Saturday, March 31, 2012

Imagining the Unthinkable

Imagining the Unthinkable

by Stephen Lendman

The combination of America's rage for war, its nuclear arsenal, and global delivery systems makes the unthinkable possible - nuclear war.

On March 27, David Krieger and Daniel Ellsberg raised the possibility in their Christian Science Monitor article headlined, "For nuclear security beyond Seoul, eradicate land-based 'doomsday' missiles," saying:

"America's 450 launch-ready land-based nuclear-armed ballistic missiles are the opposite of a deterrent to attack. In fact, their very deployment has the potential to launch World War III and precipitate human extinction – as a result of a false alarm. We’re not exaggerating."

Indeed not. For decades, the threat's been real. Post-9/11, it's more than ever possible. Hundreds of ICBMs target Russia, China, and likely other countries like Iran. Launching them threatens humanity.

Leaders considering the possibility are deranged. Once heading for targets, it's too late. Presidents often rehearsed it.

In 1962, the Cuban missile crisis nearly brought nuclear war. An October 2002 Havana US/Russia/Cuba summit disclosed the close call for the first time.

Devastation was avoided because Soviet submarine captain Vasily Arkhipov countermanded an order to fire nuclear torpedos when US destroyers attacked Russian submarines near Kennedy's "quarantine" line. Had he obeyed, vast destruction or possible nuclear winter might have resulted.

Nuclear expert Graham Allison sees parallels between Iran today and Cuba then. Despite no threats then and now, heightened tensions risk potentially devastating conflict. When politics and heated rhetoric spin out of control, anything's possible, including nuclear war.

In 1995, Boris Yeltsin nearly launched missiles. He thought a US one targeted Russia. His fear turned out to be a Norwegian weather sounding rocket. Disaster was narrowly averted.

In May 2000, the Pentagon's Joint Vision 2020 called for "full spectrum dominance" over all land, surface and sub-surface sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum and information systems with enough overwhelming power to fight and win global wars against any adversary, including with nuclear weapons preemptively.

Washington's December 2001 Nuclear Policy Review asserted a preemptive first strike nuclear policy. The Bush administration's 2002 and 2006 National Security Strategies reaffirmed it. In 2006, Iran was mentioned 16 times, saying "(w)e may face no greater challenge from a single country than Iran."

Post-9/11, America asserted the right to use nuclear weapons against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attacks (like underground ones), in retaliation for nuclear, biological or chemical attacks, or in case of unexpected military developments whether or not they're, in fact, threatening.

The Bush and Obama administrations also violated 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) provisions. The ABM and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaties are ignored. So are the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention and Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. It prohibits additions to current stockpiles.

In 2010, the Obama administration's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) was old wine in new bottles. Rhetoric changed, not policy. NPR 2010 said America "reserves the right" to use nuclear weapons "that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat and US capacities to counter that threat."

The 2005 Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations remained unchanged. It removed the distinction between defensive and offensive deterrents, saying:

"The new triad (land and sea-based strategic bombers, land-based missiles, and ballistic missile submarines) offers a mix of strategic offensive and defensive capabilities, active and passive defenses, and a robust research development, and industrial infrastructure to develop, build, and maintain offensive forces and defensive provides additional military options."

NPR 2010 and current Obama policy leave land/sea/air triad deterrents unchanged. On high alert, nuclear missiles can be launched preemptively.

So can bunker busters with conventional or nuclear capability, including the so-called 30,000 pound Mother of All Bombs "massive ordnance penetrator (MOP)." It's designed to penetrate up to 200 feet of reinforced concrete before detonating an enormous explosive blast.

If any nation launches enough thermonuclear warheads, humanity's threatened. Krieger and Ellsberg explained:

"This is because smoke from the enormous nuclear firestorms created by even a 'successful' US nuclear first-strike would cause catastrophic disruption of global climate and massive destruction of the Earth’s protective ozone layer, leading to global famine."

Helen Caldicott’s books say enough nuclear explosions "would create nuclear winter, with the U.S. covered with a cloud so thick that it would block out the sun for years, and that would be the end." Other nuclear experts agree.

Nuclear bunker busters can do it. Krieger and Ellsberg said they cause huge underground nuclear explosions "with much blast and heat and radiation. It's called activation by neutrons—millions of tons of earth and dust—so you have a much greater radioactive fallout that's shot out into the air than you would if a bomb is exploded in the air above a city."

Atmospheric scientists Alan Robock, Brian Toon, and others say a large enough attack produces "immense firestorms" able to cover the planet in dense stratospheric smoke. Heated by the sun, it would remain at least 10 years and block sunlight from reaching the earth's surface. Mass starvation would follow.

Nuclear weapons threaten security. Eventually they'll be used. Humanity's survival depends on total abolition, said Krieger and Ellsberg. Both seek two principle goals:

(1) "a commitment by the existing nuclear weapon states to forego launch-on-warning and first use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances;" and

(2) "good faith negotiations for a new treaty for the phased, verifiable, irreversible, and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons."

Krieger heads the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Ellsberg gained fame for releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Both understand today's dangers. They want them eliminated to save humanity from possible self-destruction. It's no exaggeration.

In his book titled, "Failed States," Noam Chomsky discussed "the threat of nuclear war, environmental disaster, and the fact that the government of the world's only superpower is acting in ways that increase the likelihood of these catastrophes."

In "Hegemony or Survival," he cited evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr's work. He said human intelligence doesn't guarantee survival. He believed beetles and bacteria stand a better chance.

He ominously observed that species on average survive about 100,000 years. Humanity's been around about that long. He wondered if we'd use our remaining time to self-destruct. If so, we'd be the only species ever to do it. Given our current path, it's possible and perhaps sooner than most people imagine.

Hold the War, says Israel

America and Israel have longstanding Iran war plans. Launching it means WW III. With nuclear bunker buster or other nuclear weapons, the dangers Krieger, Ellsberg, Caldicott, and others explain are real.

On March 29, Haaretz headlined, "Israel's plan to attack Iran put on hold until next year at the earliest," saying:

On March 27, "Israel's 2012 war against Iran came to a quiet end. The capricious plans for a huge aerial attack were returned to the deep recesses of safes and hearts. The war may not have been canceled but it has certainly been postponed. For a while, at least, we can sound the all clear: It won't happen this year."

At issue, said Haaretz, is possible hundreds of US casualties. Their blood would be on Israel's hands. War won't happen "until at least the spring of 2013."

At the same time, last September The New York Times headlined, "US Quietly Supplies Israel with Bunker-Busting Bombs," saying:

Unnamed US officials confirmed it without commenting on their number or capabilities. In addition, "Israel developed its own bunker-busting bomb," but America's are more "cost-effective."

Israel is nuclear armed and dangerous. Perhaps its arsenal includes earth-penetrating bunker busters. They increase the threat of disaster if used, either its own or what Washington supplies.

Given the rage of both countries for war, postponing it may only buy time to attack jointly after America's November elections. Obama wants another four years. He can't run again. Lame ducks have greater flexibility in second terms than first, provided Congress goes along if legislation's needed.

Wars don't need it. False flags launch them. Most past US wars began that way. Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski believes Iran may be blamed for a false flag on US soil to justify retaliation. Others feel the same way.

Former Israeli intelligence officer, Avi Perry, wrote a Jerusalem Post article about a planned “'Pearl Harbor scenario, in which Iran launch(es) a 'surprise' attack on the US Navy." Doing so would give Washington "the perfect rationalization to finish them off."

Iran, of course, plans no such attack or others against any targets. But it won't prevent Washington from staging a false flag blamed on Tehran. Most often, "big lies" launch wars. It's an American tradition since the late 19th century.

They work every time. Washington needs popular support. Manufactured fear provides it. People rely on governments for protection when threatened, even if no threat whatever exists.

Deception creates an illusion of one. Majorities are fooled every time. One war follows another. Expect an eventual nuclear one.

All bets are off if it happens. The time to prevent it is now. Only people power can do it. It's up to us. It's our only chance. Imagine the potential consequences otherwise.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Papering Over Disaster

Papering Over Disaster

by Stephen Lendman

Fall 2007 began the onset of America's greatest Depression. Europe's in deep trouble. Reckoning day's delayed by bailing out insolvent banks and throwing money at markets like confetti.

What can't go on forever, won't. Progressive Radio News Hour guest Bob Chapman warned investors for years. It's just a matter of time. Houses built on sand collapse. American and European economies are no exception. They're sick and getting sicker.

Another Greek crisis approaches, Chapman warns, whether "via austerity, demonstrations, military coup," or perhaps the worst of all three if public rage erupts in violence.

Ireland, Portugal, Belgium, Spain and italy are next. BRIC giants China, India and Brazil are weakening. Pyrrhic victories conceal core meltdown trouble. Are policy makers "dumb enough to believe that austerity, lower wages and higher taxes bring prosperity?" What's happening in Europe and America looks "surreal." Recovery's an illusion.

Another dirty secret is that France, Britain, and other EU countries also show weakness. "These problems are going to go on and on and on," says Chapman.

Economist David Rosenberg also warns of trouble. Disturbing signs are everywhere. In America alone, consumer spending stagnated. Core capex shipments are down. The trade deficit's widening. Mortgage applications are falling. Mortgage refinancing activity collapsed. Gas prices are heading for $4 a gallon on their way perhaps to 5.

In February, hiring announcements were down 85% year-over-year. Pink slips are rising. JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) data showed job openings down 81,000 in January. They've posted declines in three of the past four months. JOLTS hiring numbers also fell 30,000, and dropped in three of the past four months.

Savers are taxed, borrowers rewarded. A rigged system favoring Wall Street punishes most others.

The latest housing numbers are awful. Economist Robert Shiller believes "we will never in our lifetime see a rebound in" suburban home prices. He predicts "perpetual sluggish(ness)." Expect America to have a "Japan-like slump that will go on for years and years."

Rosenberg says "headwinds are so acute that despite" zero interest rate policy for over three years, "trippling the Fed's balance sheet, and four years of trillion-dollar-plus fiscal deficits," a deepening mess remains. Inflation's far higher than official figures. Poverty's at record levels.

Recovery? What recovery! America's 1% never had it so good. Another 10% or so are OK. Most others face harder than ever hard times with no end of misery in sight. Expect no change post-November, no matter who's elected president or controls Congress. Washington's criminal class is bipartisan.

Economist Paul Craig Roberts calls America's economy "dead." Consumer confidence is far below decade ago levels. Housing's on its back. Retail sales are lower than January 2000. So is industrial production. Only markets and rigged GDP numbers are up.

Roberts stresses often that recovery's impossible because troubled consumers account for over two-thirds of the economy. Middle class jobs moved offshore. Trillions are thrown at Wall Street and wasted on imperial wars while domestic needs go begging.

"The consequence of printing money when jobs have been moved offshore is an inflationary depression. This catastrophe" should unfold big time this year or next. "The emperor has no clothes, and sooner or later this will be recognized."

Roberts shares his views with listeners on the Progressive Radio News Hour (PRNH). So does political economist Jack Rasmus. His analysis is cutting-edge. In early April, his newest book's due out titled, "Obama's Economy: Recovery for the Few."

It covers analysis he gives PRNH listeners. He's next scheduled on Saturday, March 31 at noon US Central time. Listen live or archived for his latest economic views and discussion of his new book.

It explains that after trillions thrown at Wall Street, trillions more for imperial wars, and more still in fiscal stimulus (largely for corporations and rich elites), America's economy remains mired in trouble.

At the same time, equity markets more than doubled. Corporate profits hit record highs. CEO pay, bonuses, and stock options are obscenely high, especially for crooked banksters.

At the same time, corporate giants hoard cash and barely loan. Nearly 25 million are unemployed or underemployed. Economist David Rosenberg believes 30 million heading higher.

Home foreclosures exceed 12 million. Many more are coming. Another 15 million homeowners struggle underwater with negative equity. Income levels for 80% of households are stagnating, while state and local governments slash payrolls by hundreds of thousands, cut services, and raise taxes.

Rasmus faults wrongheaded administration, congressional, and Fed policies. Economic growth is illusory. High unemployment and poverty levels explain best.

Rasmus' book followed his 2010 one titled, "Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression." Both used reliable data excluded from mainstream discussion. It's bad and getting worse. Expect harder than ever hard times.

Rasmus offers another way. He calls it an "Alternative Program for Economic Recovery." It focuses on job creation, not destruction, housing, and local government. He recommends major structural economic reforms, targeting taxes, retirement, and banking.

He concludes with common sense workable proposals for "fundamental, longer term change necessary to reduce household, small business, and State-Local government debt, and to restore historic rates of income growth for working and middle class households."

Read what others say about his book. Office and Professional Employees Union National President Nancy Wohlforth said it's high time "to seriously begin public discussion and debate of economic alternatives" he proposes. They're cutting edge and vital.

South Carolina AFL-CIO President Donna DeWitt offered praise, saying Rasmus "connects the dots and gives new meaning to common sense economics."

"While working people reel in the downward spiraling economy, (he) analyzes how we got where we are and makes recommendations for sustained economic growth and recovery."

"It's the kind of reading that makes every leader stop and say 'Wow! That makes perfect sense. Why didn't I think of that?' Then ask yourself, 'Why wouldn't our President think of that?' "

"When you've read the book, I'm confident that you will conclude that Rasmus has done a brilliant job of defining the impact of the Obama policies and decisions" that continue crisis conditions without letup.

This writer agrees with others. Rasmus' articles and books are cutting edge. His analysis is some of the best. For years, his predictions proved accurate. Get them monthly on the Progressive Radio News Hour.

His new book offers must read detailed analysis, especially with storm clouds approaching at a time forced austerity's harming growing millions.

It hardly matters whether Republicans or Democrats control Washington. Its criminal class is bipartisan. Public outrage alone can change things. It starts by getting and staying informed.

On America's economy, Rasmus is one of the best. He's honest, accurate, thorough, common sense, and clear. For many, his new book may be a wake-up call.

Read it and spread the word. Our only chance for change is us.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Friday, March 30, 2012

What's Next in Syria?

What's Next in Syria?

by Stephen Lendman

On March 27, Syria formally accepted Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan. His spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi said:

"The Syrian government has written to the Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan accepting his six-point plan, endorsed by the United Nations Security Council."

"Mr Annan views this as an important initial step that could bring an end to the violence and the bloodshed, provide aid to the suffering, and create an environment conducive to a political dialogue that would fulfil the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people."

At the same time, the Western-backed Syrian National Council (SNC) rejected the plan. SNC member Naji Tayara spuriously accused Assad of wanting "more time to continue with the killing."

Russia welcomed Assad's acceptance. A Foreign Ministry statement said it's a way to end violence if both sides agree to talk and end violence. Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said:

"Moscow met with satisfaction the statement of UN and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan that he had received the confirmation of the Syrian government’s consent to his proposal for peaceful settlement in the Syrian Arab Republic."

"We are convinced that this offers a real opportunity for the realization of lawful aspirations of all Syrians with respect for the country’s sovereignty and independence and consolidated support by the entire international community for Annan’s mission."

"This opportunity must not be lost. It is extremely important in this context that Syrian opposition groups should follow Damascus’ example and state clearly their consent to the proposal for peaceful settlement made by the UN and Arab League special envoy and supported by the UN Security Council."

Assad showed he wants peaceful resolution. The ball's in the opposition court. Elements in it remain fractious. SNC/Free Syrian Army killer gangs spurn peace. So does Washington to keep the Syrian pot boiling and its regime change plans on track.

Syria's National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCC) wants negotiations to resolve contentious issues peacefully. It rejects violence and SNC/Free Syrian army elements pursuing it.

On March 29, a BRICS Summit (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) issued the following statement:

"The principles of normalization for Syria have all been made clear ever since Kofi Annan’s mission got down to work. There can be no foreign intervention in Syria."

"The Syrian government, on the one hand, and the opposition forces, on the other, should engage in dialogue. The government and the opposition in Syria should believe in dialogue rather than follow a short-sighted approach by saying that dialogue is doomed and that only military operations can restore order in the country. Russia will exert efforts to secure the success of the dialogue."

"The BRICS countries have swapped opinion on this issue and Russia has called on them to render humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. Russia has already been providing Syria with relief supplies."

In contrast, US-led "Friends of Syria" will meet Sunday in Istanbul. Key players plan conflict, not peace. As many as 70 countries may participate. Only major Western and anti-Assad Middle East ones matter.

Russia and China won't attend. A Foreign Ministry statement said participants "aren't looking for dialogue" to end conflict. Indeed not, and Moscow and Beijing know the stakes affecting their own regional interests.

Ahead of Sunday's conference, Arab officials and Syrian opposition elements met in Istanbul. At issue was forging consensus and unity. Efforts fell short. Divisions remain.

Former SNC leader Haitham al-Maleh, several Kurdish delegates, and others walked out. Syria's main nonviolent opposition group, the National Coordination Committee (NCC) for Democratic Change, boycotted the meeting. Those remaining claimed success.

Violent opposition elements alone agree, despite claiming they support a "civil, democratic, pluralistic, independent" sovereign Syria. In fact, they want the country turned into another US vassal state like their own.

On Thursday, Arab leaders met in Baghdad. Divisions were clear. Sunni-led Gulf states Saudi Arabia and Qatar support regime change, including violently ousting Assad to get it. Host country Iraq's firmly opposed. So are others supporting Annan's peace plan.

UK Writer Patrick Seale on Syria

UK writer Patrick Seale knows Syria well. He wrote Hafez Assad's biography, Bashar's father, titled: "Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East." On March 28, 2011 his Foreign Policy article headlined, "The Syrian Time Bomb," saying:

"Syria lies at the center of a dense network of Middle East relationships, and the crisis in that likely to have a major impact on the regional structure of power."

He called Syria the "linchpin" of a Tehran/Damascus/Hezbollah "bulwark" against US/Israeli regional dominance. Like other Middle East states, Syria's comprised of "a mosaic of ancient religions, sects, and ethnic groups held uneasily and sometimes uncomfortably together by central government."

Internal conflict profoundly disrupts the region. If Assad falls, "blood-thirsty sectarian demons risk being unleashed, and the entire region could be consumed in an orgy of violence."

In February 2012, Seale said the Syrian conflict's not only an assault on Damascus but one on Tehran and Hezbollah. It's waged to thwart their "bulwark" against US/Israeli regional hegemony. That's what we're witnessing, he said.

"It’s a struggle for regional supremacy, regional dominance, as well as an internal struggle between the Assad regime and its enemies, of whom the Muslim Brothers are the most organized and best funded element, the only element perhaps in the (SNC) opposition that enjoys some support at a public level." At the same time, it represents a small minority.

He added that Assad seems in no imminent danger of being toppled. His army and security forces remain loyal. Russia and China support him. India, Brazil, and other nations likely do as well. In addition, he benefits greatly from divisions among opposition elements.

At the same time, most Syrians back him as the only way to stop violence and prevent possibly replicating the worst of Iraq or Libya.

After years of US led regional violence, many people want Assad to survive rather than open "the door to the Pandora's box of the opposition."

If another war erupts, Seale, like others, sees regional disaster resulting. They're easy to start, hard to end, and risk spreading uncontrollably to something much greater with potentially devastating consequences hopefully no one wants.

Nonetheless, he sees a possible replay of the run-up to attacking Iraq in 2003. Dialogue's the only way out. Continuing conflict's likely to end badly for all sides. On March 27, he called for a Middle East "Grand Bargain," saying:

Conflicts plagued the region for decades. It's time to curb the rage for war. The five permanent Security Council members are key. Other influential ones like Germany, India and Brazil can help.

Together they can bring conflicting sides together peacefully. They've got muscle enough to do it. The nature of regional conflicts requires global action. All sides must make concessions.

Facilitating Palestinian self-determination would improve chances for success. Doing so would "puncture a (longstanding) boil" that's "poisoned political relationships in the Middle East for decades," and erupts often in violence.

A Final Comment

Washington, of course, is key. It's the main obstacle to peace. So far, achieving it's impossible given its rage to replace independent regimes with client ones by any means, including war.

Changing that requires international opposition from major Western and regional allies. Wars beget more of them. Endless carnage results. Instead of solving problems they magnify them.

Peaceful resolution offers hope. The key to peace and keeping it always requires give and take, as well as a realization that wars solve nothing. Didn't two global ones prove anything?

Imagine another now with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The potential disaster's too horrifying to allow.

Maybe cooler US and Israeli heads one day will prevent it. Wouldn't that be "grand" indeed, though so far it's nowhere in sight.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Challenging Israeli State Terror

Challenging Israeli State Terror

by Stephen Lendman

Among other methods, lawlessly imprisoned Palestinians do it by hunger striking. Khader Adnan got world attention. He endured 66 days before Israel agreed to release him on April 17. He continues struggling to regain health and survive.

On March 30, Hana Shalabi's 43rd hunger strike day began. She also got widespread attention. Courageous struggles for justice draw support. At times, good news follows.

On March 30, Maan News headlined, "Officials say deal reached to free Hana Shalabi," saying:

Knowledgeable officials told Maan late Thursday she'll be sent to Gaza "in exchange for giving up a 43-day strike against Israel's policy of holding detainees without charge."

The Palestinian Prisoners Society confirmed the deal. In a statement, it praised Hana's resolve. It thanked her for drawing wide attention to Israeli lawlessness and brutal treatment of detainees. PPS head Qadoura Fares said Hana agreed to terms even though "(w)e reject deportation, but this is her decision and her own life."

Hana's lawyer, Jawad Boulos, also confirmed the agreement. One Palestinian source said it was reached "after Palestinian officials and (the ICRC) intervened to confirm (she) approved."

PA civil affairs minister, Hussein al-Sheikh, said Fatah's leadership wasn't involved in negotiations. An unnamed Israeli official said "I am aware there were negotiations of that sort" with no further elaboration.

Human rights groups and Palestinian rights activists universally condemn Israel's repressive occupation, including lawlessly imprisoning Palestinians uncharged.

On March 29, Addameer and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) said they couldn't confirm reports of Hana's release. They've had no direct contact with her for confirmation.

They're mostly concerned with her health and "high danger on her life....used in order to threaten her to take the sole option of" deportation to live.

Addameer, PHR-I, and other human rights organizations oppose forcible deportation. Doing so violates international law. It's also "part of an Israeli policy that is not new."

Yet Israel systematically and ruthlessly persecutes Palestinians lawlessly, including "deport(ing them) from their homes and separat(ing them) from their loved ones."

Marwan Barghouti remains a prisoner of conscience. On April 14, 2002, he was arrested on spurious charges of murder, aiding and abetting murder, promoting murder, criminal conspiracy, and being an active member of a terrorist organization.

At the time he said:

"I am a political leader, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, elected by my people. Israel has no right to try me, to accuse me, to judge me. This is a violation of international law. I have a (legal) right to resist occupation."

Nonetheless, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to five consecutive life sentences plus 40 years. He still manages to speak out.

In a Monday letter from Hadarim Prison, he urged widespread resistance against Israel's repressive occupation, saying:

"The Palestinian Authority must stop all coordination with Israel – economic and security – and work toward Palestinian reconciliation."

"It must be understood that there is no partner for peace in Israel when the settlements have doubled. It is the Palestinian people's right to oppose the occupation in all means, and the resistance must be focused on the 1967 territories."

He also urged boycotting all Israeli products and supporting Palestinian ones. In a January 2011 letter, he said:

"The peace process had failed and ended there is no longer any point to make desperate attempts to breathe life into the dead body and the need to move towards (a new) Palestinian strategy...."

He also called on "all parties and factions and leaders to work with sincerity and seriousness for the implementation of the (Fatah/Hamas) Agreement of Reconciliation" for a united front against Israeli repression.

He thanked everyone working for Palestinian liberation, independence and full sovereignty.

"Long live the Palestinian people,

Long live the movement of the “Open” … Long live the unity

Yes to resist the occupation and settlements

Yes to freedom, independence and return

Glory to the martyrs and healing to the wounded and freedom for the prisoners


Marwan Barghouti"

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Terrorizing Palestinians Daily

Terrorizing Palestinians Daily

by Stephen Lendman

Life in Occupied Palestine is harsh, brutal, and repressive. It includes collective punishment, closed borders, economic strangulation, land theft, dispossessions, neighborhood incursions, ground and air attacks, arrests, torture, incarceration, and constant fear.

Daily reports explain. On March 27, soldiers and settlers invaded the al-Aqsa Mosque through the al-Magharba Gate. Inside they terrorized worshipers.

The previous two days, soldiers broke into Bethlehem, Hebron, Rommana village, and other West Bank homes. They ransacked them and arrested six or more residents. It happens virtually daily throughout the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, most often pre-dawn. Children are treated like adults.

For years, Gaza's suffocated under siege. On March 25, the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement headlined, "Israel prevents hairstylists and students traveling out of Gaza," saying:

Five women and two men were denied. They requested permission to participate in the Tulkarem "Palestinian Beauty and Tradition Spring Fair."

Israel's District Coordination Office (DCO) said "in view of the current political-security situation, residents of the Gaza Strip are not permitted to enter Israel other than in exceptional humanitarian cases, with an emphasis on medical cases."

Gisha wrote DCO head Colonel Khatib Mansour saying:

Three applicants are independent businesswomen. "(A)approving their application to participate in the fair is particularly important. Everywhere in the world, including the Gaza Strip, fewer opportunities are available to women. Therefore, women must be supported to aspire for economic independence so that they can contribute to the development of their societies."

In addition, DCO prevented seven Gazan female students from traveling to Al-Quds University in Abu Dis. They were invited to participate in an international technology competition. Denial again was for not being an exceptional humanitarian case.

Under siege, Gazans face poverty, unemployment, shortages of everything, at times lack of vital to life essentials, and prohibition of exports except for occasional limited amounts of strawberries, flowers, peppers and tomatoes. However, getting them out is expensive, time consuming and unprofitable.

On March 28, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) headlined, "Occupied Lives: Dying while waiting for medical supplies," saying:

In 2009, Egyptian doctors diagnosed Gaza resident Akram Mones Abu Sefan with chronic myelocytic leukemia. Since 2010, Glivec kept him alive. It's a new drug able to significantly increase patient survival rates.

Even though cancer spread to other parts of his body, he says Gilvec "changed my life. Since I started treatment....the symptoms of the leukemia have subsided and I feel healthy again."

However, since January 2012, the drug's unavailable in Gaza's Central Drug Store. Under siege, Gazan authorities face enormous obstacles getting enough essential to life supplies, including medicines.

Procedures require Health Ministry officials requesting supplies from Ramallah's health authorities. They, in turn, must coordinate efforts with Israel for delivery.

However, the combination of Israeli harshness, Hamas/Fatah disputes, and financial problems limits the availability of essential medications and other vital supplies.

Akram's wife explained their ordeal, saying:

"My husband suffers from strong headaches and from pain in his legs. I try my best to cook food that can compensate the problems caused by his blood disease."

His doctor told them that interrupting treatment risks severe consequences. They include respiratory and kidney failure leading to death.

At present, 32 Gazan cancer patients depend on Gilvec to survive. Supplies ran out before. For a month and a half, Akram's treatment was interrupted. He depends on Gaza's Health Ministry to provide it. It costs $3,700 a month. It's far more than he or most other Palestinians can afford.

According to Shifa Hospital's Na'el Shih, 80% of medicines patients need aren't available. "We are dying in here. One hundred eighty six medicines are currently depleted from the Central Drug Store of the Ministry of Health in Gaza."

"The remaining stock will be finished within the next 2-3 months. (For the past) two months, there have been no hepatitis vaccinations for newborns in Gaza."

Expensive medications like Gilvec are especially hard to get or unavailable. Without them, patients suffer and face death.

Israel can easily save them. Too often, it condemns them to death while suffocating 1.7 million others under siege. It's official policy.

On March 28, Haaretz headlined, "Israel's contentious Bedouin relocation plan passes PM's Office panel," saying:

It calls for displacing up to 30,000 Israeli Arabs from their own land. In other words, stealing it like nearly half the West Bank. Known as the Prawar plan, Netanyahu's cabinet approved it last September. They want Arab land for Jewish development.

The plan involves "16 different ministries and agencies, including the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, and the Education, Transportation, Energy and Water Resources, and Housing and Construction ministries. Among the many officials who attended Monday's meeting was Prawer himself."

The announcement coincides with Land Day. Palestinians commemorate the IDF March 30, 1976 killing of six Israeli Arab protesters against Palestinian land theft. At the time, another 100 were wounded and hundreds more arrested.

On the same day, the BDS Global Day of Action is held "in solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom, justice and equality and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it fully complies with its obligations under international law."

In addition, a Global March to Jerusalem will be held after Friday prayers. Israel plans disruptive violence. It confronts Bedouin Arabs the same way. They've faced forced relocations for years, but nothing like on this scale. It amounts to racism writ large. All Palestinians and Israeli Arabs are affected.

A Final Comment

On March 29, Hana Shalabi's 42 hunger strike day began. She's so deteriorated she remains dangerously close to death.

For weeks, Palestinian solidarity protests rallied in support. On Wednesday, a Gaza one took place. Protesters marched on the ICRC's office. They demanded her immediate release.

Few people in America and the West know about her and other hunger strikers. Major media scoundrels say nothing.

Photos and posters of Hana adorn her family's home. One wall displays a large framed picture of her martyred brother, Samer. In September 2005, Israeli soldiers murdered him in cold blood like so many other Palestinians.

On March 19, Hana's parents met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. They asked him to help secure Hana's release. He promised to do his best. He's done little or nothing.

According to Hana's sister Zahra, "Why does he call himself a president if he can't use his diplomatic powers to release my sister? I don't believe he's even trying."

When Hana was arrested in 2009, an Israeli officer said the PA provided a "secret file" on her. Abbas was complicit in her arrest then. Perhaps again this time on February 16.

He's a longstanding Israeli collaborator, a traitor to his own people. Israel arranged his election and keeps him in office even though his term expired in January 2009. Why bother with elections when coronations work better.

On March 29, an Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) press release headlined, "Administrative Detention Must Stop: Freedom for Prisoner Hana Shalabi," saying:

HRA "condemns the continual use of administrative detention against Palestinian political leaders and reminds that such policy constitutes a form of arbitrary detention devoid of the most basic standards of due process of law. The HRA is particularly concerned about the health conditions of Prisoner Hana Shalabi...."

HRA demanded international community help to free her and other Palestinians lawlessly held. International law supports them. So should world leaders and everyone.

Hana's lawyer, Jawad Boulos, heads the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) Legal Unit. PPS appealed to Israel's High Court for Hana's release. Boulos said all legal means will be used on her behalf.

Rarely ever does Israel's Supreme Court overrule a lower court decision affecting Palestinians. Expect little or no redress this time.

Palestinians are on their own to survive. Even those lawlessly condemned to die aren't helped. It shows Israeli and Western contempt for human rights and life.

Their imperial wars alone show it. Political prisoners fill their prisons. America and Israel especially defile principles they claim to support.

They don't now, never did, and won't ever unless mass outrage in both countries and other Western ones sustains struggles for systemic change. It's their only chance.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Legislating Greater Wall Street Theft

Legislating Greater Wall Street Theft

by Stephen Lendman

Political Washington is Wall Street's best friend. Whatever crooked bankers want they get. Their business model features grand theft. Wealth’s amassed through fraudulent double-dealing.

Lawmakers facilitate their racketeering. They're rewarded in kind. Only fleeced households, investors, communities and nations lose out.

Their dirty game continues unobstructed. New legislation enhances what's on the books. Another bill will become law when Obama signs it. Wall Street's again celebrating, and why not. Business is better than ever, courtesy of complicit lawmakers.

At issue is the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the JOBS Act). On March 8, the House passed it overwhelmingly 390 - 23. On March 22, Senate followed 73 - 26. Doing what he does best, Obama will sign it into law. He'll again betray America's 99% in the process.

When everything comes up roses for Wall Street, ordinary people get scammed. It's the same every time like loaded dice let the house win.

Former bank regulator/financial fraud expert Bill Black explained what's at stake in his article headlined, " ‘The only winning move is not to play’ - the insanity of the regulatory race to the bottom.”

He called the imminent JOBS Act passage reminiscent of the "worst anti-regulatory travesties in the financial sphere (that) had broad, bipartisan support." Don't they all, especially in recent decades.

He reviewed some of the worst past legislation and congressional actions, including:

(1) the 1982 Garn-St. Germain Act that gave S & Ls a license to steal.

(2) the 1987 Competitive Equality in Banking Act (CEBA).

Reflecting on the double-dealing chicanery behind it, Black said his "psyche still bears the scars of this combined onslaught. It was the political equivalent of being on the receiving end of a B 52 Arc Light (carpet bombing) mission in Vietnam."

(3) the 1993 "Reinventing Government" scam. It was premised on the view that anything government does, business does better, so let it. Deregulation went wild.

(4) the 1995 Public Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) made it harder for fraud victims to sue. As a result, the financial sector became "more criminogenic." CEOs were licensed to loot with impunity. The 1998 PSLRA amendment was even more hostile to fraud victims.

(5) the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. It repealed Glass-Steagall. The 1930s law separated commercial from investment banks and insurers, among other provisions curbing speculation.

(6) the 2000 Commodities Futures Modernization Act. It's so bad, it was tucked away in an appropriations bill near the end of Clinton's tenure. It was his final public betrayal, and what a whopper to endorse.

It legitimized "swap agreements" and other "hybrid instruments" at the core of today's problems. It prevented regulatory oversight of derivatives and leveraging. It made Wall Street a casino operating on only the house wins rules.

Among other provisions, it contained the "Enron Loophole." Enron Online became the first Internet-based commodities transaction system. It rescinded regulations in place since 1922.

Derivative scams went wild. Enron fleeced investors and energy purchasers with impunity until its house of cards collapsed.

Alan Greenspan endorsed derivatives at the time. He lied calling them a way to share risks. They turned an economic downturn into the greatest Depression for most households. They're either impoverished, bordering on it, or heading for it before decade's end. A Clinton-Greenspan combo made it possible.

Black could have listed many more legislative and deregulatory public betrayal examples, including Obama's so-called financial reform only bankers could love. They should. They wrote it. It assures business as usual codified into law under a reform mantle.

Black moved on to the 2012 JOBS Act. He called it "the product of a feeding frenzy by lobbyists who are finally able to enact every fraud-friendly provision they ever dreamed of making law. The only kind of financial bill that can pass with overwhelming support is an anti-regulatory" one.

The criminal class in Washington is bipartisan. FIRE sector (finance, insurance and real estate) companies are their largest contributors. Whatever they want, they get. Through the ages, greasing palms worked like charms. In large enough amounts, they always work.

Black said financial crises embrace "three (bipartisan) 'de's' - deregulation, desupervision, and de facto decriminalization." They create epidemics of fraud. Real reform's impossible. Greater crises are assured. Each time, looser restrictions follow. Economies, households, and lives are destroyed for profit.

Since the late 1970s, America "trashed a regulatory system that was the envy of the world." Now it's a travesty.

Black called the JOBS Act "insane on many levels. It creates an extraordinarily criminogenic environment in which securities fraud will become even more out of control."

It continues a regulatory "race to the bottom. The only winning move is not to play...." The bill's rationale is deregulatory madness must be won. Otherwise the City of London and/or other financial centers will surpass us.

Its passage ignored the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission's (FCIC) findings. It was established to determine the current crisis' cause. It explained the three "de's" problem. It specifically condemned "regulatory arbitrage." It revealed destructive deregulatory madness.

The JOBS Act ignored expert anti-fraud input. The best, brightest, and most honest unanimously condemned the bill. Enacting it also bypassed others "who designed and implemented successful means to limit the crises, who prevented problems through effective supervision from becoming crises, and who held" criminal bankers accountable.

Further, people who got everything wrong earlier designed the Act. Failure's institutionalized. So is fraud. What succeeds gets trashed.

The unique aspect of today's crisis is that criminal bankers most responsible got off scot-free to steal again. They gained massive wealth and stand to gain much more.

Earlier fraudsters were prosecuted. Not a single Wall Street boss or top official faced charges this time. The JOBS Act represents "the sick face of crony capitalism."

Western-style capitalism reflects FIRE sector dominance over industry involved in making things. Financial giants are predators. We're prey. Parasitism describes their business model. In other words, the grandest of grand theft.

A system this bad can only get worse. Money power alone matters. It's fraudulently manipulated to make more of it at the public's expense. Jobs are destroyed for greater profits. So are economies and peoples' lives. They're expendable to be exploited and trashed.

The JOBS Act is "so fraud friendly that it will harm capital formation," create greater job losses, and raise poverty to record levels. At the same time, large-scale white-collar crimes are whitewashed. Instead of repudiating and prosecuting fraud, it's encouraged.

The Act's opaqueness makes it easier than ever. We know, said Black, "this increases fraud." Instead of living and dying by it, Wall Street crooks thrive on it, courtesy of political Washington.

Financial giants today are weapons of mass destruction. Freed from regulatory constraints, they extract wealth from households, investors, communities and nations. They operate like locust hordes consume vegetation with ease. Main Street feels their sting.

A Final Comment

In the 1980s, Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff appeared on US television. His tag line about America was calling it "What a country!" In Soviet Russia, the "government control(led) corporations. In America, corporations control the government."

Profiteering is a way of life, especially on Wall Street. "What a country" indeed, and the worst is yet to come. Bet on it!

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Fragging in Afghanistan?

Fragging in Afghanistan?

by Stephen Lendman

If it's happening, it's not reported. Washington wants no mention or suggestion of what plagued Vietnam. More on that below.

Writing about the Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky said:

"The moral condition of the army was hopeless. You might describe it by saying the army as an army no longer existed. Defeats, retreats, and the rottenness of the ruling class had utterly undermined the troops."

War in Vietnam affected US soldiers that way. Until 1967, order was well maintained. After Tet in late January/February 1968, things changed. Mutinies forced the Pentagon to disguise them with language like "combat refusal."

Soldiers disobeyed orders. Most were search and destroy missions. They were put in harms way against formidable enemies. At times, entire companies defied commanders. As fear of punishment faded, incidents mushroomed. So did fragging.

Wikipedia calls "attacking a superior officer in one's chain of command" with intent to kill. Fragmentation grenades were usually used. Hence, the term fragging. No fingerprints were left behind.

As frustration and anger grew, so did fragging incidents. They became the price extracted for being ordered in harm's way against enemies refusing to quit.

After Tet, they became widespread. At least 800 incidents occurred, perhaps 1,000 or more. Precise numbers are unknown because army officials stopped counting. Judge Advocate General Corp officers believe only 10% of attempts were reported. Other estimates suggested they occurred at five times official figures. Officers shot by their men were excluded. They were listed as wounded or killed in action.

Army officials admitted they couldn't account for over 1,400 officer and noncom deaths. Perhaps as many as one-fourth occurred at the hands of subordinates. The Army was at war with itself. It was unprecedented, but didn't reflect revenge. It was about opposing search and destroy missions. Soldiers wanted them ended. Refusal had its price.

Officers were often warned in advance. Smoke grenades were left near their beds. Tear gas grenades or grenade pins followed if warnings went unheeded. Fragmentation grenades punished the stubborn. Soldiers weren't playing games. Everyone was the enemy. Officers at times fragged troops they suspected of planning to target them.

In one battalion, the commander refused to distribute arms. He feared he and other officers would be shot. Congressional hearings in 1973 estimated around 3% of officer and NCO deaths from fragging. Other methods included handguns, automatic rifles, booby traps, knives, and bare hands.

In 1971, Col. Robert Heinl, Jr. said:

"The morale, discipline and battleworthiness of the US Armed Forces are....lower than anytime in the century and possibly in the history of the United States."

"By every conceivable indicator, our Army that remains in Vietnam is in a state of approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having....refused combat, murdering their own officers and NCOs, drug-ridden and dispirited when not mutinous."

The longer America's wars continue, the closer a similar state approaches critical mass because of declining moral, repeated deployments, combat stress, battle fatigue, and what Vietnam vet Steve Hesske called the "negative universals in all warfare."

They include "Lousy nutrition. Cramped, dirty, awful living conditions. Terrible weather. Unreasonable, often senseless, demands made by superiors. And what Michael Herr describes in DISPATCHES (as) 'long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror.' "

In his book titled, "Fragging: Why US Soldiers Assaulted Their Officers in Vietnam," George Lepre said similar assaults occurred in earlier US wars, but not like in Vietnam.

Drug use, low morale, a quagmire conflict, formidable enemies, and ranks filled with below-standard troops to meet manpower needs contributed to explosive incidents.

Fraggers were mostly young, immature, poorly educated, Black, and mediocre performers. Most weren't draftees, and no evidence suggests anti-war sentiment was involved.

"It was no accident that the fragging phenomenon occurred during an unpopular war," said Lepre. A host of contributing factors led to America waging war on itself. It didn't end until Washington's humiliating April 30, 1975 Saigon embassy rooftop exit.

Perhaps Kabul, Baghdad, and Tripoli repeats will follow. For millions affected, it can't happen a moment too soon. Their struggle continues to assure it. Afghanistan most reflects it. An acknowledged unwinnable war persists, but how much longer before what can't go on forever, won't.

Afghanistan's Unwinnable War

Afghanistan reflects Vietnam. Whether or not fragging's occurring isn't known. However, if frustration grows and morale and discipline deteriorate, it may arrive full force.

Known incidents involve Afghan, not US forces. However, cover-up and denial may conceal unreported incidents, perhaps more than imagined.

On February 1, Medill on the Hill, a project of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism headlined, "Insider attacks on US troops by friendly Afghan forces on the rise," saying:

A March 2011 Kandahar Province attack killed two US soldiers and wounded four others. An Afghan security contractor was responsible - "a hired gun paid for by the US-led coalition."

It wasn't an isolated incident. Since May 2007, Afghan security forces launched at least 45 attacks. About 70 or more NATO troops were killed and hundreds more wounded.

Friendly force attacks are increasing. Most came in the past two years, despite careful recruit screening. NATO ranks number 130,000, including 90,000 US troops.

As of October 2011, Afghan National Security Forces numbered 312,000. However, distrust, poor training, corruption, and growing desertions erupt in violence against a hated occupier.

On March 1, the Christian Science Monitor headlined, "Afghan troops keep killing US troops," saying:

An Afghan soldier and civilian employee "murdered two US soldiers at a base near the southern city of Kandahar today. That brings the total so-called green on blue killings in Afghanistan to six since an Afghan witnessed US soldiers dumping Qurans into a burn pit at Bagram Air Base a week ago."

At issue is America's decade-long failed war. Incidents are increasing. Frustration and anger define them. Afghans want Americans out. Anger causes attacks. Many others sympathize and perhaps plan their own.

They belie official progress and growing stability reports. Conditions have never been worse. At 124 months and counting, Afghanistan is America's longest war. Vietnam lasted 103 months. Polls show declining public support. Obama duplicitously claims:

“The overwhelming majority of Afghan troops have welcomed and benefitted from the training and partnering that we’re doing. When you think about it, the same was true in Iraq.” By end of 2014, “Afghans will have capacity just as Iraqis to secure their own country.”

In fact, violence wracks Iraq. Incidents occur regularly. On March 20, over 30 bomb attacks struck cities and towns across the country. At least 52 were killed and about 250 injured. It was Iraq's bloodiest day in a month. Police checkpoints and patrols were mostly targeted.

Army and police are often attacked. Al Qaeda and other insurgents claim responsibility. March 19 was the war's 9th anniversary. Violence rages daily. Afghanistan gets most attention, but Iraqis want Americans out as much as Afghans do. Fighting will rage until they're gone, and the same's true for Libya.

Arab street anti-American sentiment is visceral. Anything's possible against a hated occupier and complicit satraps. A recent Kabul attack involved assassinating a US colonel and major inside the Afghan Interior Ministry headquarters.

The gunman was reportedly an intelligence service driver infuriated by US comments mocking Koran protests and the Koran itself. Other incidents involve Afghan troops killing US soldiers. In populated areas, civilians die with them in cases where car bombs, grenades, or other explosive devices are used.

In 2012, over a dozen US troops were killed. Around fivefold that number were wounded, many seriously. Cover-ups likely conceal others, and when injured soldiers die, only their families are told.

Nothing will stop these and similar incidents until America's occupation ends, and Afghans run their own country. Until then, US soldiers will be targeted are killed.

Perhaps they'll wage war on themselves like for years in Vietnam. Given similarities between the conflicts, it may be just a matter of time.

A Final Comment

During his March Kabul visit, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was targeted. Reports said a man drove a bomb-laden vehicle onto the runway where his plane landed.

An International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) statement confirmed the incident, but downplayed it. Panetta's visit went on as planned. Afghans want no part of him and US forces he represents.

Even they can't be trusted. Panetta ordered US troops meeting with him in Helmand Province disarmed. In a tent where they gathered, around 200 marines were told to lay down automatic rifles and 9mm pistols. A sergeant was told to clear all weapons outside.

It's significant because typically troops remain armed when the defense secretary addresses them.

The official explanation given about wanting to be "consistent with the Afghans" didn't wash. At issue is trust and perhaps fear that anger in the ranks may erupt against visiting US officials. Why not when multiple deployments put ground forces in harm's way.

America may again wage war on itself. Given the similarities between Southeast Asia and Afghanistan, it may indeed be just a matter of time.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.