paul Street

Global Research,

America’s political authoritarianism comes in different, yet combined, mutually reinforcing forms. We have the neofascist authoritarianism of the white nationalist Republican Party, its Great Dog-Wagging God in the White House and his cultish, white-Amerikaner base.

Donald Trump may well not leave the White House without a dangerous fight if he is bested in the Electoral College in November. In his book titled “A Warning,” the senior Trump administration official known only as “Anonymous” cites a “worry for our republic … if Trump is removed from office—by impeachment or a narrow defeat in the ballot box … Trump will not exit quietly—or easily.” The author continues: “It is why at many turns he suggests ‘coups’ are afoot and a ‘civil war’ is in the offing. He is already seeding the narrative for his followers – a narrative that could end tragically.”

Indeed. An angry old white male Trumpist outside one of the president’s recurrent hate rallies on Dec. 10 told a New York Times reporter that he’d respond to his hero’s removal with “my .357 Magnum.” One week later, another Caucasian in Arizona pointed to a pistol he was wearing and told the Times that he’d been “stockpiling weapons, in case Mr. Trump’s re-election is not successful” and said that Trump’s defeat would mean “a civil war.”

The Trumpenvolk can probably keep their weapons holstered. Removal through impeachment is unlikely, given the fact that the Senate is held down by a Republican majority whose leaders are mocking constitutional checks and balances by working hand in glove with the president to craft a Senate trial certain to exonerate the truth-trashing Trump for his Ukrainegate transgression. So what if he set the Founding Fathers’ wigs on fire and violated federal law (the Impoundment Control Act) by leveraging congressionally approved military funding to a U.S. ally in order to obtain dirt to use against a potential political rival? The game is rigged in the absurdly apportioned Senate, where superwhite and Republican Wyoming, home to 578,720 people, claims the same number of senators (two) as ethnically and racially diverse and Democratic California, home to 39 million.

Trump may win the 2020 election. If that happens, it would be due in no small part to another key form of American political authoritarianism—the centrist, corporate-financial and imperial neoliberalism fueling the Democratic Party and most of the corporate media. The “inauthentic opposition” Party of Fake Resistance’s (PFR’s) leading funders, operatives and media would rather lose to the evermore fascist, right-wing GOP than to the leftish Bernie Sanders wing of their own party. So what if only Sanders can mobilize the voters required to defeat Trump, the wannabe president for life?

Meanwhile, the media more closely aligned with Democrats does everything it can to ignore and demean the Sanders candidacy, failing to cover his rallies and dismissing his platform and “electability.” The Democratic establishment and loyal media outlets refuse to respectfully transmit and take seriously his strong critique of American class inequality and plutocracy. Nor does it highlight his urgent calls for action to confront capitalogenic climate change before the planet is cooked beyond repair. The elite Democrats and their many media allies also smear Sanders’ popular call for single-payer health insurance, declaring it “too radical,” “too expensive” and—to use the contemptuous language of Amy Klobuchar—a “pipe dream” hopelessly untethered from the real world here on earth.

In the distorting hall of mirrors that is the corporate-managed, Democratic, center-left media and politics culture, single-payer isn’t a great social-democratic victory that would embed health care as a human right while dramatically reducing health care costs, improving ordinary Americans’ health and instilling new democratic space in the United States. No, “Medicare for All” is absurdly portrayed by mainstream Democratic politics and media as an overly expensive assault on the population’s existing health insurance plans. Never mind the ridiculously inflated cost and woefully poor performance of the U.S. health care system under the rule of private, for-profit corporations, with their giant and parasitic administrative and marketing costs.

The neoliberal, centrist, media-political order harps on Sanders’ age, even as it promotes right-leaning, 77-year-old bumbler Joe “Corn Pop” Biden.

The supposedly liberal media recently has engaged in a vicious effort to smear Sanders as a sexist by spreading the story that he told Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren that her gender prevents her from winning the 2020 election. The claim came from Warren herself, via CNN, in a cold-blooded move to revive her flagging campaign by playing the sexism card.

The hit job was absurd on its face. Sanders deferred to Warren in 2015 and 2016, agreeing to run for president only after Warren declined to pursue the Democratic nomination. Sanders has long advocated for women’s rights and backed female candidates. He embraces the progressive Latina Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) as a prized ally and campaign surrogate. AOC and two other progressive and feminist congresswomen of color, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, are campaigning for Sanders.

“Liberal” CNN likely promoted Warren’s attack on Sanders with three purposes in mind: to drive viewer interest in the last televised and CNN-sponsored Democratic presidential debate before the Iowa caucus; to diminish Sanders’ appeal to female voters; and to widen divisions between and among progressive Democrats.

Just before the debate in Des Moines last week, CNN ran a story absurdly depicting Sanders as a misogynist. Then, during the debate, CNN moderator Abby Phillip threw this loaded question at him: “Sen. Sanders, CNN reported yesterday, and Sen. Warren confirmed in a statement [as if the episode wasn’t initiated by the Warren campaign] that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?”

“Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it,” Sanders said. “Anybody who knows me knows that it’s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman cannot be president of the United States. Go to YouTube. … There’s a video of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become president of the United States.”

Phillip then repeated the question. When Sanders denied that he’d ever said that a woman could not win the election, she turned to Warren. “Sen. Warren,” Phillip said, “what did you think when Sen. Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?”

“I disagreed,” Warren said.

Hello? Sanders had just denied the charge, but Phillip simply repeated Warren’s accusation as if it was a fully acknowledged and irrefutable fact. Phillip didn’t bother to ask Warren if Sanders was telling the truth. How absurdly authoritarian was that?

In the post-game discussion of the debate, a CNN pundit mocked Sanders for denying “a reported CNN story.” The talking head was really saying that CNN can construct candidate realities and then evaluate candidates in accord with whether they accept that reality as undisputed fact. More authoritarian absurdity.

In the Chicago Tribune the next day, the main takeaway from the debate was that Sanders and Warren tangled over gender. Sanders’ statements on and against extreme economic inequality, plutocracy, parasitic insurance and drug companies, and climate-/capital-led ecocide were sent down George Orwell’s memory hole in this coverage.

“Ordinary” Iowa voters could be heard on CNN, MSNBC and NPR talking about Sanders’ supposed gender and women problems. Establishment mission accomplished: Divide and rule in service to corporate power; provide distractions from the biggest issues of our (or any) time. As the leftist activist Mona Shaw of Iowa wrote me, “Medicare for All has been getting too much traction. The plutocrats have to change the subject.” Yes, and divide progressives.

One great unspoken irony is that the only leading Democratic presidential candidate with a troubling track record on gender is Joe “Phonographs for the Poor” Biden. If Warren and CNN wanted to play the divide-and-rule sexism card against any Democratic contender, the corporate imperialist Biden would have been the proper target, not Sanders. But, of course, Warren is not fighting to steal voters from Biden but rather from her “fellow progressive” Sanders—and CNN is in league with corporate centrists, not leftist radicals like Sanders.

Probably nobody enjoyed the episode more than the hapless Biden, who came off in the debate like an elderly retiree ready for a nap.

We can expect more vicious centrist smearing of Sanders by the Democratic establishment and its media in the next three weeks. Its elite operatives, backers and allies are horrified that Sanders might break through Biden’s black voter “firewall” in South Carolina if the Vermont senator can win Iowa and New Hampshire—a “nightmare scenario for Joe Biden and the rest of the Democratic presidential field.”

So what if Sanders is the Democrats’ best chance to energize disaffected and disadvantaged sectors of the electorate that need to be rallied to defeat Trump? The Democratic Party isn’t primarily about winning elections, much less social justice, democracy and environmental sanity. It’s mainly about serving corporate sponsors who don’t want even a mildly progressive populist like Sanders in the White House. Even Elizabeth “capitalist in my bones” Warren (who stood up and clapped when Trump ordered Congress to pledge that the U.S. would “never be a socialist country” during his last State of the Union address) is absurdly considered too left for many, if not most, Wall Street Democrats.

No less of a corporate-neoliberal Democratic icon than Barack Obama has made it clear that the Democrats’ most electable candidate must be stopped. As Politico’s Ryan Lizza reported in November, the officially neutral Obama indicated that he would speak up to block Sanders. “Back when Sanders seemed like more of a threat than he does now,” Lizza wrote, “Obama said privately that if Bernie were running away with the nomination, Obama would speak up to stop him.” A “close Obama friend” told Lizza that “Bernie’s not a Democrat.”

If Sanders somehow gets past all the slime and other centrist obstacles to secure the nomination, make no mistake: Many big, traditionally Democratic funders and operatives could sit out the general election and possibly even actively back Trump.

Meanwhile, the Democratic establishment—which opened the stable door to the tangerine hate “genius” and gets ironically whitewashed by his relentless awfulness—certainly loves it that the left-most presidential candidates, Sanders and Warren (polling No. 1 and 2 in Iowa, respectively) will be tied down in the futile, GOP-negated Senate impeachment process while the top two Wall Street darlings, right-wing Democrats Biden and Pete Buttigieg, are free to run around Iowa and New Hampshire in the final weeks leading up to the nation’s first presidential caucus (Iowa) and primary (New Hampshire).

If I were Sanders, I’d walk out of the impeachment trial and resume campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire if Republicans block witnesses and new evidence. If it means the loss of his Senate position, so be it. The notion of Sanders being put under impeachment house arrest and kept off the campaign trail to sit mute while the white nationalist party makes a mockery of the Constitution and the rule of law is truly nauseating.

I can hardly blame tens of millions of Americans for going into voting booths for their fleeting moment to mark ballots and try to evict the wannabe fascist strongman Trump. Still, bearing in mind the real possibility that Trump will refuse to honor an election that doesn’t go his way, my advice is that those tens of millions take to the streets to overthrow the Trump-Pence regime and then confront the deeper system of class rule that has spawned the white-nationalist Republican Party, the center-right PFR (the Democrats) and the sick synergistic game these “two wings of the same bird of prey” (Upton Sinclair, 1904) play on behalf of the nation’s unelected and overlapping dictatorships of money, empire, white supremacy, patriarchy and environmental ruin.

Posted in USAComments Off on The Trump Coup to Come

Deadly Distractions: Laying the Groundwork for the Next Civil War. “Deep State’s Plot to Take Over America”

By John W. Whitehead

Global Research,

Pity the nation oh pity the people
who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away…”
—Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet

And so it continues.

This impeachment fiasco is merely the latest in a never-ending series of distractions, distortions, and political theater aimed at diverting the public’s attention from the sinister advances of the American Police State.

Don’t allow yourselves to be distracted, diverted or mesmerized by the cheap theater tricks.

This impeachment spectacle is Shakespearean in its scope: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Nothing is the key word here.

Despite the wall-to-wall media coverage, nothing will change.

Mark my words: the government will remain as corrupt and self-serving as ever, dominated by two political factions that pretend to be at odds with each other all the while moving in lockstep to maintain the status quo.

So President Trump’s legal team can grandstand all they want about the impeachment trial being “an affront to the Constitution” and “a dangerous perversion of the Constitution,” but that’s just smoke and mirrors.

You know what is really “an affront to the Constitution”? The U.S. government.

We’ve been losing our freedoms so incrementally for so long—sold to us in the name of national security and global peace, maintained by way of martial law disguised as law and order, and enforced by a standing army of militarized police and a political elite determined to maintain their powers at all costs—that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it all started going downhill, but we’re certainly on that downward trajectory now, and things are moving fast.

The republic has fallen.

The Deep State’s plot to take over America has succeeded.

The American system of representative government has been overthrown by a profit-driven, militaristic, corporate oligarchy bent on total control and global domination through the imposition of martial law here at home and by fomenting wars abroad.

Even now, we are being pushed and prodded towards a civil war, not because the American people are so divided but because that’s how corrupt governments control a populace (i.e., divide and conquer).

These are dangerous times.

These are indeed dangerous times but not because of violent crime, which remains at an all-time low, or because of terrorism, which is statistically rare, or because the borders are being invaded by foreign armies, which data reports from the Department of Homeland Security refute.

No, the real danger that we face comes from none other than the U.S. government and the powers it has granted to its standing armies to rob, steal, cheat, harass, detain, brutalize, terrorize, torture and kill American citizens with immunity.

The danger “we the people” face comes from masked invaders on the government payroll who crash through our doors in the dark of night, shoot our dogs, and terrorize our families.

This danger comes from militarized henchmen on the government payroll who demand absolute obedience, instill abject fear, and shoot first and ask questions later.

This danger comes from greedy, power-hungry bureaucrats on the government payroll who have little to no understanding of their constitutional limits.

This danger comes from greedy politicians and corporations for whom profit trumps principle.

You want to know about the state of our union? It’s downright scary.

Consider, if you will, all of the dastardly, devious, diabolical, dangerous, debilitating, deceitful, dehumanizing, demonic, depraved, dishonorable, disillusioning, discriminatory, dictatorial schemes inflicted on “we the people” by a bureaucratic, totalitarian regime that has long since ceased to be “a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Americans have no protection against police abuse. It is no longer unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later, such as the 16-year-old teenager who skipped school only to be shot by police after they mistook him for a fleeing burglar. Then there was the unarmed black man in Texas “who was pursued and shot in the back of the neck by Austin Police… after failing to properly identify himself and leaving the scene of an unrelated incident.” And who could forget the 19-year-old Seattle woman who was accidentally shot in the leg by police after she refused to show her hands? What is increasingly common, however, is the news that the officers involved in these incidents get off with little more than a slap on the hands.

Americans are little more than pocketbooks to fund the police state. If there is any absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off. This is true, whether you’re talking about taxpayers being forced to fund high-priced weaponry that will be used against us, endless wars that do little for our safety or our freedoms, or bloated government agencies such as the National Security Agency with its secret budgets, covert agendas and clandestine activities. Rubbing salt in the wound, even monetary awards in lawsuits against government officials who are found guilty of wrongdoing are paid by the taxpayer.

Americans are no longer innocent until proven guilty. We once operated under the assumption that you were innocent until proven guilty. Due in large part to rapid advances in technology and a heightened surveillance culture, the burden of proof has been shifted so that the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty has been usurped by a new norm in which all citizens are suspects. This is exemplified by police practices of stopping and frisking people who are merely walking down the street and where there is no evidence of wrongdoing. Likewise, by subjecting Americans to full-body scans and license-plate readers without their knowledge or compliance and then storing the scans for later use, the government—in cahoots with the corporate state—has erected the ultimate suspect society. In such an environment, we are all potentially guilty of some wrongdoing or other.

Americans no longer have a right to self-defense. In the wake of various shootings in recent years, “gun control” has become a resounding theme. Those advocating gun reform see the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms as applying only to government officials. As a result, even Americans who legally own firearms are being treated with suspicion and, in some cases, undue violence. In one case, a Texas man had his home subjected to a no-knock raid and was shot in his bed after police, attempting to deliver a routine search warrant, learned that he was in legal possession of a firearm. In another incident, a Florida man who was licensed to carry a concealed firearm found himself detained for two hours during a routine traffic stop in Maryland while the arresting officer searched his vehicle in vain for the man’s gun, which he had left at home. Incidentally, the Trump Administration has done more to crack down on Second Amendment rightsthan anything the Obama Administration ever managed.

Americans no longer have a right to private property. If government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family, your property is no longer private and secure—it belongs to the government. Likewise, if government officials can fine and arrest you for growing vegetables in your front yard, praying with friends in your living room, installing solar panels on your roof, and raising chickens in your backyard, you’re no longer the owner of your property.

Americans no longer have a say about what their children are exposed to in school. Incredibly, the government continues to insist that parents essentially forfeit their rights when they send their children to a public school. This growing tension over whether young people, especially those in the public schools, are essentially wards of the state, to do with as government officials deem appropriate, in defiance of the children’s constitutional rights and those of their parents, is reflected in the debate over sex education programs that expose young people to all manner of sexual practices and terminology, zero tolerance policies that strip students of any due process rights, let alone parental involvement in school discipline, and Common Core programs that teach students to be test-takers rather than critical thinkers.

Americans are powerless in the face of militarized police. In early America, citizens were considered equals with law enforcement officials. Authorities were rarely permitted to enter one’s home without permission or in a deceitful manner. And it was not uncommon for police officers to be held personally liable for trespass when they wrongfully invaded a citizen’s home. Unlike today, early Americans could resist arrest when a police officer tried to restrain them without proper justification or a warrant—which the police had to allow citizens to read before arresting them. (Daring to dispute a warrant with a police official today who is armed with high-tech military weapons and tasers would be nothing short of suicidal.) As police forces across the country continue to be transformed into outposts of the military, with police agencies acquiring military-grade hardware in droves, Americans are finding their once-peaceful communities transformed into military outposts, complete with tanks, weaponry, and other equipment designed for the battlefield.

Americans no longer have a right to bodily integrity. Court rulings undermining the Fourth Amendment and justifying invasive strip searches have left us powerless against police empowered to forcefully draw our blood, strip search us, and probe us intimately. Accounts are on the rise of individuals—men and women—being subjected to what is essentially government-sanctioned rape by police in the course of “routine” traffic stops. Remember the New Mexico man who was subjected to a 12-hour ordeal of anal probes, X-rays, enemas, and finally a colonoscopy—all because he allegedly rolled through a stop sign?

Americans no longer have a right to the expectation of privacy. Despite the staggering number of revelations about government spying on Americans’ phone calls, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, Google searches, emails, bookstore and grocery purchases, bank statements, commuter toll records, etc., Congress, the president and the courts have done little to nothing to counteract these abuses. Instead, they seem determined to accustom us to life in this electronic concentration camp.

Americans can no longer rely on the courts to mete out justice. The U.S. Supreme Court was intended to be an institution established to intervene and protect the people against the government and its agents when they overstep their bounds. Yet through their deference to police power, preference for security over freedom, and evisceration of our most basic rights for the sake of order and expediency, the justices of the Supreme Court have become the architects of the American police state in which we now live, while the lower courts have appointed themselves courts of order, concerned primarily with advancing the government’s agenda, no matter how unjust or illegal.

Americans no longer have a representative government. We have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age, let’s call it the age of authoritarianism. In fact, a study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. government does not represent the majority of American citizens. Instead, the study found that the government is ruled by the rich and powerful, or the so-called “economic elite.” Moreover, the researchers concluded that policies enacted by this governmental elite nearly always favor special interests and lobbying groups. It is not overstating matters to say that Congress, which has done its best to keep their unhappy constituents at a distance, may well be the most self-serving, semi-corrupt institution in America.

In other words, we are being ruled by an oligarchy disguised as a democracy, and arguably on our way towards fascism: a form of government where private corporate interests rule, money calls the shots, and the people are seen as mere subjects to be controlled. Rest assured that when and if fascism finally takes hold in America, the basic forms of government will remain: Fascism will appear to be friendly. The legislators will be in session. There will be elections, and the news media will continue to cover the entertainment and political trivia. Consent of the governed, however, will no longer apply. Actual control will have finally passed to the oligarchic elite controlling the government behind the scenes. Sound familiar? Clearly, we are now ruled by an oligarchic elite of governmental and corporate interests. We have moved into “corporatism” (favored by Benito Mussolini), which is a halfway point on the road to full-blown fascism. Corporatism is where the few moneyed interests—not elected by the citizenry—rule over the many.

History may show that from this point forward, we will have left behind any semblance of constitutional government and entered into a totalitarian state where all citizens are suspects and security trumps freedom. Even with its constantly shifting terrain, this topsy-turvy travesty of law and government has become America’s new normal. From Clinton to Bush, then Obama and now Trump, it’s as if we’ve been caught in a time loop, forced to re-live the same thing over and over again: the same assaults on our freedoms, the same disregard for the rule of law, the same subservience to the Deep State, and the same corrupt, self-serving government that exists only to amass power, enrich its shareholders and ensure its continued domination.

Elections will not save us.

I haven’t even touched on the corporate state, the military industrial complex, SWAT team raids, invasive surveillance technology, zero tolerance policies in the schools, overcriminalization, or privatized prisons, to name just a few, but what I have touched on should be enough to show that the landscape of our freedoms has already changed dramatically from what it once was and will no doubt continue to deteriorate unless Americans can find a way to wrest back control of their government and reclaim their freedoms.

There can be no denying that the world is indeed a dangerous place, but what the president and his cohorts fail to acknowledge is that it’s the government that poses the gravest threat to our freedoms and way of life, and no amount of politicking, parsing or pandering will change that.

It is easy to be diverted, distracted and amused by the antics of politicians, the pomp and circumstance of awards shows, athletic events, and entertainment news, and the feel-good, wrapped-in-the-flag evangelism that passes for religion today.

What is far more difficult to face up to is the reality of life in America, where unemployment, poverty, inequality, injustice and violence by government agents are increasingly norms, and where “we the people” are at a distinct disadvantage in the face of the government elite’s power grabs, greed and firepower.

The Constitution doesn’t stand a chance against a federalized, globalized standing army protected by legislative, judicial and executive branches that are all on the same side, no matter what political views they subscribe to: suffice it to say, they are not on our side or the side of freedom.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the powers-that-be want us to remain distracted, divided, alienated from each other based on our politics, our bank accounts, our religion, our race and our value systems. Yet as George Orwell observed, “The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.”

You either believe in freedom or you don’t. It’s that simple.

Everything else is just a deadly distraction. As Orwell observed in 1984:

“All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working hours or shorter rations. And even when they became discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontent led nowhere, because, being without general ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances. The larger evils invariably escaped their notice.”

Posted in USAComments Off on Deadly Distractions: Laying the Groundwork for the Next Civil War. “Deep State’s Plot to Take Over America”

New Debt Crisis in the South

By Milan Rivié

Global Research,

Public external debt in countries of the South [1] is a source of concern, notably because of its dramatic increase within the last two decades and because of parallels with the pre-crisis debt situation of Third World countries in the 1980s. Beyond the similarities, the widespread use of bond issues poses a new challenge. With nearly ten over-indebted countries and seventeen in suspension of payments, the debt crisis has already begun. [2]

Recent evolution of the debt in countries of the South

In July 2019, according to the IMF, among low-income countries, 9 are over-indebted and 24 nearly are, which amounts to 39%. [3] As evidence of the inability (and unwillingness) of international financial institutions (IFIs) to respond effectively and sustainably to over-indebtedness, half of these 31 countries had strictly implemented the adjustment policies of the HIPC initiative [4] launched by the G7 in 1996. [5] And according to a German NGO, 122 countries are in fact in a critical debt situation. [6]

Since 2010, the share of public external debt repayments by countries of the South in their total revenues has increased by 85%, peaking at an average level of 12.2% of state public revenues, the highest level since 2004. [7] The majority of countries affected by this increase in debt service had contracted loans and/or obligations with the IMF. [8]

“Debt levels have reached new highs in advanced, emerging, and low-income countries […]global debt—both public and private — has reached an all-time high of $182 trillion — almost 60 percent higher than in 2007 […] Emerging and developing economies are already feeling the pinch as they adjust to monetary normalization in the advanced world.” – Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, IMF – October 1, 2018 [9]

Between 2000 and 2017, the public external debt in countries of the South more than doubled, from US$ 1,304 billion to US$ 2,936 billion (see Table 1). Several factors may explain this increase. Taking advantage of high commodity price levels until 2013, countries of the South generated significant revenues from their export products and the economic growth rates were high for a majority of them.

Table 1: Evolution of the public external debt in countries of the South by category of creditors (in millions of US dollars and as a percentage) [10]

At the same time, the 2007-2008 financial crisis had an impact on the economies of Western countries. In search of more profitable financing, banks and private investors invested their substantial cash in the sovereign debt of countries of the South. [11] Fuelled by the low level of key interest rates in the United States and Europe, this cycle is currently coming to an end and has caught countries of the South in a “debt trap”.

The end of the commodity supercycle

At the beginning of the 1980s, the fall in commodity prices was one of the elements that triggered the Third World debt crisis. History is repeating itself today for these vulnerable countries that are still dependent on their export revenues. [12] Mainly intended to provide the foreign currencies needed to repay external debt, raw materials have been exported since 2013 at prices well below those previously achieved (see figure 1). This reversal is causing significant financial difficulties for a number of countries dependent on oil, agricultural or mining revenues. [13] This factor is aggravated by the recent depreciation of Southern currencies against the US dollar. [14]

Figure 1: Monthly commodity prices indices, 1998-2018 (base year 2015 = 100) [15]

The boom in bond issuances

The boom in the use of bond issuances is the main originality and indeed concern of this new debt crisis. [16] As early as the mid-2000s, attracted by low interest rates (see figure 2) and the absence of conditionalities, many countries turned to private creditors. But unlike in the 1960s and 1980s, when governments borrowed directly from banks, they used bond issuances in the financial markets. In Western contexts of moderate or even negative growth, private creditors in search of profits, encouraged by the low level of interest rates, have taken advantage of this situation to reinvest their liquidity in the sovereign debt of countries of the South and thus improve their return rates. [17] At the same time, the IMF has encouraged low- and middle-income countries to use this type of instrument [18] to finance their infrastructure needs and repay their arrears. [19] Private creditors now hold more than 60% (see Table 1) of the public external debt of the countries of the South.

Rising interest rates

As the article was written in May 2019, this paragraph on interest rates should be qualified since in the summer of 2019, the FED announced a (temporary) reduction in its interest rates, and the ECB announced an extension of the Quantitative easing mechanism.

In response to the 2007-2008 financial crisis, central banks (US Federal Reserve – FED, European Central Bank – ECB, etc.) lowered their key interest rates. The measure was aimed at facilitating the financing of States and economic actors by promoting investment at a lower cost. However, central banks soon put an end to this policy of key rates close to zero or even zero (see figure 2). Mainly denominated in US dollars, [20] the external debt service of countries of the South consequently deteriorated while causing a decline in investment in these countries through a decline in investment because of private capital returning to more industrialized countries. [21] In 2017, more than 60% of the debt of the countries of the South consisted of variable-rate loans [22] and maturities of sovereign bonds will begin in 2021 (see figures 3 and 4). [23]

Figure 2: Changes in the key rates of the European Central Bank and the United States Federal Reserve since 2005 (in percentage terms) [24]

Blue line: ECB, Orange line: US Federal Reserve

Figure 3: Selected International Bond Redemptions in SSA (Billions of U.S dollars) [25]

Figure 4: Upcoming International Bond Redemptions of Frontier Market Sovereign Issuers (Billions of U.S dollars) [26]

The IMF’s comeback

As a sign of the times, the IMF has made a strong comeback in recent years. After being weakened in the early 2000s, [27] 35 countries are currently implementing the policies required by the IMF in return for financial assistance. [28] The populations of Argentina, [29] Egypt, [30]Greece, [31] Morocco, [32] Tunisia, [33] Ukraine [34] and Central African countries [35] are among the latest victims of this undemocratic neoliberal institution in the service of Western interests. [36] After the failure of the structural adjustment plans of the 1980s, the IMF still insists on demanding the implementation of anti-social policies, [37] leading to an increase in inequalities [38] and causing major popular revolts in its wake. [39]

Cancelling illegitimate debts

Donald Trump’s recent announcement to stop the rise in FED interest rates in response to the deteriorating economic situation in the United States [40] may delay the spread of the debt crisis, but vigilance is required. Faced with the debt trap, the climate emergency, the challenges of development and social justice, it is necessary to work towards the application of collective and solidarity-based alternatives. The establishment of a citizen audit [41] to identify and abolish odious and illegitimate debts resulting from creditor greed and corruption of local elites [42] is a first example, as is the effective creation of a Bank of the South to help countries escape the domination mechanisms inherent in the IFIs, the Paris Club and other major new creditors such as China.

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Translated by Milan Rivié and Christine Pagnoulle

Notes

[1] By ‘countries of the South’, we mean all low- and middle-income countries defined by the World Bank. Available at: https://data.worldbank.org/income-level/low-and-middle-income?view=chart

[2] UNCTAD, “Debt vulnerabilities a new debt trap”, October 2018. Available at: https://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=2259

[3] List of the nine over-indebted countries on November 30, 2019: Congo (Republic of), Gambia, Grenada, Mozambique, São Tomé and Principe, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe. List of 24 countries in high risk of debt distress: Afghanistan, Burundi, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Dominica, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Kiribati, Lao P.D.R., Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia, Samoa, Sierra Leone, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tajikistan, Tonga, Tuvalu and Zambia. See IMF, “List of LIC DSAs for PRGT-Eligible Countries. As of November 30, 2019”. Available at: https://www.imf.org/external/Pubs/ft/dsa/DSAlist.pdf

[4] Ibid. Countries eligible to the HIPC initiative, currently in a situation of over-indebtedness: Gambia, Mozambique, São Tomé and Principe, South Sudan, Sudan ; currently in high risk of debt distress: Afghanistan, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Zambia.

[5] For a critical overview of the HIPC initiative, see Damien Millet, « Third World Debt », March 6, 2006, CADTM, Act 5 (in French). Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/La-dette-du-Tiers-Monde

[6] Jürgen Kaiser, “Global sovereign debt monitor”, Erlassjahr & Misereor, 2019, p.4. Available at: https://erlassjahr.de/en/news/global-sovereign-debt-monitor-2019/

[7] Jubilee Debt Campaign, “Crisis deepens as global South debt payments increase by 85%”, April 3, 2019. Available at: https://jubileedebt.org.uk/press-release/crisis-deepens-as-global-south-debt-payments-increase-by-85

[8] Ibid.

[9] Christine Lagarde, ‘Steer, Don’t Drift’: Managing Rising Risks to Keep the Global Economy on Course, speech at the seat of the IMF, October 1st, 2018. Available at: https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2018/09/27/sp100118-steer-dont-drift

[10] According to World Bank datas available in the Global Development Finance reports, 2000 and 2009 editions and the World Bank’s International Debt Statistics Online.

[11] Andrea F.Presbiteroa, Dhaneshwar Ghurab, Olumuyiwa S.Adedejib et Lamin Njie, “Sovereign bonds in developing countries: Drivers of issuance and spreads”, Review of Development Finance 6, no. 1, August 3, 2016, 1-15. Available at:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1879933716300483

[12] “State of commodity dependence 2019”, UNCTAD. Available at:
https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/ditccom2019d1_en.pdf

[13] For instance, in 2017, fuels accounted for 50 to 97% of exports: Congo 50%, Gabon 70%, Chad 78% and Angola 97%; agricultural products accounted for 80% of Gambia’s exports and 57% of Grenada’s exports; mining products for 75% of Zambia’s exports and 92% of Botswana’s. Ibid. Note also the effects of speculation on commodities.

[14] Bodo Ellmers, “The evolving nature of developing country debt and solutions for change”, Eurodad, July 2016, p.6. Available at: https://eurodad.org/files/pdf/1546625-the-evolving-nature-of-developing-country-debt-and-solutions-for-change-1474374793.pdf and Claude Quémar, « Nouvelle donne pour la dette en Afrique : alerte au Mozambique », April 2, 2016, CADTM. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/Nouvelle-donne-pour-la-dette-en (in French).

[15] “State of commodity dependence 2019”, UNCTAD. Available at:
https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/ditccom2019d1_en.pdf, p.8.

[16] Bodo Ellmers, “The evolving nature of developing country debt and solutions for change”, Eurodad, July 2016, p.9. Available at: https://eurodad.org/files/pdf/1546625-the-evolving-nature-of-developing-country-debt-and-solutions-for-change-1474374793.pdf

[17] Ibid., p.8

[18] Andrea F.Presbiteroa, Dhaneshwar Ghurab, Olumuyiwa S.Adedejib and Lamin Njie, “Sovereign bonds in developing countries: Drivers of issuance and spreads”, Review of Development Finance 6, no. 1, August 3, 2016, 1-15. Available at:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1879933716300483

[19] Anastasia Guscina, Guilherme Pedras and Gabriel Presciuttini, “First-Time International Bond Issuance—New Opportunities and Emerging Risks”, IMF Working Paper, WP/14/127, July 2014, p.8. Available at: https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2014/wp14127.pdf

[20http://datatopics.worldbank.org/debt/ids/region/LMY

[21] Bodo Ellmers, “The evolving nature of developing country debt and solutions for change”, Eurodad, July 2016, p. 8. Available at: https://eurodad.org/files/pdf/1546625-the-evolving-nature-of-developing-country-debt-and-solutions-for-change-1474374793.pdf

[22] United Nations, Financing for Sustainable Development Report, 2019, p.119. Available at: https://developmentfinance.un.org/sites/developmentfinance.un.org/files/FSDR2019.pdf

[23] For a State, the repayment of a loan is carried out in two main stages. During the entire repayment period defined with its creditor, the State reimburses only the interest on the amount borrowed. At the end of this period, he will pay the capital in a single instalment.

[24] See https://global-rates.com/, accessed on 23 May 2019.

[25] Bloomberg in “Africa’s Pulse, An analysis of issues shaping Africa’s economic future”, World Bank, vol. 18, October 2018, p.21. Available at:
http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/881211538485130572/pdf/130414-PUBLIC-WB-AfricasPulse-Fall2018-vol18-Web.pdf

[26] IMF, “Global development finance report”, 2018, chapter 1, p.17. Available at: https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/GFSR/Issues/2018/09/25/Global-Financial-Stability-Report-October-2018

[27] Éric Toussaint, Damien Millet and Jérôme Duval, « Un FMI ‘redevenu utile’, mais pour qui ? », CADTM, 5 June 2011. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/Un-FMI-redevenu-utile-mais-pour

[28] The 35 countries: Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Barbados, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, Congo (Republic of), Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Gabon, Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Jordan, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, São Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Togo, Tunisia and Ukraine. IMF Lending Arrangements as of November 30, 2019 Available at: https://www.imf.org/external/np/fin/tad/extarr11.aspx?memberKey1=ZZZZ&date1key=2020-02-28

[29] Jérôme Duval, “Forced marriage between Argentina and the IMF turns into a fiasco”, CADTM, October 3, 2018. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/Forced-marriage-between-Argentina-and-the-IMF-turns-into-a-fiasco

[30] Collective, “Open letter to the Egyptian President on the pending agreement with the IMF”, August 20, 2016. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/Open-letter-to-the-Egyptian

[31] Marie-Laure Coulmin Koutsaftis, « La Grèce sous tutelle jusqu’au remboursement des prêts », CADTM, May 11, 2018. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/La-Grece-sous-tutelle-jusqu-au-remboursement-des-prets

[32] Omar Aziki, « Le FMI continue à imposer ses réformes catastrophiques au Maroc », CADTM, February 12, 2017. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/Le-FMI-continue-a-imposer-ses

[33] Fathi Chamkhi, « Tunisie : Aux origines de l’embrasement social de janvier 2018 », CADTM, March 12, 2018. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/Tunisie-Aux-origines-de-l

[34] Jérôme Duval, “IMF Interference Plunges Ukraine into Recession”, CADTM, November 23, 2015. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/IMF-Interference-Plunges-Ukraine

[35] Jean Nanga, « Afrique centrale : Retour à l’ajustement structurel néolibéral et mobilisations populaires », CADTM, May 12, 2017. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/Afrique-centrale-Retour-a-l

[36] Éric Toussaint, “The IMF and the World Bank: It’s time to replace them”, CADTM, October 17, 2017. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/The-IMF-and-the-World-Bank-It-s

[37] Émilie Paumard, « Le FMI et la Banque mondiale ont-ils appris de leurs erreurs ? », CADTM, October 13, 2017. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/Le-FMI-et-la-Banque-mondiale-ont

[38] Mark Weisbrot, Rebecca Ray, Jake Johnston, Jose Antonio Cordero and Juan Antonio Montecin, “IMF ‐ Supported Macroeconomic Policies and the World Recession : A Look at Forty‐One Borrowing Countries”, Center for Economic and Policy Research, october 2009, p.4. Available at: http://cepr.net/documents/publications/imf-2009-10.pdf ; Jesse Griffiths and Konstantinos Todoulos, “Conditionally yours : An analysis of the policy conditions attached to IMF loans”, Eurodad, april 2014, p.4. Available at: https://eurodad.org/files/pdf/1546182-conditionally-yours-an-analysis-of-the-policy-conditions-attached-to-imf-loans.pdf, and Gino Brunswijck, “Unhealthy conditions : IMF loan conditionality and its impact on health financing”, Eurodad, November 28, 2018. Available at: https://eurodad.org/Entries/view/1546978/2018/11/20/Unhealthy-conditions-IMF-loan-conditionality-and-its-impact-on-health-financing

[39] Claude Quémar, « Le FMI met le feu en Haïti, en Guinée, en Égypte… », CADTM, August 8, 2018. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/Le-FMI-met-le-feu-en-Haiti-en-Guinee-en-Egypte-16476

[40] Éric Toussaint, « The mountain of corporate debt will be the seed of the next financial crisis », CADTM, May 3, 2019. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/The-mountain-of-corporate-debt-will-be-the-seed-of-the-next-financial-crisis

[41] Éric Toussaint and Damien Millet, « Citizen debt audits : how and why ? », CADTM, January 4, 2012. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/Citizen-debt-audits-how-and-why

[42] CADTM, « Droits devant ! Plaidoyer contre toutes les dettes illégitimes », CADTM, February 1, 2013. Available at: https://www.cadtm.org/Droits-devant

Posted in IndiaComments Off on New Debt Crisis in the South

Thailand: The Lingering Spectre of US Colour Revolutions

By Joseph Thomas

Global Research,

Thailand’s opposition is openly backed by powerful foreign interests, particularly those in Washington. As the opposition attempts to secure power and help serve as a vector for Western special interests, the spectre of a Western-sponsored “colour revolution” increasingly looms over Thailand’s future.

Thailand is a key Southeast Asian nation, with the second largest economy in the ASEAN regional bloc and a key regional partner for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). By disrupting Thailand’s political status quo, Washington hopes to introduce complications to China’s regional and global rise.

Taking to the Streets 

In early December Thai opposition party “Future Forward” took to the streets with several hundred protesters, obstructing pedestrian bridges and sidewalks in downtown Bangkok.

While Future Forward’s defacto leader, billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, claimed he clogged Bangkok’s downtown shopping district with followers to fight for “democracy” and “freedom,” it was abundantly clear  the mob he assembled was a direct reaction to recent court cases leveled against him and his party for repeated and blatant violations of Thai election laws.

This included Thanathorn’s holding of media shares while campaigning which is illegal under Thai law. It also includes a supposed “loan” Thanathorn made worth tens of millions of Thai baht to his own party, a loan the party itself has no means of ever paying back, meaning that it was in fact a donation and therefore absolutely illegal under Thai election laws.

Rather than face justice, Thanathorn has assembled a street mob as a means of hanging the threat of eventual violence over the head of Thailand’s courts in hopes of either reversing case decisions or reducing the penalties resulting from various court rulings.

Should nations like the US aid and abet Thanathorn’s street politics, the potential for widespread violence may allow Thanathorn and his political machine to exercise further leverage not only to circumvent justice, but to assume the power and influence his party failed to render from general elections earlier this year. Future Forward came in distant 3rd.

The Spectre of Malign Foreign Interference 

The most troubling aspect of Thanathorn’s recent foray into street politics is his open and deep ties to fellow billionaire and now fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra and his own use of violent street politics to divide Thai society and to pressure Thailand’s institutions into making concessions.US-backed Opposition Prime Suspects in Thai Bombings

Thaksin, like Thanathorn, is likewise backed by large foreign special interests, particularly in Washington. For years he has secured the largest and most powerful lobbying firms in Washington to help shape Western media narratives favourably around his and his foreign sponsors’ agenda of tipping Thailand back West and away from its growing ties with Beijing.

In 2009 Thaksin’s street mobs disrupted the annual ASEAN summit held in southern Thailand while rioting across Bangkok, carrying out arson and killing two shopkeepers while looting local businesses.

In 2010, Thaksin augmented his street mobs with hundreds of heavily armed terrorists. With the use of war weapons, nearly 100 would die with the violence ending in a day of citywide arson causing billions in damages.

While many have attempted to write Thaksin off as a fading power and introduce Thanathorn as “new blood,” the fact is that Thanathorn is little more than a nominee who represents Thaksin and his still dangerous political machine. Thanathorn’s Future Forward Party headquarters is next door to Thaksin’s Pheu Thai Party headquarters with both parties sharing resources, conducting joint press conferences and adopting a singular political agenda aimed at ousting the current government and assuming power.

Just as the US has done in other nations around the globe, it has selected and is backing political forces in Thailand it hopes can either one day assume power and serve as a vector for US interests, or at the very least render Thailand divided and weakened and “unavailable” to aid in and benefit from China’s regional and global rise.

Thanathorn has already visibly enjoyed the benefits of US support. The US has marshalled its own embassy and the embassies of Western US allies to come out in displays of support for Thanathorn when summoned to face criminal charges.

The US also openly funds a small army of supposed “nongovernmental organisations” (NGOs) that not only support Thanathorn and his Future Forward Party, but also have supplied employees to Future Forward as founding members.

Under the guise of advocating for “human rights” and “democracy,” US-funded NGOs use their resources and influence to shield Future Forward from justice by claiming criminal charges are politically-motivated or that Future Forward’s conduct is merely “freedom of expression.”

Forward into a Dark Future 

Thanathorn and his Future Forward Party claim they do not seek to replicate the violence of 2009 and 2010, despite openly serving Thaksin who was responsible for that violence. Thanathorn also claims he and his party do not seek to replicate the violence that has rocked Hong Kong recently, despite Thanathorn travelling to Hong Kong and openly supporting the US-funded and backed leaders of that violence.

It is clear that Thanathorn is merely attempting to hide what is otherwise an obvious agenda with an obvious and lingering conclusion; that of violence once against spilling into the streets as a means for Thanathorn and the interests he represents to pressure the current Thai political order and exact concessions from them.

It is a dark future Thailand is being led into and one that will have a further negative impact on China as it seeks to compensate for US sanctions and targeted meddling by building ties with nations like Thailand. China cannot build constructive ties with Thailand if Thailand itself is consumed by political conflict and/or violence. Instability in Thailand and in China will produce synergistic benefits for Washington and its foreign policy of meddling, dividing and weakening its opponents, particularly in Asia where the US desperately seeks to reassert itself as a hegemon.

Understanding, exposing and resisting US foreign policy by denying Washington and its proxies the cover of “pro-democracy” or “pro-human rights” narratives is the first step to not only disrupting attempts to destabilise Thailand politically, but also to deny Washington the use of this tactic anywhere else.

Posted in Far EastComments Off on Thailand: The Lingering Spectre of US Colour Revolutions

Palestinian ex-prisoners recall torture in Nazi Camp

Case of Samer Arbeed, left in critical condition after Israeli interrogation, brings back terrible memories for victims.

by Rania Zabaneh

Palestinian ex-prisoners recall torture in Israeli detention
Samer Arbeed, left, pictured here with his wife, Noura, and three children, was detained by undercover Israeli forces from Ramallah on September 25 [Photo courtesy of Arbeed family]

Ramallah, Occupied West Bank – It was supposed to be a normal Wednesday for Samer Arbeed and his wife, Noura, picking up and dropping off the children, eating leftovers for lunch, and working on a sink-load of dishes.

“We drove the kids to school and were almost at work, when a civilian car with Israeli number plates pulled up behind us,” Noura said, describing how her husband was detained in Ramallah by undercover Israeli forces on September 25.

“They snatched him from the car and started beating him on the head, neck and stomach,” she recalled.

Samer, 44, was arrested on suspicion of involvement in an IED explosion that took place on August 23 near the illegal Israeli settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah. The bomb killed 17-year-old Israeli girl Rina Shnerb and wounded her father and brother.

Three days later, Samer’s lawyer was informed his client had been transferred to a hospital the previous day – in critical condition, unconscious, and on artificial respiration. He was also suffering from kidney failure and had 11 broken ribs, the lawyer said.

The Israeli Security Agency (ISA), known as Shin Bet, accused Samer of leading the group that carried out the bombing and was given legal permission to employ “extraordinary measures” in its interrogation, Israeli media reported. Amnesty International said the move “effectively sanctioned the use of methods amounting to torture”.

In a statement to Al Jazeera Shin Bet said: “During the interrogation of the head of the terror infrastructure, which carried out the explosive device attack that killed Rina Shnerb, the investigated reported that he did not feel well.

“As per procedures, he was transferred to the hospital for treatment and check-up. The investigation of the terror infrastructure is still taking place and we cannot provide more details.”

Samer is affiliated with the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), considered a “terrorist” group by Israel.

Noura told Al Jazeera he denies any involvement in the bomb attack. He’s recovering in Ramleh prison clinic and his lawyers say they expect a list of charges to be submitted on Sunday.

Torture allegations: Palestinians fear for prisoner

‘Ticking timebomb’

According to the Palestinian Prisoner Society, about 95 percent of Palestinian prisoners in Israel experience ill-treatment or torture during their detention and interrogation.

“The Israeli security wants to leave a mark on the psyche of those it detains: resistance has a price, and it is hefty,” Qadura Faris, head of the Prisoner Society, told Al Jazeera.

The severity of the torture, Faris added, often depends on what the person is accused of and the ability of the interrogee to survive.

Israel’s Supreme Court issued a ruling prohibiting the use of torture in September 1999.

However, it provided interrogators with legal cover to employ “exceptional methods” in “ticking timebomb” situations, providing there is concern that a suspect could give up information that would prevent an imminent attack and there are no alternative means of preventing it.

“Under exceptional circumstances, what’s known as the ‘necessity’ defence or the ‘ticking bomb scenario’, if an interrogator uses certain methods he cannot be charged, he’s exempt from criminal persecution. So, [torture] is not legal, but it’s also not illegal,” Rachel Stroumsa, executive director of the Israeli Public Committee Against Torture, told Al Jazeera.

West Bank prison torture

Noura Areed holding her husband’s picture in church following mass [Photo courtesy of Arbeed family]

According to Israeli media reports “exceptional methods” are used in a handful of cases annually.

The court did not specify which measures were permissible in its 1999 ruling, but critics describe the term as a euphemism for torture.

Firas Tbeish is all too familiar with those techniques.

He said during his detention in 2011, Israeli interrogators threatened they would harm his family.OPINION

Tales of torture from Israel’s prisons

by Abdallah Aljamal&

by Ramzy Baroud

He also said he was sleep deprived, beaten, and forced into the so-called “banana position” – where a suspect’s back is bent over a chair backwards, with his hands and feet cuffed together.

The 41-year-old from al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of Hebron, was sentenced in 2011 to three years in prison for charges related to hiding and transferring weapons for Hamas.

“At first you push through the pain – but when it drags for hours on end your world crumbles,” Tbeish said, describing his interrogation.

He said he filed a case at Israel’s top court in 2016 against the ISA because he wanted to challenge his investigators through the law.

The Israeli Supreme Court turned down his appeal in November 2018, saying there was not enough proof that he had been tortured and “the use of these special methods in the petitioner’s interrogation is covered by the necessity exception”.

Yet the Convention against Torture, a UN rights treaty to which Israel is a signatory, is clear: No “exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war” may be invoked as justification of torture.

“Torture is absolutely forbidden – it’s like slavery, there are no circumstances under which it can be justified, and yet the state of Israel employs it without hesitation, without shame, regularly year after year,” Stroumsa said.

Behind closed doors, in notorious interrogation centres, torture is used routinely, say human rights groups.

According to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, 66 percent of torture survivors reported sleep deprivation, 61 percent reported the use of threats, and 40 percent reported the use of stress positions.

‘Hands turned blue’

The details of Samer’s interrogation reported in local media have brought back terrible memories for Luai al-Ashqar.READ MORE

How Israeli soldiers interrogated me

It was after midnight on April 22, 2005, when Israeli forces showed up at his doorstep in Seida, northeast of Tulkarem. The three days that followed shattered him and left him with physical disabilities that he struggles to cope with to this day.

Al-Ashqar, 42, spent 26 months in jail after agreeing to a plea bargain for transferring wanted Palestinians and entering Israel without a permit.

“From Friday to Monday, I wasn’t allowed to use the toilet. I was tied to a chair, they would let me off it only for a doctor to wake me up when I’d lose consciousness and then tie me back again in the banana position,” al-Ashqar said.

“They’d tighten the handcuffs on my hands so close they’d penetrate my flesh… My hands would turn blue and get swollen,” he added.

West Bank prison torture

Luai al-Ashqar spent 26 months in jail for transferring wanted Palestinians and entering Israel without a permit [Al Jazeera]

Al-Ashqar filed a complaint outlining his torture claims to the Israeli court, but after he was subsequently arrested and held without charge under administrative detention, he said he withdrew the complaint fearing it was the reason he was being kept in prison.

If the results of complaints alleging violence in Shin Bet interrogations filed in the past two decades give any indication, the odds are al-Ashqar’s would have been another one to end without an indictment.

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel told Al Jazeera of 1,200 complaints filed since 2001 just one resulted in a criminal probe.READ MORE

Israeli torture of Palestinian children ‘institutional’

After the Israeli justice ministry announced in late September that it was examining the circumstances leading to Arbeed’s hospitalisation, it remains up to the Israeli prosecutor to decide whether to launch an investigation into Samer’s case.

Samer’s lawyers said they do not believe they would receive a fair hearing from Israeli authorities. But in cases involving the complicity of Israel’s judiciary in human rights violations, they have to exhaust existing legal procedures to be able to take future steps in international tribunals.

Meanwhile, Noura has no option but to carry on.

Israeli forces have already taken measurements of their house, a prelude for possible demolition, but her mind is occupied by thoughts of Samer’s wellbeing in prison, and the children’s never-ending questions about the new phrases they had learned.

“What does critical condition mean?” Rita, 8, asked Noura when her father’s case appeared on a news bulletin.

With his leg braces allowing him to stand, al-Ashqar carries his body around the aluminium workshop he runs in Seida.

He said his heart goes out to the Arbeed family. Every time he reflects on his own experience he said he gets dizzy.

“The hardest thing about those interrogations is that you don’t die,” he said.

AL JAZEERA WORLD

Beyond the Walls

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Palestinian ex-prisoners recall torture in Nazi Camp

President Trump made 16,241 false or misleading claims in his first three years

By Glenn KesslerSalvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly

Three years after taking the oath of office, President Trump has made more than 16,200 false or misleading claims — a milestone that would have been unthinkable when we first created the Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement he has uttered.

We started this project as part of our coverage of the president’s first 100 days, largely because we could not possibly keep up with the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements. We recorded 492 claims — an average of just under five a day — and readers demanded that we keep it going for the rest of Trump’s presidency.

Little did we know what that would mean.

In 2017, Trump made 1,999 false or misleading claims. In 2018, he added 5,689 more, for a total of 7,688. And in 2019, he made 8,155 suspect claims.

In other words, in a single year, the president said more than the total number of false or misleading claims he had made in the previous two years. Put another way: He averaged six such claims a day in 2017, nearly 16 a day in 2018 and more than 22 a day in 2019.

As of Jan. 19, his 1,095th day in office, Trump had made 16,241 false or misleading claims. Only 366 days to go — at least in this term.

The president added to his total on Sunday evening with more than 20 Trumpian claims — many old favorites — during a triumphant speech at the annual conference of the American Farm Bureau Federation. He incorrectly described trade agreements — suggesting Canadian dairy tariffs were eliminated and an agreement with Japan to reduce tariffs on $7 billion of farm products was “a $40 billion deal” — and also falsely asserted that “tough” farmers and ranchers were crying as he signed a repeal of Obama-era regulations. A video of the event shows no one crying.

In 2018 and 2019, October and November ranked as the months in which Trump made the most false or misleading claims: October 2018: 1,205; October 2019: 1,159; November 2019: 903; and November 2018: 867.

In 2018, Trump barnstormed the country in an effort to thwart a Democratic takeover of the House. The two biggest false-claim days were before the election: Nov. 5: 139, and Nov. 3: 128.

The key reasons for last year’s surge in October and November was the uproar over a phone call on July 25 in which Trump urged Ukraine’s president to announce an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden, a potential 2020 election rival — and the ensuing House impeachment inquiry. Almost 1,000 of the false and misleading claims made by the president deal with the Ukraine investigation, even though it only became a category four months ago.

The president apparently believes he can weather an impeachment trial through sheer repetition of easily disproved falsehoods.

For instance, nearly 70 times he has claimed that a whistleblower complaint about the call was inaccurate. The report accurately captured the content of Trump’s call and many other details have been confirmed. Nearly 100 times, Trump has claimed his phone call with the Ukrainian president was “perfect,” even though it so alarmed other White House officials that several immediately raised private objections.

Three claims about the Ukraine investigation have now made it onto our list of Bottomless Pinocchios. (It takes 20 repeats of a Three- or Four-Pinocchio claim to merit a Bottomless Pinocchio, and there are now 32 entries.) Besides the claim about the whistleblower, the two other claims on the Bottomless Pinocchio list are that Biden forced the resignation of a Ukrainian prosecutor because he was investigating his son Hunter Biden and that Hunter Biden scored $1.5 billion in China after hitching a ride on Air Force Two with his father.

Trump crossed the 10,000 mark on April 26. From the start of his presidency, he has averaged nearly 15 such claims a day.

About one in five of these claims are about the economy or jobs.

As Trump approaches a tough reelection campaign, his most repeated claim — 257 times — is that the U.S. economy today is the best in history. He began making this claim in June 2018, and it quickly became one of his favorites. The president can certainly brag about the state of the economy, but he runs into trouble when he repeatedly makes a play for the history books. By just about any important measure, the economy today is not doing as well as it did under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson or Bill Clinton — or Ulysses S. Grant. Moreover, the economy is beginning to hit the head winds caused by Trump’s trade wars, with the manufacturing sector in an apparent recession.

About one in six of Trump’s claims are about immigration, his signature issue — a percentage that increased in early 2019 when the government was partly shut down over funding for his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. In fact, his second-most-repeated claim — 242 times — is that his border wall is being built. Congress balked at funding the concrete barrier he envisioned, so he has tried to pitch bollard fencing and mostly repairs of existing barriers as “a wall.” (Almost all of the 100 miles that have been completed replaced previous barriers.) The Washington Post has reported that the bollard fencing is easily breached, with smugglers sawing through it, despite Trump’s claims that it is impossible to get past.

Trump has falsely said 184 times that he passed the biggest tax cut in history. Even before his tax cut was crafted, he promised that it would be the biggest in U.S. history — bigger than Ronald Reagan’s in 1981. Reagan’s tax cut amounted to 2.9 percent of the gross domestic product, and none of the proposals under consideration came close to that level. Yet Trump persisted in this fiction even when the tax cut was eventually crafted to be the equivalent of 0.9 percent of gross domestic product, making it the eighth-largest tax cut in 100 years. This continues to be an all-purpose applause line at the president’s rallies.

On 176 occasions, Trump has claimed the United States has “lost” money on trade deficits. This reflects a basic misunderstanding of economics. Countries do not “lose” money on trade deficits. A trade deficit simply means people in one country are buying more goods from another country than people in the second country are buying from the first country. Trade deficits are also affected by macroeconomic factors, such as currencies, economic growth, and savings and investment rates.

The president’s constant Twitter barrage also adds to his totals. Nearly 20 percent of the false and misleading statements stemmed from his itchy Twitter finger.

Trump’s penchant for repeating false claims is demonstrated by the fact that the Fact Checker database has recorded more than 400 instances in which he has repeated a variation of the same claim at least three times.

The award-winning database website, created by graphics reporter Leslie Shapiro, has an extremely fast search engine that will quickly locate suspect statements the president has made. We encourage readers to explore it in detail. We recently added a new feature that provides a URL for every claim that is fact-checked, allowing readers to post the link on social media.

Note: The Fact Checker welcomes academic research of the Trump claims database. Recent examples include work done by Erasmus UniversityUniversity College London and the University of California at Santa Barbara. You can request our data files with an explanation of your research plans by contacting us at factchecker@washpost.com.

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Posted in USAComments Off on President Trump made 16,241 false or misleading claims in his first three years

Guantánamo: psychologists who designed CIA torture program to testify

  • Techniques included waterboarding and other forms of torture
  • Hopes that trial will cast more light on scale of program

Julian Borger

Protestors mark 18th anniversary of Guantánamo Bay detention camp and call for its closure and ‘accountability for torture’ near the White House, on 11 January.
 Protesters mark 18th anniversary of Guantánamo Bay detention camp and call for its closure and ‘accountability for torture’ near the White House, on 11 January. Photograph: Mike Theiler/Reuters

The two psychologists who designed the US “enhanced interrogation” programme that included waterboarding and other forms of torture are due to give evidence in open court for the first time this week.

James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen will answer questions at a pre-trial hearing on the 9/11 attacks before a military tribunal in Guantánamo Bay.

Lawyers for the defendants, who are among 40 detainees being held at prison camp on the island of Cuba, say it will be a unique opportunity to hold to account those responsible for approving and carrying out the use of torture, and to demonstrate that both the CIA and FBI were complicit in torture, with significant implications for any future trial of suspected 9/11 plotters.Advertisement

Mitchell and Jessen were former air force psychologists who were tasked by the CIA in 2002 to establish a programme of severe interrogation techniques. They were paid $1,800 a day and in 2005 they set up a private company, which provided most of the interrogators and most of the security staff at the “black sites”, secret detention facilities. The company was paid $81m for its services before its contract was terminated in 2009.

“The perverse ‘work’ of these psychologists has dramatically set back the global fight against torture. The interrogation methods they championed have had a rippling effect around the world,” said Julia Hall, a human rights lawyer with Amnesty International who is attending the hearings.

The American Psychological Association has disowned Mitchell and Jessen for “violating the ethics of their profession and leaving a stain on the discipline of psychology”.

But both men have insisted they did nothing wrong, arguing they were asked to do things that were declared legal by the George W Bush administration, and that they had to prevent the worst excesses of other interrogators.

Defence lawyers and human rights advocates hope Mitchell and Jessen will cast more light on the scale of the torture programme, the culpability of senior officials and the role of the FBI, which has hitherto presented itself as uninvolved.

“The main points that I will be asking the witnesses about are the deep involvement of the FBI in the rendition detention and interrogation program, the huge bureaucracy that was necessary to support the use of coercive pressure as an interrogation tactic, and the elements of the CIA’s programme that didn’t involve Dr Mitchell and Dr Jessen at all,” said James Connell, lawyer for one of the defendants, Ammar al-Baluchi, who will lead the questioning of Mitchell this week. “There are many other people who are involved.”

Alka Pradhan, another Baluchi lawyer who will take the lead in questioning Jessen said the coming session was “probably one of the most consequential hearings we have had yet” in eight years of pre-trial hearings.

At the core of the prosecution case are a set of statements made by the defendants in 2007 to FBI investigators. The government contends that this was a “clean team” of investigators who had nothing to do with torture. The statements were therefore untainted and admissible in court.

Pradhan said the Mitchell and Jessen testimony would add to already considerable evidence that the FBI also had dirty hands.

“They knew that they needed ‘clean interrogations’ in order to be able to prosecute and eventually execute,” she said. The defence lawyers say there were FBI agents at the black sites during enhanced interrogations and that the FBI submitted questions for the interrogators to use, knowing torture was being used.

This week’s hearing has been complicated by a new set of secrecy rules introduced by the prosecution on Thursday, that prevents defence lawyers from citing references to the interrogation programme in published books, even though they had been cleared for publication by the CIA.

On the other hand, defence teams will be allowed to cite more details of dates, places and techniques used on detainees. The CIA has acknowledged that at least 39 prisoners were subjected to the enhanced interrogation techniques that included slamming detainees into a wall, confining them in a 21x30in (53x76cm) box, and waterboarding, the simulation of drowning by covering a prisoner’s face with cloth and pouring water on it. The UN and human rights groups have declared waterboarding and some of the other techniques to be torture.

Defence and prosecution lawyers are due to argue over classification and other procedural issues in closed session at the military commission built on the Guantánamo naval base near the detention camp.

Then the presiding judge, Col Shane Cohen, is expected to hold open sessions for at least some of the next two weeks.

Mitchell and Jessen agreed an out of court settlement in a civil suit brought by the American Council on Civil Liberties on behalf of Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ben Soud, who were released without charges after being tortured, and the family of Gul Rahman, who died under interrogation in 2002 in one of the CIA’s secret detention facilities around the world, known as “black sites”.

Rahman died after being left shackled overnight naked from the waist down in a freezing concrete cell. Mitchell and Jessen said they had complained about Rahman’s treatment but their warnings were ignored by senior CIA officials.

The psychologists said their interrogation programme had been designed to induce a “learned helplessness” in detainees that would make them more compliant. Mitchell wrote a memoir, Enhanced Interrogation, in which he claimed that the enhanced interrogation techniques helped foil al-Qaida attacks on the US.

“I concluded that it would be immoral and unethical to ignore my obligation to use what I knew to defend our citizens and our way of life against enemies who themselves had initiated the conflict and whose stated goal was to destroy us,” Mitchell wrote.

His claims over the programme’s success is disputed by a report by the Senate intelligence committee, which found that the enhanced interrogations produced no actionable intelligence.

Posted in USA, C.I.AComments Off on Guantánamo: psychologists who designed CIA torture program to testify


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