Just International

Cynthia McKinney Tells It Like It Is A Conversation with Gary S. Corseri

[Intro : I grew up in New York City, and have traveled and lived in different parts of the world, including about 18 years in the “Peachtree State” of Georgia. For almost as long as I lived there, I’d heard of Cynthia McKinney—the first African-American woman to represent Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives. To be honest, a great deal that I heard from the Mainstream Media was negative, portraying Ms. McKinney as a crazy shrew, an over-the-top black radical who questioned the official story of 9/11; opposed the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan–and, recently, in Libya; opposed Israeli policies, and supported Palestinian demands for statehood. About three years ago, I heard McKinney speak at a conference at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Instead of a crazy firebrand, I heard an intelligent, measured, if passionate, presentation of why she challenged US war policies.

When I returned to Geogia, I wrote a friend in the UK about my hope to interview McKinney. My friend related a story about the “Dignity” ship, carrying food and medical supplies to Palestine, in 2008, rammed by the Israeli Navy in international waters. McKinney was on that ship, and when it was rammed, she turned to my friend’s brother and said, “David, I can’t swim.” Nothing I had ever heard about McKinney revealed her character more succinctly. This is a woman willing to put her life on the line in support of her principles. Missing from the Mainstream Media depictions were the human and humane aspects of her character. The MSM has too-often portrayed the struggle for justice as irrational, or even fanatical. I needed to know more.—Gary Corseri]

GC: Let’s start with a big one… about the day that changed everything—9/11.

[And, for a sense of the very sharp way McKinney performed her duties—and the People’s business– in the US House of Representatives, while on the Budget Committee, I recommend checking out this 9-minute 2006 YouTube video of her grilling Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, General Meyers, and Tina Jonas about 9/11 and related matters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px1t1-a9uxk&feature=player_embedded ]

In 2004, you signed the 9/11 Truth Movement statement, calling for new investigations of “unexplained aspects of the 9/11 events.” More than 7 years have passed since then. What would you say are some of the more egregious “unexplained events”?

CM: … How is it that the people of the United States can invest trillions of dollars in the military and Intelligence infrastructure—and it failed four times in one day? … That singular question has never been answered.

GC: Staying with 9/11. … Distorted as they have been by the Mainstream Media, your views have caused uninformed Americans to question your patriotism. In 2005, you held Congressional briefings on the official 9/11 Commission Report—

CM: Yeah. … the only official briefing on that subject held on Capitol Hill, period!

GC: Well… The Atlanta-Journal Constitution editorialized that—

CM: Oh… you mean, The Urinal-in-Constipation !

[General laughter in the room. …]

GC: … They editorialized that—

CM: You call them legitimate? I won’t even legitimize them with a response! Whatever they say is bogus! You got another quote from somebody?

GC: No… well, hear me out. …

CM: I’m not going to respond to anything they say!

GC: Well… you did, in fact, respond to an editorial they wrote when they editorialized that the briefings you were holding were to determine whether the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the attacks. That was their editorial! You replied…, but they refused to publish your response. …So… how did you respond? Can you tell us now?

CM: Oh, I can’t even remember back that far…, but, I think the record now reflects what Bush knew… and I’m sure that part of what I said is that I would never try to go inside George Bush’s brain to see what’s there!

GC: Too many maggots?

[Laughter. …]

GC: So, your main question is, Where was our air force, why didn’t they prevent it—

CM: We know where they were. … The question is, Why didn’t they follow standard operating procedures?

GC: And the other questions about buildings free-falling into their footprints… Building 7—

CM: Look… I spent last September ’11 in the home of a woman who is afflicted with cancer… because she lived near the World Trade center. And all of that dust came into her apartment… and she had to clean it up. … She will never figure into any of the statistics about who has been affected—her situation will never count… but it counts to me, and to all of the other memebers of the 911 Truth Community.

GC: Let’s explore another controversial issue linked to you. … Ms. McKinney, what does the number “88794” signify for you?

CM: That was the number that was assigned to me by the Israeli prison system when—on my second attempt to get into Gaza—I was kidnapped on the high seas in international waters and taken against my will to Israel and put in prison. … David Halpin, the UK physician, and I sat next to each other because the volunteers—the activists that were on the boat—were international and spoke different languages… so I sat next to the English doctor… and he railed, he railed, he railed as the warship came close to us…, then backed off…, then approached us again—very quicly and very quietly–in this cat-and-mouse game. … And he cursed my government… because it was with the assistance of the United States that those engines had been provided to the Israeli military so that they could do what they were doing to us. …

GC: Did you join him in the cursing?

CM: No. … In fact…, I do a lot of apologizing! I can say this: In the struggle for human rights, I consider prisoner # 88794 a badge of honor that I’ve acquired as a result of what I have chosen to do to assert my own right to recognize the human rights and the dignity of other people. …

GC: Let’s continue with this theme of recognizing other people’s human rights. … More recently, this past year, you were in Tripoli when NATO bombed Libya. What were you doing there… and can you describe that experience?

CM: I voluntarily went to Libya. … Any time the War Machine rolls—I have to oppose that! Libya was a special case, a personal case… because I had just been to Libya. … I had taken a delegation of independent journalists to go to Libya… because I did not believe the explanation that was given to the public about the necessity to bomb Tripoli and other cities in Libya. … While we were there… we experienced what “shock and awe” is all about. The individual who went to the UN with allegations of thousands dying at the hands of Colonel Gaddhafi and the Libyan government—when he was pressed to substantiate his claims, he couldn’t.

GC:That reminds me of the allegations made against the Iraqis in Kuwait, back in 1990–that they were taking babies out of incubators and throwing them on the floor!

CM: It’s also a situation similar to that of the Cuban-American community congregated down in Miami… right after the Cuban Revolution in 1959 where we had a community of expatriates who were willing to unleash terror on their own country… and, a similar thing was happening in Libya… with the United States providing financing for these individuals willing to lie about what was happening.

This information is available on the Internet. Julien Teil interviewed the individual making these false claims at the UN. The interview can be found at www.laguerrehumanitaire.fr . …It’s on YouTube, as well. Julien also interviewed the woman at Amnesty International who had claimed that “African mercenaries” were supporting Gaddafi’s repression of his people; but, when challenged—and this was all after the devastation—she admitted that it was “just a rumor.”

My colleague, David Josue, and I had been in Libya to attend a conference for Africans on the continent as well as Africans in the diaspora. And what the Jamahariya government had devised was a call to Africans in the diaspora who were unhappy with their treatment at the hands of white Americans or white Europeans, etc.—to come back home to Africa and to help Libya rebuild Africa and rebuild itself.

[Interviewer’s NOTE: (from Wikipedia): “Jamahiriya” is a term coined by Gaddafi, usually translated as “state of the masses.”]

… That was the purpose of this conference I had attended. … And it was at that conference that the Jamahiriya committed 90 billion dollars to help in the creation of The United States of Africa. … That would also include a million-person army for continental Africa to drive back the attempts of AFRICOM and others to occupy the African continent. … That was in addition to the proposal for a gold-backed dinar for all of Africa. … The daughter of Kwame Nkruma was at that conference; the son of Patrice Lumumba was at that conference… the grandson of Malcom X was there. … The atmosphere was electric with the idea of the re-building, the re-kindling of the movement that these African leaders—or their forebears—represented. Well… that was all put to an end by NATO’s bombing. …

[Interviewer’s NOTE (from Wikipedia): The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) is one of nine United Combatant Commands of the United States Armed Forces.]

The attack on Libya was an attack on Africa! It was an attack on my aspirations as a person of African descent to have a free and independent Africa. That’s what was attacked!

GC: I’ve never had as complete a picture of that. … I’d heard that Gaddafi wanted to set up a gold-backed dinar. … In fact, people like Ron Paul even talk about using gold-backed currency… so I’ve heard that as a rationale for what we were doing there—trying to prevent any challenge to the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. … But…, nobody has described the situation as completely as you have.

My final question on Libya is this: You have praised Colonel Gaddafi’s GREEN BOOK and the kind of “direct democracy” advocated therein. Can you give us a brief lesson as to how that “direct democracy” differs from our “representative democracy”?

CM: Our “democracy” is neither democratic nor representative! But… let’s start with what the Jamahiriya means to me. … The only stake that I have is that I want to see a free and independent Africa…, but the type of government that Libya has should be determined by the Libyan people. I don’t really have a say in that. … And I shouldn’t have a say in how they dispose of their governmental form. … Therefore, it’s inexcusable to ask another country to bomb your fellow countrymen if you really care about your country!

The Jamahiriya–which had the highest living standard in all of Africa–had free education up through the Ph.D. level; free health care; free utilities, subsidized—and free, if you were poor—housing; subsidized food; subsidized transportaion, including car expenses… and so, the necessities of life were paid for by the direct democracy known as the Jamahiriya.

Can you imagine…? I have a cousin who is $120,000 in student debt in the U.S. She has a Master’s degree as a social worker. Now, if she had been born in Libya—she would have no such debt. … I went to a university outside of Tripoli and asked the students about their tuition fees… and the word didn’t translate. I asked them about what they paid to attend the university. … It was $9.00 per year!

When I was in Congress, one of my allies was Senator Mike Gravel… and Senator Gravel’s initiative is about “direct democracy.” He had been to Libya… and he supported the establishment of the revolutionary committees which was the way Libyans determined how they would use their oil money.

A question under discussion when I attended the conference there was whether the subsidies for gas/petrol or the subsidies for education would be increased! (In the US, under “austerity” measures, people are being told which programs will be eliminated or eviscerated; in Libya, they were voting on which programs would get increased subsidization!)

What I have said publicly is that what we have been seeing is the Israelization of US policy. You know… the only reason the Libyans took any interest in me was that someone in Libya, looking at their television, saw me having all these problems trying to get into Gaza… and they said, “We want to know her!” That’s why I was invited to attend this conference on THE GREEN BOOK—to explain what I was trying to do in Gaza. And what I observed in Libya was the same kind of collective punishment I observed in Gaza. People supporting their own governments were being punished by outsiders who opposed those governments!

This is the kind of thing that happens in the absence of ethics in jouralism. … Because… we don’t have journalists in the Mainstream—I call it the Special Interests Press–to educate and provide information to citizens so they can make a critical analysis of issues. That is absent. … We need ethics in scholarship; ethics in journalism, as well. …The journalistic community has gone along with the kind of death and destruction that has been visited upon Libya… and so many other countries. We’re setting up drone bases all over Africa… and people here don’t even know… don’t begin to understand. …

GC: You’ve mentioned many potent issues, including the “Israelization of US policy.” I’d like to explore that, and also explore the theme of alliances—even unlikely alliances. …

In the 2002 election to the House of Representatives, people like your father and the editor and commentator Alexander Cockburn alleged that your defeat by Denise Majette was a consequence of out-of-state Jewish organizations and Jewish money working against you—

CM: That’s not an allegation—that’s a fact! I was informed that I had been targeted by the pro-Israel lobby by the media. … I read about it in the papers! … and the evidence is readily available. …So, the fact of being targeted by the number-one special interest lobby in the United States means that there is an engagement in every aspect of one’s political life. …

GC: Well, ah, let’s tackle this head-on: Are you anti-Semitic?

CM: Well, I’m, ah… I’m no more anti-Semitic than than any of the anti-Zionist Jews who I work with on an almost-daily basis to correct US policy. And, I would suggest that the real Semites are the Palestinians. And, therefore, I would suggest that I’m not anti-Semitic, but that there are people who are anti-human rights, and there are some people who are anti-peace, and there are some people who are pro-war… and no matter who they are, I will always be against that… because I. … You see what my… my button says?

(She points to a button she is wearing on her blouse). My button says, “I’m a peace-keeper” And, this one says, “War is a crime!”

GC: “Blessed are the peace-keepers. …”

CM: When I was in Congress, I organized a Press Conference with organizations like “Jewish Workers for Peace,” “Not in My Name, Women in Black [www.womeninblack.org]— we had about ten organizations at that press conference… and it was fantastic. …

That night, the Atlanta news criticized me for associating with “fringe Jewish elements”! Now… what’s a “fringe Jewish element”? It was the Anti-Defamation League that was casting this aspersion!

Now, the Anti-Defamation League that I knew about is supposed to be a Civil Rights organization. But… the Anti-Defamation League, in practice, filed an amicus brief with five white racists to dismantle the district—my district!–that provided an opportunity for black people in the black belt of Georgia to have representation! Those are the people who sent me to Congress to represent them! … I stand on their shoulders, and I did my darnedest to represent them—and I was rewarded by the Anti-Defamation League filing an amicus brief and a lawsuit to dismantle that district and take representation away from those poor, black people.

GC: I can certainly understand your indignation. And I don’t want to hammer this issue. … But, this is on Wikipedia… and, as one researches you—this is what one comes across:

About that election with Majette, your father, a former state representative in Georgia, stated that “Jews have bought everybody… And then he spelled it, “J-E-W-S. …” Now…, personally, I always make a distinction between Jews and Zionists—and you just did. … I try to distinguish between people who follow a religious tradition and those who assert a political-nationalist ideology. … And, ah… I think writers like Gilad Atzmon, for example, have been very clear about making that distinction in his recent work like The Wandering Who? . …

CM: I haven’t read that, but—

GC: I haven’t read it, but I’ve read about it—

CM: Gilad is coming to Atlanta this month—

GC: Is he? I’d like to meet him. …

CM: Yes. … You must come—

GC: I will! But, ah, anyway… do you think, in retrospect, you might recommend changing the terminology a bit– just to broaden the dialogue and widen the base of opposition to inhumane practices?

CM: Well… let me tell you something. … I want to talk to you about. … The first time my daddy got into trouble was when he said, “racist Jew.” And, I had a Jewish friend who was trying to smooth things over. And I asked her, “Is Jew a bad word? I didn’t know “Zionist”—I didn’t even know that word at the time… because… here’s the thing: the Anti-Defamation League says that they represent all Jews—that’s what they tell us. AIPAC, also. So… I didn’t know that there was a word called “Zionist” until I became involved with the Betrand Russell tribunal on Palestine. … And there was a famous Jewish lawyer who was one of the leaders in that tribunal, and I went to him and I said, “Daniel, how does your family feel about your being in this tribunal?” and he said, “My family are anti-Zionist Jews.” And I said, “I don’t know what that is!” I was 50-something years old, and I’d never heard the language! Now, of course, I’ve been exposed… and I’m more sensitive that there’s a difference. … Now… I have marvelous Jewish friends… and I understand the difference between Judaism and Zionism. Whoever prays to whatever God is fine with me…, but, a political ideology is quite different. … I know I have a lot to learn when it comes to Zionism and Judaism. … I’m not very religious… but I am spiritual… and I’m very interested in people’s beliefs… but, I’m more interested in the way people behave. … So, I would always say, Judge me on what I do more than on what I say. … And, I acknowledge that I can be wrong about what I say. … And, my father can be wrong about what he said. …

GC: Thank you very much. … I think you’ve clarified that for a lot of people. …

Now… this idea of building alliances. … I’d like to discuss current events, namely, the Presidential election

CM: Um-ha. …

GC: First, a re-cap: In 2008, disgusted with the Democratic Party, you were the Green Party candidate for president. That same year, you joined a press conference held by 3 rd party and independent candidates, including Ralph Nader and Ron Paul. The participants agreed on 4 basic principles:

1. An early end to the Iraq War, and an end to threats of war against other countries, including Iran.

2. Safeguarding privacy and civil liberties, including repeal of the Patriot Act, the Military Commisions Act and FISA legislation.

3. No increase in the National Debt.

4. A thorough investigation, evaluation and audit of the Federal Reserve System.

My question is this: If these different elements of Independent thought could come together on these 4 basic principles in 2008, why can’t they unite behind the same principles in 2012?

CM: They can. …

GC : Isn’t it possible to conceive a party that speaks for the majority of Independents, that unites Independents? The 4 principles that united Independents then are still very much with us—and in many ways the dangers are greater—the possibility of war with Iran looms larger now, and there’s the National Defense Authorization Act, as well as the other intrusions on privacy and civil liberties. More Americans classify themselves as “Independents” than as Republicans or Democrats. How can the varied strands of Independents work together to defeat the Republicrats?

CM: The answer to that question goes to the core of the kind of change we hope to initiate on a policy basis. … So… how do we do that? I think the first thing is that we have to be willing to talk to each other. We have to recognize that there’s commonality despite difference. So… the thing that allowed Nader and me and Paul to come together is that we were at least willing to see areas of commonality. We should be able to do that across the political spectrum. And, in fact, when I was in the Congress, I was forced to do that. … As a Southerner, I—and as someone who had to get votes—not lose them—I needed the endorsement of a leader in the community… and he was a Klan member… and I had no choice. … I asked him for his support—and I got it! (After I sat there for over an hour and he described to me how “confused” the people were because of the way they judged the Ku Klux Klan to be racist!)

[Here, CM gives a strong, hearty guffaw!]

And… I sat there and found a place where we could have a meeting of the minds—and I did it!

GC: Related question then: I’ve been criticized because I wrote an article, about a month ago—“The Lion and the Ox”– praising Ron Paul’s stance on ending the wars, ending the Empire, auditing the Fed. I also think his views on our antiquated, absurd and minority-punishing drug laws are far more enlightened than anyone else’s—with the exception of 2012 Green Party candidate, Jill Stein’s. Paul makes a distinction between Capitalism and Corporatism—an important distinction. Now, I’m not a Libertarian; I don’t agree with “unregulated” Capitalism to the extent Paul and Libertarians do. But, I wonder: Given various points of convergence, how can the Green Party and Libertarians work together to overturn what we have in America today—basically, a one-party system, a Corporate Party system, abetted by corporate media?

CM: Well, one thing is that the Libertarians and the Greens could join forces—kind of a united front. So… I’d like to see if those kinds of talks could get anywhere.

GC: A friend of mine suggested a Paul-McKinney ticket. …

CM: That was your friend, huh?

GC: Well, you know… when I first heard that, I thought, “That’s crazy!” But… I thought about it, and I thought, “Why not? We live in crazy times. …”

CM: Yeah… we do. …

GC: I mean… look what we have to choose from: Santorum, Michelle Bachman, Hermain Cain, Gingrich, Romney–all these crazy people. …

CM: Every time there’s a vote, it gets more outrageous, doesn’t it?

GC: It does! Well… what do you think about Paul-McKinney?

CM: Well… we’re not there yet, so I don’t have to think about it at all!

GC: Well. …

CM: Let me put it this way. … We do have overlapping constituencies. … So… it would be wonderful if the two circles could expand beyond their points of intersection. …And I’m not just talking about Paul. … I’m talking about people on the Left in general. … Because, there’s no more Left and Right. It’s only Right and Wrong now… and the old “Right” is Wrong… and the old “Left” needs to be more Right… does that make sense?

GC: Yes. …

CM: Yeah, because the Left is being co-opted. … So, the Left needs to be more Left!

GC: There needs to be a convergence where the Greens and the Libertarians can meet—

CM: And the militia! You know… I have to deal with the militia, too. I’m from Georgia, right? They participate in the political system—to the extent that they do—and somebody needs to be talking to’em… because, ultimately, they’re a part of the 99%. … And that’s the gift that the Occupy Movement has given to us—they’ve given us a way to self-identify. Now we know—it’s not about color, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation—all of those things. At the end of the day—if you’re part of the 99%, you’re part of us… and if you’re part of the 1%–you’re part of them!

GC: Related question: Okay…also about Current Events: this is about the Occupy Movement, then. …

CM: Okay. …

GC: We live in a Surveilance State. Our license plate numbers are routinely recorded; we’re finger-printed for jobs, our Social Security numbers serve as National I.D.’s, our e-mails are monitored for “code” words or phrases, our homes are surveiled by satellite mapping systems of Google, Yahoo, etc. Those who protest, as in the Occupy Wall Street movement, are arrested, booked, and more closely watched. Now they have “records” that affect their employment. … My question is: how do we battle this pervasive system? Do you get discouraged? What do you do when you are discouraged? Who are your “heroes”? To whom do you turn for inspiration?

CM: Do I get discouraged? Yes! What do I do when I’m discouraged? … find other people who are not yet discouraged!

Who are my heroes? Everybody! Everybody who has a tough row to hoe in life! Those are my heroes. Those are the people who give the most! When I was running for Congress back in 1992–for the first time—I was running to represent the second poorest district in Georgia… and, what I learned was that the poor people gave the most! The people who had… didn’t give as generously as the people who didn’t have! So… my first campaign theme was, “Warriors don’t wear medals, they wear scars!” So… my heroes are the community and neighborhood warriors who have a whole lof of scars, a whole lot of dignity.

GC: I’d like you to talk specifically about what used to be called the Black Liberation Struggle. As a young, white man, I was inspired by the works of black writers like Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Leroi Jones (now called Baraka), Eldridge Cleaver, W.E.B. DuBois, and poets like Langston Hughes. Martin Luther King and Malcom X were inspirational leaders for all people; Rosa Parks was a woman of quiet, dignified courage. But, now, with the election of Obama, and with the prominence of people like Bill Cosby first, and Oprah Winfrey, the billionairess—the great struggles of the past almost seem quaint. What’s your take on this? Who are the great black leaders today? What is the struggle about today?

[Note:There are 7 million Americans now under “correctional observation.” More African-Americans’ lives intersect with our prison-industrial-surveillance complex than there were African-American slaves in 1850!]

CM: You asked me who are my heroes. … One of my heroes is Glen Ford, who writes for The Black Agenda Report [http://blackagendareport.com/]. I view him as the most astute political observer of our times.

There’s a whole lot of pundits who are in our faces every Sunday morning who think they are political observers…, but they are not astute! And they’re also not independent. Glen Ford is independent, he’s been through the wars and he has no special interests to kow-tow to. … He just wrote a piece… “Can the Proud African-American Progressive Legacy Survive Another Four Years of Cowing to the Corporate Servant in the White House?” That’s strong stuff…, but right on point!

We have a situation now… it was the Black struggle that really defined morality in the United States. It defined the moral imperative. And the character of the country was measured by how well it answered the call of Black people for justice. But what happens when Black people stop asking for justice? I think you get exactly what we’ve got now—a President who is dropping bombs on Africa… which is un-thought-of; I mean, it would have been un-thought-of four years ago that Africa would be bombed—routinely! But it’s a routine matter now that the United States Africa Command [AFRICOM] would actively establish itself and militarize the US relationship with Africa. AFRICOM represents a kind of US imperial occupation of the continent that we haven’t seen since the days of outright colonialism of the Europeans. We are being told about issues that are “important”…, but we’re ignoring the real issues that are important! Henry Kissinger said that he couldn’t believe the amount of good will that was embodied in this president! But… what people like Kissinger don’t “get” is that this president sits on top of the historic Black struggle that characterized the United States to the world! People around the world thought that Barack Obama characterized the New United States! But… far from it! A lot of people got tricked and fooled and now… as philosopher Michel Foucault has observed—the every-day actions of ordinary people actually entrap them in “powerlessness”. … So, to break out of your powerlessness, you’ve got to break out of your existing paradigm. So, as long as Barack Obama is representative of the existing paradigm, this is what we’re going to get… because the existing paradigm is war and more war!

GC: How do we “break out”? How do we fight the Mainstream Media that’s constantly projecting that paradigm and hammering it into our brains?

CM: The literature suggests that people have to be confronted with a “disorienting dilemma” that causes them to reflect on what they’ve just experienced. …

GC: Cognitive dissonance?

CM: That’s right. … Reflect on what you always assumed… and what you’ve been confronted with that contradicts your assumptions. … For some people, it was the murder of JFK; for others, it was the murder of Malcom; for others, it was the murder of MLK; for a whole bunch of others, it was the murder of RFK; and for some people who began to look and pay attention like me… it was the murder of all of them and then add onto it the murder of the members of the Black Panther Party—who were attacked by our own government. …

You could say that for me, my first “disorienting dilemma” was when I realized that I was black. I realized that the world around me was not like me, and that it didn’t value my black skin! That, for me was when I began to pay attention and wake up!

GC: How old were you?

CM: Seven or eight. …You know… for some people it’s religion, it’s race, it’s gender, it’s, maybe, sexual orientation. … Everyone has their moment of reckoning.

I think, ultimately… it’s about the love we have for humanity and how we see something is wrong and we have to stop it!

So… by the time I got to Congress… I had had my “reckoning,” and I had had my “break-out” moments, and I guess this gave me strength and vibrancy… and there were people who didn’t like it. I wore my hair differently, I dressed differently from the other people in Congress. There was even a segment of the Capitol Hill police that didn’t like that. …

GC: What year was that?

CM: 1993. …

GC: Wasn’t there a much more recent incident with the Capitol Hill police?

CM: No, no, no. … It happened for twelve years! … Twelve years of harrassment from the Capitol Hill police! They considered it a “sport” to harass me! … It’s available on the Internet… if you go to YouTube and you put in “The Last Plantation.”

GC: The infamous incident is when you apparently struck back at the officer who was harassing you. … Is that correct?

CM: The officer had no business putting his hands on me! … And I reacted like any normal person would react when being attacked by some great big, huge guy from behind! … This was a “hit.” It was a “hit”—a “sport”–for the white officers. You’ll see if you go to that “Last Plantation” site that I had been targeted because I had written a letter of support for the Black Capitol Hill police officers.

GC: And this most infamous incident… that was the same day as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted?

CM: That’s right. … The Mainstream Media didn’t want to lead with that indictment, did they? It was much more sensational and distracting to lead with the story of a black Congresswoman attacking a Capitol Hill police officer!


GC: You’re a pretty brave woman, aren’t you?

CM: Everybody can be brave… they just need that break-out moment of recognition. … I’ve stood on some big shoulders. … As I said before—my campaign theme: “Warriors don’t wear medals… they wear scars.”

By Gary S. Corseri

20 February 2012

@ Countercurrents.org

Editor, teacher and writer Dr. Gary S. Corseri has taught in universities in the U.S. and Japan, and in public schools and prisons in the U.S. His articles, poems, fiction and dramas have appeared at Countercurrents, CounterPunch, InformationClearingHouse, CommonDreams, The New York Times, The Village Voice , and hundreds of other venues worldwide. His dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta, and he has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library. His books include novels and poetry collections. He can be contacted at gary_corseri@comcast.net .


Climate Change Movements: Where Are We Going?

Since 2009, the climate change movement has been losing momentum. But failure should not be taken as the whole story of Copenhagen and its aftermath, argues Elaine Graham-Leigh

In the planning stages, the demonstration at the climate talks in Copenhagen in December 2009, and the associated protests in cities around the world, were often discussed as if they were the culmination of all previous years of campaigning against climate change. Almost two years on, it is easy to look back on them as the apogee of the movement, meaning that from then on it has been all downhill.

The comparison between the movement in the UK before and after Copenhagen is as instructive as it is depressing. The protest at Copenhagen itself was made up of at least 100,000 people, while Stop Climate Chaos’ The Wave demonstration in London culminated in 50,000 people encircling the Houses of Parliament; the largest ever climate protest in the UK. During and immediately after Copenhagen, there was talk of new alliances between environmental groups across Europe, and the possibility of creating a wider, stronger movement which could take the energising experience of the Copenhagen protests and use it to take the campaigns against climate change forward. While there have been some excellent attempts to turn this promise into reality, such as the Climate Alliance, the position now in early 2012 is not what anyone would have hoped for in January 2010.

In one view, the movement is simply the victim of unfavourable objective circumstances. The furore over ‘Climategate’, the hacked emails from climate researchers at the University of East Anglia, along with the contemporaneous accusation of mistakes in IPCC reports, empowered a new wave of climate change denial, while the failure of world leaders to come up with a meaningful deal at Copenhagen dealt a significant blow to the idea of climate change as a solvable problem. Despite efforts by the likes of Chris Huhne and Lord Stern to present the 2011 Durban climate summit as a success, the agreement to have an agreement for climate change reductions is hardly sufficient to reverse this Copenhagen effect.

That Climategate and Copenhagen were a difficult double whammy for the green movement is fairly uncontroversial, but there is another argument which sees climate change campaigns as the authors of their own misfortunes, actually damaging the agenda they are seeking to promote. This is not solely a post-Copenhagen contention, but it has been given extra impetus by the sense of crisis after the failure of the Copenhagen summit. Since early 2010, criticisms have been levelled at climate change campaigners by figures who could be seen as having come from within the movement, and who were certainly widely respected in it, such as Mark Lynas and George Monbiot. These arguments seem both to come out of and foster the sense of failure post-Copenhagen and create the context in which the next steps for the movement are considered. It’s worth therefore examining them in some detail.


The most obvious point of contention between Lynas and Monbiot on the one hand and many greens on the other is the issue of nuclear power. For Lynas, nuclear power is a clear necessity, so much so that he states in his latest book, The God Species, that ‘anyone who still marches against nuclear today…is in my view just as bad for the climate as textbook eco-villains like the big oil companies.’ [1] Monbiot is less unequivocal than Lynas in his nuclear position, but he increasingly regards nuclear power as a least-worst, necessary replacement for coal. [2]

Lynas and Monbiot are clearly coming from different places politically, but they are united by what seems to be an appeal to pragmatism. In different ways, all these arguments present the idea that one of the major problems with the green movement is that it has become too ideological, and that ideological nature is preventing it from simply embracing what might work to deal with climate change. [3] This is not restricted to the nuclear issue; for Lynas in particular, the root of the problem lies in the fundamentals of what he characterises as green thinking.

The central opposition for Lynas is between green desires for untouched nature, secured from human influence, and those who, like him, appreciate the primary importance of human society. It is true that the idea of a pristine natural world is impossible. It results both from our alienation from nature under capitalism, and a failure to appreciate the dialectic between human society and the natural world, shaping and being shaped by each other. Lynas is not however asserting the importance of understanding this dialectic, but making the extremely undialectical argument that what matters is the irreversible status of man’s domination over nature.

That this is real domination is shown by the metaphors used to describe it: for Lynas, we need to embrace our role as the conquerors of the world and realise that ‘the first responsibility of a conquering army is always to govern’. [4] This expression of human dominance of nature in military terms is telling in the context of Lynas’ argument that greens have allowed a straightforward message about climate change to become contaminated by other political agendas. Given the involvement of many greens in campaigning against imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years, the characterisation of humans in general as a conquering army comes across as a very definite statement of position; a challenge to the totality of what the green movement might be thought to stand for.

The idea that all environmentalists pursue the separation of nature from humans is of course highly debatable, but framing the argument in these terms provides as a starting point the implication that the green position is to be opposed to any technical innovation to deal with climate change. The debate is thus portrayed as between on one side a green view which sees energy-saving austerity and cuts in living standards as the only way to reduce emissions, and on the other the sane, balanced thinkers who perceive that modern technology can do the job on emissions while enabling us to keep the lights on. As Lynas says: ‘Global warming is not about overconsumption, morality, ideology or capitalism. It is largely the result of human beings generating energy by burning hydrocarbons and coal. It is, in other words, a technical problem, and it is therefore amendable to a largely technical solution, albeit one driven by politics.’[5]


The notion that greens in general are opposed to using technology to reduce emissions is at the very least difficult to sustain. One would be hard put to find green opposition to the concept of renewable energy, for example, or to the development and improvement of these sorts of technologies. The problem with the technofix is not the use of technology itself, as opposed to the return to the pre-technology age for which greens are supposedly nostalgic, but the attempt to use technology as a alternative to making changes in the way the current system works. Lynas’ argument is essentially that solutions to climate change can only be found within the current system, and they can therefore only be technical ones.

Given this basic assumption, it is not surprising that Lynas views greens who are critical of the system as actively unhelpful as well as misguided. They drive away those who have a stake in the current system, who need only to be convinced that dealing with climate change does not mean consorting with hairy lefties. This is important because Lynas has to explain why, for all the eminent solvability of climate change within the current system it has not, in fact, been solved. The technofixes may be easily available, but evidence for their large scale imminent deployment is sadly lacking. If this failure cannot be laid at the door of counterproductive green campaigners, the only option is to conclude that the system is not able to respond to climate change by introducing measures to combat it directly.

George Monbiot, while writing from a more generally left-wing perspective than Lynas, seems to have a similar take on the movement, in that the perspective now is one following a significant setback. Monbiot’s adoption of a broadly pro-nuclear power position can be seen as a study in his move towards a view of the green movement which holds that it has been damaging its own cause by not adopting a pragmatic view on what is possible now. This is because, while it is possible to trace in Monbiot’s recent writing a move towards more enthusiastic support for nuclear power, it is clear that he remains far from the wholehearted nuclear enthusiast which Lynas appears to be. For Monbiot, nuclear power remains a far from ideal solution, but is the solution which is both available now, and is significantly better in climate terms than fossil fuel power stations.

That this is a capitulation to the status quo is demonstrated by the fact that Monbiot does not dispute that it would be theoretically possible to decarbonise energy generation, noting that Zero Carbon Britain and others have shown how this could be done in principle through a combination of renewable energy generation and energy efficiency. [6] The barriers to a large-scale shift to renewable energy are not physical but political: the additional costs of managing the grid with a significant proportion of electricity from renewable sources, the time it would take to construct the new infrastructure, and local objections to new renewable installations, particularly to wind farms and to the new power lines they would require. [7]

It is interesting that for Monbiot, protestors against wind farms are a political reality whose views have to be accommodated, even to the extent of abandoning the idea of a decarbonised energy system derived from renewable sources, yet anti-nuclear protestors simply have to accept their error of their ways and stop their opposition to this best available answer to climate change. Why both groups of protestors do not have equal weight is not clear. The other arguments in favour of nuclear as opposed to renewable energy also work only with the assumption that the system, and therefore the rules within which the different options for low-carbon energy generation are considered, cannot be changed. Defenders of capitalism often attempt to portray its workings as immutable, natural laws, [8] but in fact, given sufficient motivation, capitalist economies can move remarkably quickly, as for example the US economy’s ‘turn on a dime’ on entering the Second World War.

However, since Monbiot effectively rules out any such dramatic shifts in the current economy, the task of shifting energy generation to renewables appears an impossible one. Unlike Lynas, Monbiot remains unconvinced by the possibility of responding to climate change within the current system, yet for him no solution which looks beyond the current system is possible. It is small wonder that he sees the green movement as lacking in answers, given the unanswerable conundrum this reasoning sets up, nor that his writing on energy generation throughout 2010 and 2011 has become steadily more pessimistic. This sense of pessimism is very much in keeping with the idea that Copenhagen and Climategate added up to a defeat for the movement, but it is clearly related here to the assumption that a practical response to climate change means not looking beyond the status quo. It is therefore worth examining quite why Copenhagen is now assumed to have been such a defeat for the climate movement.

That the Copenhagen summit ended without the agreement of a follow-up deal to the Kyoto Protocol was of course a serious setback to hopes that governments could get together and agree a rational response to climate change, barely ameliorated by the agreement at Durban to try again to get an agreement. This is not the same however as saying that it was also necessarily a serious setback for the climate change movement. Concluding that the climate movement was defeated because the Copenhagen summit did not result in a deal is rather like the argument that the Stop the War coalition failed in 2003 because it didn’t prevent the war in Iraq: an argument levelled at it by opponents which completely ignores how the activities of the anti-war movement shifted general opinion against the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan and eventually led to the resignation of Tony Blair. However, it is true that there appeared to be considerable opportunities arising from the demonstrations around the world and in Copenhagen, along with the Copenhagen alternative summit, for creating a wider, more united movement against climate change, which to date have largely failed to come to fruition.

In part, capitalising on the links made by activists at Copenhagen would have required both energy and optimism, and it’s possible to speculate that the very discourse of failure in the media coverage of the summit played its part in the sense that campaigns against climate change had suffered a serious setback. There is a sense in which this perception of failure could have become self-fulfilling: the green movement was defeated at Copenhagen because after the fact it decided that it had been.

It is important not to underestimate this retrospective sense of failure, but it is equally important not to take it as the whole story of Copenhagen and its aftermath. This would, after all, be to see the movement as divorced from its objective circumstances. Understanding an event or a period as a success or failure can indeed help to make it so, but the progress or otherwise of a movement does not happen solely in the heads of its participants. Aside from the discourse of failure, Copenhagen did objectively herald a change for the movement. Even if groups had been able to grasp the opportunities for working together, it would have had to have been in a very different way from the approach to campaigning in the lead up to the summit.

The demonstrations around the annual climate summits have tended to work as protests calling for government action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with the specific slogans comparatively muted by this general message. Although the issues around climate change have moved on, the idea of calling for government action, pretty much any government action, on climate change, has remained in some ways a meeting point for the movement. It has been the point at which those who believe in market solutions, lifestyle changes or revolution have come together to demonstrate for action, with the precise nature of said action in the small print. With the demise of the hope of concerted government action within the current system, the green movement is left between two poles – system change or the profitable technofix – without the point at which it was able to cohere in the middle. It is easy to see why this might be disorientating for the movement, but more than that, it could call into question the need for a mass movement specifically and solely on climate change at all.

The strategy of building a mass movement on climate change contains the assumption that climate change can usefully be seen as a discrete problem for which there are solutions available within the current system, regardless of how difficult a political task it would be to compel governments to adopt them. Copenhagen however emphasised that climate change is an issue arising from the workings of the system itself, and so is not amenable to amelioration by statute. This is not to argue that climate change campaigners should simply widen their remit. This would be unlikely to be a successful strategy, and in practice would be difficult to do. It has been suggested that part of the reason for Climate Camp’s decision to release its participants for other projects was the difficultly in moving from an understanding of themselves as activists against climate change specifically to more general anti-capitalism within the Climate Camp framework. Climate Camp could not itself take on the entire system, but there seems to have been an increasing sense that concentrating only on the climate change aspect of the wider problem was not enough. [9]

Climate change campaigns may not be able to bring down the system on their own, but what we can do is place ourselves at the centre of the movements which are taking on capitalism at the sharp end – campaigns against austerity, against cuts, against unemployment, against the war. If we understand climate change as not a technical problem but an integral part of capitalism then joining these campaigns is fighting for climate action, just as much as marching on a climate change demo, and it is concentrating the fight where we have the greatest chance of building a genuinely mass movement. Placing climate change at the heart of these campaigns also brings a necessary international focus to campaigns which can risk becoming parochial, plus many of the transitional demands which we fight for against austerity are climate change demands as well. The call for a million green jobs to create the necessary low carbon infrastructure is just one example.

Lynas and Monbiot in many ways are correct: under the current system, the only response to climate change is to find the commercially-profitable technofix, and if you don’t think that sounds like a good idea, then there are no answers at all. But the current system is not immutable, and if we don’t see privatised sky mirrors as the answer for global warming, the movement against the ConDem cuts may actually be the best place to continue the fight.

By Elaine Graham-Leigh

29 January 2012

@ Counterfire.org


[1] Mark Lynas, The God Species. How the Planet Can Survive the Age of Humans, (London 2011), p.10.

[2] See the range of articles on nuclear power reposted on www.monbiot.com.

[3] See for example George Monbiot and Chris Goodall, ‘The moral case for nuclear power’, http://www.monbiot.com/2011/08/08/the-moral-case-for-nuclear-power/.

[4] Lynas, The God Species, p.12.

[5] Ibid., p.66.

[6] George Monbiot, ‘Nuked by friend and foe’, http://www.monbiot.com/2009/02/20/nuked-by-friend-and-foe

[7] See for example George Monbiot, ‘’The lost world’, http://www.monbiot.com/2011/05/02/the-lost-world

[8] As Lukacs points out, the bourgeoisie ‘must think of capitalism as being predestined to eternal survival by the eternal laws of nature and reason.’, Georg Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness. Studies in Marxist Dialectics, trans. Rodney Livingstone, (London 1971), p.11.

[9] My thoughts on the wind up of Climate Camp owe much to Sophie Lewis’ excellent The rise and fall (and rise) of the Camp for Climate Action UK : notes on interventions in challenging carbon democracy, unpublished ms, (Oxford University, 2011). However, my conclusions and any misapprehensions are my own. Also interesting on this point are comments made by some of the interviewees in the 2011 film Just Do It on their thoughts on the climate change movement post Copenhagen: http://justdoitfilm.com/.

Elaine Graham-Leigh lives in London, UK, where she divides her time between writing and political activism, particularly on climate change


Bolivia: Challenges Along Path Of ‘Governing By Obeying The People’

A new twist in the turbulent saga surrounding a proposed roadway through indigenous land has reignited a debate raging throughout Bolivia since the middle of last year.

The controversial highway ― which would cut through the Isiboro-Secure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS) ― has been at the centre of protests and counter-protests. It has polarised Bolivian society and divided indigenous groups that are the heart of the Evo Morales government’s social base.

Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, was first elected in 2005 on the back of a wave of anti-neoliberal uprisings. An elected constituent assembly drew up a new constitution, adopted by referendum, that grants unprecedented rights to the nation’s indigenous majority.

But the task of transforming the poor Andean nation, the victim of hundreds of years of colonial pillage, comes with serious obstacles. The TIPNIS dispute, in which different sectors of the indigenous population have competing views and interests, reveals one such challenge.

The source of renewed debate was the February 9 decision by parliament to pass a law approving a process to consult indigenous communities within TIPNIS about the roadway. This places the future of the project, which the government views as a strategic necessity to develop Bolivia, in the hands of those that will be most affected.

The government has also called on Bolivia’s main social organisations to help draft a new law to set the legal parametres for future consultations, a right enshrined in the new constitution.

The aim is to set up a framework for greater popular participation and overcome the rising number of local conflicts of various development projects.

These moves may help rebuild fractured alliances and expand forms of participatory democracy. Or they may deepen rifts among Morales supporters.

A key factor will be how well the government isolates increasingly intransigent forces on both sides of the debate.

Two marches, two laws

The conflict first erupted in July last year. The TIPNIS Subcentral the legal bearers of the TIPNIS collective land title that is home to Yuracare, Chiman and Moxe indigenous communities said it would march onto the capital La Paz to oppose the proposed roadway.

Community leaders raised the lack of consultation and concerns over the impact the road could have on local communities.

The proposed march quickly gained support from two important indigenous organisations: the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia (CIDOB), which unites 34 lowland indigenous peoples, and the Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ), comprised of 16 small indigenous communities.

After almost 70 days and a police attack, the march reached La Paz in October. Protesters succeeded in getting parliament to approve a law banning a highway through TIPNIS.

On enacting the law, Morales said his government was making good on its slogan of “governing by obeying”. He said those within TIPNIS who supported the highway would have to take their views up with their community leaders.

By December, a counter-march had been initiated by the Indigenous Council of the South (CONISUR), which groups some of the indigenous communities within TIPNIS and in “Poligono Seven” (a zone within TIPNIS but not part of the collective title).

Poligono Seven, whose population greatly outnumbers that of local indigenous peoples within the rest of TIPNIS, is mainly home to outside indigenous campesinos (peasants) who, searching for land to till, have settled in the area.

The CONISUR march received support from Bolivia’s three main national indigenous campesino groups and nearby coca-grower unions. All said the highway is essential to providing their communities with access to basic services and markets at which to sell their produce.

When the CONISUR march arrived in La Paz 39 days later, the government encouraged leaders of the first march to meet with CONISUR representatives to try to resolve the dispute.

When the request was rejected by CIDOB and the TIPNIS Subcentral, parliamentarians began meeting with CONISUR to discuss a new law to allow TIPNIS communities to decide the project’s fate.

However, critics of the new law, including CIDOB and TIPNIS Subcentral leaders, say the purpose of the consultation process is to reverse the government’s decision after the first march and open the way to allow the road to be built.

CIDOB leaders have pledged to organise another march to La Paz to oppose the recent moves. They have ruled out taking part in drafting a general law on consultations.

Let the people decide

The TIPNIS dispute reveals two key dilemmas the Morales government faces in making the concept of “governing by obeying” real.

Bolivian vice-president Alvaro Garcia Linera said in a November 28 speech: “To govern by obeying is to affirm every day that the sovereign is not the state. It is the people, who express themselves not only every five years by the vote, but each day they speak and put forward their needs, expectations and collective requirements.

However, as Garcia Linera noted and the TIPNIS dispute reveals, “the people are not something homogeneous. There are social classes, there are identities, there are regions. The people are very diverse.

There is a dilemma arising from tensions created when a project strategic to overall national development encounters resistance from those who will be locally affected.

Few in Bolivia, including those opposed to the current proposal, question the need for a roadway to connect Bolivia’s isolated northern Amazonian region with the country’s centre and west.

Given this, Garcia Linera said the role of those in government is not to substitute for the people but to harmonise the voices of the people, to synthesise its concerns.

Analysing the government’s handling of the TIPNIS dispute, Garcia Linera said February 4 the government had made two errors. These were, first, not consulting communities about the highway, and then failing to consult communities on the law that banned any highway through TIPNIS.

He said: “We have to correct both errors, and what is the best way to correct both errors? Let the [people] that live there decide… that is the most democratic, the most just manner …

“The [people] there, those that suffer, should decide if there should be a roadway.”

Such an approach, combined with calling on Bolivia’s social movements to help draft a general law on consultation, stands in stark contrast to the record of previous neoliberal governments.

However, implementing this complex and difficult task will require overcoming two immediate challenges.

Challenges and opportunities

The first is confronting the growing alliance between some indigenous leaders opposed to Morales government policies such as the roadway and elements of Bolivia’s traditional elites. These elites were behind the wave of violence unleashed against indigenous peoples during the first Morales term.

While quick to denounce the Morales government, CIDOB leaders recently praised the right-wing Santa Cruz governor. They signed an agreement providing the indigenous organisation with a post in the Santa Cruz governorship.

The agreement has drawn fire even from CIDOB allies. On January 26, TIPNIS Subcentral president Fernando Vargas publicly rejected the move, saying CIDOB leaders had “put their foot in it” by signing such an agreement.

But CIDOB’s deal with the Santa Cruz governor does not seem to be an aberration. A recent string of events point to a burgeoning union between these traditional enemies.

This includes the alliance forged between indigenous deputies and right-wing parties in the Santa Cruz departmental council against the Morales-led Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), a favour repaid with more than US$3.5 million for development projects in CIDOB communities.

There was also the comment by CIDOB leader Lazaro Tacoo on December 14 that indigenous people should “forgive” the Santa Cruz elite for its violent attacks against them, “as only now are they recognising the importance of indigenous peoples”.

The government faces the challenge of isolating those forces seeking alliances with the violent right wing and rebuilding a strong alliance with lowland indigenous groups.

However, Pablo Stefanoni, a critical sympathiser of the Morales government, wrote in a February 13 Pagina Siete article that this will require confronting “the idea held by a sector of the government of imposing a strategic defeat on the lowlands indigenous peoples in order to advance with development projects”.

This perspective is seen in the continued insistence of some government officials that the only possible path for the roadway is the one proposed.

However, Pablo Solon, a former Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations and critic of the government’s treatment of the TIPNIS issue, said it is incumbent on the government to prove that there is no alternative route. This is needed to show the consultation process is being carried out in good faith.

Solon proposed a commission made up of representatives from the TIPNIS Subcentral, CONISUR, the governors of Beni and Cochabamba and the government, along with engineers and environmentalists.

Such a body could study all possible alternative routes, taking into consideration the economic, environmental and social impact of each one.

“Only on the basis of all these alternatives is it possible to then carry out a serious and responsible consultation,” Solon said.

Such a move would complement other positive steps that have been taken towards defusing tensions. These include the February 14 announcement by the president of the Bolivian senate that the consultation process will not involve outside indigenous groups that have settled in Poligono Seven.

Instead, the process will be coordinated in agreement between the government and the three indigenous peoples within TIPNIS.

The proposal to directly involve different social movements in collectively debating how best to carry out consultation represents a further advance in expanding decision-making powers to local communities and social movements.

It may also prove an important step in broadening the necessary debate on how to flesh out the constitution’s provisions on indigenous autonomy and land reform.

This entails dealing with complex issues, such as how best to tackle poverty and develop Bolivia’s economy while protecting the environment and the rights of indigenous communities.

By Federico Fuentes

20 February 2012

@ Green Left Weekly

Federico Fuentes is a member of Australia’s Socialist Alliance and is based in Venezuela as part of Green Left Weekly’s Caracas bureau.

Beyond The Bubble Economy

Public anger at the 2008 Wall Street bailout, concerns about debt, and a deep and pervasive fear that another financial crash is just a matter of time create an important moment of opportunity for a long overdue public conversation about the purpose of financial services and the necessary steps to assure that the financial sector fulfills that purpose.

Much of the recent discussion of financial reform has centered on limiting Wall Street excesses to curb fraud and reduce the risk of another financial crash. This is vitally important, but it does not address the issue raised by Sheila Bair shortly before she stepped down last year as FDIC chair:

“In policy terms, the success of the financial sector is not an end in itself, but a means to an end—which is to support the vitality of the real economy and the livelihood of the American people. What really matters to the life of our nation is enabling entrepreneurs to build new businesses that create more well-paying jobs, and enabling families to put a roof over their heads and educate their children.”

It is very straightforward. The proper purpose of the financial services sector is to serve the real economy on which everyone depends for their daily needs, their quality of life, and their opportunity to be creative, contributing members of their communities.

By this standard of performance, Wall Street does not serve us well. Indeed, Wall Street’s most lavish rewards go not to those who enable others to create wealth, but rather to those most skilled and ruthless in expropriating the wealth of others—behavior condemned as immoral by every major religion. To justify their actions, Wall Street players and their apologists turn reality and logic on their heads by treating growth in the size and profitability of the financial sector as an end in itself, and a measure of increasing sector efficiency.

Because financial services are a means, not an end, they are properly treated as an overhead cost to be minimized. By this reckoning, growth in the size of the financial sector as a percent of GDP represents growth in Wall Street’s overhead burden on the real economy from a highly efficient one percent in 1850 to a grossly inefficient 8.5 percent in 2010:

The following graph gives us a similar perspective on the growth in Wall Street profits. From 1929 to the mid-1980s, profits of the financial sector tracked right along with those of the profits of non-financial (read real economy) corporations. As Wall Street became increasingly predatory in the 1980s, its profits relative to profits in the real economy began to grow exponentially. That may look like an increase in efficiency from a Wall Street perspective. From the perspective of the society, however, it is another measure of Wall Street’s increasing overhead burden.

Market advocates correctly note that markets have a wonderful ability to self-regulate in the public interest. When market advocates go on to argue, however, that the solution for market failure is to get government out of the way, they demonstrate remarkable ignorance of basic market economics. Markets self-organize in the public interest only if incentives align with the public interest.

As Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz correctly observes: “When private rewards are well aligned with social objectives things work well; when they are not, matters can get ugly.”

As the 2008 crash revealed, Wall Street’s reward system renders it incapable of self-regulation in the public interest. Furthermore, Wall Street financial institutions have become so over leveraged and so interconnected that the collapse of one threatens the collapse of all—and thereby potential total collapse of the global economy. Corrective action necessarily falls to government, which can deal with Wall Street’s failure to self-regulate in one of four ways.

1. Continue to bail out failed banks at taxpayer expense.

2. Build a countervailing external regulatory system equal to or greater than the size and power of the financial system, spell out detailed lists of prohibited behaviors, and impose fines and jail sentences for each violation sufficient to make good behavior more attractive than bad behavior.

3. Implement a system of taxpayer funded financial incentives for good behavior to achieve the same outcome, or

4. Create a system of incentives that drive a reorganization of the financial system and a realignment of its internal rewards to favor transparency, accountability, and public service. A basic framework for such a reorganization is spelled out in the New Economy Working Group report, Liberating Main Street from Wall Street Rule.

The first option rewards ever greater risk-taking and will ultimately bankrupt even the wealthiest government. Options two and three are enormously complex, set up an intense competition between private and public institutions, invite massive corruption, and require huge public expenditure.

Only the fourth option can create a system that is adaptive, self-regulating, and relatively inexpensive to maintain with modest government oversight. Here are two examples.

>> Basic Banking Services. This need is best met by a system of small and locally owned banks that function as well-regulated public utilities supported by deposit insurance and access to low cost credit. To provide appropriate incentives to keep individual banks relatively small, insurance fees, interest rates, and reserve & capital requirements should be based on the bank’s total assets. Larger banks will pay higher fees and interest rates and be required to maintain higher reserves and capital to loan ratios—thus giving an inherent competitive advantage to banks that remain small. Banks organized as cooperatives, such as credit unions and cooperative banks directly accountable to those they serve, might enjoy especially favorable terms to encourage cooperative ownership.

 >> Proprietary Trading. If a group of investors or money managers chose to join together to create a firm to engage in proprietary trading, they could do so. The firm must, however, be organized as a partnership with all debts and losses backed by the personal assets of the partners to provide a powerful incentive for responsible self-regulation. Propriety trading would be its only allowed function. Such firms would not enjoy any government guarantee or tax incentive and they would be prohibited from accepting investments from retirement or other funds held and managed in trust.

The Wall Street experience has demonstrated why it is important to confine different financial functions to separate smaller institutions that hold managers accountable to those who bear the risk.

Get the system’s internal incentives right and the priorities and risk calculations of the financial sector will shift dramatically, its size will shrink, real efficiency will increase, and regulatory costs and failures will plummet. Restructuring to get the internal incentives right should be a foundation of all future financial reform efforts.

By David Korten

6 February 2012

@ YES! Magazine

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

David Korten (livingeconomiesforum.org) is the author of Agenda for a New Economy, TheGreat Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World. He is board chair of YES! Magazine and a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.




Behind The Scenes: The Secret NATO Report on Afghanistan

The secret NATO report, “State of the Taliban 2012,” commissioned by the US and NATO was never supposed to see the light of day. Unfortunately for the US war party it was leaked to the press and the New York Times has published many of its observations and conclusions (“Taliban Captives Dispute U.S. View on State of War” 2-2-2012).

The report was based on information taken from 4000 prisoners, Taliban and others, that have fallen into the hands of US forces. To the surprise of the US the prisoners are rather upbeat about the progress of the war and think they are actually winning it. The report says that while the US thinks it is winning and is about to start winding down its own participation the interviews of the captives shows, according to the NYT, “a Taliban insurgency that is far from vanquished or demoralized.” The same issue of the Times reported the optimistic statement of Defense Secretary Panetta that the US would set 2013 not 2014 as the date for ending US combat in Afghanistan. This was later corrected by the ground commanders in Afghanistan– 2014 is the date– and we may still remain after that date for a long, long time. They wish.

The report says the prisoners state that in those areas where the US forces withdraw and turn over control to the Afghan Army, that army begins to cooperate with the Taliban– as do the local Afghan government officials. “Many Afghans are already bracing themselves for an eventual return of the Taliban.” The report also says that while the Afghan government says it will carry on the war after the US withdraws “many of its personnel have secretly reached out to insurgents, seeking long-term options in the event of a possible Taliban victory.” Well of course, all options should be kept on the table.

The report gives the impression that the war is lost and the government can’t deal with this reality. Lt. Col. Jimmie E. Cummings a US-NATO spokes person had this to say about the information gotten from the prisoners. “This document aggregates the comments of Taliban detainees in a captive environment without considering the validity of or motivation behind their reflections. Any conclusions drawn from this would be questionable at best.”

Wait a minute. We captured these people and interrogated them to get information about the enemy. We don’t like the information we get so then say due to a “captive environment” the conclusions are “questionable.” But all interrogations of prisoners take place in a “captive environment” and are therefore “questionable.” So why bother? It appears that if the government likes the information it gets its credible otherwise its “questionable.” This is completely intellectually dishonest and we should not believe a word we are told by the military unless we have independent third person verification.


What could be more comical than NATO spokespersons attempting to refute their own report once it became public. The State Department has also gotten into the act. The report mentions the fact that the Taliban has strained relations with their “Pakistani patrons.” But Pakistan is supposed to be a US “ally.” How foolish does the US look when the money it lavishes on the Pakistanis is redirected to the Taliban and used to kill US troops. How can you even dream of winning a war when you are all tied up in these contradictory circumstances? The State Department realizes how bad this looks and also played down the significance of the NATO report, saying it was “in no way designed to impact our on going efforts to be back on track with Pakistan.” Were we ever “on track” with Pakistan or just being used by the Pakistanis after they realized we didn’t know what we were doing in Afghanistan?

For example, the Pakistani government, according to the report, “is thoroughly aware of Taliban activities and the whereabouts of all senior Taliban personnel.” And, “There is a wide spread assumption that Pakistan will never allow the Taliban the chance to become independent of ISI [the CIA/FBI of Pakistan-the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate] control.” Yes, lets get back on track– the US is at “war” with the Taliban, the Taliban is controlled by Pakistan therefore….. draw your own conclusions.

An important conclusion of the report, that NATO and the US really don’t want people to know about, is the following: “Taliban commanders, along with rank and file members, increasingly believe that their control of Afghanistan is inevitable. Though the Taliban suffered severely in 2011, its strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remains intact.”

Where does the funding come from? It comes from us! Money from the US to Pakistan goes to the Taliban. Trucks and weapons we give to the Afghan Army are sold off at bargain basement rates, or “donated”, to the Taliban by corrupt elements in the Karzai government. The Taliban’s strength is intact– we are withdrawing. Their motivation is intact– we just want to get out as soon as possible (sooner). Their tactical proficiency is intact, we are turning operations over to the Afghan Army many of whose troops would rather shoot us than the Taliban. Is it really too hard to see how all this is going to end? Oh, I forgot to add that besides the ISI, the report says the Afghan intelligence agency also supplies the Taliban with information about where American troops are located so that they can be attacked.

So there you have it. We are spending 2 billion dollars a week to support the war against the Taliban and both our “ally” Pakistan and the Afghan government we set up and are “defending” are on the side of the Taliban. General Petraeus retired just in time. If he runs the CIA as well he did the war in Afghanistan the decline of US imperialism will be well underway.

By Thomas Riggins

6 February 2012

@ Countercurrents.org

Thomas Riggins is the associate editor of Political Affairs and also writes for the People’s World.




Barack and Mitt do the dragon dance When it comes to how to deal with China, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are not exactly oceans apart.

Hong Kong – It was somewhat cute – that Valentine’s Day get-together at the White House between US President Barack Obama and China’s likely next leader, Xi Jinping.

Tall, affable, self-confident, always ready to smile, with a pop star as second wife (People’s Liberation Army singer Peng Liyuan), a daughter studying at Harvard, and hooked on Hollywood war movies, Xi couldn’t display a more graphic contrast with the departing Hu Jintao, who always looks like he’s frozen at Madame Tussaud’s.

But what’s love got to do with it, a remixed Tina Turner would say? Not much. While Chinese media was splashing in their front pages that “the eagle and the dragon” must strive to attain “strategic mutual trust”, Xi – like a lover scolded on a blind date – was lectured by Obama on the devaluation of the yuan, human rights and the Middle East.

Obama spars with Xi over trade and Syria

In slightly over a year, Xi Jinping becomes China’s new president – in fact a first among equals among the ultra-tight, nine-member Politburo standing committee in Beijing; that is, the people who have approved all crucial policies contained in the latest Chinese five-year-plan, which started in 2011.

It’s been a long and winding road since the US fell in love with the Little Helmsman, Deng Xiaoping, during his famous 1979 trip to the US. When he came back to Beijing, Deng – inspired by Singapore but also by much of what he saw in his trip – unleashed his reforms with a bang, “crossing the river by feeling the stones”, but always with a laser-focused goal: “To get rich is glorious.”

A little over three decades later, Chairman Mao’s intellectuals forced to live as peasants were replaced by turbo-capitalist urban plutocrats. China is the second-largest economy and the factory of the world, an emerging superpower, and the United States’ top creditor. And Xi is the man either Obama or Mitt Romney – if he does not become roadkill, courtesy of a legion of irate right-wingers – will have to deal with directly. But how?

There’s the rub – because obsessed-with-China Washington elites remain eminently perplexed about the dragon. Washington demands anything and everything from China – but one never knows what Washington is willing to offer. So is this a partnership – “strategic mutual trust”, as Beijing would like it? Or is this outright strategic competition, openly confrontational? Will they shape, together, the 21st century multipolar world; or are we already in the fog of a New Cold War?

Barack’s blues

Since late last year, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been peddling the US’ Pacific Century. And in early January – in the Pentagon, no less – Obama announced the US’ new defence strategy, immediately dismissed by the War Party for being a “lead-from-behind” failure.

The new US defence strategy is cleverly deceptive. It may be easily interpreted as the blueprint for a New Cold War, this time fought in Asia. When Beijing looks at it, it sees encirclement – not mutual trust. Pentagon “power projections” abound – from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea.

As for the much-lauded “pivoting” from the Middle East to Asia, in fact it implies a long-term stop in Southwest Asia – as in Iran. The top three US Middle East mantras remain unchanged; blind support for the six monarchies/emirates of the Gulf Cooperation Council (forget about Arab Springs in the Gulf); “standing up for Israel’s security”; and most of all containment of Iran.

A “pivoting” can certainly be identified in the special emphasis on preventing Iran – as well as China – from going asymmetric, as in electronic and cyber warfare, and developing top-class ballistic and cruise missiles as well as sophisticated air defences.

What the Pentagon calls “rebalancing” towards Asia-Pacific – sometimes described as “repositioning” – centres on outright manipulation of mixed emotions, especially in India and Japan and across the South China Sea, about China’s spectacular rise.

China is described as “assertive” and also “revanchist” – in both cases implying a threat. The scene is set for Washington to come to the rescue – posing as the benign outside power providing regional security.

This will hardly be taken seriously in most parts of Asia. Not with the US national debt (now bigger than the whole US economy) at over $15tn and counting. And not with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the ten ASEAN countries being progressively integrated into China’s economy.

Moreover, Beijing is extremely flexible; its official policy is to create “win-win” trade and commercial situations all across Asia-Pacific, such as the “10+1” (ASEAN members plus China) in Southeast Asia.

As a gathering of expat bankers in Hong Kong commented, in half-jest, the overall impression is that empires don’t roll over and die; they just pivot from dominating one backyard (the Middle East) to another (East Asia).

Mitt’s opera buffa

Now let’s focus on a potential Mitt Romney presidency. Mitt is widely perceived as a candidate of the cream of the one per cent; his mega-wealthy top supporters include executives at Bain Capital (his former firm), Goldman Sachs bankers and hedge fund moguls.

Among his foreign policy team, those in charge of Asia-Pacific policy are Evan Feigenbaum, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for south and central Asia during the second Bush administration; Aaron Friedberg, a former deputy assistant for national security affairs and director of policy planning under Dick Cheney; and Kent Lucken, managing director at Citigroup Private Bank in Boston.

Romney’s foreign policy white paper is titled An American Century. Apart from the fact that it mirrors the exact same Obama/Hillary rhetoric, it’s a neo-con masterpiece. No wonder: Almost word for word, it repackages the neo-con agenda of the defunct Project for the New American Century (PNAC) – that collection of warmongers who brought us the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The key author of Romney’s paper is no other than Eliot Cohen, currently a professor of strategic studies at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins – the ultimate neo-con training school.

Cohen, a protégé of the infamous Paul Wolfowitz, was one of PNAC’s creators in 1997. Immediately after 9/11 he reportedly came up with the notorious concept of “World War IV”, connecting Saddam Hussein with 9/11 and describing Iraq as “the big prize”.

Dick Cheney helped him to land a job as counselor to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2007. Confirming once more that Washington is the eternal gift that keeps on giving, Cohen is now one of Romney’s top advisers.

Predictably, the Cohen paper – Mitt’s foreign policy roadmap – is an orgy of pristine neo-imperialism. Call it the Bush III administration. Yet to give an idea of the current Republican foul mood, it’s not even hardcore enough for those armchair warmongers who pontificate in the editorial pages of the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

“Unilateralism may be over – but it’s more than alive and kicking in the official roadmaps of both Obama and Romney.”

Here is an example of the average Mitt Romney foreign policy shtick. Cohen the ventriloquist has led Mitt to stress that “the United States will apply the full spectrum of hard and soft power to influence events before they erupt into conflict” (that’s music to the practitioners of the Pentagon’s Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine).

Mirroring Obama’s new doctrine, on China, “the United States should maintain and expand its naval presence in the Western Pacific” and should close off “China’s option of expanding its influence through coercion”.

The icing on the cake is, of course, “a robust, multi-layered national ballistic-missile defense system to deter and defend against nuclear attacks on our homeland and our allies”. It does conjure up images of Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks.

Romney has not antagonised China in his campaign trail as much as the other Republican contenders, roadkill or not – at least not yet. But he’s unmistakable; a President Romney will rush to war on Iran – because Eliot Cohen said so. Of course he’s not telling unsuspecting voters that a war against Iran is a war against China – with the vortex of unpredictable consequences included.

In real life, geopolitically, a remix of the classic balance of power among a group of nations, in an arc from East to West, is already emerging. Unilateralism may be over – but it’s more than alive and kicking in the official roadmaps of both Obama and Romney. As Xi Jinping starts to cross the river by feeling the stones, the last thing he sees under these muddy waters is “strategic mutual trust”.

By Pepe Escobar

20 February 2012

@ Al Jazeera

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is named Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.


Al Jazeera

Bankers Fiddle While Athens Burns

Athens was in flames. But, stock markets felt relieved. The Greek bank-friendly elites denied to recognize people’s plight and “honorably” embraced humiliating conditions to honor debt.

People in Greece are in anger and anguish. Within 10 hours, about half a hundred buildings were set ablaze in the Greek capital, an act of desperation that germinates as public space is encroached by banks, as democracy in a society is dictated and distorted by global finance capital, and people lose breathing space. Broader section of people was protesting peacefully and violent scenes raged the capital while the Greek parliament was passing a bank-dictated austerity plan to make banks happy. The fact got exposed: bankers pushing for austerity, market welcoming austerity, people standing against austerity, and, bankers standing against people. And, austerity is, in actual sense, pressing down labor, robbing labor.

As the Greek parliament passed the austerity measures demanded by its lenders stock markets rallied. In Athens, shares in Greek banks leaped by 10%. The FTSE 100 went high, Germany’s Dax climbed, in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose up, the French Cac was up, the Italian MIB bought a higher position, and the euro took upward journey before taking a shallow dip. In the secondary bond markets, 10-year securities issued by Italy, Belgium, Portugal and Spain felt strong. In London, Lloyds Banking Group led the upward jump. The creditors felt assured that their debtor, Greece, is an obedient honorable soul that stands by promise. The Greek government will express their irreversible written assurance within days to avoid bankruptcy. A high moral standing in creditor-debtor relationship where creditor has all the rights to rob and dictate debtor!

The EU welcomed the Athenian parliamentary practice as EC Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Olli Rehn called the vote a show of Greece’s determination to address its finances. And, he condemned the violence. However, the disciplined Greek MPs’ yeah votes were not enough to make bank bosses fully happy. It failed to ensure delivery of second rescue package to Greece. A banker, according to Bloomberg TV, reminded Greece to maintain its credibility with its international partners. It was an exercise with democracy: financiers telling people’s representatives what to table and how to vote!

But that democratic practice was not enough. Athens have to initiate “Additional measures” – more cuts worth 325m euro. Germany has warned: The vote is not enough to guarantee that Greece receives its bailout money. The Bundestag, the German parliament, will take the final decision on Greece. A report on Greece from the Troika – the IMF, EU, ECB – must reach the Bundestag before it decides whether to approve the bailout fund. Moreover, the euro group finance ministers will observe Greece’s compliance with the terms, and there should be conclusive understanding with private creditors over debt restructuring. Legislature of a country supervises legislative doings and wrong doings of another country! It is financiers’ global capital-sovereign practice.

To rationalize passing of the austerity bill, the Greek prime minister Papademos warned that banks would collapse and schools and hospitals would be left without funds unless the bill passed. He straightened fact partially while a partial fact was ignored. Without the austerity measures finance capital would feel uneasy. But Greek schools and hospitals, as main stream media report regularly, are passing through problems for long.

Financial problems, in usual manner, crept into Greek politics. With appointment of unelected ministers under the premiership of unelected Papademos, a banker turned academic turned politician, in the reshuffled cabinet the Athenian bankruptcy-bail out comedy has generated a neo-democratic model in Greece. Parliament members standing against the austerity bill have been expelled. Earlier, before tabling the bill, MPs were warned of not to oppose the austerity bill. The next crisis, as conservative New Democracy party head Samaras told parliament, is likely to come with the coming election within months. He likes to renegotiate the agreements with the troika following the elections. His signing of the pledge to bankers is uncertain although he voted for the bill. Vassilis Korkidis, the head of the National Confederation of Greek Commerce, said in a statement: The country’s political system is failing.

Along with democracy-drama in Greece two interviews carried by German press revealed interesting observations by powerful actors on the world stage. George Soros in an interview has criticized German chancellor Merkel for “leading Europe in the wrong direction”. He warned of another great depression unless funds are not pumped now instead of cutting spending. He was frank. Profit margins will be under pressure, he said. Soros admitted: Markets do not correct their own excesses. He told point blank: Germany was among the first countries to break the euro-zone rules. The Germans were not exactly innocent. Everybody broke the Stability Pact rules. Germany has mishandled the rescue operation by providing the bailout at penal interest rates, which then led to an increase in the indebtedness of Greece. It is only a policy failure on the part of Europe and particularly of Germany, because Germany is in charge. That is why today Greece is beyond rescue. Soros added: People like German finance minister Schäuble don’t seem to understand that the heavily indebted countries are now at a severe disadvantage, because they have basically become heavily indebted in a foreign currency, the euro. Soros tried to identify the root: The euro crisis is a direct continuation or consequence of the 2008 crash. This crisis isn’t over yet and we will have to spend more state money in order to stop the skidding. Otherwise we will repeat the mistakes that plunged America into the Great Depression in 1929. Angela Merkel simply doesn’t understand that. He told in a simple voice: I am concerned about my own interests. Nevertheless, I think that I perhaps understand the financial system better than some of the people who are in charge. In the interview conducted by Georg Mascolo, Gregor Peter Schmitz and Martin Hesse Soros expressed his ambitious intention: I am trying to change [Angela Merkel’s] mind.

More talks are there. Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, in an interview said: Germany occasionally shows a tendency to boast. He was concerned with the attitude. Westerwelle wants a European Germany. He said: We should not believe that we will always be the strong man of Europe. Westerwelle expressed his dissatisfaction with the political impasse in Greece in recent weeks. The German minister told: Greece’s future is in the hands of the Greeks. However he advised the Greeks: [The Greeks] have to demonstrate that they are serious. It isn’t enough to adopt reform programs. Instead, [those] have to be implemented without delay – not at some point in the future, but now. In the interview conducted by Konstantin von Hammerstein and Ralf Neukirch the German minister reminded Greece in a stern voice: There will be no more advance payments. Only actions count now.

Greece, its elites, has to discipline itself, in the manner bank capital likes. But, there is another voice, the voice of the people. Graffiti on Athens walls said: “No IMF-no new [austerity] measures”, “No more IMF! Stop the intervention in Greek sovereignty. If you don’t give democracy a chance, you should expect US!”, “Bosses are killers of the people”. This voice will complicate finance capital’s democratic politics in Greece.

Dhaka-based freelancer Farooque Chowdhury contributes on socioeconomic issues.


By Farooque Chowdhury


14 February 2012

@ Countercurrents.org


Bahraini Government’s Use of Tear Gas Claims Several Lives

Over the last month, the Bahraini police have been using tear gas almost every night against protesters in residential areas. Specifically, the police have been targeting the Shi’a neighborhoods of Iker, Sitra, Nuwadrat, and Ma’ameer. While there are international guidelines for the proper use of tear gas, victims of such attacks describe the police using tear gas inappropriately – including firing into homes and other closed spaces. Such inappropriate use can have disastrous consequences. Since the start of the unrest in February 2011, at least 13 civilians have died from exposure to the tear gas, according to Bahraini civil society groups. They note that those who die from tear gas inhalation are usually people who are already vulnerable due to old age or disease, which make the gas’s effects more deadly.

One of these victims was a newborn baby who was in her own home when she was exposed to the gas. She died on December 11th when she was just 6 days old. 14-year-old Yasseen Al Asfoor was the most recent victim of government misuse of tear gas against protestors; he suffered from respiratory problems and tear gas killed him on January 22nd.

A Bahraini doctor told Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) that she believes that the government is using a new kind of tear gas that is more dangerous. But without knowing the active ingredient, she has been struggling to treat patients:

“I was exposed to different types of gas when I went to (the village of) Sitra—a white gas and a yellow one, but I also saw a third gas of a blue color from a distance. The gas felt like a poison, like a thousand knives and needles all over your body; what kind of tear gas is supposed to affect people this way? I have seen tear gas patients who are in a state of convulsion that never ends, like a prolonged seizure… Before the tear gas that was being used had ‘Pennsylvania, USA’ written on it, now the canisters are just blank with no labels. It is impossible to know what the contents are.”

Other Bahraini doctors also noted that the symptoms of the tear gas were unusual. When they asked the Ministry of Health to run tests on the gas canisters, their requests were denied. Since the long-term effects of prolonged and repeated exposure to tear gas has never been studied, physicians in Bahrain have begun to worry about the impact that repeated exposure to these chemicals may have on the general population.

Because the Bahraini government has demonstrated it cannot be trusted to use riot-control materials in a manner consistent with international guidelines, the U.S. should not authorize additional sales of tear gas and related materials to Bahrain. PHR urges the U.S. Administration to ensure that it does not grant export licenses for tear gas and other materials that may be improperly used against civilians. The Administration should also ensure comprehensive end-use monitoring of all U.S. items sent to Bahrain that may be used during the ongoing attacks. Additionally, PHR welcomes the U.S. Administration’s decision to delay a pending $53 million arms sale to Bahrain, and encourages the Administration to continue to block such a sale absent significant human rights improvements in the country. There is a resolution in both the House and Senate (H.J. Res. 80/S.J. Res. 28) that would block this sale absent enumerated improvements including ending attacks on civilians and holding any perpetrators of these attacks accountable, dropping politically-motivated criminal charges, and reinstating dismissed public employees.

The Government’s continued attacks on civilians demonstrate that there has been little improvement in Bahrain since the release of the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, chaired by international law expert Cherif Bassiouni. The report detailed instances of torture, killings, arbitrary detention, and excessive use of force. Included in the report were key recommendations, some of which involve establishing an impartial accountability mechanism to bring those responsible for human rights violations to justice, investigating alleged acts of torture using forensic experts, and dropping charges against those wrongly convicted. The Government of Bahrain is considering methods of implementing the recommendations, and announcements of its action plan are expected next month. The U.S. and the rest of the international community should approach those announcements with full knowledge of the Government’s ongoing attacks against civilian populations. In the meantime, the international community must demand an end to attacks on civilians, a thorough investigation of incidents since the release of the Commission of Inquiry report, and accountability for all those responsible.

By Abdulrazzaq al-Saiedi

28 January 2012

@ Physiciansforhumanrights.org

Physicians for Human Rights shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize

© Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) 2011



Bahrain: A Forgotten Arab Spring

“This is about whether this council, during a time of sweeping change in the Middle East, will stand with peaceful protesters crying out for freedom, or with a regime of thugs with guns that tramples human dignity and human rights.” – Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN

Bahrain continues to undergo an uprising against the extremely authoritarian monarchy that enduringly, and unenlightenedly continues to rule that country. It is an Arab Spring, that we probably shouldn’t forget about or negate. We shouldn’t forget about this important Arab uprising, that is occurring within the homeland, and in fact the veritable stomping grounds of the US Naval Fifth Fleet. Indeed, the US corporate “mainstream” mass media has probably blacked out, this important Arab uprising of the majority Shia — of this iron-fisted Sunni Kingdom — for precisely this very reason.

While the United States has condemned Russia for its arms sales to Syria, it has not condemned its own “error” in continuing to arm the profoundly backward, and deeply retrograde Kingdom of Bahrain. And furthermore, the US has even — with a straight face — urged restraint in recent Bahraini protests, after it has already armed this vulgar, spiteful, uncouth, and indeed tyrannical Middle Eastern regime! [1] So, now how’s that for after the fact/Monday morning quarterbacking!!? And as faint hisses can still be heard, from Susan Rice’s tantruming over the UN Russian Veto [2]; US supplied guns and other munitions, are likely preparing to make short work of some Shia Bahraini protestors, in their recently erected Freedom Square. [3]

After martial law was lifted in June of last year, tensions in the Kingdom of Bahrain did not fully dissipate or subside. Police continued to clash with disaffected youth — in Shia neighborhoods — who complain of political and economic marginalization, at the hands of the US/Saudi-backed Al Khalifa regime. At least 25 have died since last June, and the government and the opposition expect a stormy February — as the initial uprising’s anniversary is actually February 14th. [4] Bahrain as a real democracy, or with an empowered Shiite community, represents a mortal threat to the Saudis and the greater GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council). The felling of an important domino in the region, which could perhaps give greater resolve and invigoration to Saudi Arabia’s own native Shiite community, and potentially extend an opening to Iran.

The wider goal of boxing in Iran, while it (the US) prepares for bellicose, and aggressive military action against them, is put in peril by the democratic impulses, and aspirations of the majority Shia people of Bahrain. The United States clearly stands firmly and resolutely against human rights, and human dignity in the invidious, loathsome, and wholly detestable Sunni-led Sheikdom of Bahrain. As the Pentagon has noted, “[Bahrain] has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability in the Middle East.” It seems that those regimes allied with the US/GCC/Sunni Kingdoms, is rather the standard that the US goes by — as opposed to any concern for human dignity, universal values, democracy, or human rights.

The fork-tongued rants and diatribes of Susan Rice at the United Nations, are really yammerings and vituperations, that fundamentally do not yield, add up to, demonstrate or evince very much! It’s just once again evidence of the empire, and it subordinates — via shrill screams — attempting to cow other governments, and sovereign nation-states that are not 100% supine/on board them. Browbeating them (essentially) into complete and total fealty, and “harmonizing” with a fierce, disagreeable, nasty and imperious regime.

By Sean Fenley

13 February 2012

@ Countercurrents.org






Sean Fenley is an independent progressive, who would like to see some sanity brought to the creation and implementation of current and future, US military, economic, foreign and domestic policies. He has been published by a number of websites, and publications throughout the alternative media.


Attacks On Iran, Past And Present

Iran has an ancient and beautiful civilization, which dates back to 7,000 BC, when the city of Susa was founded. Some of the earliest writing that we know of, dating from from approximately 3,000 BC, was used by the Elamite civilization near to Susa. Today’s Iranians are highly intelligent and cultured, and famous for their hospitality, generosity and kindness to strangers.

Over the centuries, Iranians have made many contributions to science, art and literature, and for hundreds of years they have not attacked any of their neighbors. Nevertheless, for the last 90 years, they have been the victims of foreign attacks and interventions, most of which have been closely related to Iran’s oil and gas resources. The first of these took place in the period 1921-1925, when a British-sponsored coup overthrew the Qajar dynasty and replaced it by Reza Shah.

Reza Shah (1878-1944) started his career as Reza Khan, an army officer. Because of his high intelligence he quickly rose to become commander of the Tabriz Brigade of the Persian Cossacks. In 1921, General Edmond Ironside, who commanded a British force of 6,000 men ghting against the Bolsheviks in northern Persia, masterminded a coup (nanced by Britain) in which Reza Khan lead 15,000 Cossacks towards the capital. He overthrew the government, and became minister of war. The British government backed this coup because it believed that a strong leader was needed in Iran to resist the Bolsheviks. In 1923, Reza Khan overthrew the Qajar Dynasty, and in 1925 he was crowned as Reza Shah, adopting the name Pahlavi.

Reza Shah believed that he had a mission to modernize Iran, in much the same way that Kamil Ata Turk had modernized Turkey. During his 16 years of rule in Iran, many roads were built, the Trans-Iranian Railway was constructed, many Iranians were sent to study in the West, the University of Tehran was opened, and the first steps towards industrialization were taken. However, Reza Shahs methods were sometimes very harsh.

In 1941, while Germany invaded Russia, Iran remained neutral, perhaps leaning a little towards the side of Germany. However, Reza Shah was sufficiently critical of Hitler to oer safety in Iran to refugees from the Nazis. Fearing that the Germans would gain control of the Abadan oil fields, and wishing to use the Trans-Iranian Railway to bring supplies to Russia, Britain invaded Iran from the south on August 25, 1941. Simultaneously, a Russian force invaded the country from the north. Reza Shah appealed to Roosevelt for help, citing Iran’s neutrality, but to no avail. On September 17, 1941, he was forced into exile, and replaced by his son, Crown Prince Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. Both Britain and Russia promised to withdraw from Iran as soon as the war was over. During the remainder of World War II, although the new Shah was nominally the ruler of Iran, the country was governed by the allied occupation forces.


Reza Shah, had a strong sense of mission, and felt that it was his duty to modernize Iran. He passed on this sense of mission to his son, the young Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi . The painful problem of poverty was everywhere apparent, and both Reza Shah and his son saw modernization of Iran as the only way to end poverty.

In 1951, Mohammad Mosaddegh became Prime Minister of Iran through democratic elections. He was from a highly-placed family and could trace his ancestry back to the shahs of the Qajar dynasty. Among the many reforms made by Mosaddegh was the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s possessions in Iran. Because of this, the AIOC (which later became British Petroleum), persuaded the British government to sponsor a secret coup that would overthrow Mosaddegh. The British asked US President Eisenhower and the CIA to join M16 in carrying out the coup, claiming that Mosaddegh represented a communist threat (a ludicrous argument, considering Mosaddegh’s aristocratic background). Eisenhower agreed to help Britain in carrying out the coup, and it took place in 1953. The Shah thus obtained complete power over Iran.

The goal of modernizing Iran and ending poverty was adopted as an almost-sacred mission by the young Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and it was the motive behind his White Revolution in 1963, when much of the land belonging to the feudal landowners and the crown was distributed to landless villagers. However, the White Revolution angered both the traditional landowning class and the clergy, and it created fierce opposition. In dealing with this opposition, the Shahs methods were very harsh, just as his fathers had been. Because of alienation produced by his harsh methods, and because of the growing power of his opponents, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was overthrown in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The revolution of 1979 was to some extent caused by the British-American coup of 1953.

One can also say that the westernization, at which both Shah Reza and his son aimed, produced an anti-western reaction among the conservative elements of Iranian society. Iran was falling between two stools”, on the one hand western culture and on the other hand the country’s traditional culture. It seemed to be halfway between, belonging to neither. Finally in 1979 the Islamic clergy triumphed and Iran chosed tradition.

Meanwhile, in 1963, the US had secretly backed a military coup in Iraq that brought Saddam Husseins Baath Party to power. In 1979, when the western-backed Shah of Iran was overthrown, the United States regarded the fundamentalist Shiite regime that replaced him as a threat to supplies of oil from Saudi Arabia. Washington saw Saddams Iraq as a bulwark against the Shiite government of Iran that was thought to be threatening oil supplies from pro-American states such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

In 1980, encouraged to do so by the fact that Iran had lost its US backing, Saddam Husseins government attacked Iran. This was the start of an extremely bloody and destructive war that lasted for eight years, inicting almost a million casualties on the two nations. Iraq used both mustard gas and the nerve gases Tabun and Sarin against Iran, in violation of the Geneva Protocol. Both the United States and Britain helped Saddam Husseins government to obtain chemical weapons.

The present attacks on Iran by Israel and the United States, both actual and threatened, have some similarity to the war against Iraq, which was launched by the United States in 2003. In 2003, the attack was nominally motivated by the threat that nuclear weapons would be developed, but the real motive had more to do with a desire to control and exploit the petroleum resources of Iraq, and with Israel’s extreme nervousness at having a powerful and somewhat hostile neighbor. Similarly, hegemony over the huge oil and gas reserves of Iran can be seen as one the main reasons why the United States is presently demonizing Iran, and this is combined with Israel’s almost paranoid fear of a large and powerful Iran. Looking back on the successful” 1953 coup against Mosaddegh, Israel and the United States perhaps feel that sanctions, threats, murders and other pressures can cause a regime change that will bring a more compliant government to power in Iran – a government that will accept US hegemony. But aggressive rhetoric, threats and provocations can escalate into full-scale war.

I do not wish to say that Iran’s present government is without serious faults. However, any use of violence against Iran would be both insane and criminal. Why insane? Because the present economy of the US and the world cannot support another large-scale conflict; because the Middle East is already a deeply troubled region; and because it is impossible to predict the extent of a war which, if once started, might develop into World War III, given the fact that Iran is closely allied with both Russia and China. Why criminal? Because such violence would violate both the UN Charter and the Nuremberg Principles. There is no hope at all for the future unless we work for a peaceful world, governed by international law, rather than a fearful world where brutal power holds sway.

By John Scales Avery

29 January 2012

@ Countercurrents.org


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John Scales Avery is a theoretical chemist noted for his research publications in quantum chemistry, thermodynamics, evolution, and history of science. Since the early 1990s, Avery has been an active World peace activist. During these years, he was part of a group associated with the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. Presently, he is an Associate Professor in quantum chemistry at the University of Copenhagen