The School Of The Americas Is Still Exporting Death Squads

NOVANEWS
South American militaries have been sending soldiers to the U.S. for “ethics” and “human rights” training for years, but history shows that many of these alumni go on to become notorious torturers and murderers, not defenders of peace.
School of the Americas

RABAT, Malta — In 2009, just a year before Sebastián Piñera became president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet approved the training of 211 Chilean recruits at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA).

Between 1999 and 2010, Chilean governments sent a total of 1,205 recruits to the school, with Bachelet remaining at the helm of cooperation with the U.S.-based institute that has graduated scores of alumni involved in human rights violations under Chile’s dictatorship era from 1973 to 1990.

Despite the macabre reality inflicted upon Chileans during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, the Concertación governments of the center-left, allegedly embarking upon a democratic future for Chile, retained ties with the school that produced torturers such as Miguel Krassnoff Martchenko, who, according to torture survivors, never concealed his identity while subjecting his victims to brutality.

Bachelet’s father, Gen. Alberto Bachelet, who was loyal to socialist president Salvador Allende, was tortured to death by the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (the National Intelligence Directorate, also known as DINA). Bachelet herself was detained and tortured by DINA, later fleeing into exile and returning back to Chile in 1979.

Under Bachelet’s first presidency (2006-2010), Chilean cooperation with the U.S. expanded, especially following her one-year stay at Fort Lesley J. McNair, in Washington, D.C., which provided the prelude to Bachelet’s military and surveillance investment. Socialism quickly eroded into opportunism, with the country’s first female president emphasizing Pinochet’s legacy of oblivion as she extended diplomatic maneuvers to former DINA torturers, even praising generals allegedly involved in the torture that contributed to her father’s death.

Piñera also sent recruits to train at WHINSEC and furthered U.S. military collaboration in 2012 by opening a military training center at Fort Aguayo in Concón, Chile.

 

From the SOA to WHINSEC

Established in 1946 in Panama, the SOA was responsible for training over 64,000 South American soldiers, many of whom later became notorious torturers and murderers in death squads. According to former Panamanian President Jorge Illueca, the SOA was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.”

Expelled from Panama in 1984, the SOA relocated to Fort Benning, Georgia, and was renamed WHINSEC in 2001, allowing for an apparent termination of the previous program through dissociation. In reality, however, WHINSEC retained its SOA foundations and the U.S. Department of Defense has shielded the institute from criticism and outcry with regard to the school’s historical link to human rights violations.

In its mission statement, WHINSEC claims to have been founded upon the Charter of the Organization of American States and pledges to “foster mutual knowledge, transparency, confidence, and cooperation among the participating nations and promote democratic values, respect for human rights, and knowledge and understanding of U.S. customs and traditions.”

These values, according to WHINSEC’s website, are imparted through a three-lesson Ethics Program, as well as the Democracy and Human Rights Program — the latter dealing with “the universal prohibitions against torture, extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances.”

 

A far cry from protecting human rights

CIA and U.S. Army manuals detailing torture techniques translated into Spanish and utilized by the SOA are afar cry from anything containing human rights protections. Indeed, as SOA Watch explains, “These manuals advocated torture, extortion, blackmail and the targeting of civilian populations.”

The manuals, written in the 1950s and 1960s, “were distributed for use in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador and Peru, and at the School of the Americas between 1987 and 1991.” Indeed, in-depth research and testimony from torture survivors relay more than just a depiction of torture practiced by SOA graduates in South America during dictatorship eras, such as Chile under Pinochet. Sadistic torture practiced upon detainees at Abu Ghraib is also reflective of the CIA torture manuals and torture previously carried out on detainees in South America.

Since 2000 and the renaming of the SOA, other crimes linked to SOA graduates have come to light.

Col. Byron Lima Estrada was convicted in June 2001 of murdering Guatemalan Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi following the publication of a report insisting the Guatemalan army was responsible for the murder of almost 200,000 people in the civil war that took place from 1960 to 1996.

Two SOA graduates, Venezuelan Army Commander in Chief Efrain Vasquez and Gen. Ramirez Poveda, were involved in the failed 2002 coup against President Hugo Chávez. According to SOA Watch, Otto Reich, then-assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, was “appointed as a WHINSEC board of visitor member to ‘oversee’ democracy and human rights curriculum, as well as operations at the school.” Reich was also deeply involved in the planning of the coup against Chávez.

In 1999, Bolivian Captain Filiman Rodriguez had been found responsible for the kidnapping and torture of Waldo Albarracin, director of the Bolivian Popular Assembly of Human Rights. In 2002, Rodriguez was accepted for a 49-week officer training course at WHINSEC.

In May 2014, a detailed report by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Colombia-Europe-U.S. Human Rights Observatory highlighted U.S. military assistance to Colombia between 2000 and 2010. According to the report, which studies extrajudicial killings committed by the Colombian Army Brigades, U.S. intelligence assistance to Colombia “supported units that had adopted a strategy conducive to extrajudicial killings.”

Colombia requires its officers to undergo training at WHINSEC. The 2014 report states that out of 25 Colombian graduates from 2001 to 2003, 12 had either been charged with “a serious crime or commanded units whose members had reportedly committed multiple extrajudicial killings.”

It should be remembered that Plan Colombia, signed by U.S. President Bill Clinton, was translated into “moral and political support” by Colombian Gen. Mario Montoya. Between 2000 and 2010, U.S. assistance was considered a factor which influenced the staggering total of 5,673 extrajudicial killings — all of which occurred with impunity, lack of judicial mechanisms, rewards for the murders and the role of national leaders such as Montoya providing a safety net for those complicit in the atrocities.

As regards WHINSEC in Colombia, an academic on the Board of Visitors is quoted in the report as stating, “So if a student of mine leaves an ethics class and engages in criminal activity does that make me or my university liable for her activity?”

This attitude summarizes the lack of accountability surrounding WHINSEC. The dissociation from the school’s history under its original name — the SOA — is merely a premise for distancing the institution from the atrocities committed by its students and graduates.

History, however, tells a different story. While WHINSEC continues to emphasize what it describes as a commitment to human rights by citing a mere eight hours of instruction in the subject, research, such as the report on Colombia’s extrajudicial killings, reveals a reality that goes beyond the cosmetic reforms employed by the institution.

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Land and Resource Grabs: The World Bank’s Long War on Peasants

NOVANEWS
Global Research
medium_land_grabs_honduras.jpg_1718483346

Members of the Peasant Unified Movement of Bajo Aguán, Honduras, carry mock coffins bearing pictures of people murdered in land clashes during a demonstration in Tegucigalpa. (Photo: AFP)

“The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling — their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.” – Arundhati Roy, War Talk     

Founded at the historical seam between World War II and the birth of the Cold War, the World Bank’s purpose — then as now — is to spread capitalism across the globe. Correspondingly, it has long promoted capitalist agriculture, alongside other rural extractive industries, at the expense of peasant, indigenous, and community-based food systems. And while the Bank’s interest in farming has waxed and waned over its more than six decades, in recent years it has shown a renewed interest in the importance of agriculture. Critics, however, point to the Bank’s complicity in a new feverish wave of global land grabs. And peasants around the world refuse to buy the World Bank’s notion of their inevitable demise.

The Green Revolution as Massive Global Land Grab

In its early years (1940s-1960s), while the World Bank financed rural infrastructure like large dams, it mostly ignored agriculture. Not until the 1970s did Bank President Robert McNamara (1968-81) call for investments in agriculture. Following his tenure as Secretary of Defense of the United States, during which Vietnamese peasants routed U.S. forces in Southeast Asia, he became keenly aware of agriculture’s geopolitical importance. Under McNamara the World Bank partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation to massively expand the Green Revolution, which entailed transferring U.S.-style industrial agriculture to the global South through debt-financed programs and infrastructure.

The Green Revolution spread rapidly throughout Asia and Latin America (it was mostly a failure in Africa), with dramatic increases in agricultural production. From 1970 to 1990, the two decades of major Green Revolution expansion, the total food available per person in the world rose by 11 percent. The benefits of this model, however, were poorly distributed and introduced profound social and environmental problems — arguably leading to more hunger, not less. In South America, for instance, per capita food supplies rose almost 8 percent, but the number of hungry people went up by 19 percent in the same period.

High-yielding crop varieties demanded high levels of chemical inputs and required fertile, irrigable land that could be mechanized. As a result, poor farmers were displaced from the best lands as wealthier farmers took advantage of new credit opportunities and input packages and expanded their landholdings. Millions of rural people migrated to the cities in search of work or sought out precarious farming opportunities on poor soils and fragile hillsides, joining the ranks of the poor and hungry.

The Neoliberal Turn and the Mounting Crisis 

By the late 1980s, funding for agricultural development withered. The World Bank abandoned the state-led, debt-financed Green Revolution model as part of the larger shift to gut public institutions and put “development” in the hands of the private sector. In a reversal of early Green Revolution logic, the Bank enthusiastically supported the idea that poor countries should buy food from transnational corporations on the global market rather than grow it themselves.

It is difficult to overstate the degree to which the International Monetary Fund and World Bank-promoted cocktail of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization contributed to extreme vulnerability for farmers and peasants. First, it turned mostly self-sufficient agricultural economies into import-dependent ones. Second, it removed safety nets small farmers had long relied upon while abruptly forcing them to compete with imports from industrialized countries like the United States. And third, it made it easier for wealthy investors — both foreign and domestic — to access land and resources without adequately protecting human rights and rural livelihoods.

This tinderbox of vulnerability detonated in 2007 when global food prices spiked and food riots broke out around the world. Between 2007 and 2008, the world’s hungry jumped from 850 to 982 million people — mostly peasants and small farmers. World Bank President Robert Zoellick called for a “New Deal for a Global Food Policy” announcing, among other things, new loans for governments to purchase seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation improvements. Two decades of ignoring and defunding agriculture, it seemed, were drawing to a close—a suspicion confirmed when the Bank released its first comprehensive report on agriculture in 25 years: the 2008 World Development Report: Agriculture for Development.

But the Bank’s old, stale assumptions lingered; namely, that peasants should either get big (become large-scale commercial farmers) or get out of agriculture altogether. The implied prescription is yet another massive transfer of land and resources away from the world’s 2.5 billion peasants to large capitalist firms, while remaining agnostic about the fate of this mass of people — roughly one-third of humanity. 1,000 World Bank projects approved between 2004 and 2013 forced 3.4 million people from their homes, grabbed their land, or damaged their livelihood.

The World Bank in the “New” Land and Resource Grabs 

Looking at the Bank’s history and guiding assumptions, it is unsurprising to find it heavily implicated in what some are calling the “new” land and resource grabs. Sparked in part by the 2007-2008 food and financial crisis, a global wave of largely speculative investments and dispossession has affected upwards of 86 million hectares of land worldwide (with some estimates as high as 227 million hectares). The Bank facilitates these land grabs in a number of interrelated ways: low-interest loans to agribusiness and other land-based industries; investment guarantees and insurance; loans to governments for investor-friendly infrastructure like roads and dams; and technical advice on how to reform regulatory regimes to attract foreign investment.

Beyond agriculture, these activities support a whole slew of industries that restructure the countryside as a site of dirty extraction and capital accumulation instead of community health and wellbeing. These include timber, mining, fisheries, tourism, energy, and plantation agriculture (including agrofuels) — industries that either expel peasants from their territories or contaminate the land and water they depend on. Of course, once rendered poor and landless, former peasants are enlisted as cheap labor for the very industries that uprooted them. This, for the World Bank, is what constitutes “job creation” and “development.”

Many cases of land grabbing occur in countries with political instability and weak governance with regard to monitoring and regulating land deals—largely due to over two decades of World Bank-promoted structural adjustments that decimated government capacity. For instance, human rights and environmental activists have heavily criticized the Bank for promoting the expansion of mining in places like Haiti, where it has been assisting the government since 2013 in drafting new mining laws intended to attract foreign investment to a high-risk industry without applying social or environmental standards, transparency, or consultation mechanisms.

Perhaps the most egregious cases of World Bank-facilitated land grabbing have occurred under the auspices of the Bank’s private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The IFC recently came under fire for a US$30 million loan package to the Dinant Corporation in Honduras, associated with the illegitimate acquisition of peasant lands for palm oil production and the killings of local community members. Half of the loan was disbursed to Dinant only four months after a military coup, supported by the country’s landowning and business elite, threw the country into political turmoil, which including heavy repression targeting peasant communities.

Further, a new report by Oxfam details the IFC’s increasing use of third parties, such as banks or private equity funds, to channel development money that amounted to US$36 billion between 2009 and 2013, or 62 percent of IFC spending. This allows the IFC to distance itself from development outcomes such as human rights abuses, environmental impacts, and displacement.

Remarkably, the Bank doesn’t keep even basic statistics on the number of people displaced by its projects. A review of the Bank’s “Involuntary Resettlement” program completed in mid-2014 revealed that the status of displaced people was unknown for 61 percent of sampled Bank-funded projects. Based on this inadequate data, the Bank estimates that half a million people have been displaced due to its 218 active projects — with no clear idea of how many of those received compensation or new land. A separate 11-month investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that 1,000 World Bank projects approved between 2004 and 2013 forced 3.4 million people from their homes, grabbed their land, or damaged their livelihood.

While Bank president Jim Yong Kim stated that “additional efforts must be made to build capacity and safeguards related to land rights,” a leaked draft of new World Bank social and environmental safeguards showed just the opposite. Most shockingly, notes a statement endorsed by over 100 human rights organizations and experts, “The draft framework provides an opt-out option for governments who do not wish to provide essential land and natural resource rights protections to Indigenous Peoples within their States. This regressive clause, if adopted, would represent a wink and nod by the World Bank to governments that they should not feel compelled to respect international human rights law, and can violate the fundamental right to land, territories, and resources…”

Peasants vs. The World Bank 

Much has changed since the World Bank was founded in 1944. In spite of rising hunger, wealth inequality, and land concentration, there has been a remarkable growth in peasant mobilizations around the world — perhaps most notably the international peasant confederation La Via Campesina now comprising over 150 member organizations in 70 countries representing some 300 million farmers. Each year on April 17, La Via Campesina recognizes the International Day of Peasant Struggle in recognition of 19 peasant members of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) who were assassinated by large landowners and military on April 17, 1996. This year, peasants mobilize specifically against transnational companies and free trade agreements, watchwords of the World Bank’s longstanding development model and weapons in its ongoing war on peasants. As La Via Campesina celebrates its hard-fought struggle for food sovereignty, agroecology, and the right to land with actions around the world, it reminds us that farmers and peasants refuse to buy the Bank’s notion of their inevitable disappearance.

Posted in Europe, USA, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

The Refugee Crisis: How NATO Kills Africans in the Club Med

NOVANEWS
Global Research
CongoRefugees

Humanitarian imperialism as applied to what the Pentagon loves to define as MENA (Middle East-Northern Africa) has led, according to Amnesty International, “to the largest refugee disaster since the Second World War.” 

You all remember that NATO/AFRICOM coalition of the willing, “led” by King Sarko the First, then President of France, with US President Barack Obama “leading from behind” and a former Secretary of State, now presidential candidate with a campaign chest of $2.5 billion, coining a gloating “We came, we saw, he died”.

Well, this fabulous collection of humanitarian imperialists is still on the loose, now killing — by proxy — across the waters of the Mediterranean, aka Club Med, aka Mare Nostrum, after they destroyed a viable state — Libya, a secular Arab republic — under the pretext of preventing a “genocide”.

Asked about it today, as he recently pontificated in relation to the Armenian genocide, that pathetic excuse for UN Secretary-General, Ban-Ki Moon, would say the potential massacre in Libya might — and the operative word is “might” — not even qualify as an “atrocity crime.” The six-month humanitarian bombing of Libya engineered to prevent a highly hypothetical “atrocity crime” ended up “liberating” at least 10 times more people from their lives than the previous skirmishes between Col. Gaddafi’s troops and weaponized “rebels”, most of them hardcore Islamist militias, now free to wreak jihadi havoc from eastern Libya to northern Syria.

Humanitarian imperialism practitioners duly created a “liberated” wasteland — which they called “victory” — trespassed by weaponized militias; installed a pervasive chaos trespassing a great deal of the Maghreb and Western Africa; and unleashed a massive humanitarian crisis.

Stranded in MENA

Humanitarian imperialism as applied to what the Pentagon loves to define as MENA (Middle East-Northern Africa) — from Libya to Iraq, Syria and now Yemen, as well as sub-proxy wars in Mali, Somalia and Sudan — has led, according to Amnesty International, “to the largest refugee disaster since the Second World War.” Amnesty estimates that no less than 57 million people have been turned into refugees by 2014.

A crucial subplot is that according to the International Organization on Migration (IOM), the number of refugees dying as they tried to reach Fortress Europe rose by more than 500 percent between 2011 and 2014.

This means humanitarian imperialism, as applied by the Pentagon/NATO/AFRICOM, handed the waters of the Club Med to the real winners: a vast human trafficking racket that includes smugglers, corrupt police and even “terra-rists”.

Across Europe, only Italy — to its credit — is really outraged, and willing to accept at least a fraction, a few really, of the wretched African boat people. After all, the privileged exit point is “liberated” Libya and the privileged entry point is Italy’s Sicily. France, Germany, the UK and Sweden follow Italy with much more modest attempts.

This aphasiac EU/NATO wall of silence is due to the fact that Europe now is mostly about anti-immigration political parties running amok. After all would-be immigrants are perfect scapegoats. As fearful “nationalists” define them, they flatten wages; they live off welfare; they are mostly criminals; they reproduce like rabbits; they destroy the “national identity; and of course there are so many “terra-rists” among them who want to submit Europe to the chador and Sharia law.

This fearful, austerity-ravaged EU subjugated by NATO’s military diktats cannot possibly muster the will to build a common, decent policy to confront the tragedy of a Club Med putrified by a tsunami of African bodies. A great deal of the EU in fact suspended Operation Mare Nostrum — opting to control/police the borders of Fortress Europe instead of acting on humanitarian principles.

Call the drone cavalry

A modest proposal would involve bombing smuggling boats in their hideaways before they are filled up with their tragic human cargo; under UN protection, establish in the “liberated” Libyan coastline humanitarian stations able to process those eligible for political asylum in the EU; facilitate their air or naval travel to the nations ready to receive them; or — using American methodology — drone the “enemy” to smithereens, as in the smugglers and their financiers. After all US drones are expert in the matter, operating under Obama’s infamous “kill list” and totally oblivious to international law.

That, though, will never happen. As Nick Turse demonstrates in a new, path-breaking book, Libya was merely AFRICOM’s first war (then transferred to NATO, as I examined here); the Pentagon has much nastier plans in its evolving pivoting to Africa.

Meanwhile, those fabulously wealthy oil and gas rackets in the Persian Gulf — the same ones buying every ostentatious sign of luxury between Paris and London — are busy “creating” the bulk of the largest refugee crisis since World War II: in Syria, a privileged theatre of their proxy war against Iran.And the House of Saud oil hacienda — with the Empire of Chaos “leading from behind” but providing the bombs, the fighter jets, the intel, and the escalation, via nine US warships dispatched to Yemeni waters — is also busy prosecuting its bombastic “Decisive Storm” over the poorest Arab nation, setting the scene for yet another chapter of the rolling refugee crisis.

NATO remains busy training Kiev’s goons; demonizing Russia generates much more PR than dealing with Africans.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban have already announced their new spring offensive starts this Friday; NATO, whose collective behind was royally spanked by a few thousand Taliban with fake Kalashnikovs, won’t be even “leading from behind”.

And at the bottom of the Mare Nostrum lies, in full putrefied regalia, the EU/NATO’s civilized corpse.

Posted in Africa, Europe, USA0 Comments

Obama, Republicans Push Anti-China Trade Pact

NOVANEWS
Global Research
Obama speaks as Hassanal Bolkiah listens during the Trans-Pacific Partnership Leaders meeting at the Hale Koa Hotel during the APEC Summit in Honolulu

Both the US Senate and House of Representatives have begun action on legislation to grant President Obama Trade Promotion Authority, also known as “fast-track” authority, which would enable the US government to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement with 11 other countries in Asia and the Americas.

The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, in a 20-6 vote, approved the measure and sent it to the Senate floor, where it will likely face stronger opposition in advance of a vote in the coming weeks. Five Democrats and one Republican on the committee voted “no.”

The Finance Committee vote followed an agreement last week between Republicans and a section of committee Democrats on the terms of the TPA legislation after protracted talks between the committee chairman, Orrin Hatch of Utah, and the ranking Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon.

The House Ways and Means Committee was to begin work on the legislation Thursday, its chairman, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, announced. Ryan participated in the talks with Hatch and Wyden and signed off on the deal.

The bill would give the president authority to negotiate trade agreements under provisions for fast-track congressional approval–the House and Senate would each have up-or-down votes without amendments or procedural delays–for the next three years.

As a practical matter, congressional approval of Trade Promotion Authority is both necessary to reach a trade deal and tantamount to approval of it. No country will sign a trade agreement with the United States if Congress can amend it at will or filibuster it. Congress has never rejected such an agreement in a straight up-or-down vote.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an economic and trade component of the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia, which involves the mobilization of US military, political and economic assets against the rising power of China. The 11 other nations now engaged in the TPP talks include Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Chile, Peru, Mexico and Canada.

If the 12-nation trading area is established, it will be the world’s largest; comprising 40 percent of the world’s economy- a bigger proportion than is covered by the European Union. Other Asian countries are expected to sign on if the TPP materializes. South Korea has indicated interest and the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia are also potential candidates.

Discussion of TPP in official Washington has proceeded on two separate tracks, one for the corporate elite and its military-intelligence apparatus, and one for those posturing demagogically–and entirely falsely–as defenders of American workers.

Within decisive circles of the ruling elite, the main discussions have revolved around the strategic value of TPP as a means of putting pressure on China and forestalling its rise to a preeminent economic position in the Asia-Pacific region. The central question is the incorporation of Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, into the future bloc, since without Japan the TPP would be little more than an expanded NAFTA: the US, Canada and Mexico, plus a handful of second-tier Asian economies.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due in Washington April 28 for talks at the White House. He will also address a joint session of Congress. The Obama-Abe talks are expected to deal with the main roadblocks to completion of the TPP, particularly US-Japanese conflicts over agricultural and automobile trade.

The Washington Post, in an editorial that left no doubt about the real purpose of the TPP talks, called on the Obama administration to make sure the deal is finalized with Japan and Congress. The newspaper declared that “the TPP is about geopolitics as well as economics.” It added, “The key here is Japan. Aging and economically troubled, the Asian giant is looking to forge a deeper political and security commitment with the United States to offset a rising China.”

The editorial concluded with this warning: “If the TPP fails, there won’t be much left of the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia.”

Vice President Joseph Biden made a similar argument April 17, addressing a group of 29 right-wing congressional Democrats, most of whom are expected to back Trade Promotion Authority. “China is a gigantic force sitting on top of all nations smaller, except India, in the region and is able to do what Russia is able to do in Europe with regard to oil,” he said. “They have significant economic power to deny access to their markets or open access to their markets for all of those regional powers.”

Promotion of the TPP is thus tied to the increasingly frenzied efforts of American imperialism to provoke regional conflicts with China and North Korea, effectively a client state of Beijing: with Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyou islets; with the Philippines and Vietnam, among others, in the South China Sea; on the Burmese border with China; and between India and China.

In the media coverage of TPP, however, such considerations have been overshadowed by the fake-populist posturing of a large section of the congressional Democratic Party, along with Democratic Party-aligned groups, including the AFL-CIO, environmental groups, the Nation magazine and the pseudo-left International Socialist Organization.

These forces are opposing the trade pact on the basis of anti-Chinese chauvinism and American nationalism, seeking once again to promote the lie that US workers’ jobs and wages can be defended at the expense of the jobs and conditions of workers of other countries. Their attempt to divert working class anger over unemployment and wage cuts along reactionary nationalist channels is linked to the promotion of militarism.

On April 15, four congressional Democrats addressed a rally of more than 1,000 union officials and their supporters, chaired by United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, fresh from his betrayal of the strike by oil refinery workers.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts performed her fist-pumping ritual, shouting into the microphone, “No more secret trade deals! Are you ready to fight? No more special deals for multinational corporations! Are you ready to fight?”

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who may carry out a token challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, declared that Congress was “totally owned by billionaires and their lobbyists.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, another veteran of countless betrayals of struggles of the working class, both as president of the nearly defunct United Mineworkers of America and now as head of the labor federation, testified against the trade agreement at a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee.

Trumka had previously announced a “massive” six-figure ad campaign to lobby Congress against fast-track authority. “We can’t afford to pass fast-track, which would lead to more lost jobs and lower wages,” he declared.

“We want Congress to keep its leverage over trade negotiations- not rubber-stamp a deal that delivers profits for global corporations, but not good jobs for working people.”

This demagogic rhetoric covers up the AFL-CIO’s long record of helping corporate America impose “lost jobs and lower wages” on millions of workers. The unions are not defending the interests of the working class, but rather the profits of less competitive sections of the American capitalist class, particularly in manufacturing, which fear they will lose out to foreign rivals in Japan, Mexico and other countries in the TPP talks.

As for the opposition by congressional Democrats, it is largely for show, to keep the campaign dollars flowing from the unions. When push comes to shove, a sufficient number of Democratic votes will likely be found in both the Senate and the House to offset any potential Republican defections.

Obama is playing his part in the charade, highlighting opposition among congressional Democrats while declaring them wrong on the issue. Like Warren and Sanders, Obama claims to be defending the interests of working people. “I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the middle class,” he said in an interview Tuesday with MSNBC.

He went so far as to claim that his six-year record in office was proof that any trade deal would be good for working people–as though the slashing of wages in the auto industry, the destruction of millions of decent-paying jobs, and an economic “recovery” based on low-wage, part-time labor, enforced by drastic cuts in social benefits, had never happened.

Both factions in the ruling class “debate,” the advocates of “free trade” and the advocates of protectionism, represent sections of the capitalist class. Both are implacably hostile to the interests of working people.

Posted in USA0 Comments

Protests Mount in Baltimore Over Police Killing of Freddie Gray

NOVANEWS
Global Research
Freddie-Gray-Police-Death

Protests over the police killing of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland continued on Wednesday, with hundreds demonstrating in front of the Western District police station where Gray was taken following his arrest on April 12. Hundreds of people also marched to nearby City Hall, where thousands are expected to protest Thursday evening. Demonstrations are also planned for Saturday.

Of the more than 350 police killings that have taken place in the US so far this year, the murder of Freddie Gray is among the most horrific. Before his encounter with Baltimore police, Gray was perfectly healthy. Within an hour of making eye contact with an officer, he was in a coma, three fractured cervical vertebrae in his neck having severed 80 percent of his spinal cord. He died on Sunday, prompting an outpouring of protest.

On Wednesday, Michael Davey, a lawyer representing the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police, unequivocally defended the officers’ actions at a press conference, declaring that none of the cops had committed a crime. Gene Ryan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police lodge, described the protesters as a “lynch mob” and assured the police that “the union is 100 percent, completely behind the officers.”

Another police union official told the assembled reporters that those in the precinct who were hostile to the police were the “criminal elements.”

Since Gray slipped into a coma, police officials have insisted that the officers used no force whatsoever and the victim’s injuries were sustained as a result of an unspecified event in the police van that transported Gray to the Western District station house. Despite at least two videos that show Gray being brutally dragged, screaming in pain, to the police van, Davey again declared Wednesday, “Our position is something happened in that van, we just don’t know what.”

On Tuesday, a friend of Gray who witnessed his arrest told CNN anonymously that he watched officers contort Gray into “a pretzel type of move, where they had the heels of his feet to his back, and he was still in handcuffs.” On Wednesday, the same witness claimed that by the time he began filming the arrest, one officer “had their knee in [Gray’s] neck. He was like crushing his neck really hard.”

Police claim Gray was carrying a switchblade, a contention discounted by Gray’s friend. “I’ve never known Freddie to carry any type of weapon,” he said, adding,

“I don’t believe for one second that he would be aggressive toward the police in any type of way, because we know that police brutality is prevalent in our neighborhood.”

Another witness and protester, Harold Perry, told CNN that he heard Gray cry out, “Get off my neck! Get off my neck! You’re hurting my neck!”

In widely viewed bystander footage, Gray can be heard screaming repeatedly as officers drag him to the back of a police van, prompting one witness to shout, “His legs are broken!” While the footage indicates that Gray had lost the use of his legs, the six officers who participated in the arrest did not request an ambulance and instead drove Gray across the city for the some thirty minutes, stopping to arrest one other man.

On Wednesday, a new cell phone video emerged showing officers putting ankle cuffs onto a motionless Gray minutes after his initial arrest a few blocks away. Witness Jacqueline Jackson told CNN that when police applied the ankle cuffs, “He wasn’t responding. His head was down.” After the ankle cuffs were secured, “They picked him up and threw him up in the paddy wagon.”

When asked by CNN’s Miguel Marquez whether Gray appeared to be unconscious, Jackson replied, “Yes. Yes, and I asked them, ‘Could they get him a paramedic?’ They told me to ‘mind my business.’ And I said, ‘It is my business!’”

From the start, the police and political establishment have sought to cover up the obvious responsibility of the police for Gray’s death. On Wednesday, Deputy Commissioner David Rodriguez said, “None of the officers describe using any force against Mr. Gray.”

The lawyer for Gray’s family, William Murphy, told CNN, “We have no confidence that the police can investigate their own. We have no confidence that the police can do this free of conflicts of interest.”

Baltimore has been ravaged by years of deindustrialization and nearly a quarter of its residents fall below the poverty line. Last month, Baltimore residents protested the city authorities’ decision to begin shutting off water service to residents who are behind on their water bills. The city’s Department of Public Works announced that it would begin shutting off water to as many as 25,000 poor residents.

Since 2011, Baltimore has paid $5,765,065 in settlements and court judgments for cases alleging officer misconduct, including the slamming of a pregnant woman into the ground, the killing of an unarmed veteran, and the beating of a church deacon. Gray’s death is the sixth killing by Baltimore police since the start of 2015.

It is the latest in a wave of police killings over the past month, including:

The April 15 shooting of unarmed Frank Shephard by Houston police, who fired up to a dozen bullets into their victim following a car chase.

The April 4 murder of 50-year-old Walter Scott, shot multiple times in the back by a South Carolina police officer. The cop was charged with murder following the release of a bystander video showing the officer shooting the fleeing, unarmed Scott and then planting a Taser next to his motionless body.

The shooting of 17-year-old Justus Howell the same day in Zion, Illinois, prompting protests by hundreds of people. The cop shot the youth in the back.

The April 2 shooting of 44-year-old Eric Harris of Tulsa, Oklahoma by a police deputy, who subsequently claimed the shooting was an accident. A video shows Harris saying he cannot breathe, to which an officer replies, “F*ck your breath” as he jams his knee into Harris’s back.

On Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the rash of police killings making national headlines did not point to an increase in police violence. He declared, “I don’t think that anybody is in a position to suggest that these incidents that are getting national attention necessarily represent a spike in more violent police activity.” It was, rather, a question of greater public awareness of violent incidents.

While Earnest was callously seeking to downplay the epidemic of police killings, it is difficult to say which scenario is more damning: a growing wave of police killings or a situation where daily police murders were long the norm in America but were covered up by the government and the media.

In any event, the Obama administration has made it a policy not to keep an official record of police killings nationwide. (Other sources put the toll of police killings last year at more than 1,100). At the same time, the administration has transferred billions of dollars in military hardware to local police departments.

In poor and working-class communities throughout the country, police function as paramilitary death squads, killing and torturing with impunity, knowing they will be protected by the government on the local, state and federal level.

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Global Capitalism and the Global Police State

NOVANEWS

Crisis of Humanity and the Specter of 21st Century Fascism

Global Research
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The world capitalist system is arguably experiencing the worst crisis in its 500 year history. World capitalism has experienced a profound restructuring through globalisation over the past few decades and has been transformed in ways that make it fundamentally distinct from its earlier incarnations. Similarly, the current crisis exhibits features that set it apart from earlier crises of the system and raise the stakes for humanity.

If we are to avert disastrous outcomes we must understand both the nature of the new global capitalism and the nature of its crisis. Analysis of capitalist globalisation provides a template for probing a wide range of social, political, cultural and ideological processes in this 21st century. Following Marx, we want to focus on the internal dynamics of capitalism to understand crisis. And following the global capitalism perspective, we want to see how capitalism has qualitatively evolved in recent decades.

The system-wide crisis we face is not a repeat of earlier such episodes such as that of the the 1930s or the 1970s precisely because capital- ism is fundamentally different in the 21st century. Globalisation constitutes a qualitatively new epoch in the ongoing and open-ended evolution of world capitalism, marked by a number of qualitative shifts in the capitalist system and by novel articulations of social power. I highlight four aspects unique to this epoch.1

First is the rise of truly transnational capital and a new global production and financial system into which all nations and much of humanity has been integrated, either directly or indirectly. We have gone from a world economy, in which countries and regions were linked to each other via trade and financial flows in an integrated international market, to a global economy, in which nations are linked to each more organically through the transnationalisation of the production process, of finance, and of the circuits of capital accumulation.

No single nation-state can remain insulated from the global economy or prevent the penetration of the social, political, and cultural superstructure of global capitalism. Second is the rise of a Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC), a class group that has drawn in contingents from most countries around the world, North and South, and has attempted to position itself as a global ruling class. This TCC is the hegemonic fraction of capital on a world scale. Third is the rise of Transnational State (TNS) apparatuses. The TNS is constituted as a loose network made up of trans-, and supranational organisations together with national states. It functions to organise the conditions for transnational accumulation.

The TCC attempts to organise and institutionally exercise its class power through TNS apparatuses. Fourth are novel relations of inequality, domination and exploitation in global society, including an increasing importance of transnational social and class inequalities relative to North-South inequalities.

Cyclical, Structural, and Systemic Crises

Most commentators on the contemporary crisis refer to the Great Recession of 2008 and its aftermath. Yet the causal origins of global crisis are to be found in over-accumulation and also in contradictions of state power, or in what Marxists call the internal contradictions of the capitalist system. Moreover, because the system is now global, crisis in any one place tends to represent crisis for the system as a whole. The system cannot expand because the marginalisation of a significant portion of humanity from direct productive participation, the downward pressure on wages and popular consumption worldwide, and the polarisation of income, has reduced the ability of the world market to absorb world output. At the same time, given the particular configuration of social and class forces and the correlation of these forces worldwide, national states are hard-pressed to regulate trans- national circuits of accumulation and offset the explosive contradictions built into the system.

Is this crisis cyclical, structural, or systemic? Cyclical crises are recurrent to capitalism about once every 10 years and involve recessions that act as self-correcting mechanisms without any major restructuring of the system. The recessions of the early 1980s, the early 1990s, and of 2001 were cyclical crises. In contrast, the 2008 crisis signaled the slide into a structural crisis. Structural crises reflect deeper contra- dictions that can only be resolved by a major restructuring of the system. The structural crisis of the 1970s was resolved through capitalist globalisation.

Prior to that, the structural crisis of the 1930s was resolved through the creation of a new model of redistributive capitalism, and prior to that the structural crisis of the 1870s resulted in the development of corporate capitalism. A systemic crisis involves the replacement of a system by an entirely new system or by an outright collapse. A structural crisis opens up the possibility for a systemic crisis. But if it actually snowballs into a systemic crisis in this case, if it gives way either to capitalism being superseded or to a breakdown of global civilisation is not predetermined and depends entirely on the response of social and political forces to the crisis and on historical contingencies that are not easy to forecast. This is an historic moment of extreme uncertainty, in which collective responses from distinct social and class forces to the crisis are in great flux.

Hence my concept of global crisis is broader than financial. There are multiple and mutually constitutive dimensions economic, social, political, cultural, ideological and ecological, not to mention the existential crisis of our consciousness, values and very being. There is a crisis of social polarisation, that is, of social reproduction. The system cannot meet the needs or assure the survival of millions of people, perhaps a majority of humanity. There are crises of state legitimacy and political authority, or of hegemony and domination. National states face spiraling crises of legitimacy as they fail to meet the social grievances of local working and popular classes experiencing downward mobility, un- employment, heightened insecurity and greater hardships.

The legitimacy of the system has increasingly been called into question by millions, perhaps even billions, of people around the world, and is facing expanded counter-hegemonic challenges. Global elites have been unable counter this erosion of the systems authority in the face of world- wide pressures for a global moral economy. And a canopy that envelops all these dimensions is a crisis of sustain- ability rooted in an ecological holocaust that has already begun, expressed in climate change and the impending collapse of centralised agricultural systems in several regions of the world, among other indicators. By a crisis of humanity I mean a crisis that is approaching systemic proportions, threatening the ability of billions of people to survive, and raising the specter of a collapse of world civilisation and degeneration into a new Dark Ages.2

This crisis of humanity shares a number of aspects with earlier structural crises but there are also several features unique to the present:

1. The system is fast reaching the ecological limits of its reproduction. Global capitalism now couples human and natural history in such a way as to threaten to bring about what would be the sixth mass extinction in the known history of life on earth.3

This mass extinction would be caused not by a natural catastrophe such as a meteor impact or by evolutionary changes such as the end of an ice age but by purposive human activity. According to leading environmental scientists there are nine planetary boundaries crucial to maintaining an earth system environment in which humans can exist, four of which are experiencing at this time the onset of irreversible environmental degradation and three of which (climate change, the nitrogen cycle, and biodiversity loss) are at tipping points, meaning that these processes have already crossed their planetary boundaries.

2. The magnitude of the means of violence and social control is unprecedented, as is the concentration of the means of global communication and symbolic production and circulation in the hands of a very few powerful groups. Computerised wars, drones, bunker-buster bombs, star wars, and so forth, have changed the face of warfare. Warfare has become normalised and sanitised for those not directly at the receiving end of armed aggression. At the same time we have arrived at the panoptical surveillance society and the age of thought control by those who control global flows of communication, images and symbolic production. The world of Edward Snowden is the world of George Orwell; 1984 has arrived;

3. Capitalism is reaching apparent limits to its extensive expansion. There are no longer any new territories of significance that can be integrated into world capitalism, de-ruralisation is now well advanced, and the commodification of the countryside and of pre- and non-capitalist spaces has intensified, that is, converted in hot-house fashion into spaces of capital, so that intensive expansion is reaching depths never before seen. Capitalism must continually expand or collapse. How or where will it now expand?

4. There is the rise of a vast surplus population inhabiting a planet of slums,4 alienated from the productive economy, thrown into the margins, and subject to sophisticated systems of social control and to destruction – to a mortal cycle of dispossession-exploitation-exclusion. This includes prison- industrial and immigrant-detention complexes, omnipresent policing, militarised gentrification, and so on;

5. There is a disjuncture between a globalising economy and a nation-state based system of political authority. Transnational state apparatuses are incipient and have not been able to play the role of what social scientists refer to as a hegemon, or a leading nation-state that has enough power and authority to organise and stabilise the system. The spread of weapons of mass destruction and the unprecedented militarisation of social life and conflict across the globe makes it hard to imagine that the system can come under any stable political authority that assures its reproduction.

Global Police State

How have social and political forces worldwide responded to crisis? The crisis has resulted in a rapid political polarisation in global society. Both right and left-wing forces are ascendant. Three responses seem to be in dispute.

One is what we could call reformism from above. This elite reformism is aimed at stabilising the system, at saving the system from itself and from more radical responses from below. Nonetheless, in the years following the 2008 collapse of the global financial system it seems these reformers are unable (or unwilling) to prevail over the power of transnational financial capital. A second response is popular, grassroots and leftist resistance from below. As social and political conflict escalates around the world there appears to be a mounting global revolt. While such resistance appears insurgent in the wake of 2008 it is spread very unevenly across countries and regions and facing many problems and challenges.

Yet another response is that I term 21st century fascism.5

The ultra-right is an insurgent force in many countries. In broad strokes, this project seeks to fuse reactionary political power with transnational capital and to organise a mass base among historically privileged sectors of the global working class such as white workers in the North and middle layers in the South that are now experiencing heightened insecurity and the specter of downward mobility. It involves militarism, extreme masculinisation, homophobia, racism and racist mobilisations, including the search for scapegoats, such as immigrant workers and, in the West, Muslims. Twenty-first century fascism evokes mystifying ideologies, often involving race/culture supremacy and xenophobia, embracing an idealised and mythical past. Neo-fascist culture normalises and glamorises warfare and social violence, indeed, generates a fascination with domination that is portrayed even as heroic.

The need for dominant groups around the world to secure widespread, organised mass social control of the worlds surplus population and rebellious forces from below gives a powerful impulse to projects of 21st century fascism. Simply put, the immense structural inequalities of the global political economy cannot easily be contained through consensual mechanisms of social control. We have been witnessing transitions from social welfare to social control states around the world. We have entered a period of great upheavals, momentous changes and uncertainties. The only viable solution to the crisis of global capitalism is a massive redistribution of wealth and power downward towards the poor majority of humanity along the lines of a 21st century democratic socialism, in which humanity is no longer at war with itself and with nature.

 

References

1.William I. Robinson (2004), A Theory of Global Capitalism:

Production, Class, and State in a Transnational World, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press; William I. Robinson, Latin America and Global Capitalism (2008), Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, see esp. chapter 1.

2. Sing C. Chew (2007), The Recurring Dark Ages: Ecological Stress, Climate Changes, and System Transformation, Landham, MD: AltaMira Press.

3. Elizabeth Kolbert (2014), The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, New York: Henry Holt.

4. The phrase is from Mike Davis study, Planet of Slums (2007), London: Verso.

5. See in particular, William I. Robinson (2014, in press), Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Humanity, New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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USA: ZIONIST ISLAMOPHBIC MEDIA

NOVANEWS

According to a complaint lodged by CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), the show recently discriminated against two Muslim women wearing hijabs . In February, the two women allegedly attended a taping of The Real and were asked to “move out of camera view during a show taping.”

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According to the complaint, their banishment from the front row was “in accordance with studio policy.”Fatima Dadabhoy, Senior Civil Rights Attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Los Angeles branch, released the following statement.
“Warner Bros. has no legal justification for removing the hijab-wearing women from the camera’s view. No studio should maintain such a discriminatory policy that prohibits people wearing religious head coverings from being seen in its studio audiences. It’s especially baffling that this particular show would want to hide their visibly-Muslim viewers, when the show purports to cater to a wide-ranging audience with its diverse cast.”

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Yugoslavia: No War Crimes Here

NOVANEWS
Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Caption: Damaged home near bombed neighborhood of Nishka and Uzhichka Streets. Photo: Gregory Elich

Sixteenth Anniversary of the Attack on Yugoslavia
By Gregory Elich 

As a member of a delegation documenting NATO war crimes in 1999, I visited Nish, the third largest city in Yugoslavia. NATO attacked this appealing old city on forty occasions, destroying approximately 120 buildings and damaging more than 3,400.

On the night of our second stop in Nish, we attended a meeting with university professor Jovan Zlatich. During the NATO war, Dr. Zlatich served as commander of the city’s Civil Defense Headquarters. In his discussion of the bombardment of Nish, he focused particular attention on the use of cluster bombs. Nish had the misfortune of being the target of several CBU-87/B cluster bombs, a weapon designed to open at a predetermined height and release 202 bomblets. These smaller bombs burst in a furious repeating series of explosions, spraying thousands of pieces of shrapnel over a wide area. Cluster bombs are anti-personnel weapons. While causing relatively minor damage to structures, they inflict frightful damage on human beings.

According to Dr. Miodrag Lazich of the surgical department at Nish University Hospital, “Cluster bombs cause enormous pain. A person standing a meter or two away from the cluster bomb gets the so-called air-blast injuries, coming from a powerful air wave. The body remains mostly intact while internal organs like liver, brains or lungs are imploded inside. Parts of the exploding bombs cause severe injuries to people standing 15 to 20 meters away, ripping apart their limbs or hitting them in the stomach or head.” The starting speed of the explosive charge in a cluster bomb is more than three times that of a bullet fired from an automatic rifle. Consequently, as shrapnel strikes its victim, the combined kinetic energy and explosive power is capable of causing a wound up to thirty times the size of the fragment itself. Because the bomblets are dispersed, they can cover an area as large as three football fields with their deadly rain.

Dr. Zlatich showed us photographs of his city’s cluster bomb victims. We viewed page after page of civilians lying in pools of blood, and then – much worse, pre-autopsy photographs. What cluster bombs do to soft human flesh is beyond anything that can be imagined, and an anguished silence fell over the room as Dr. Zlatich flipped through the photos. Viewing such scenes was unbearable. Finally, Dr. Zlatich looked up at us and softly said, “Western democracy.”

We had the opportunity to visit these sites. On three separate occasions, we walked down Anete Andrejevich Street and talked with residents. It was on this street at shortly after 11:30 AM on May 7 that cluster bombs fell. At one end of Anete Andrejevich Street is a marketplace, and on the day of the bombing the area was busy with shoppers. The street was narrow, lined with buildings that were old and charming. Evidence of the attack was unmistakable. Almost every house was pockmarked, and shrapnel had gouged hundreds of holes in the walls of the more heavily damaged homes. There was no place for pedestrians to hide on that day. One parked car had not moved since the day of the bombing. It was still there, riddled with punctures and resting on flattened tires, its windows covered with plastic. Memorials to the victims were posted at the spots where they had been killed.

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Home on Anete Andrejevich Street, pockmarked by cluster bomb fragments. Photo: Gregory Elich.

As cluster bombs descended on this neighborhood, a violent and rapidly repeating series of explosions sounded as the bomblets sprayed razor-sharp shrapnel by the thousands. Seventy-three-year-old Smilja Djurich was inside her home when the attack came. “It went blat-blat-blat,” she recalled. “I didn’t know where I was. I was completely stunned. If I had been in the street, I would have been dead. When it began, we rushed to the cellar. People were screaming afterwards.” She sobbed as she told a reporter, “I survived World War II, but I haven’t seen anything like this.”

A young man was killed near her doorstep, sliced to pieces and lying in a pool of blood. Nearby, an elderly woman, her forehead pierced by shrapnel, was stretched out in the street, a bag of carrots beside her. Zhivorad Ilich was selling onions and eggs on a cardboard box that served as a makeshift stall when flying metal killed him. Slavica Dinich explained how she managed to survive. “We ducked for cover under the bed. One bomb fell through the roof of the upper floor of our house.”

Bozidar Panich reported, “I was in my garden when I heard something crack.” He saw smoke rising from the street. “Then I looked at the sky above and saw a small parachute with a yellow grenade descending toward me. Instinctively, I threw myself to the ground and covered my head with my hands. The bomb landed and exploded beside me so that everything shook. I remember that I was all covered with soil. I ran out into the street to look for my son, who had gone out minutes earlier. On the street, it was chaos. The dead and wounded were lying all over the place… People were crying out for help, in shock, and the cars and roofs of houses were burning.”

At the corner of Jelene Dimitrijevich and Shumatovachka Streets, a memorial for Ljiljana Spasich was posted on a brick wall at the place where she was killed while walking home from the market. Only 26 years-old and seven months pregnant, she was just one month away from completing her fifth and final year at medical school. She had planned her life well, expecting to give birth shortly after graduation. But NATO had other plans for her, and an exploding cluster bomb canister killed both her and her unborn baby.

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Memorial to Ljiljana Spasich, posted at the spot where she was killed.  Photo: Gregory Elich.

Accompanying Spasich on that day was her mother-in-law, Simeunka Spasich, who recalled, “We were 300-400 meters from our apartment and some 100 meters from the market when we heard planes. Suddenly, bombs were falling all around us. It was terrible. Explosions, smoke, leaves, branches… I felt a blow on my head, and blood leaking. Then I fainted. Several times I regained consciousness. I looked around me and realized that I was lying in the street, my right leg was broken as well as my right arm. People around me were dead or injured. It was terrible. Right next to me I saw my daughter-in-law Ljiljana, who was lying motionless. She was dead. At that moment, I thought her to be alive, but later they told me she had been killed on the spot, and the child could not have been saved.”

When the ambulance picked up Spasich, she lapsed back into unconsciousness. “I finally gained consciousness at the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade. My left leg was amputated below the knee, and my right hand was seriously injured. I could not move it. I was told that I would have to endure several operations more… My son, who came to visit me, told me that they did not believe I would stay alive, since my intestines had spilled.”

Two memorials to Pordani Seklich were posted on the front door window of the restaurant where she was employed as a waitress. She was in the kitchen when whizzing shrapnel tore through the roof and killed her where she stood. Our hotel, located across the Nishava, overlooked the neighborhood around Anete Andrejevich Street, and we had walked extensively throughout the area. It was an entirely residential neighborhood, with nothing that could be construed as a military target.

Only ten minutes after the cluster bombing of the marketplace neighborhood, a NATO warplane dropped an incendiary cluster bomb on the parking lot of the Clinical Center. A ball of fire engulfed the parking lot, igniting cars and sending thick clouds of black smoke billowing into the sky. Several homes on the adjacent block were damaged. Shrapnel by the hundreds shot through the hospital, causing the roof over the classroom to collapse. It was the everyday routine for staff to meet in the classroom at noon to discuss the war while eating lunch. Had the attack come twenty minutes later, all would have perished. In one room alone, over ninety holes from bomb fragments were counted.

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Parking lot of Clinical Center, target of incendiary cluster bomb.  Photo: Gregory Elich.

The incendiary effect of the bomb brought to mind Djakovica, where NATO attacked a column of Albanian refugees who were returning to their homes in Kosovo. According to a wartime report in Jane’s Defence Weekly, the Pentagon was anxious to introduce the newly developed CBU-97 cluster bomb. This weapon was designed to spray shrapnel heated to an intense temperature and ignite everything within its blast radius. The charred remains of the automobiles in the parking lot indicated that this was probably the weapon used at the Clinical Center. Djakovica was another site that served as a testing ground for the CBU-97, where it proved a rousing success, killing 73 civilians and dismembering and incinerating most of them beyond recognition. Survivors of that attack scattered and sought cover in nearby homes. NATO pilots, spotting this, launched missiles on the houses, adding to the death toll.

The photographs I saw of the victims were horrifying. We were later to talk with Albanians in Belgrade who served in the Yugoslav government or held prominent positions in the society. One of them mentioned his anger over the slaughter at Djakovica, as well as other instances where NATO warplanes killed his fellow Albanians. “The man who could command NATO to bomb people is not human. He is an animal. After the bombing of Djakovica, I saw decapitated bodies. I have pictures of that. It is horrible, terrible. I saw people without arms, without feet.”

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Office building of So Produkt, a distributor of salt products.  Photo: Gregory Elich.

The state-owned DIN cigarette factory in Nish was one of Yugoslavia’s largest manufacturing facilities, employing 2,500 workers. It was bombed on four occasions. The factory’s deputy managing director, Milovoje Apostolovich, told us that cluster bombs were among the munitions dropped on DIN. Workers found two cluster bomb fragments with messages scrawled on them: “Do you still want to be Serbs?” and “Run faster.” Apostolovich estimated damage to his factory at $35 million. A cigarette factory clearly lacked military utility. The only reason DIN was attacked was because it was the largest employer in Nish. We strolled through the factory’s grounds. A cruise missile had completely flattened the tobacco storehouse. Two of the larger buildings were substantially demolished. Merely to clear away the rubble would be an imposing task. Many of the smaller buildings had also sustained substantial damage. Bricklayers were busily rebuilding the canteen. Across the lane, the façade of the large financial and computer center bore the marks of a cluster bomb, with hundreds of gouged holes spread across its face.

Reconstruction continued at the state-owned DIN until it was made fit for privatization by a new Western-friendly government, as 1,400 employees were thrown out of work. In October 2003, DIN was purchased by Philip Morris, which six years later eliminated a third of the remaining workforce, terming those it laid off as “technological surplus.”

Several requests were filed by various parties with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to investigate NATO war crimes, including the cluster bombing of Nish. Established at the behest of the United States, from which it received the bulk of its funding, the ICTY was not an entirely disinterested party. Compelled to deflect persistent complaints about NATO actions, the ICTY Prosecutor’s Office formed a committee it authorized to conduct an “investigation” to determine if there was a basis for legal action against NATO.

Not surprisingly, the Prosecutor’s committee found no basis to charge NATO for any of its actions. In regard to the cluster bombing of Nish, it correctly pointed out that there is no treaty prohibiting or restricting the use of cluster bombs. The Prosecutor’s office added that it indicted Serbian Krajina leader Milan Martich for launching a cluster bomb missile at Zagreb because it “was not designed to hit military targets but to terrorize the civilians of Zagreb.” NATO cluster bombs, evidently by their inherent nature, cannot be so characterized. “There is no indication cluster bombs were used in such a fashion by NATO,” the Prosecutor’s report asserts. The Office “should not commence an investigation into the use of cluster bombs as such by NATO.”

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Bridge over the Nishava River.  Photo: Gregory Elich.

The report goes on to explain that military commanders are obliged to “do everything practicable to verify that the objectives to be attacked are military objectives,” and to refrain from striking purely civilian targets. Against all evidence, the Prosecutor’s Office claimed that most of NATO’s targets were “clearly military objectives,” and “military objectives are often located in densely populated areas.”

The evidence for arriving at that determination was clear, according to the Prosecutor’s Office. “It has tended to assume that the NATO and NATO countries’ press statements are generally reliable and that explanations have been honestly given,” despite the fact that when it asked NATO about specific incidents, replies were vague and “failed to address the specific incidents.” Only one conclusion was possible: “On the basis of the information reviewed, however, the committee is of the opinion that neither an in-depth investigation related to the bombing campaign as a whole nor investigations related to specific incidents are justified.”

Try telling Ljiljana Spasich’s widowed husband that his wife and unborn baby were legitimate military targets.

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Rabbis convicted of conspiring to kidnap

NOVANEWS

Husbands, force them to divorce wives

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Rabbis operated ring that kidnapped husbands of unhappy wives, beat them until they agreed to grant divorce.
HAARETZ
Three Orthodox Jewish rabbis were convicted in New Jersey on Tuesday of conspiracy to commit kidnapping in a scheme to force men to grant divorces to their unhappy wives under Jewish law.
Two of the rabbis were convicted as well of attempted kidnapping in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey, according to the office of one of the defense attorneys.
The case before U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson hinged in part on the testimony of an undercover FBI agent who posed as an Orthodox Jewish wife seeking a divorce.
Orthodox Jewish women cannot get a divorce unless their husbands consent through a document known as a “get.”
Prosecutors said the rabbis operated a ring that kidnapped or tried to kidnap men and tortured them with beatings and stun guns until they agreed to divorce.
Rabbis Mendel Epstein, 68, Jay Goldstein, 60, and Binyamin Stimler, 38, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, according to the office of lawyer Aidan O’Connor, who represented Goldstein.
Goldstein and Stimler also were convicted of attempted kidnapping.
Epstein’s son, David, 39, was charged but found not guilty of conspiracy and kidnapping.
The jury began deliberating on April 15.
The ring operated from 2009 to 2013, prosecutors said.
Although a wife can skip seeking a get and settle for a civil divorce, the separation without the husband’s consent can result in her being cast out of family and social circles.
Experts say such kidnapping schemes are responses to so-called get abuse, in which husbands demand an unreasonably large share of the couple’s communal property before granting the divorce.
The convictions come about three months after 56-year-old Rabbi Martin Wolmark pleaded guilty in the same case to conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce to commit extortion.

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Fearing the Loss of Hegemony: The Concept of US Retreat

NOVANEWS
By Binoy Kampmark
Global Research
The Road to Armageddon: The Insane Drive for American Hegemony Threatens Life on Earth

A hegemon is supposed to solve international crises, not cause them. – Christopher Layne, The American Conservative, May 1, 2010

Nothing upsets those drunk on imperialist virtue than the fact it might end. Such romances with power do have a use-by-date, going off like old fruit. Eventually, the crippling contradictions will win through in the end. The days of the US empire are numbered – but then again, they always were.

The recent round of spring meetings at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank flutter with suggestions that American economic power is being shaded, be it by the republics own dysfunction, or the emergence of other powers like China. People cant be too public about these things, argues Arvind Subramanian, chief economic advisor to the Indian government, but I would argue this is the single most important issue at these spring meetings.[1]

This would come as a surprise for some. The various theorists on international theory, many slumming at The Weekly Standard, form the praetorian guard of arm chair defenders of American virtue and power. Max Boot, writing a piece for the magazine in October 2001, typified this by arguing that the attacks of the previous month were a result of insufficient American involvement and ambition; the solution is to be more expansive in our goals and more assertive in their implementation.[2]

The problem is Barack Obama. They see the Obama administration as a regime in retreat, which is the theme of Bret Stephens near fictional work. Indeed, America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming World Disorder already gives its readers two issues to stumble over: that there is an isolationism to speak of, and that disorder would be a genuine problem.

The first issue. For Stephens, the Obama retreat is reflected by the choice made by the president when he came to office determined to scale down Americas global commitments for the sake of what he likes to call nation building at home.[3] Stephens assiduously ignores the vast, expansive and dangerous robotic reach of American power, typified by remote drone strikes, the backing of proxy regimes and such negotiating endeavours as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If only the isolationism argument was true.

President Warren Harding, in 1921, is said to have placed the US on the pathway to isolationism with his anti-League of Nations stance, and the winding down of the post-war military machine. Vast expenditure without proper consideration for results, he warned, is the inevitable fruit of war. Wars, rather than being the efficient earners for a state, were wasteful enterprises. Avoid those security alliances that become, more often than not, stifling and awkward embraces.

Therein was born the myth of American insularity, one of considered geopolitical withdrawal. Such an assessment would ignore continued US involvement in the international financial system as indeed, the biggest creditor economy and its engagement in various international organisations, including, to a limited degree, the League itself. This was Washington without the fangs.

But Stephens, like his colleagues of that most myopic brand of history the idea of empire can see no reason for America to retreat from anything. Take, for instance, the adventurism in the Middle East. There was no strategic or even political requirement to get out of Iraq once we had succeeded in pacifying the country.

The efforts of such pacification continue to linger in their destructive toll, though armchair militarists get goggle-eyed when it comes to the empirical world. Conservative columnist George Will was left wondering what the missing factor was in the state building process and came to a simple, if impossible conclusion. Iraq is just three people away from democratic success. Unfortunately, the three are George Washington, James Madison, and John Marshall.

Then comes the issue of disorder, which takes the contractarian idea that, to achieve order in the international system, deals must be made with hegemons, whether you want to or not. Stability is something gained by bedding the brute across the ocean, and smaller states need to cosy up to bigger ones with tarted up appeal.

This system of perceived order was deemed a matter of virtue rather than good, old fashioned avarice on the part of the great power. By dampening great-power competition and giving Washington the capacity to shape regional balances of power, argues Stephen M. Walt, primacy contributed to a more tranquil international environment.[4] Tranquillity, however, remains a matter of degree.

Empires do check into the old home, get on the non-solids and eventually die from natural causes. Yet Stephens is cautious to suggest that, while America is in retreat, it is not in decline. This is in stark contrast to others, like Christopher Lane of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, who sees the US as increasingly unable to play the hegemons assigned role.

In any case, a power dedicated to causing more mayhem than policing stability doesnt deserve any titles in the hegemonic department. The otherwise war loving David Frum had to concede after Obama pushed the US into another conflict in 2011 that, Three wars is a lot, even for the United States. In Laynes final summation, The epoch of American dominance is drawing to a close, and international politics is entering a period of transition: no longer unipolar but not yet fully multipolar.[5]

When the curtains will be finally drawn on the act that is American empire is not for anybody to say, though the clock ticks with its usual grinding music. The nature of its power will continue to change, with other powers emerging from the chrysalis. The question will be whether such a process takes place slowly, or whether the empire ages disgracefully.

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