Archive for the 'war' Category



Iraq vet: Our real enemy is not the ones living in a distant land, they are right here in front of us. Racism is their weapon

Our real enemy is not the ones living in a distant land,
they are right here in front of us.  Racism is their weapon

Iraq vet talks on class, race, and exploitation

Iraq vet talks on class, race, and exploitation

“Our real enemy is not the ones living in a distant land whose names or policies we don’t understand; The real enemy is a system that wages war when it’s profitable, the CEOs who lay us off our jobs when it’s profitable, the Insurance Companies who deny us Health care when it’s profitable, the Banks who take away our homes when it’s profitable. Our enemies are not several hundred thousands away. They are right here in front of us.”

How do the the rulers get away with it?  This soldier is clear:

“Racism is a vital weapon employed by this government. It is a more important weapon than a rifle, a tank, a bomber or a battleship.” “They  need a public who’s willing to send soldiers into harm’s way, they need soldiers willing to kill and be killed without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb, but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow orders to use it.”

“And the ruling class, the billionaires who profit from human suffering, who care only about expanding their wealth and controlling the world economy, understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince us that war, oppression, and exploitation are in our interest. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to kill and die is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior.

“Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country, to make the rich richer. Without racism, soldiers would realize they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires that send us to war. .. Our enemies are right here at home, and if we organize and fight with our sisters and brothers we can stop this war, we can stop this government, and we can create a better world. “

Mike Prysner is from IVAW, Iraq Veterans Against the War. This speech was from Winter Soldier in March 22, 2008. You can view his entire testimony here, which spells out the role of racism, and how, under a veneer of anti-racsm, the army and and civilian society are now pushing an onslaught of racism which is both homicidal and suicidal.

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Pakistan, at crossroads of rivalry between Russia, China, and the US, refuses to satisfy US demands on Taliban and Afghanistan

Pakistan, at crossroads of rivalry between  Russia, China, and the US, refuses to satisfy US demands on Taliban and Afghanistan.  US support for India also a factor.

The New York Times December 15 article, “Rebuffing U.S., Pakistan Balks at Crackdown” emphasizes a geo-political importance of Pakistan beyond its hosting pipelines bring Central Asia’s oil and gas to Western and/or Chinese capitalists:

Demands by the United States for Pakistan to crack down on the strongest Taliban warrior in Afghanistan, Siraj Haqqani, whose fighters pose the biggest threat to American forces, have been rebuffed by the Pakistani military, according to Pakistani military officials and diplomats.

The core reason for Pakistan’s imperviousness is its scant faith in the Obama troop surge, and what Pakistan sees as the need to position itself for a regional realignment in Afghanistan once American forces begin to leave.

It considers Mr. Haqqani and his control of large areas of Afghan territory vital to Pakistan in the jostling for influence that will pit Pakistan, India, Russia, China and Iran against one another in the post-American Afghan arena, the Pakistani officials said.

Pakistan is particularly eager to counter the growing influence of its archenemy, India, which is pouring $1.2 billion in aid into Afghanistan. “If America walks away, Pakistan is very worried that it will have India on its eastern border and India on its western border in Afghanistan,” said Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States who is pro-American in his views.

In the 1980s, Jalaluddin Haqqani (Siraj’s father) received money and arms from the C.I.A. routed through Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, to fight the Soviets, according to Ahmed Rashid, an expert on the Afghan Taliban and the author of “Descent Into Chaos.” In the 1990s, when the Taliban ran Afghanistan, Jalaluddin Haqqani served as governor of Paktia Province. The relationship between the Haqqanis and Osama bin Laden dates back to the war against the Soviets in the 1980s, according to Kamran Bokhari, the South Asia director for Stratfor, a geopolitical risk analysis company.

When the Taliban government collapsed at the end of 2001 and Qaeda operatives fled from Tora Bora to Pakistan, the Haqqanis relocated their command structure to North Waziristan and welcomed Al Qaeda, Mr. Bokhari said.

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Public health in Afghanistan to be subordinated to US military and political goals

Summary: The health of the Afghan people caught up in America’s 8-year war is America’s responsibility.  Afghan life expectancy is 47 years, and nearly 1/5 of children die by age 5.  Since 2002, however, there has been an improvement in primary care services provided by the Afghan Public Health Ministry, which has been comparatively free of corruption and has been directly funded by western powers and allowed to develop its own programs.  This will all change under the US military surge, which will include a heavy civilian component where provision of health and other services will be directly tied to “quick impact” projects to achieve US military and political goals.  Set against a background of US war crimes in the area, the prospects are dim.  (US health workers cannot escape the parallels with post-9/11 US, when the US public health system, in shambles from years of cuts, was infused with billions to fight to supposedly fight bio-terrorism and promote hysteria.  See 2003 American Public Health Association resolution on Public Health and Bioterrorism below.)

Z-Net, December 14, 2009 By Seiji Yamada

Health Workers and the Afghanistan-Pakistan War

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President Obama has set our nation on the course of escalation of our war in Afghanistan-Pakistan. What should be the concerns of health workers in this current juncture? As health workers, we should concern ourselves with the health and human rights implications of the war that our nation is conducting. For one, we should care about what happens to the Afghan people, whose life expectancy is 45 years for women and 47 years for men, and 191 out of 1000 children die before they are 5 years old (1). It is our responsibility as Americans to care about what happens to Afghan people in the course of this war that our nation has been waging since October 2001, particularly when they are injured or killed by our dint of American arms. The effects of war extends to consequences of war, such as the collapse of health services, lack of access to water and food, and damage to infrastructure, economies, and societies. We should keep in mind that Afghanistan is a country that has had ongoing conflict and civil turmoil since 1979.

As noted by Rubenstein and Newbrander, primary care services ensured by the Afghan Ministry of Public Health have improved since 2002.

[T]he number of health facilities has doubled and the number of trained midwives quadrupled. The share of health facilities with at least one female health worker has climbed to 83 percent. The number of children dying in infancy or before age 5 has declined nearly 25 percent, which translates into nearly 100,000 fewer infants and children dying this year, compared with 2002.

These initiatives have strengthened the foundations of a state that can serve its people. Rather than providing or contracting for services directly, USAID, the World Bank and the European Commission have strengthened the capacity of the Ministry of Public Health to develop and implement health policies, oversee programs, manage resources, engage communities and control the delivery of services. In contrast to the corruption obvious elsewhere, the health ministry has shown a level of transparency and accountability that allows U.S. funds to flow directly to the government for the provision of basic health services. (2)

The Ministry of Public Health defined a basic package of health services such as immunization, prenatal and obstetrical care, family planning, and care for childhood illnesses. The Ministry contracts with NGOs, 27% of which are international NGOs, to deliver the basic package to a specified geographic area. (3)

In an October 5 CNN joint interview, Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton call for an increase in the proportion of American civilians to military involved in Afghanistan. (4) It is evident that they envision using agencies such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID) essentially as a “force multiplier” or the “hearts and minds” component of their military objectives in Afghanistan. The proposed director of the USAID Rajiv Shah, a physician, tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “If confirmed, I look forward to working with this Committee and my colleagues at USAID and the State Department to assess USAID’s contribution to counterinsurgency and stabilization operations.” (5)

Rubenstein and Newbrander note that the Washington is planning to divert USAID funding to “quick-impact” projects such as building health facilities or providing medical equipment in direct support of military operations.

Yet there is no evidence that expensive “quick impact” health projects that are not integrated into a larger strategy, or that do not actively engage locals, either contribute to security or wean populations from the enemy.

Quick-impact projects, such as clinic construction or the provision of new medical equipment, are rarely sustainable and seldom based on the community engagement needed for long-term effects. These simplistic and immediate interventions have been known to backfire. One military health analyst has criticized “drive-by” health interventions as “Band-Aid” operations that raise — and then crush — local expectations and ultimately lead to greater dissatisfaction and distrust. Moreover, as resources are diverted from the Afghan-led effort to build a system of effective and responsive primary care services, the emergence of a legitimate state will be compromised. (6)

Health workers should resist such attempts to co-opt the humanitarian community. Association with the military gives people the impression that humanitarian workers are furthering military objectives or U.S. foreign policy – threatening the security of aid workers and those that they are trying to assist. (7) Furthermore, health workers should refuse to participate in counterinsurgency.

On October 18, the New York Times Magazine ran a sympathetic story on General Stanley McChrystal’s plans for turning the war around in Afghanistan. (8) Under the rubric of counterinsurgency, the plans are to clear areas of Taliban by force of arms, then maintain control long enough (on the order of years) to reconstruct so-called “civil society.” By this is meant the elimination of corruption, the establishment of good governance, the rebuilding of infrastructure, schools, health care, economic development, the elimination of poppy cultivation, and so on.

While McChrystal’s role in Iraq was as commander of Joint Special Operations, that is, overseeing Delta Force and Navy SEALs in covert ops such as the successful killing of the leader of al Qai’da in Iraq al-Zarqawi by bomb strike – in Afghanistan, McChrystal now upbraids a subordinate European general for bombing a target that might cause harm to civilians. Indeed, limiting the use of artillery and airstrikes reflects a recognition that they alienate the populace. As Vietnam, winning the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan population is the current logic.

But watching General Stanley McChrystal’s counterinsurgency principles on display in the Frontline episode, Obama’s War, (9) where Marines are shown trying to convince villagers in Helmand Province to come shop at a market under U.S. control, it is evident that they are making little headway. Well-meaning they may be, but it is painful to watch Marines try to be goodwill ambassadors. Retired Marine John Bernard is critical of the rules of engagement that he believes led to the death of his son, Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard on August 14 in Helmand Province. John Bernard notes that Marines are not trained to be police officers and nation-builders, but rather “kill people and break things.” (10)

Indeed, by July 2006, three years into the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the best estimates for deaths among Iraqis are those of the July 2006 survey that reported 655,000 deaths as a consequence of war. (11) Our recent experience in Iraq should make it abundantly evident that the U.S. military is not adept at reconstructing civil society.

Secondly, let us consider unmanned aerial vehicle strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan the FATA. The CIA is conducting a program targeting Al-Qaeda leaders and enemies of the Pakistani government with missiles launched from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with names such as Predator and Reaper. (12) Together with the surge of troops in Afghanistan, the Obama administration is stepping up these attacks. Although an unnamed U.S. government official claims that only 20 or so civilians have been killed (13), Pakistani sources report that of 701 people killed in 60 attacks between January 2008 and April 2009, only 14 were suspected militants (14). To assassinate Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud on August 5, 2009, sixteen missiles were launched over fourteen months, resulting in between 207 and 321 additional deaths. (15)

Why are such air attacks on civilians not considered war crimes? Air attacks are not as accurate as they are portrayed. Non-combatants, including women and children, are often killed by air attacks. Homes and neighborhoods, shelter, water and sanitation, people’s livelihoods are destroyed. In the military parlance, this is called merely “collateral damage.” We should also recognize that bombing from the air, turn people against those responsible. (16) If we turn back to drone attacks on Pakistani borderland with Afghanistan, an August 2009 Gallup poll revealed that 59% of Pakistanis perceive the U.S. as the biggest threat to Pakistan, compared to 18% who named that India and 11% who named the Taliban. (17) The Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports that Peshawar residents hold the U.S. responsible for bombings that the Pakistani government attributes to the Taliban. (18)

Finally, we still have not seem to have realized that we live in an empire. I was taken by the title: In the Graveyard of Empires. (19) The author urges caution in Afghanistan, where the Alexander the Great and the British and Soviet Empires met ignominious fates. But a number of chapters into the book, I realized that the author did not think of the U.S. as being an empire. The RAND political scientist has a plan for the U.S. to conduct counterinsurgency more effectively.

Politically, in some respects, the U.S. remains one nation among many, such as in the UN General Assembly. In the economic realm, it competes with Europe and Asia. In the military realm, however, it reigns supreme. The tendency is thus for the U.S. to “lead with its strength,” choosing to resolve conflicts by military threat or attack.

In the words of Afghan women leading a recent protest against government corruption, “The innocent and oppressed people will be the victims of American air and ground attacks.” (20) This is a central problem for health workers in the U.S. As Americans, we are responsible for our nation’s actions around the globe. As health workers, we must uphold the cause of health worldwide. What should be our role be?

1. Substantial Improvements Achieved in Afghanistan’s Health Sector. http://www.jhsph.edu/publichealthnews/press_releases/2007/Burnham_afghanistan.html

2. Rubenstein LS, Newbrander W. Undermining Afghan health care. Washington Post, Nov 29, 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/27/AR2009112702454_pf.html

3. Loevinsohn B, Sayed GD. Lessons from the health sector in Afghanistan. JAMA 2008;300:724-726.

4. Gates R, Clinton H. Interview. CNN, Oct 5, 2009. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0910/06/ampr.01.html

5. Questions for the Record Submitted for the Nomination of Rajiv Shah to be USAID Administrator by Senator John F. Kerry (#1) Senate Foreign Relations Committee. http://www.usglc.org/USGLCdocs/Shah_Responses_to_Kerry_QFR.pdf

6. Rubenstein & Newbrander.

7. Bristol N. Military incursions into aid work anger humanitarian groups. Lancet 2006;367:384- 386.

8. Filkins D. Stanley McChrystal’s Long War. New York Times Magazine, Oct 18, 2009.

9. Gaviria M, Smith M. Obama’s War. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/obamaswar/

10. Sharp D. Marine’s dad speaks out. Honolulu Advertiser, Oct 18, 2009.

11. Burnham G, Lafta R, Docey S, Roberts L. Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey. Lancet. 2006; 368: 1421-28.

12. Mayer J. The predator war. New Yorker, Oct 26, 2009. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/26/091026fa_fact_mayer

13. Shane S. C.I.A. to expand use of drones in Pakistan. New York Times. Dec. 4, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/world/asia/04drones.html?hp

14. Ahmad MI. Pakistan creates its own enemy. Le Monde Diplomatique. Nov 2009. http://mondediplo.com/2009/11/02pakistan

15. Mayer J.

16. Young M, Sprey P. (Interview). Bill Moyers Journal. http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01302009/watch.html

17. Ahmad MI.

18. Bombings, drone attacks fuel anti-US sentiment in Pakistan. Dawn. Dec 7, 2009. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/07-bombings-drone-attacks-fuel-anti-us-sentiment-in-pakistan-ha-02

19. Jones S. In the graveyard of empires. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009.

20. Perry T. Afghan women lead protest against government corruption. LA Times. Dec 10, 2009.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-fg-afghanistan-protest11-2009dec11,0,320839.story

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American Public Health Association Resolution 2003-23

Strengthening the Fiscal Viability and Independence of Public Health While Responding to Terrorism

Observing that in times of national crisis public health programs have suffered as government funds are diverted to national defense and fighting terrorism,1,2 and away from solving existing problems, such as contaminated food and water3 and breakdown in immunization rates4; and

While acknowledging that the American Public Health Association has long supported improved communication between those agencies of government charged with responding to emergencies5,6 we nevertheless recognize that some current proposals advocate such extensive integration between public health departments and police, security agencies and the military,7 that public health infrastructure and personnel could be diverted primarily to providing defense against terrorist attacks8; and

Noting that public health and security entities have different mandates, methodologies and philosophical foundations; and Noting the limited effectiveness of secondary and tertiary prevention strategies for defending against terrorist attacks,3 especially when compared to the primary prevention strategies advocated in earlier APHA policy opposing war, in particular wars over natural resources9,10; and

Noting that the argument for the shift of domestic funding priorities is predicated on the inevitability of terrorist attacks on the United States, when in fact further attacks are most likely if the United States pursues a policy of pre-emptive war, and might be averted by alternative approaches to international policy; 8,10 and

Asserting that all efforts to improve U.S. homeland defenses must protect the civil liberties and human rights of every person in the United States, in particular public employees.

Therefore, APHA

1. Calls on Congress and the President to abandon any plans to integrate administrations of public health entities with police, intelligence or security agencies.

2. Calls on Congress and the President to substantially increase core funding for public health infrastructure and personnel to strengthen the capacity of primary public health services as well as balance and strengthen the capacity to react swiftly to any sudden emergency, natural or manmade.

3. Calls for the passage of legislation at the federal and state levels to protect public health workers from recriminations for refusal to carry out military, police or intelligence tasks which are not properly part of the practice of public health.

References

1. Weiss R, Nakashima E. Restoration of broken public health system is best preparation, experts say. Washington Post, September 22, 2001.

2. APHA Policy Number: LB02-4. Protecting Essential Public Health Functions Amidst State Economic Downturns.

3. Sidel VW, Cohen HW, Gould RM. Good intentions and the road to bioterrorism preparedness. Am J Public Health 2001;91:716-8.

4. Brown D. Severe vaccine shortages termed ‘unprecedented;’ Kids’ defenses affected. Washington Post, April 20, 2002, p A01.

5. APHA Policy Number 9116: Health Professionals and Disaster Preparedness

6. APHA Policy Number 200016: Prevention, Response, and Training for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases, including Bioterrorism.

7. Hart G, Rudman W, eds. Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change. The Phase III Report of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century. The United States Commission on National Security/ 21st Century, February 15, 2001, http://www.nssg.gov, accessed Oct. 3, 2001.

8. Young J. Bioterrorism Readiness More Urgent Than Addressing Uninsured. F-D-C Reports, Vol. 14, No. 207, October 25, 2002. “Bioterrorism preparedness and public health infrastructure strengthening have overtaken the uninsured as America’s top health care priority, former Vice President Al Gore said in remarks at the George Washington University School of Public Health & Health Services Oct. 24. … Gore underscored the threat of bioterrorist attack, which he suggested would increase with an invasion of Iraq, and described the public health system as flawed.”

9. Policy Number: 9923 WARFARE Opposing War in the Middle East.

10. Policy Number: 2002-11 Opposing War in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.

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KPFA’s program “Flashpoints” is under attack by station management

KPFA’s courageous program “Flashpoints” is under attack by KPFA management.  Please read below and email protests to the general manger at KPFA: gm@kpfa.org and send a copy to Dennis Bernstein at Flashpoints: dbernstein@ igc.org

Award Winning Flashpoints Radio Show Under Threat by KPFA Management

SF Indybay, Dec. 11, 2009.

The Flashpoints radio program is being directly threatened with closure by station management. Budget cuts implemented by KPFA management; reduce staff time for Flashpoints by some 75 hours per week. Flashpoints, an award winning national radio program, originates at KPFA in Berkeley, California, and reaches some thirty cities in the US and serves an on-line audience worldwide.

Nora Barrows-Friedman wrote on December 9, “KPFA has effectively destroyed Flashpoints this week, beginning with the layoff of our technical producer position. Just hours ago, they called me into a meeting and casually informed me that my hours will be reduced by 50%. I cannot afford to keep this job if I’m on 20 hours a week.”

Ms. Barrows-Friedman is a long time investigative reporter specializing in Israel-Palestine issues and is one of the few reporters in the country who covers this sensitive issue in a straightforward manner. She taught herself Arabic and often reports from the ground in the Middle East. Along with Flashpoints producers Dennis Bernstein and Miguel Molina, Ms. Barrows-Friedman was the recent recipient of a lifetime achievement Media Freedom Award from Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored.

“Nora Barrows Friedman has seniority over at least a dozen more recent and less experienced staff people. She has done an outstanding job at Flashpoints, showing a special dedication and talent. She has top professional qualifications and standards, tested by time and performance,” stated long standing political commentator and author Dr. Michael Parenti.

With the latest cuts Flashpoints has lost some 30% of its annual budget. Flashpoints producer Dennis Bernstein believes that, “This has now been elevated to a political battle. Management has pumped up the budgets of the programs of their internal political supporters, and at the same time tried to kill Flashpoints through intimidation and attrition, and outright disrespect. Over fifteen people were hired after Nora, and yet Nora is one of the first to be hit and hit hard. It appears to the Flashpoints team, and our key advisers and supporters, that KPFA management is about to deal the show a final blow.”

Local KPFA listener Dianne Budd, M.D., a regular contributor to KPFA, threatened on December 11, to withhold her annual contribution to the station. “I have donated regularly to KPFA, sometimes well over $1,000 a year. This year I had planned to donate towards the end of December for tax reasons; however, if this decision to decimate and make impotent the Flashpoints staff is not overturned immediately, I will not make any donation,” Dr. Budd stated.

In a December 11 letter to KPFA station management, Arab community organizer Eyad Kishawi writes, “When the national Pacifica organization attempted to conduct a corporate takeover of KPFA, we the Arab, Muslim, anti-war and Indigenous communities conducted an all out campaign in support of your/our station that carries our voices and the voices for equality and justice. Let me remind you that we lived up to the spirit of ‘Listener Sponsored Radio’ and started organizing fundraising events to keep the station going, and in particular supported Flashpoints . . . Flashpoints had been a thorn in the side of corporate and state-sponsored media. By attacking Flashpoints, you are pitting a large number of your listener sponsors against your station.”

Richard Becker, Western Regional Coordinator, A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and Barbara Lubin, Executive Director Middle East Children’s Alliance jointly stated in a letter on December 11, that “We are shocked and dismayed to hear about the draconian cutbacks that KPFA management has announced against Flashpoints, the most incisive and cutting edge of the station’s programs. Flashpoints reporting and analysis on a wide range of struggles— from Honduras to Iraq, Haiti to Palestine, political prisoners, and many, many other critical international, national and local issues is unparalleled. The activists and organizers of the A.N.S.W.E.R.-Act Now to Stop War and End Racism-Coalition and the Middle East Children’s Alliance, along with thousands of other activists and listeners in the Bay Area, have the highest regard for Flashpoints and its dedicated team.”

Becker and Luben call upon the station to restore Nora Barrows-Friedman and the technical producer position immediately, and threaten that “this is not an issue that will simply go away. On the contrary, if these devastating cuts are not reversed, you can be assured that it will only escalate.”

Factional disputes within Pacifica and specifically KPFA have recently emerged among programs like Flashpoints, Guns and Butter and Hard Knock that take aggressive critical positions towards major social justice issues including: racism, American empire and the military-industrial-media complex, Israel-Palestine, Haiti, and other hot button issues, vis-à-vis those programs that favor a more NPR like approach that includes news from corporate media sources like Associated Press and softer more entertaining programming.

Richard Phelps, former KPFA local station board chair, stated in an interview, “that given that the KPFA mission is to bring to people the stories that the corporate media refuses to cover, Flashpoints is one of the most important programs at the station. KPFA management seems to be wanting to tone down programs like Flashpoints and move the station into being just slightly left of center of the Democrat party.”

“The KPFA management doesn’t want critical reporting,” said Attila Nagy former North Bay representative to the KPFA Local Station Board. “They have their priorities backwards,” Nagy added.

The mission statement of Pacifica radio states, “(d) In radio broadcasting operations to engage in any activity that shall contribute to a lasting understanding between nations and between the individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors; to gather and disseminate information on the causes of conflict between any and all of such groups; and through any and all means compatible with the purposes of this corporation to promote the study of political and economic problems and of the causes of religious, philosophical and racial antagonisms; (e) In radio broadcasting operations to promote the full distribution of public information; to obtain access to sources of news not commonly brought together in the same medium; and to employ such varied sources in the public presentation of accurate, objective, comprehensive news on all matters vitally affecting the community.”

Dr. Ben Frymer, Director of Project Censored issued a statement today, “It is quite troubling to learn of the recent drastic cutbacks to the Flashpoints program. These cuts will almost certainly be crippling to the vital efforts of the Flashpoints team in raising awareness of social injustice on a global scale. We at Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation find these efforts so valuable that we just last week presented life-time achievement awards for Media Freedom to the Flashpoints radio team on KPFA: Dennis Bernstein, Miguel Molina and Nora Borrows-Friedman.”

KPFA management did not return e-mailed question regarding this article. Persons wishing to comment should send e-mails to the general manger at KPFA: gm [at] kpfa.org and Dennis Bernstein at Flashpoints: dbernstein [at] igc.org

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Nora Barrows-Friedman wrote an earlier e-mail

My public statement on KPFA’s attempt to destroy Flashpoints  Share  Today (Thursday)  at 4:26pm

Dear Flashpoints supporters and community,

On Wednesday, December 9th, two days after KPFA management eliminated  Flashpoints’ Technical Producer position without notice, I was emailed  by Lemlem Rijio (KPFA’s General Manager) to “discuss my concerns.” I  had expressed the night before, in an email, the fact that without a  Technical Producer (TP), who also is our engineer and board-op, the  show was being put in danger. And it was going to be an extreme burden  to absorb the TP’s responsibilities as well as those of my own. It was  inferred in an earlier email written by Lemlem on Tuesday that I would  become the editor, engineer and board-op on top of my regular content  and hosting duties.

This is the email Lemlem sent me at 9:50am Wednesday morning:

Nora, Pacifica HR director Ahmad Andreson and I will meet with you today.  Can you be here at 11:30am? You can discuss your concerns at that  time. Lemlem

At 11:30, I went into the KPFA conference room to meet with Lemlem and  Ahmad. I asked them why they had eliminated the TP position, and let  them know that it was going to be a nightmare for the show to operate  at this capacity. They said that it was an across-the-board cut, and  that everyone was going to share in the burden. I told them that it  was unreasonable for them to assume that I would absorb the TP  position on a daily basis on top of my own responsibilities. And then,  casually, Lemlem remarked that I was also going to be affected — they  had decided to cut my pay in half, bringing my hours to 20 a week.

I’m not one to get emotional easily in front of people in assumed or  appointed power. But I was so shocked that I burst into tears, and  explained to them that it was already an extremely difficult situation  for my family — my partner is having a terrible time finding work and  we have been barely making ends meet as it is. With a young child,  we’ve been pushed to the limit in terms of our ability to buy  groceries and pay the rent, let alone the utilities, credit card  bills, student loans and medical bills that are piling up to no end.  And I also took this as a sign of extreme disrespect for the job that  I do, and have put my body on the line for.

This was an ambush. I was not told beforehand that this would be the  focus of our meeting (see Lemlem’s email above), nor was I given ample  time to prepare myself. Also, I believe this was a violation of the  Union contract because a Shop Steward was not present. I am filing a  grievance as we speak.

By eliminating the TP position on Monday, and slashing my hours to  50%, KPFA has made a decision to destroy the show. There is no way  that we can survive at this level. We have been amputated.

In the nearly 7 years that I have been a part of the Flashpoints team,  I have proudly put my blood, sweat and tears into this show. I am  privileged to have been mentored by Dennis Bernstein, who has nearly  killed himself for the last two decades to put this show on the air  day after day after day, with nothing but contempt and disrespect from  the KPFA power structure. Over the last six years, I have been honored  to take on the brutal beat of Palestine, and have covered it for  Pacifica listeners from the ground, oftentimes taking vacation hours  to leave, and raising my own money (or putting it on a credit card) to  get there and work for weeks at a time, dodging bullets and risking my  own safety.

This story especially is one that I carry a great amount of respect  for, and I know that tens of thousands of listeners all across the  world depend on our Palestine coverage because there is no parallel.  Dennis and I have put our hearts and souls into this story, and all  other stories we cover on Flashpoints, because we feel that we owe it  to the people to make this show a platform for the voiceless and to  act as a beacon of truth and dissent against the powers that be. We  have survived death threats, verbal attacks, physical attacks, and  literal bullets. But we cannot survive the evisceration of our  production staff without a fight from the greater community.

As well as destroying Flashpoints, KPFA has also attacked Hard Knock  Radio, a show that, like ours, was already running at a stretched  capacity and also answers to the community. There will be more cuts in  the next few days to programs that we depend on. KPFA has taken their  actions, let’s now take our own. I thank you in advance for defending  Flashpoints’ right to exist and flourish as we press forward, at a  time when the White House prepares to send thousands more soldiers to  their deaths and traumas, and as millions of indigenous people in the  Middle East and here in our own backyard face expanded, lethal  attacks.

I’m not sure what the next step should or could be, but I think it is  a good idea to formulate some sort of sustained, growing yet peaceful  outrage at KPFA’s actions.

Onwards and forwards,  No

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Read a SF Bayview newspaper article with more background information and an interview with Nora Barrrows Friedman in the SF Bayview Newspaper:

shortlink to the post = http://wp.me/p3xLR-ja

The First World War: The origin of real Terrorism and the beginning of ongoing Oil War

Kanan48, November 13, 2009

The First World War: The origin of real Terrorism and the beginning of ongoing Oil War

By Yamin Zakaria

Art by Naji Al AliVia: Media Monitors Network.

The cessation of hostilities was declared on the 11th hour, the 11th day of the 11th month on the Western Front, between the Allies of World War I (WWI) and Germany. Today, the nation commemorates the 2.5 Million dead with a two-minute silence, a war that took approximately 20 Million lives in total.

Despite the enormous loss, and after almost one hundred years, there is little reflection on the causes of this war, hardly any discussion on this point, and the lessons to be learnt from it. They say historians to date cannot agree on the causes. The history books in schools and colleges point to the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire by the Serb nationalists as the trigger for WWI.

Nations did not mobilise their forces and wage costly wars due to the assassination of one man. The war was not one of good versus evil, tyranny versus freedom, but simply a struggle for material resources. It was a war over territory, colony, inflamed by nationalism and historical feuds. The war was simply a global clash of empires.

Once the war was triggered, the central powers (German Empire, Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire) on one side faced the Triple Entente (Britain, France and Russia). This conflict was marked by the introduction of air raids and poison gas, a prelude to the birth of state-terrorism. In the early 1920s, the British used chemical weapons on the Kurds in Iraq, under the direction of Winston Churchill long before Saddam Hussein. During the next global war, these methods involving air raids, chemical weapons and explosives were developed and deployed on a larger scale on the civilian population. This is the origin of real terrorism.

The Germans tried to instigate a pan-Indian uprising against the British Raj by conspiring with the Ghadar Party and some Indian nationalists. This plan was thwarted when British intelligence infiltrated the movement. India was the Crown Jewel for the British Empire; it gave her so much wealth and the ability to raise an army. Many Indians did serve in the British forces, in fact a third of the British forces in France were from India.

Fighting also broke out between the British and the German in the various colonies in Africa (Togoland, Cameroon, South West Africa and East Africa).

Just prior to the war, Germany was strengthening political and economic ties with the Ottoman Empire. They advised and supported the building of the Berlin to Baghdad railway, which was planned to link with the Hejaz railway that was being built at the same time. The railway would operate from Istanbul to Damascus, then to Medina and Mecca. Both railways would make most of the provinces easily accessible to the Ottoman Caliphate. Part of the reason why this was constructed was to keep the British forces out of these Arab provinces.

The Hejaz railway links were never completed, the Ottomans joined in the war in 1914, Sultan Mehmed V declared the last Jihad by a Caliph. It had very little impact on the Muslims. The Arabs sided with the British, a major act of treachery against the Caliphate. The Muslims from India continued to serve the British Forces.

In response to the Ottomans declaring war, the first major military act by the British forces was to land troops in Abadan, near the southern tip of Iran. This was to protect the flow of oil to west. Substantial investment into the Iranian oil fields was already made by Britain and France. Two years earlier the British Royal Navy switched from coal to oil, and it was the fuel for its planes and tanks. Naturally, they felt the need to secure Iraq as a way of defending those supplies and the British forces marched along the Tigris and settled in Kut-al-Amra. This marked the beginning of the oil war, from this point on the entire region was subjected to western interventions in the successive years until present day.

Internally, the Ottomans faced rebellion in many areas, propelled by Slavic nationalism, the Russians, the Greeks and the Serbs supported the various Orthodox Christian communities within the Ottoman State to rise in revolt. The Ottomans State fragmented by the end of the war, Palestine was acquired by Britain as war booty. So began the sufferings of the Palestinians, as their land was already promised to the Zionist Jews, according to the Belfour Declaration of 1917. Lord Balfour agreed to the Zionist demand as they promised to use their influence into bring the US into war on the side of the Allies. Which proved to be a turning point in the war, and the late entry by the US meant it minimised self-injury, whilst maximised the war booty.

The Arabs betrayed the Ottoman Caliphate and now it was their turn to be betrayed. The British betrayed them first by giving Palestine to the Zionist-Jews, and a secret treaty drawn up with France (Sykes-Picot) to carve up the Middle East amongst themselves, discarding the earlier promises of independence made to the Arabs in return for their support in rising against the Ottomans.

Armistice Day should remind us all of the mess created in the Middle East, all stems from treachery and the greed of Capitalist nations.

Red Alert: The Second Wave of The Financial Tsunami

Red Alert: The Second Wave of The Financial Tsunami

Red Alert: The Second Wave of The Financial Tsunami
The Wave Is gathering force & could hit between the first & second quarter of 2010By Matthias Chang

Global Research, November 22, 2009
Future Fast Forward

Many of my friends who have been receiving my e-mail alerts over the last two years have lamented that in recent weeks I have not commented on the state of the global economy. I appreciate their anxiety but they forget that I am not a stock market analyst who is paid to write articles to lure investors back into the market. My website is free and I do not sell a financial newsletter so there is no need for me to churn out daily forecasts or analysis.

However, when the data is compelling and supports an inevitable trend, it is time for another review. This Red Alert is to enable visitors to my website to take appropriate actions to safeguard their wealth and welfare of their families in the coming months.

Since the last quarter of 2008, unrelenting currency warfare has been waged by the key global economies and while this competition thus far has been non-antagonistic, it will soon be antagonistic because the inherent differences are irreconcilable. The consequences to the global economy will be devastating and for the ordinary people, massive unemployment and social unrest are assured.

The policy-makers of these countries faced with the total collapse of the international financial architecture have concluded that the solution, the only solution is quantitative easing (i.e. massive injection of liquidity) to salvage the “too big to fail” banks and reinflate their depressed economies. This is best reflected in Bernanke’s candid remark that, “the US government has a technology, called the printing press (or today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many US dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost”.

This is the crux of the problem!

The Irreconcilable Differences

Some two decades ago, it was decided by the global financial elites that the framework for the global economy shall consist of:

1) A global derivative-based financial system, controlled by the US Federal Reserve Bank and its associate global banks in the developed countries.

2) The re-location from the West to the East in the production of goods, principally to China and India to “feed” the developed economies.

The entire system was built on a simple principle, that of a FED-controlled global reserve currency which will be the engine for growth for the global economy. It is essentially an imperialist economic principle.

Once we grasp this fundamental truth, Bernanke’s boast that the “US can produce as many US dollars as it wishes at no cost” takes on a different dimension.

I have talked to so many economists and when asked what is the crux of the present financial problem, they all respond in unison, “it is the global imbalances… the West consumes too much while the East saves too much and consumes not enough”. This is exemplified by the huge US trade deficits on the one part and China’s massive surpluses on the other.

Incredible wisdom and almost everyone echoes this mantra. The recent concluded APEC Summit was no different. This mantra was repeated as well as the call for freer trade between trading nations.

This is a grand hoax. All the current leaders on the world’s stage are corrupted to the rotten core and as such have no interest to call a spade a spade and expose the inherent contradictions within the existing financial system.

The call for a multi-polar world is meaningless when the entire global financial system is based on the unipolar US dollar reserve currency. This is the inherent contradiction within the present system and the problems associated with it cannot be resolved by another global reserve currency based on the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights as advocated by some countries. It was stillborn, the very moment it was conceived!

The leaders of China, Japan and the oil producing countries of the Middle East are all cursing and pissing about the current situation, but they don’t have the courage of their convictions to spell it out to their countrymen that they have been conned by the financial spin masters from the Fed acting on the instructions from Goldman Sachs.

Tell me which leader would dare admit that they have exchanged the nation’s wealth for toilet papers?

The toilet paper currency pantomime continues.

We have now reached a stalemate in the current currency war, not unlike the situation of the Cold War between the NATO pact countries and the Warsaw pact countries. Both sides were deterred by the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) doctrine of nuclear wars. The costs to both sides were horrendous and it was only when the Soviet Union could not continue with the pace and cost of maintaining a nuclear deterrent and was forced into bankruptcy that the balance tilted in favour of the NATO alliance.

But it was a pyrrhic victory for the US and it allies. What kept the ability of the US to maintain its military might and outspend the Soviet Union was the right to print toilet paper currency and the acceptance of the US dollar by her allies as the world’s reserve currency.

But why did the countries allied to the US during the Cold War accepted the status quo?

Simple! They were all conned into believing that without the protection of Big Brother and its military outreach, they would be swallowed up by the communist menace. They agreed to march to the tune of the US Pied-Piper.

The next big question – why did the so-called “liberated” former communist allies of the Soviet bloc jump on the bandwagon?

Simple! They all believed in the illusion that was fostered by the global banks, led by Goldman Sachs that trading and selling their goods and services for the toilet paper US reserve currency would ensure untold wealth and prosperity.

But the biggest game in town was the Asia gambit. Japan, after a decade of recession following the burst of her property bubble did not have the means and the capacity to bring the game to the next level as envisaged by the financial architects in Goldman Sachs.

And China was the biggest beneficiary. The senior management of Goldman Sachs brokered a secret pact with China’s leaders that in exchange for orchestrating the most massive injection of US dollar capital and wholesale re-location of manufacturing capacity in the history of the global economy, China would recycle their hard-earned US toilet paper reserve currency wealth into US treasuries and other US debt instruments.

This was the necessary condition precedent for the global financial casino to rise to the next level of play.

Why?

The New Game

The financial architects at Goldman Sachs had a master plan – to dominate the global financial system. The means to achieve this financial power was the Shadow Banking System, the lynchpin being the derivative market and the securitization of assets, real and synthetic. The stakes would be huge, in the hundreds of US$ trillions and the way to transform the market was through massive leverage at all levels of the financial game.

But there was an inherent weakness in the overall scheme – the threat of inflation, more precisely hyperinflation. Such huge amounts of liquidity in the system would invariably trigger the depreciation of the reserve currency and the confidence in the system.

Hence the need for a system to keep in check price inflation and the illusion that the purchasing power of the toilet paper reserve currency could be maintained.

This is where China came in. Once China became the world’s factory, the problem would be resolved. When a suit which previously cost US$600 could be had for less than US$100, and a pair of shoes for less than US$5, the scam masterminds concluded that there would be no foreseeable threat to the largest casino operation in history.

China agreed to the exchange as it has over a billion mouths to feed and jobs for hundreds of millions needed to be secured, without which the system could not be maintained. But China was pragmatic enough to have two “economic systems” – a Yuan based domestic economy and a US$ based export economy, in the hope that the profits and benefits of the export economy would enable China to transform and establish a viable and dynamic domestic market which in time would replace the export dependent economy. It was a deal made with the devil, but there were no viable alternative options at the material time, more so after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Next Level of the Game

The next level of the game was reached when the toilet paper reserve currency literally went virtual – through the simple operation of a click of the mouse in the computers of the global banks.

The big boys at Goldman Sachs and other global banks were more than content to leave Las Vegas for the mafia and their miserable billions in turnover. The profits were considered dimes when compared to the hundreds of trillions generated by the virtual casino. It was a financial conquest beyond their wildest dreams. They even called themselves, “Master of the Universe”. Creating massive debts was the new game, and the big boys could even leverage more than 40 times capital! Asset values soared with so much liquidity chasing so few good assets.

However, the financial wizards failed to appreciate and or underestimate the amount of financial products that were needed to keep the game in play. They resorted to financial engineering – the securitization of assets. And when real assets were insufficient for securitization, synthetic assets were created. Soon enough, toxic waste was even considered as legitimate instruments for the game so long as it could be unloaded to greedy suckers with no recourse to the originators of these so-called investments.

For a time, it looked as if the financial wizards have solved the problem of how to feed the global casino monster.

Unfortunately, the music stopped and the bubble burst! And as they say the rest is history.

The Goldman Sachs Remedy

When losses are in the US$ trillions and whatever assets / capital remaining are in the US$ billions, we have a huge problem – a financial black-hole.

The preferred remedy by the financial masterminds at Goldman Sachs was to create another hoax – that if the big global banks were to fail triggering a systemic collapse, there would be Armageddon. These “too big to fail” banks must be injected with massive amount of virtual monies to recapitalize and get rid of the toxic assets on their balance sheet. The major central banks in the developed countries in cahoots with Goldman Sachs sang the same tune. All sorts of schemes were conjured to legitimize this bailout.

In essence, what transpired was the mere transfer of monies from the left pocket to the right pocket, with the twist that the banks were in fact helping the Government to overcome the financial crisis.

The Fed and key central banks agreed to lend “virtual monies” to the “too big to fail” global banks at zero or near zero interest rate and these banks in turn would “deposit” these monies with the Fed and other central banks at agreed interest rates. These transactions are all mere book entries. Other “loans” from the Fed and central banks (again at zero or near zero interest rates) are used to purchase government debts, these debts being the stimulus monies needed to revive the real economy and create jobs for the growing unemployed. So in essence, these banks are given “free money” to lend to the government at prior agreed interest rates with no risks at all. It is a hoax!

These “monies” are not even the dollar bills, but mere book entries created out of thin air.

So when the Fed injects US$ trillions into the banking system, it merely credits the amount in the accounts of the “too big to fail” banks at the Fed.

When the system is applied to international trade, the same modus operandi is used to pay for the goods imported from China, Japan etc.

For the rest of world, when buying goods denominated in US$, these countries must produce goods and services, sell them for dollars in order to purchase goods needed in their country. Simply put, they have to earn an income to purchase whatever goods and services needed. In contrast, all that the US needs to do is to create monies out of thin air and use them to pay for their imports!

The US can get away with this scam because it has the military muscle to compel and enforce this hoax. As stated earlier, this status quo was accepted especially during the Cold War and with some reluctance post the collapse of the Soviet Union, but with a proviso – that the US agrees to be the consumer of last resort. This arrangement provided some comfort because countries which have sold their goods to the US, can now use the dollars to buy goods from other countries as more than 80 per cent of world trade is denominated in dollars especially crude oil, the lifeline of the global economy.

But with the US in full bankruptcy and its citizens (the largest consumers in the world) being unable to borrow further monies to buy fancy goods from China, Japan and the rest of the world, the demand for dollar has evaporated. The dollar status as a reserve currency and its usefulness is being questioned more vocally.

The End Game

The present fallout can be summarized in simple terms:

Should a bankrupt country (the US) be allowed to use money created out of thin air to pay for goods produced with the sweat and tears of hardworking citizens of exporting countries? Adding insult to injury, the same dollars are now purchasing a lot less than before. So what is the use of being paid in a currency that is losing rapidly its value?

On the other hand, the US is telling the whole world, especially the Chinese that if they are not happy with the status quo, there is nothing to stop them from selling to the other countries and accepting their currencies. But if they want to sell to the mighty USA, they must accept US toilet paper reserve currency and its right to create monies out of thin air!

This is the ultimate poker game and whosoever blinks first loses and will suffer irreparable financial consequences. But who has the winning hand?

The US does not have the winning hand. Neither has China the winning hand.

This state of affairs cannot continue for long, for whatever cards the US or China may be contemplating to throw at the table to gain strategic advantage, any short term gains will be pyrrhic, for it will not be able to address the underlying antagonistic contradictions.

When the survival of the system is dependent on the availability of credit (i.e. accumulating more debts) it is only a matter of time before both the debtor and creditor come to the inevitable conclusion that the debt will never be paid. And unless the creditor is willing to write off the debt, resorting to drastic means to collect the outstanding debt is inevitable.

It would be naïve to think that the US would quietly allow itself to be foreclosed! When we reach that stage, war will be inevitable. It will be the US-UK-Israel Axis against the rest of the world.

The Prelude to the End Game

The US economy will be spiraling out of control in the coming months and will reach critical point by the end of the 1st quarter 2010 and implode by the 2nd quarter.

The massive US$ trillions of dollars stimulus has failed to turn the economy around. The massive blood transfusion may have kept the patient alive, but there are numerous signs of multi-organ failure.

There will be another wave of foreclosures of residential and more importantly commercial properties by end December and early 2010. And the foreclosed properties in 2009 will lead to depressed prices once they come through the pipeline. Home and commercial property values will plunge. Banks’ balance sheets will turn ugly and whatever “record profits” in the last two quarters of 2009 will not cover the additional red ink.

Given the above situation, will the Fed continue to buy mortgage-backed securities to prop up the markets? The Fed has already spent trillions buying Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages with no potential substitute buyer in sight. Therefore, the Fed’s balance sheet is as toxic as the “too big to fail” banks that it rescued.

In the circumstances, it makes no sense for anyone to assert that the worst is over and that the global economy is on the road to recovery.

And the surest sign that all is not well with the big banks is the recent speech by the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, William Dudley at Princeton, New Jersey when he said that the Fed would curtail the risk of future liquidity crisis by providing a “backstop” to solvent firms with sufficient collateral.

This warning and assurance deserves further consideration. Firstly, it is a contradiction to state that a solvent firm with sufficient collateral would in fact encounter a liquidity crisis to warrant the need for a fall back on the Fed. It is in fact an admission that banks are not sufficiently capitalized and when the second wave of the tsunami hits them again, confidence will be sorely lacking.

Dudley actually said that, “the central bank could commit to being the lender of last resort… [and this would reduce] the risk of panics sparked by uncertainty among lenders about what other creditors think”.

To put it bluntly what he is saying is that the Fed will endeavour to avoid the repeat of the collapse of Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros and AIG. It is also an indication that the remaining big banks are in trouble.

It is interesting to note that a Bloomberg report in early November revealed that Citigroup Inc and JP Morgan Chase have been hoarding cash. The former has almost doubled its cash holdings to US$244.2 billion. In the case of the latter, the cash hoard amounted to US$453.6 billion. Yet, given this hoarding by the leading banks, the New York Federal Reserve Bank had to reassure the financial community that it is ready to inject massive liquidity to prop up the system.

It should come as no surprise that the value of the dollar is heading south.

When currencies are being debased, volatility in the stock market increases. But the gains are not worth the risks and if anyone is still in the market, they will be wiped out by the 1st quarter of 2010. The S&P may have shot up since the beginning of the year by over 25 per cent but it has been out-performed by gold. The gains have also lagged behind the official US inflation rate. It has in fact delivered a total return after inflation of approximately minus 25 per cent. When Meredith Whitney remarked that, “I don’t know what’s going on in the market right now, because it makes no sense to me”, it is time to get out of the market fast.

In a report to its clients, Société Générale warned that public debt would be massive in the next two years – 105 per cent of GDP in the UK, 125 per cent in the US and in Europe and 270 per cent in Japan. Global debt would reach US$45 trillion.

At some point in time, all these debts must be repaid. How will these debts be repaid?

If we go by what Bernanke has been preaching and practising, it means more toilet paper currency will be created to repay the debts.

As a result, debasement of currencies will continue and this will further aggravate existing tensions between the competing economies. And when creditors have enough of this toilet paper scam, expect violent reactions!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.

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California Democratic Party to says to Obama, Get Out of Afghanistan

Common Dreams,  November 16, 2009

Biggest State Party to Obama: Get Out of Afghanistan

By Norman Soloman

This week begins with a significant new straw in the political wind for President Obama to consider. The California Democratic Party has just sent him a formal and clear message: Stop making war in Afghanistan.

Overwhelmingly approved on Sunday by the California Democratic Party’s 300-member statewide executive board, the resolution is titled “End the U.S. Occupation and Air War in Afghanistan.”

The resolution supports “a timetable for withdrawal of our military personnel” and calls for “an end to the use of mercenary contractors as well as an end to air strikes that cause heavy civilian casualties.” Advocating multiparty talks inside Afghanistan, the resolution also urges Obama “to oversee a redirection of our funding and resources to include an increase in humanitarian and developmental aid.”

While Obama weighs Afghanistan policy options, the California Democratic Party’s adoption of the resolution is the most tangible indicator yet that escalation of the U.S. war effort can only fuel opposition within the president’s own party — opposition that has already begun to erode his political base.

Participating in a long-haul struggle for progressive principles inside the party, I co-authored the resolution with savvy longtime activists Karen Bernal of Sacramento and Marcy Winograd of Los Angeles.

Bernal, the chair of the state party’s Progressive Caucus, said on Sunday night: “Today’s vote formalized and amplified what had been, up to now, an unspoken but profoundly understood reality — that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. What’s more, the vote signified an acceptance of what is sure to be a continued and growing culture of resistance to current administration policies on the matter within the party. This is absolutely huge. Now, there can be no disputing the fact that the overwhelming majority of California Democrats are not only saying no to escalation, but no to our continued military presence in Afghanistan, period. The California Democratic Party has spoken, and we want the rest of the country to know.”

Winograd, who is running hard as a grassroots candidate in a primary race against pro-war incumbent Rep. Jane Harman, had this to say: “We need progressives in every state Democratic Party to pass a similar resolution calling for an end to the U.S. occupation and air war in Afghanistan. Bring the veterans to the table, bring our young into the room, and demand an end to this occupation that only destabilizes the region. There is no military solution, only a diplomatic one that requires we cease our role as occupiers if we want our voices to be heard. Yes, this is about Afghanistan — but it’s also about our role in the world at large. Do we want to be global occupiers seizing scarce resources or global partners in shared prosperity? I would argue a partnership is not only the humane choice, but also the choice that grants us the greatest security.”

Speaking to the resolutions committee of the state party on Saturday, former Marine Corporal Rick Reyes movingly described his experiences as a warrior in Afghanistan that led him to question and then oppose what he now considers to be an illegitimate U.S. occupation of that country.

Another voice of disillusionment reached party delegates when Bernal distributed a copy of the recent resignation letter from senior U.S. diplomat Matthew Hoh, sent after five months of work on the ground in Afghanistan. “I find specious the reasons we ask for bloodshed and sacrifice from our young men and women in Afghanistan,” he wrote. “If honest, our stated strategy of securing Afghanistan to prevent al-Qaeda resurgence or regrouping would require us to additionally invade and occupy western Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, etc. Our presence in Afghanistan has only increased destabilization and insurgency in Pakistan where we rightly fear a toppled or weakened Pakistani government may lose control of its nuclear weapons.”

Hoh’s letter added that “I do not believe any military force has ever been tasked with such a complex, opaque and Sisyphean mission as the U.S. military has received in Afghanistan.” And he wrote: “Thousands of our men and women have returned home with physical and mental wounds, some that will never heal or will only worsen with time. The dead return only in bodily form to be received by families who must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for a purpose worthy of futures lost, love vanished, and promised dreams unkept. I have lost confidence such assurances can anymore be made.”

From their own vantage points, many of the California Democratic Party leaders who voted to approve the out-of-Afghanistan resolution on Nov. 15 have gone through a similar process. They’ve come to see the touted reasons for the U.S. war effort as specious, the mission as Sisyphean and the consequences as profoundly unacceptable.

Sometime in the next few days, President Obama is likely to learn that the California Democratic Party has approved an official resolution titled “End the U.S. Occupation and Air War in Afghanistan.” But will he really get the message?

Norman Solomon is a journalist, historian, and progressive activist. His book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death has been adapted into a documentary film of the same name. His most recent book is “Made Love, Got War. ” He is a national co-chair of the Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign. In California, he is co-chair of the Commission on a Green New Deal for the North Bay; http://www.GreenNewDeal.info .

U.S. Income Inequality Is Frightening–And Much Worse Than We Thought

The Business Insider, September 30, 2009

U.S. Income Inequality Is Frightening–And Much Worse Than We Thought

The newest economic inequality numbers, which ran counter to the expectations of almost all experts, are frightening.

The Associated Press released an article titled, US income gap widens as poor take hit in recession. The opening paragraph of the article, based on recent census data, reads:

The recession has hit middle-income and poor families hardest, widening the economic gap between the richest and poorest Americans as rippling job layoffs ravaged household budgets.

The article, which then discussed the Census statistics that led to this conclusion, failed to mention that the Census Bureau considered the differences between 2007 and 2008, with regard to economic inequality, statistically insignificant.

But, whether the Census Data shows a meaningful increase, or not. is irrelevant. The Census Data reports that, contrary to the almost universal expectations of economists, economic inequality most likely did not decrease in 2008. Experts had anticipated that the declines in income of the rich would lead to a reversal in this groups ever–widening share of our national income. Instead, the Census reported that the 2008 income losses by the top 10% of Americans were offset by larger losses among middle class and poorer Americans.

MIT economist Simon Johnston appears to have been one notable exception to this expectation of a shrinking income gap.

Let’s review what we know about the measurement of income inequality before discussing the disturbing implications of this newest government report.

About two weeks ago, I critiqued a Sept 10, 2009 front page story in the Wall Street Journal titled, Income Gap Shrinks in Slump at the Expense of the Wealthy. My critique had three central points:

First, economists have, with few exceptions, agreed that Census Data is inappropriate for measuring income inequality because it consistently understates the income of the wealthiest families. To protect the privacy of reporting individuals, the Census “top-codes” income, which means that no one is ever recorded as making more than about $1.1 million in a single year. So, oil traders, hedge fund executives and anyone else at the super-high end of the income strata who might earn $100, $50 or $5 million in a single year, always earn $1.1 million or less in this Census Data. In addition, the Census Data does not include capital gains income, which is typically a large source of income for the wealthiest Americans.

Two economists, Professors Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, developed a method for measuring income inequality using IRS data, which avoided the problems inherent in using Census Data. This data was recently updated in response to the IRS release of 2007 information, and found that: Economic inequality in 2006 was, by some measures at the highest levels, ever found in the data available for the past 95 years. In 2007, these same measure showed a further jump further bringing America to it it’s highest levels of economic inequality in recorded history.

As a consequence of Census top-coding and the lack of capital gains data, the Saez-Piketty methodology has consistently shown that the Census substantially understates the extent of economic inequality in the nation. This means that, there is a real possibility that the the new Census Data understated the extent to which income inequality grew in 2008, and that the relative losses of the wealthiest families, versus less fortunate Americans, will be more than statistically insignificant.

It is possible that losses in reported capital income by the wealthiest Americans, if captured by the Saez-Piketty methodology, will be larger than the the incomes above $1.1 million that were not reported and offset the Census findings, leading as economists anticipated to a decline in the share of income going to the rich. However, I view this as unlikely. In considering this possibility, its important to remember that the IRS works on reported income gains, not gains which were never captured as taxable income. For income reporting purposes, the question is not whether the market value of capital assets declined but whether they were sold at an actual loss from their purchase price.

We will not know the answer to this question until July or August 2010, but in weighing the available evidence my working hypothesis is that as demonstrated by this new Census Report, income inequality did not decrease from 2008 to 2007.

Second, the original Journal article expressed a strong expectation that, as a result of the Great Recession, the ongoing growth of income inequality would decline substantially through 201o. My critique indicated that this was “far from clear.” The conventional economic wisdom, based on historical data, is that income inequality decreases, at least temporarily, as the richest Americans lose income faster than less-well-off Americans during a downturn. In contrast, this new data suggests that the dangerous cycle toward increasing income at the top of America has become even more self-reinforcing than previously recognized. We are now at the point where the pure market forces, which many economists told us would eliminate this issue, are no longer effective.

Third, the Journal article implied that the decrease in economic inequality it incorrectly predicted might be the start of a long-term trend. Instead, I demonstrated that, even if income inequality did decline in 2008 and 2009, it would almost certainly be “temporary.” The historical evidence shows that economic inequality frequently declines in a downturn, in the absence of strong government action, but that it will almost inevitably rebound and continue its march forward.

Now, let’s return to our main point:

Early next week, my new book It Could Happen Here will be released by HarperCollins. The book is an in-depth look , based on a historical analysis, of the implications of our historically high levels of economic inequality for the nation’s ultimate, long-term political stability. As economic inequality grows, nations invariably become increasingly politically unstable: Should we complacently believe that America will be different?

A central conclusion of the book is that once economic inequality reaches a self-reinforcing cycle it is halted only by inevitably controversial, hard-fought, bitterly opposed government action. Senator Jim Webb encapsulated this idea, when he wrote in his book, A Time to Fight: Reclaiming A Fair and Just America:

“No aristocracy in history has decided to give up any portion of its power willingly.”

In 1928, economic inequality was near today’s levels. Franklin Roosevelt succeeded in reversing the trend toward the continuing concentration of wealth, but it was a turbulent battle. In 1936, while campaigning for his second term and speaking at Madison Square Garden, FDR told the crowd:

“Never before in all our history have these forces [Organized Money] been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said, wait a minute, I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.”

In FDR’s era and in our own, money brings power: both explicitly and implicitly, in hundreds of different ways, both large and small. Today, the wealthiest Americans, together with a number of financial and corporate interests that act on their behalf, protect their ever-increasing influence through activities that include, among others, lobbying, supplying expertise to the councils of government, casual conversation at dinner parties, the potential for jobs after government service, the power to run media advertisements that influence public opinion. Indeed, MIT economist Simon Johnston, writing in The Atlantic asserted that the U.S. is now run by an oligarchy:

The great wealth that the financial sector created and concentrated [ from 1983 to 2007] gave bankers enormous political weight–a weight not seen in the U.S. since the era of J.P. Morgan (the man) … Of course, the U.S. is unique. And just as we have the world’s most advanced economy, military, and technology, we also have its most advanced oligarchy.

The new inequality data suggests that the potential problems for the nation associated with the concentration of wealth and power are even more severe than previously recognized. Two weeks ago, I wrote that “Once income concentration becomes a reinforcing cycle of the kind we are witnessing, it is never stopped by pure market forces.” This mechanism is now in full swing. The market forces associated with the Great Recession, which many economist had expected to stem the growing, corrosive gap between the rich and the poor, appear to have become ineffective.

The great strength of American democracy has always been its capacity for self-correction. However, Robert Dahl, the eminent political scientist, recognized that political power fueled by wealth may ultimately neutralize this central aspect of our democracy. In his 2006 book, On Political Equality, Dahl wrote:

As numerous studies have shown, inequalities in income and wealth are likely to produce other inequalities..

The unequal accumulation of political resources points to an ominous possibility: political inequalities may be ratcheted up, so to speak, to a level from which they cannot be ratcheted down. The cumulative advantages in power, influence, and authority of the more privileged strata may become so great that even if less privileged Americans compose a majority of citizens they are simply unable, and perhaps even unwilling, to make the effort it would require to overcome the forces of inequality arrayed against them.

In the chapter following this quote, Dahl notes “that we should not assume this future is inevitable.” He’s right. But, was clearly concerned. Three years late, we should be even more concerned.

Many current Executive Branch initiatives deserve our support and praise: However, nothing proposed to date will effectively halt growing economic inequality, and its corrosive impact on our economy and the long-term future of the nation. (In a future post, I will explicitly discuss the proposed regulatory reform of the financial sector.)

My analysis in It Could Happen Here concludes that without a vibrant middle class, the the American democracy as we know it, is not sustainable. Before the Great Recession, the middle class was in far worse shape than was generally acknowledged. In an economy with a record number of job seekers for every available job, the potential for nearly one-half of all home mortgages to be underwater, and increasing foreclosures, the collapse of the middle class will accelerate. With each job loss and each foreclosure, another family becomes a member of the former middle class.

America has never been a society sharply divided between have’s and have not’s. Unfortunately, this new data says to me we continue to head in that direction. Economists assumed that the Great Recession would be a circuit breaker that would halt this advance, at least temporarily. It did not.

With no new legislation, it appears we are potentially on course for 13 million foreclosures, almost one in every four mortgages in the nation, from the end of 2008 through 2014. Do we really believe that we can turn such huge numbers of Americans out of their homes with no consequences for the health of our system of governance? Could our democracy survive a transformation into a nation composed principally of a privileged upper class and an underclass which struggles from paycheck to paycheck and lacks basic economic security?

We will only stop the growth of economic inequality if the President and the Congress are ready to fight in the style of Franklin Roosevelt. FDR was a divider not a conciliator. Before World War II, he fought an all-out war at home. Today, “There’s class warfare, all right,” as Warren Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

I fervently hoped that we have not passed the point of no return, described by Professor Dahl. The recent news shows we are one step further on this road. If we continue down it, our nation may be on the path to becoming a House divided against itself, which ultimately cannot stand.

Why Afghanistan? It’s pipelines, not terrorism.

San Francisco Gray Panthers Newsletter, October 2009

Why Afghanistan?

Afghanistan lies in the path of a new proposed gas pipeline

Afghanistan lies in the path of a new proposed gas pipeline

In a nod to reality on the ground, the Obama administration put clearing al Qaeda from Pakistan high on the list of 46 benchmarks for tracking success in the war in Afghanistan. There are 68,000 US combat troops, 40,000 NATO troops, and 74,000 mercenaries in Afghanistan, with more expected to come. If al Qaeda has moved to Pakistan, why don’t the troops follow them?

One answer, rarely talked about in the US media, is—you guessed it!—oil and natural gas, this time in the Caspian Basin, and a planned pipeline that would carry natural gas from land-locked Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan, where it could be shipped to the West. To accomplish this, a strong centralized government willing to make deals with the West is needed, hence the attempts to prop up Hamid Karzai with US/NATO military assistance against the Taliban and war lords and with fraudulent elections.

Will this plan succeed? Probably not, given the Afghan opposition. Taliban attacks increased 59% in the first five months of this year over the same period last year. Death tolls are rising. Billions of dollars have already been spent. Bruce Riedel, a 30-year CIA veteran and adviser to four presidents, said, “Anyone who thinks that in 12 to 18 months we’re going to be anywhere close to victory is living in a fantasy.”

NO MORE ENERGY WARS!

Honduras charges Zelaya supporters with sedition, while anti-coup offices attacked

Associated Press, August 14, 2009

By Kathia Martinez
Police and army soldiers stand guard on the sidelines of a march by supporters of Honduras ousted President

Police and army soldiers stand guard on the sidelines of a march by supporters of Honduras' ousted President

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Two dozen supporters of Honduras’ ousted president were charged with sedition Friday in an intensifying crackdown on protests against the coup-installed government.

Protests to demand the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya turned violent in the Honduran capital this week, with police firing tear gas and demonstrators fighting back with sticks and stones. Some protesters attacked the vice president of Congress, although he wasn’t injured.

Some 24 demonstrators were charged with sedition and damaging private property, said Melvin Duarte, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office. Another four were charged with aggravated arson and terrorism in the burning of a bus and a restaurant.

Supporters of Honduras ousted President Manuel Zelaya march in Tegucigalpa, Friday, Aug. 14, 2009. Zelaya was ousted in a coup on June 28. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Supporters of Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya march in Tegucigalpa, Friday, Aug. 14, 2009. Zelaya was ousted in a coup on June 28. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Interim President Roberto Micheletti condemned the clashes as “violent and terrorist” and vowed his government would no longer tolerate street blockades and other disruptions.Zelaya, a timber magnate who veered to the left midway through his presidency, was ousted by the army June 28 and flown out of the country.

Micheletti, the former congressional president chosen by lawmakers to replace Zelaya, has refused to consider reinstating the ousted leader despite worldwide condemnation and the suspension of millions of dollars in U.S. and European development aid.

Micheletti insists Zelaya was legally removed from office through a congressional vote for defying court orders to drop plans for referendum asking voters if they would support rewriting the constitution

Zelaya’s opponents accuse him of seeking to extend his term in office by removing a constitutional ban on presidential re-election, as his ally Hugo Chavez has done in Venezuela. Zelaya, whose constitutional four-year term ends Jan. 27, denies that was his intention.

Protest leader Eulogio Chavez accused the interim government of persecuting demonstrators and denied that the four charged with burning the bus and restaurant committed those acts.

The demonstrators were charged three days before human rights monitors from the Organization of American States are scheduled to arrive in Honduras. Days later, several Latin American foreign ministers are due to visit the country in an effort to jump-start stalled negotiations aimed at ending the crisis.

Four delegates of Micheletti’s government returned to Honduras on Friday after meetings in Washington with OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza and U.S. lawmakers.

The delegates called the meetings positive but gave no hint about whether the interim government might budge on the issue of Zelaya’s return.

“We explained to everyone in detail what happened in Honduras before, during and after June 28,” delegate Mauricio Villeda told reporters. “With Insulza, we had private conversations and we explained what happened in the country and our right to live in democracy and peace.”

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Slideshow of Honduran President ousted.
Written by Vía Campesina, Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Last night at 11:23 p.m., during curfew which began at 10 p.m., unknown individuals driving a cream colour Toyota Turismo with the license plate PCA1981 fired bullets at the office of Vía Campesina located in the Alameda neighbourhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras which is coordinated by Rafael Alegría. The act was a clear attack against our social organizations and leaders who are part of the National Front Against the Coup. In addition to the recent attack on Vía Campesina, a bomb capable of killing 15 people went off in the building of the Beverage Workers Union (STIBYS, by its Spanish initials) on July 26th 2009. Both organizations are part of the National Front Against the Coup.

We condemn this incident given that the activities of Vía Campesina and the National Front Against the Coup are completely peaceful. It is important to mention that during curfew only police are permitted to be in the street.

Vía Campesina of Honduras calls for support from national and international human rights organizations to remain attentive and to continue following attacks taking place not only against these organizations and their leadership, but also against the human rights of the entire Honduran people and all those who have been protesting in the streets against the coup for the last 46 days. Rafael Alegría comments, “People’s rights are being violated and it’s a truly unfortunate situation at the moment. People have been wounded, jailed and killed.”

According to a preliminary report from lawyers assisting the National Front Against the Coup today, hundreds of people were wounded and more than forty people detained following violence occurring after a peaceful mass mobilization in the capital city on Tuesday. The group of lawyers is seeking the liberation of those arrested through Habeas Corpus. The leadership of the Front insists that the disturbances were carried out by people who were not part of the protest, but rather infiltrators interested in provoking confrontations and disparaging the peaceful protests that the Front has been mobilizing. The people detained are accused of rebellion, terrorism and treason among other crimes.

Alegría emphasizes that “The National Front Against the Coup is not responsible for these incidents. On principle the front supports peaceful marches, peaceful demands and peaceful mobilization. At no point do we use or call for violent acts. It appears that these incidents are the responsibility of groups interested in ruining the social mobilization and they have taken it upon themselves to provoke this situation for which we categorically deny any responsibility.”

Given what has taken place in the last 24 hours, Vía Campesina of Honduras calls out to the entire Vía Campesina network, social movements, as well as national and international human rights organizations to send messages or delegations in solidarity with the resistance against the coup and for the defence of human rights in Honduras, and to assist in bringing about an end to so much injustice and violence against the Honduran people.

Please send complaints and messages of solidarity to the following addresses:

State Secretary of Public Security
Coronel Jorge Rodas Gamero
Fax: (504) 237-9070/ 220-55-47
E-mail: sseg.06@hotmail.com

Special Prosecutor for Human Rights in the Attorney General’s Office
Lcda. Sandra Ponce
Fiscal Especial de Derechos Humanos
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Fax: (504) 221-3656
E-mail: ponce10s@yahoo.com.ar

Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CODEH)
President Andrés Pavón
E-mail: andres@codeh.hn, codeh@codeh.hn

The Committee of Relatives of People Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH)
Coordinadora Bertha Oliva
E-mail: mail@cofadeh.org

Vía Campesina of Honduras
E-mail: laviacampesina@cablecolor.hn
Comunicaciones Via Campesina en Honduras


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