New Poll Finds 59% Of Americans Support Post-9/11 Torture – Propaganda, Cultural Sickness, Or Both?

Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog

Ever since the torture report was released last week, U.S. television outlets have endlessly featured American torturers and torture proponents. But there was one group that was almost never heard from: the victims of their torture, not even the ones recognized by the U.S. Government itself as innocent, not even the family members of the ones they tortured to death. Whether by design (most likely) or effect, this inexcusable omission radically distorts coverage.

Whenever America is forced to confront its heinous acts, the central strategy is to disappear the victims, render them invisible. That’s what robs them of their humanity: it’s the process of dehumanization. That, in turns, is what enables American elites first to support atrocities, and then, when forced to reckon with them, tell themselves that – despite some isolated and well-intentioned bad acts – they are still really good, elevated, noble, admirable people. It’s hardly surprising, then, that a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning found that a large majority of Americans believe torture is justified even when you call it “torture.” Not having to think about actual human victims makes it easy to justify any sort of crime.

– From Glenn Greenwald’s latest piece: U.S. TV Provides Ample Platform for American Torturers, but None to Their Victims

After reading about a new poll that shows 59% of Americans support post 9/11 torture, I’ve spent the entire morning thinking about what it means. Does this confirm the total degeneration of American culture into a collective of chicken-hawk, unthinking, statist war-mongering automatons? Alternatively, does it merely reflect the effectiveness of corporate-government propaganda? Is it a combination of both? How does the poll spilt by age group?

These are all important questions to which I do not have definitive answers, but I have some thoughts I’d like to share. First, here are some of the observations from the Washington Post:

A majority of Americans believe that the harsh interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were justified, even as about half the public says the treatment amounted to torture, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

By an almost 2-1 margin, or 59-to-31 percent, those interviewed support the CIA’s brutal methods, with the vast majority of supporters saying they produced valuable intelligence.

In general, 58 percent say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified “often” or “sometimes.”

The new poll comes on the heels of a scathing Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which President Obama ended in 2009. The report concluded that controversial interrogation techniques — including waterboarding detainees, placing them in stress positions and keeping them inside confinement boxes — were not an effective means of acquiring intelligence.

This is important, because despite the Senate Report showing torture was not effective in acquiring intelligence (see: Revelations from the Torture Report – CIA Lies, Nazi Methods and the $81 Million No-Bid Torture Contract), the American public thinks it was. This is the power of mainstream media spin and propaganda.

Fifty-three percent of Americans say the CIA’s harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists produced important information that could not have been obtained any other way, while 31 percent say it did not. 

In a CBS poll released Monday, nearly seven in 10 considered waterboarding torture, but about half said the technique and others are, at times, justified. Fifty-seven percent said harsh interrogation techniques can provide information that can prevent terrorist attacks.

While the above is disturbing, if I felt that the culture is lost beyond hope and that my fellow American is akin to a zombified sociopath with no hope of awakening, I wouldn’t be writing on this website. I would have renounced my citizenship long ago and moved somewhere else. In contrast, I think there’s a lot to fight for in these United States and I think the war for freedom, civil rights and the rule of law can and will prevail. After all, I was admittedly more or less a zombie during the years immediately following 9/11 and for most of my time on Wall Street. If I was able to make such a profound transition (and countless of my friends have as well ), then there is always hope.

I continue to think that the vast majority of human beings are not particularly ethical or unethical. They are basically somewhere in the middle and thus very easily molded by propaganda. History pretty much proves this to be the case. My sentiments on the subject can be best summarized by something I wrote back in 2012 in the post: Humanity is Rising.

I have always felt that human disposition lies on a bell curve.  So let’s say for the sake of argument that 1% is just extraordinarily wicked, selfish, mentally deranged so along the lines of a Stalin like character.  Then let’s say the 1% on the other side is gentle, enlightened, and moral almost to a fault so a Gandhi like character.  Then the masses in the middle are not of any extreme disposition in either way, but are easily malleable and generally just “go along to get along.”  Well as far as recorded human history is concerned, the 1% of nasty, immoral parasites have dominated humanity through the various playbooks strategies that I and many others have outlined.  The 1% on the other side have generally been silenced or ostracized systematically by the control freak “leaders” and if that fails to work, they are simply murdered.  I mean even up until the 20th Century think about the kinds of guys that have been murdered.  Gandhi.  Martin Luther King Jr.  John Lennon.  Oh and if we want to go back a couple thousand years there was Jesus.  The list is endless.  Guys that talk about a higher level of consciousness and love and actually make inroads in society are murdered.  Yet no one ever seems to take a shot at the genocidal, sociopaths that run our lives through politics and banking (nor would I ever want that as I do not condone violence as a solution to a violent system).  Interesting isn’t it?  I think it is pretty obvious why this is the case.  The 1% on the decent side of the bell curve aren’t murderers.  The guys on the other side of it are.  

While certainly not giving the middle of the bell curve a pass for its unquestioned apathy and ignorance, I am convinced that the key variable here is information, which is why it is so imperative to conduct alternative narratives, and is why I spend most of my time working on this site. Glenn Greenwald’s recent piece in the Intercept helped to reinforce the impact of media propaganda in shaping public perceptions. Here are some excerpts:

Ever since the torture report was released last week, U.S. television outlets have endlessly featured American torturers and torture proponents. But there was one group that was almost never heard from: the victims of their torture, not even the ones recognized by the U.S. Government itself as innocent, not even the family members of the ones they tortured to death. Whether by design (most likely) or effect, this inexcusable omission radically distorts coverage.

Whenever America is forced to confront its heinous acts, the central strategy is to disappear the victims, render them invisible. That’s what robs them of their humanity: it’s the process of dehumanization. That, in turns, is what enables American elites first to support atrocities, and then, when forced to reckon with them, tell themselves that – despite some isolated and well-intentioned bad acts – they are still really good, elevated, noble, admirable people. It’s hardly surprising, then, that a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning found that a large majority of Americans believe torture is justified even when you call it “torture.” Not having to think about actual human victims makes it easy to justify any sort of crime.

This self-glorifying ritual can be sustained only by completely suppressing America’s victims. If you don’t hear from the human beings who are tortured, it’s easy to pretend nothing truly terrible happened. That’s how the War on Terror generally has been “reported” for 13 years and counting: by completely silencing those whose lives are destroyed or ended by U.S. crimes. That’s how the illusion gets sustained.

Thus, we sometimes hear about drones (usually to celebrate the Great Kills) but almost never hear from their victims: the surviving family members of innocents whom the U.S. kills or those forced to live under the traumatizing regime of permanently circling death robots. We periodically hear about the vile regimes the U.S. props up for decades, but almost never from the dissidents and activists imprisoned, tortured and killed by those allied tyrants. Most Americans have heard the words “rendition” and “Guantanamo” but could not name a single person victimized by them, let alone recount what happened to them, because they almost never appear on American television.

It would be incredibly easy, and incredibly effective, for U.S. television outlets to interview America’s torture victims. There is certainly no shortage of them. Groups such as the ACLUCenter for Constitutional RightsReprieve, and CAGE UK represent many of them. Many are incredibly smart and eloquent, and have spent years contemplating what happened to them and navigating the aftermath on their lives.

I’ve written previously about the transformative experience of meeting and hearing directly from the victims of the abuses by your own government. That human interaction converts an injustice from an abstraction into a deeply felt rage and disgust. That’s precisely why the U.S. media doesn’t air those stories directly from the victims themselves: because it would make it impossible to maintain the pleasing fairy tales about “who we really are.”

When I was in Canada in October, I met Maher Arar (pictured above) for the second time, went to his home, had breakfast with his wife (also pictured above) and two children. In 2002, Maher, a Canadian citizen of Syrian descent who worked as an engineer, was traveling back home to Ottawa when he was abducted by the U.S. Government at JFK Airport, heldincommunicado and interrogated for weeks, then “rendered” to Syria where the U.S. arranged to have him brutally tortured by Assad’s regime. He was kept in a coffin-like cell for 10 months and savagely tortured until even his Syrian captors were convinced that he was completely innocent. He was then uncermoniously released back to his life in Canada as though nothing had happened.

When he sued the U.S. government, subservient U.S. courts refused even to hear his case, accepting the Obama DOJ’s claim that it was too secret to safely adjudicate. 

There are hundreds if not thousands of Maher Arars the U.S. media could easily and powerfully interview. McClatchy this week detailed the story of Khalid al Masri, a German citizen whom the U.S. Government abducted in Macedonia, tortured, and then dumped on a road when they decided he wasn’t guilty of anything (US courts also refused to hear his case on secrecy grounds). The detainees held without charges, tortured, and then unceremoniously released from Guantanamo and Bagram are rarely if ever heard from on U.S. television, even when the U.S. Government is forced to admit that they were guilty of nothing.

This is not to say that merely putting these victims on television would fundamentally change how these issues are perceived. Many Americans would look at the largely non-white and foreign faces recounting their abuses, or take note of their demonized religion and ethnicity, and react for that reason with indifference or even support for what was done to them.

I’m not so sure this is the case, and in any event, we can’t know unless we try.

Keeping those victims silenced and invisible is the biggest favor the U.S. television media could do for the government over which they claim to act as watchdogs. So that’s what they do: dutifully, eagerly and with very rare exception.

Watching television is easy and addicting, particularly if you came of age before the internet. Television news is simply horrifying. On those rare instances when I catch a glimpse of it at the gym, I feel as if I have entered a bizarro world of idiocy and shamelessness.

Nevertheless, it remains true that a lot of the pre-internet generation still receives intellectual marching orders from the idiot-box. This is why I’m so curious to see how the Washington Post poll splits by age bracket. Either way, hope is never lost and the torch of liberty must remain lit and carried forward by those who care. That’s precisely what I try to do here at Liberty Blitzkrieg, and I ask you to do the same in whatever capacity you can.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

Posted in Politics / World News | 4 Comments

Here’s What’s Wrong with Corporate America–and the U.S. Economy

Will we ever tire of navigating the multiple layers of intermediaries between the customer and the provider, while corporate profits soar to unprecedented heights?

If we had to summarize what’s wrong with Corporate America and the entire U.S. economy, we can start with all the intermediaries between the provider and the customer. There are a number of examples we’re all familiar with.

One is healthcare, where a veritable phalanx of intermediaries filters the interactions between doctors and patients so heavily that the traditional practice of medicine has been nullified.

By traditional I mean the arrangement that was conventional a few short decades ago: you went to the doctor of your choice (typically, the same doctor your family used), he/she treated you, and you paid the doctor’s bill in cash. Only hospitalization was covered by the minimal (and minimally limiting) healthcare insurance plans of the time.

The second example is home appliances purchased at a Big Box retailer. Here’s the list of interactions between Corporate America and the customer:

1. Customer enters Big Box Store and is sold a high-margin appliance, unless customer insists on the sale item. Either way, the appliance was assembled in China for a few hundred bucks and shipped to the U.S. for a few more bucks. The difference between the low cost and the price the customer pays is gross profit for Corporate America.

2. Customer and salesperson both know the reliability of the appliance, regardless of brand or price, is low, so anextended warranty is an easy sale. The manufacturer’s warranty is typically one year, and the extended warranty tacks on a couple years to the minimal manufacturer’s warranty.

(Recall that not too long ago in America, any major appliance was expected to last a few decades, not a few years.)

3. Customer shells out $1,000 for the appliance and another $300 for the extended warranty, and a few more bucks for delivery.

4. Corporate America to customer: we’re done with you, bucko. The delivery is subcontracted to another company, the extended warranty is handled by another company, and should the appliance fail during the manufacturer’s warranty, the customer has to contact the manufacturer directly.

The only interaction retail Corporate America has with the customer is the initial sale. Everything after that is handled by other companies. So Corporate America has no interest in customer satisfaction or happiness after the sales experience.

5. Calls made to Corporate America–the Big Box retailer or the manufacturer–will be directed to somebody else. The job of taking care of the customer has been shunted to intermediaries that the customer cannot contact directly.

Compare this with the traditional arrangement between the retailer and the customer: whatever the problem, the retailer took care of the customer. If the appliance broke down, the retailer’s repair crew would go out and fix it. The retailer was accountable to the customer all the way down the line; if there was a warranty covering the repair, the retailer handled that bureaucratic layer as part of their service.

6. The appliance fails two days after the manufacturer’s warranty expires, i.e. one year after purchase. (True story.)

7. Customer calls Corporate America retailer. Response: we’re done with you, bucko. Call the manufacturer or the extended warranty company.

8. Customer calls Corporate America manufacturer (or the U.S. office of a global appliance manufacturer). Response: Since your appliance is off warranty, the service call will be (insert outrageous fee): $99.99 (that’s our special price for good customers, pal.) Parts will also be marked up triple from what you could buy them for on the Internet, and our labor charges are so high that the repair, even if it is modest in scope, will cost a third to a half of the original price of the appliance.

If the repair is serious, the cost might exceed the original purchase price a year earlier.

Stripped of phony solicitude, the manufacturer’s response: we’re done with you, bucko. You bought our appliance, but we’re under no obligation to make you happy beyond the 365-day warranty period–and well, to be honest, we don’t really care if you’re happy with our service under warranty, either. Our repair people will get to you when they get to you, and there are plenty of loopholes in the warranty.

Here’s the view from Corporate America: we can get these appliances assembled in Robotic Factory #2 (yes, the appliance was stamped with this phrase) in China for an absurdly low cost for an order of thousands of units, and if 10% of those fail within a year due to defective parts, that’s just the cost of doing business.

We can grind the customer down with lousy service to the point that many will give up and not even pursue repair or replacement under warranty.

Since Americans have been trained to buy the lowest price, a.k.a. The Tyranny of Price, or the currently fad (over-hyped, overpriced) model, we don’t care if they’re happy or not. They’ll buy the lowest cost appliance or the over-hyped brand next time anyway.

9. Customer calls the extended warranty provider. The extended warranty provider is in a distant state and contracts with a local firm to handle the repair. The customer cannot contact the repair outfit or person directly; everything must be handled through the extended warranty provider.

10. Two weeks later, the repairperson shows up, takes apart the appliance and presents the customer with a bill for $900 which must be paid before he can order parts. But I’m under the extended warranty, the customer says, and the repairperson shrugs. “That’s not what the paperwork says.” (True story.)

11. Customer calls back extended warranty provider and gets the paperwork straightened out. Boxes of parts start arriving shortly thereafter.

12. A different repairperson comes back in two more weeks, takes a look at the disassembled appliance and the parts that had arrived, and declares the repair will cost more than a new replacement appliance, so the customer should contact the extended warranty provider for a voucher to buy a new appliance.

13. The repairperson leaves the disassembled appliance and the parts. The customer has to call the extended warranty provider again to demand the broken appliance and the new parts be hauled off. Three weeks later, somebody shows up to haul off the useless appliance and the new parts.

14. Customer reads that corporate profits for the Big Box retailer and manufacturer just hit record highs, and has a seizure. Corporate America doesn’t make money making the customer happy, beyond the few moments needed to collect $1,300 from him/her. That’s how you reap record profits: make the sale and you’re done with the customer.

Nobody is tasked with making the customer happy–that’s some other intermediary’s job. The customer is denied contact with the actual person who ends up with the job of making the customer happy–all communications must go through multiple corporate intermediaries, guaranteeing frustration and wasted time and money.

Will we ever tire of navigating the multiple layers of intermediaries between the customer and the provider, while corporate profits soar to unprecedented heights? The two dynamics are intimately linked: once we book the sale, we’re done with customers.


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How U.S. Torture Led to the Rise of ISIS

Nice Job Creating Terrorists, You Morons …

We’ve previously noted that many members of ISIS were members of Saddam Hussein’s secular Baath Party who converted to radical Islam in American prisons.

And we’ve documented that torture creates more terrorists.   Indeed, Salon notes:

Among the most notable victims of torture was Sayeed Qutb, the founding father of modern political jihadism. His 1964 book, “Milestones,” describes a journey towards radicalization that included rape and torture, sometimes with dogs, in an Egyptian prison. He left jail burning with the determination to wage transnational jihad to destroy these regimes and their backers, calling for war against all those who used these methods against Muslims

***

“Milestones” remains one of the Arab world’s most influential books. Indeed, it was the lodestar of Al Qaeda leaders like Ayman Al-Zawahiri (who was also tortured in Egyptian jails) and the late Osama Bin Laden.

In other words, it was torture which drove the founder of modern jihad to terrorism in the first place.

ISIS … Created By Torture

The head of ISIS (al-Baghdadi) spent 4 years as a prisoner at the U.S. Bucca Camp in Iraq.  As the Washington Post reports:

But the narrative solidifies in 2005, when [al-Baghdadi] was captured by American forces and spent the next four years a prisoner in the Bucca Camp in southern Iraq. It was from his time there that the first known picture of Baghdadi emerged.

Kathy Kelly wrote in September:

In January of 2004 I visited “Bucca Camp,” a U.S.-run POW camp … located near the isolated port city of Umm Qasr,  in southern Iraq ….

***

These men at Bucca had been marched naked in front of women soldiers.  They’d been told to say “I love George Bush” before they could receive their food rations.  They’d slept on the open ground in punishingly cold weather with no mat beneath them and only one blanket.   The guards had taunted them and they had had no way of telling their friends they were still alive.

***

It’s widely acknowledged that the 2003 invasion of Iraq radicalized Al-Baghdadi, with his humiliation at Camp Bucca further hardening him.

Mother Jones noted in July:

According to the Telegraph, members of his local mosque in Tobchi (a neighborhood in Baghdad) who knew him from around 1989 until 2004 (when he was between the ages of 18 and 33) considered Baghdadi a quiet, studious fellow and a talented soccer player. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Baghdadi was earning a degree in Islamic studies in Baghdad.

But within a couple years of the US invasion, Baghdadi was a prisoner in Camp Bucca, the US-run detainment facility in Umm Qasr, Iraq. And a US compound commander stationed at that prison—and other military officials—have in recent weeks wondered whether Baghdadi’s stint there radicalized him and put him on the path to taking over ISIS in 2010 and guiding the movement to its recent military victories.

***

The reason why he was apprehended is not publicly known; he could have been arrested on a specific charge or as part of a large sweep of insurgents or insurgent supporters. (A confidential Red Cross report leaked in May 2004 suggested than around 90 percent of detainees of Iraqi origin were arrestedby mistake.”) Army Colonel Kenneth King, the commanding US officer at Camp Bucca in 2009, recently told the Daily Beast that he distinctly remembered a man resembling Baghdadi: “He was a bad dude, but he wasn’t the worst of the worst.” King noted he was “not surprised” that such a radical figure emerged from the facility.

***

James Skylar Gerrond, a former US Air Force security forces officer and a compound commander at Camp Bucca in 2006 and 2007, says that he believes Baghdadi’s stay at the prison contributed to his radicalization—or at least bolstered his extremism. After Baghdadi proclaimed the Islamic State a new nation and himself its leader, Gerrond tweeted, “Many of us at Camp Bucca were concerned that instead of just holding detainees, we had created a pressure cooker for extremism.” Gerrond is now a civilian working for the Department of Defense.

The Guardian reported in 2009

Critics of the facility say it had in effect become a terror training institute, run by resentful inmates under a strict interpretation of Islamic law.”It is al-Qa’ida central down there,” said Sheikh Ali Hatem Suleiman, a tribal leader from Anbar province. “What better way to teach everyone how to become fanatical than put them all together for scant reason, then deprive them?

Indeed, many of the top ISIS commanders – including Abu Ayman al-Iraqi and Abu Abdulrahman al-Bilawi – were high-level Iraqi officers under Saddam Hussein who were imprisoned at Camp Bucca by American forces.

There was unquestionably widespread torture at Camp Bucca …

Allen Keller M.D. – Assistant Professor of Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine, attending Physician in the Bellevue Hospital Primary Care Medical Clinic, and a recognized expert on torture – documents in the journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine various forms of torture at Camp Bucca … including surgeries without anaesthetic, rape and various types of beatings (search for the word “Bucca”).

The Red Cross and 60 Minutes reported that prisoners were shot at Camp Bucca.

The Seattle Times reported in 2004:

A U.S. resident who was held prisoner by the United States in another detention center in Iraq last year says prisoners there were also beaten and sexually humiliated.

Hossam Shaltout said widespread mistreatment by soldiers in Camp Bucca detention center in southern Iraq was as inhumane as that depicted in recent photos from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

He described Camp Bucca as a “torture camp,” where soldiers beat and humiliated prisoners. He said he saw soldiers tie groups of naked prisoners together. He said they hogtied his hands and legs and placed scorpions on his body.

American soldiers love scorpions,” Shaltout said in an interview arranged by his U.S. lawyer.

The Washington Post reported in 2004:

On May 12, four soldiers from the 320th Military Police Battalion, based in Ashley, Pa., were charged with beating prisoners after transporting them to Camp Bucca. MPs from a different unit reported the incident, saying the legs of prisoners were held apart while soldiers kicked them in the groin.

The rise of ISIS confirms what we’ve been saying for years … torture reduces our national security:

  • A 30-year veteran of CIA’s operations directorate who rose to the most senior managerial ranks, says:

Torture creates more terrorists and fosters more acts of terror than it could possibly neutralize.

Torture puts our troops in danger, torture makes our troops less safe, torture creates terrorists. It’s used so widely as a propaganda tool now in Afghanistan. All too often, detainees have pamphlets on them, depicting what happened at Guantanamo.

“The administration’s policies concerning [torture] and the resulting controversies … strengthened the hand of our enemies.”

  • General Petraeus said that torture hurts our national security
  • The head of all U.S. intelligence said:

“The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world,” [Director of National Intelligence Dennis] Blair said in the statement. “The damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security.”

  • A top counter-terrorism expert says torture increases the risk of terrorism (and see this)
  • One of the top military interrogators said that torture by Americans of innocent Iraqis is the main reason that foreign fighters started fighting against Americans in Iraq in the first place (and see this).
  • Former counter-terrorism czar Richard A. Clarke says that America’s indefinite detention without trial and abuse of prisoners is a leading Al Qaeda recruiting tool
Posted in Politics / World News | 12 Comments

The Case Against Re-Banning Torture Yet Again

Senator Ron Wyden has a petition up at MoveOn.org that reads “Right now, torture is banned because of President Obama’s executive order. It’s time for Congress to pass a law banning torture, by all agencies, so that a future president can never revoke the ban.” It goes on to explain:

“We live in a dangerous world. But when CIA operatives and contractors torture terrorist suspects, it doesn’t make us safer — and it doesn’t work. The recent CIA torture report made that abundantly clear. Right now, the federal law that bans torture only applies to the U.S. military — not our intelligence agencies. President Obama’s executive order barring all agencies from using torture could be reversed, even in secret, by a future president. That’s why it’s critical that Congress act swiftly to pass a law barring all agencies of the U.S. government, and contractors acting on our behalf, from engaging in torture. Without legislation, the door on torture is still open. It’s time for Congress to slam that door shut once and for all.”

Why in the world would anybody object to this unless they supported torture? Well, let me explain.

Torture and complicity in torture were felonies under U.S. law before George W. Bush moved into the White House, under both the torture statute and the war crimes statute. Nothing has fundamentally changed about that, other than the blatant lack of enforcement for several years running. Nothing in those two sections of the U.S. code limits the law to members of the U.S. military or excludes employees or contractors or subcontractors of so-called intelligence agencies. I emailed a dozen legal experts about that claim in the above petition. Michael Ratner replied “I don’t see where they get that from.” Kevin Zeese said simply “They’re wrong.” If anyone replies to me with any explanation, I’ll post it as an update at the top of this article on davidswanson.org — where I can be contacted if you have an explanation.

For the past several years, the U.S. Congress, White House, Justice Department, and media have gone out of their way to ignore the existence of U.S. laws banning torture. When silence hasn’t worked, the primary technique has been proposing over and over and over again to ban torture, as if it were not already banned. In fact, Congress has followed through and banned it a number of times, and done so with new exceptions that by some interpretations have in fact weakened the war crimes statute. This is my best guess where the nonsense about applying only to “intelligence agencies” comes from: laws like the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that claimed to pick and choose which types of torture to ban for whom.

When President Obama took President Bush’s place he produced an executive order purporting to ban torture (again), even while publicly telling the Justice Department not to enforce any existing laws. But an executive order, as Wyden seems to recognize, is not a law. Neither can it ban torture, nor can it give legal weight to the pretense that torture wasn’t already banned. In fact the order itself states: “Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect the obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including but not limited to: the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 2340A; the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441 . . . .”

Senator Wyden says he will introduce yet another bill to “ban torture.” Here’s how the Washington Post is spinning, and explaining, that:

Torture is already illegal, but Wyden notes that protections can be strengthened. To oversimplify, the U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, in which participating states agreed to outlaw intentionally inflicting severe pain for specific purposes. The Bush administration obviously found a (supposedly) legal route around that.”

In other words, because it was done by a president, it was legal — the worldview of the Post’s old buddy Richard Nixon.

“After the Abu Graib revelations, John McCain helped pass a 2005 amendment that would restrict the military from using specific brutal interrogation tactics — those not in the Army Field Manual. (This didn’t preclude intel services from using these techniques, which might explain why CIA director John Brennan felt free to say the other day that future policymakers might revert to using them). In 2008, Congress passed a measure specifically applying those restrictions to intelligence services, too, but then-President Bush vetoed it. Senator Wyden would revive a version of that 2008 bill as a starting point, with the goal of codifying in law President Obama’s executive order banning the use of those specific techniques for all government employees, those in intelligence services included.”

But let’s back up a minute. When a president violates a law, that president — at least once out of office — should be prosecuted for violating the law. The law can’t be declared void because it was violated. Loopholes can’t be created for the CIA. Reliance on the Army Field Manual can’t sneak into law the loopholes built into that document. Presidents can’t order and un-order things illegal. Here’s how the United Nations Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson responded to the release of the Senate’s report summary:

“The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the U.S. Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability. International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the U.S. Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes. As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes.”

Now, one could try to spin the endless re-banning of torture as part of the process of enforcing an international treaty that under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. But banning a practice going forward, even when you ban it better, or ban it more emphatically for the 8th time, does absolutely nothing to fulfill the legal obligation to prosecute those crimes already committed. And here we are dealing with crimes openly confessed to by past officials who assert that they would “do it again” — crimes that resulted in deaths, thus eliminating any attempt at an argument that statutes of limitations have run out.

Here’s a different sort of petition that we’ve set up at RootsAction.org along with Witness Against Torture and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee: ” We call on President Obama to allow the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce our laws, and to immediately appoint a special prosecutor. As torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction, we call on any willing court system in the world to enforce our laws if our own courts will not do so.”

The purpose of such a petition is not vengeance or partisanship or a fetish with history. The purpose is to end torture, which is not done by looking forward or even by pardoning the crimes, as the ACLU has proposed — to its credit recognizing that the crimes exist. That should be a first step for anyone confused by the endless drumbeat to “ban torture.”

Posted in General | 3 Comments

U.S. Gov’t. Seeks Excuse to Nuclear-Attack Russia

HiroshimaMushroom

Never Was a March on Washington More Needed

Eric Zuesse

The world is more nervous about the drift toward nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia than at any time since 1962’s Cuban Missile Crisis. When French President Francois Hollande urgently side-tracked his return-flight from a diplomatic mission recently, in order to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, at a private room that had been scoured ahead of time to eliminate any possible bugging devices, there was speculation as to what had caused Hollande’s sudden detour, and there were even rumors of a possible cause being an American “false-flag” event in the works to be blamed on Russia as a pretext for going to war against Russia, just as Russia had been falsely blamed for the Ukrainian military’s downing of Malaysia’s airliner MH17 on July 17th. All that was publicly released about the two-hour meeting were platitudes, hardly anything that would have justified side-tracking Hollande’s flight so as to surprise intelligence agencies and be able to meet the Russian leader in an untapped room.

The level of fear is certainly rising on both sides. On the U.S. side, the CBS News Poll in summer 2007 found 6% of Americans calling Russia an “enemy”; seven years later, that same figure was 22%. However, what is not rumor nor fear, but proven fact, by Obama’s own actions as will be documented here, is that he wants a war against Russia and is trying hard to get Europe (including Hollande) onboard with this goal in order to win it; and that America’s Republican Party want this at least as much as he does, though the American public do not.

The Democratic Party (in the House and Senate) are staying as quiet as possible about a ‘Democratic’ President pushing them toward World War III, which is a goal that Republicans have always been far more eager for than Democrats. (Republicans are famous for “Speak softly but carry a big stick,” and for swinging it as hard as they can, especially against Russians.) In fact, one of the reasons why Obama won the Presidency is that he criticized his 2012 Republican opponent Mitt Romney for saying of Russia, “This is without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

That dissent by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Obama appealed to the U.S. public at the time, but not to America’s aristocracy, who are a mix of people some of whom hate Russians and others of whom don’t care about Russians, but none of whom are passionate opponents of nuclear war (a diverse group that they lump contemptuously with “peaceniks”).

For example, one major mouthpiece of Democratic Party aristocrats has always been The New Republic, and on 17 September 2014 they headlined “Obama Can’t Admit That Romney Was Right: Russia Is Our ‘Top Geopolitical Threat’.” Another one is the National Journal, the aristocracy’s version of its companion propaganda-operation (owned by the same aristocrat as) The Atlantic. On 7 May 2014 (just five days after Obama’s people had massacred pro-Russians in the House of Trade Unions in Odessa and thereby started the extermination-campaign against them, or “civil war” that’s still raging), the National Journal headlined “Mitt Romney Was Right: Russia Is Our Biggest Geopolitical Foe.” Conservative ‘Democrats’ are just Republicans spelled with a “D”; but, when it’s an aristocrat, they know how to spell, and are just trying to deceive the ones who don’t. This is why ‘liberal’ magazines are prized possessions of the aristocracy — to deceive the ones who don’t know the difference and who think that it’s fine in a democracy for politics to be merely a choice between two conservative parties, one of which is called by a meaningless adjective ‘liberal.’

The people who fund both political Parties are virtually united in that fascist belief: they don’t even mind backing racist facists or “nazis”; many of them are precisely that themselves.

Obama is with them (and with Wall Street, and with Big Ag, and Big Oil, and Big Military), against the public. But he’s smart enough a politician to pretend otherwise, and his aristocratic funders respect this. (There were no hard feelings for his exploiting Romney’s politically stupid public assertion; they knew that it was an Obama pose: he’s a ‘Democrat,’ after all.)

For America’s elite, the Cold War never ended, because it was never really about communism versus capitalism — not for them. They are fascists, and they want global dominance. Capitalism, shmapitalism; all they really care about is dominating the world, destroying enemies, which means anyone who refuses to be controlled by them.

Aristocracy hasn’t changed since, well, long before the Bible began. Domination is the big thing, for the aristocracy. Russia threatens the vaunted global control by America’s aristocracy, their dominance over all other aristocracies, because Russia is the second-most-powerful military nation. Russia is the only nation that can say no to U.S. aristocrats and (maybe) get away with it. That’s what this conflict is all about. It’s why they ratcheted up the “enemy” figure for Russia from 6% to 22% in just the past seven years.

As President Obama’s speech at West Point, on 28 May 2014, propagandized for (i.e., rationalized) this conquer-Russia view on the part of America’s aristocracy: “Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us.” So, Obama made clear to the graduating West Point cadets that the BRIC countries are the enemy (Russia and its leading supporters of international independence, the enemies against a mono-polar or “hegemonic” world), from the standpoint of America’s aristocracy, whom the U.S. military now serves to the exclusion of any public interest. Ours want to crush the aristocrats in Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Though it’s alright for those other countries to produce more, that’s true only if American aristocrats control the local ones there, like in any other international empire — not if the local nation’s aristocrats control the country. That’s not the way aristocrats in banana republics are supposed to behave. They’re not supposed to be independent countries. Not really.

The President who had invaded Libya and Syria, and re-invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and who perpetrated a violent overthrow and installed racist fascists (nazis) in control of Ukraine, is lecturing the world against “Russia’s aggression,” for its having accepted back into Russia’s traditional fold little Crimea, which craved to return to Russia.

He’s got some gall to do that, but in order to be a cadet at West Point (and thus be there hearing his speech) one needed to be either a sucker or else a cravenous tool of the aristocracy, as the military has traditionally served; so, Obama played them for being both, and they evidently liked it.

Obama knows how to speak down to an audience and fool them into thinking he respects them. But, to aristocrats, his respect is no mere act at all; he not only respects them, he lies for them, and he protects them, because he self-identifies with them, and not with the public (who just provide his voters, the people that are forced to choose between him versus Romney, or else to go for a mere token protest-vote or non-vote, such as American ‘democracy’ has degenerated into being).

Obama was enemy-izing (turning into enemies) nations that don’t want to serve as America’s banana republics. Similarly, for example, the British Empire didn’t wish for local aristocrats in India to be in control, but only for those client aristocrats to be of use. That’s what it means to be a client nation (or, in the American case, a banana republic).

Obama, in his speech, added, placing a clear hyper-nationalistic coloration on his promotion of America’s empire: “The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation.” (Hitler thought the same thing of Germany.) He promised to keep it that way: “That has been true for the century passed [sp.: past [[somebody at the White House didn’t know the difference between ‘past’ and ‘passed’]] and it will be true for the century to come.” (At least he wasn’t predicting there a Thousand-Year Reich.)

So: that’s historical background to Obama’s plan for using Ukraine as a stepping-stone toward conquering Russia — one of the few favors he hasn’t yet achieved for his sponsors, after having protected them from what he contemptuously calls (in private) the “pitchforks”; a.k.a., the public. (And he really did call us “pitchforks” there, in private. To him, the public were like the KKK; and the mega-bank CEOs whom he was confiding to were like the people KKKers lynched. That’s the type of ‘Black’ he actually is. Blacks should loathe him, but most people, black and white, can’t see beyond his skin-color and liberal platitudes. They’ve got their categories wrong, and the aristocracy-controlled media like that just fine. Stereotypes help aristocrats control political outcomes. It’s button-pushing for them.)

On December 11th, the U.S. Senate voted 100% (unanimously) to donate U.S. weapons to the Ukrainian Government in its war against Russia. On December 4th, 98% of the U.S. House had done likewise. Both bills also accuse Russia of having invaded Ukraine, and this accusation of an aggressive Russia provides a pretext for the U.S. to attack Russia, now that the Ukrainian Government has flipped from neutral (according to some estimations) or pro-Russian (according to others) to being clearly and publicly anti-Russian, by means of their U.S.-engineered coup that occurred in February of this year, when masked gunmen, who were actually hired mercenaries, dressed themselves as if they were instead Ukrainian security forces, and fired into a crowd of “Maidan” anti-corruption protesters and police, and the U.S. Government immediately blamed Ukraine’s then-President for doing that, and Ukraine’s parliament or “Rada,” who weren’t in on the scheme and didn’t know about it, promptly elected “Yats” Yatsenyuk, who had secretly been appointed 18 days prior to lead the country, by Victoria Nuland of the U.S. State Department. “Yats” immediately installed a far-right Government, filled with people who had already committed themselves to a Ukrainian war against Russia. They then promptly set about terminating Russia’s 42-year Crimean lease for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which is key to Russia’s security. Crimeans, who had always overwhelmingly considered themselves to be Russians and not Ukrainians, demonstrated against that Ukrainian move against them and against Russia, and Russian troops came into Crimea, to local applause, but to the condemnation from Washington and its allies.

Russia’s taking back Crimea was not aggression at all, though America’s noise-media say it was; it was instead protection of Crimeans against the CIA’s American invasion of Ukraine. When the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev donated Crimea from Russia to Ukraine in 1954, it was much to the consternation of Crimeans at the time, and ever since. Yet, one of the explicit alleged ‘justifications’ for war against Russia, that are listed in the Republican House’s bill (“Whereas the Russian Federation’s forcible occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea. …”) is a blatant lie, because Crimeans overwhelmingly wanted Russia’s protection against the new, Obama-imposed, Ukrainian regime, which Obama’s State Department and CIA had just installed when overthrowing the President for whom nearly 80% of Crimeans had voted. In fact, a poll that was issued by Gallup in June 2014 showed then that 71.3% of Crimeans viewed as “Mostly positive” the role of Russia there, and 4.0% viewed it as “Mostly negative”; by contrast, only 2.8% viewed the role of the United States there as “Mostly positive,” and a whopping 76.2% viewed it as “Mostly negative.” This wasn’t much changed from a year-earlier Gallup poll. The Republican Party (and thus the Republican-controlled House) is willing to lie blatantly (about this and other crucial matters) in order to justify invading Russia, as it did in invading Iraq in 2003 (and even in 1991); and Barack Obama is willing to lie blatantly too for the same reasons — such as about the source of the sarin gas attack in Syria, etc. — but there were enough Democrats in the U.S. Senate to block Obama’s getting such blatant lies into the Senate’s bill on Ukraine, so it’s much milder, even though it does give the Ukrainian Government $450 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money. However, when Republicans take over the Senate in January, their bill will match the House’s in its warmongering lies, and Obama will get all he wants for his planned war against Russia (not just the $450 million that the Democratic-controlled Senate bill has provided).

So, now, both the Senate and the House, plus the U.S. President (via his State Department, CIA, FBI, and entire Administration), are actually at war, a hot war not a cold war, against Russia, through their proxy, their made-in-Washington, racist-fascist or nazi, Government of Ukraine, which currently is doing the fighting and the killing and the dying, but which couldn’t do it but for that Western backing.

This should be analogized to Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba and his and Soviet leader Khrushchev’s attempt to base near the U.S., Soviet nuclear missiles aimed against America. At that time, in 1962, U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy said that we’d go to war against the USSR if necessary to prevent this; and today Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has implied, but not yet said, that his country will likewise go to war against the United States if necessary to stop its attempt to do against Russia what Khrushchev had been stopped from doing against the U.S. in 1962.

However, the U.S. is now already farther along the warpath than the USSR had been in 1962. Already, many thousands of deaths have resulted from Ukraine’s war against Russia and against its supporters inside what had previously been parts of Ukraine. In 1962, Cuba was at peace, except for a few bands of U.S.-backed Cubans, who were trying to overthrow Fidel Castro. Ukraine is today’s Cuba, but even more of a danger. And, this time, the United States Government is trying to impose nuclear supremacy; the Soviet Union and its communism no longer even exist, and Russia is up against the mortal threat that is being wrongfully perpetrated by the U.S. against them.

Clearly, U.S. President Obama was serious when he tossed out Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych; and clearly he has the full backing of the U.S. Congress (though with some hesitation on the part of Democrats) to go to war against Russia and finish the job that he has begun.

If it weren’t for the ongoing donations — officially loans, but ‘loans’ to an already-bankrupt Government are donations — by both U.S. taxpayers and EU taxpayers, that are channeled mainly through the U.S. and EU and IMF, Ukraine would simply stop its hot war against Russia and against its own ethnic Russians; and the Ukrainian Government that we installed in February would just collapse. The IMF and EU seem likely now to have ended their donations, but U.S. taxpayers certainly haven’t ended ours. We’ve barely even started, though, ever since 1991, U.S. taxpayers have already invested “over five billion dollars” in this scheme to bring ‘democracy’ to Ukraine, even before Obama’s successful February coup provided the capstone to that entire Orwellian effort: America’s aristocracy and its hired hands call this ‘democracy.’

The investigative journalist Wayne Madsen has published his analysis of the American aristocrats, ranging from the Kochs on the right to the Soroses on the left, who are lobbying for this campaign to get taxpayers to fund the American aristocracy’s military take-over of other nations’ aristocracies and resources. Madsen sees as being the few politicians in Washington who are resisting that, both Ron Paul (and definitely not his son Rand Paul) libertarians, and Dennis Kucinich progressives.

Madsen doesn’t note, however, that both of those men are now retired; so, they can afford to speak the truth without losing their jobs, since they’ve already lost them. Among the U.S. aristocracy that finances politicians into federal offices, there is no visible support whatsoever for such dissidents challenging the aristocracy: when one of them somehow manages to get into the political system, they’re removed from it, in one way or another, before they can do any damage to the U.S. aristocracy.

This is how it came to be that 98% of the House and 100% of the Senate voted for war against Russia, even though at least 67% of the American public who expressed an opinion about that in a Pew poll were opposed (and this 67% figure might have been far higher if the question had been more directly asked, such as: “Should the U.S. go to war against Russia in order to enable Ukraine to get back Crimea and conquer the rebelling regions in Ukraine’s own former southeast?”).

This America is supposed to be a ‘democracy,’ in which 99% of Congress and the President want taxpayers to be required to donate to the Ukrainian military, but less than one-third of the American public want to make those donations. Is it instead actually taxation without representation — a modern fascist form of the very oligarchy that America’s Founders went to war against and defeated in order to create America? How much more of a demonstration needs to be made that today’s America is a dictatorship, not a representative democracy or republic? Only media pretend it’s not a dictatorship, because they’re part of it, owned by the same people who heisted our Government and who trade favors with one-another against us. Clearly, this is an us-versus-them situation in which oligarchs are the aggressors, who destroyed American democracy, and from which a democracy now must again be seized, because it has been stolen from us and will not be retaken without a fight.

Madsen also has an interesting explanation as to why Israel is so passionately supportive of the racist-fascist, or nazi, Ukrainian political parties that the Obama Administration has placed in control of Ukraine.

Regardless of such speculations and evidence, however, there is nothing speculative about the American Government’s drive to nuclear war.

It’s part and parcel of the same deal that just passed in the U.S. Congress and was signed by the President, that in the event of any future U.S. financial crash, FDIC-insured bank accounts won’t be paid until and unless the mega-banks that hold derivatives contracts get full payment on all of those gambling policies they had bought — i.e, never. Granny’s savings account will get emptied out to pay Wall Street’s gambling-debts. (Not that the U.S. ‘news’ media ever made such things clear to the public. But how do you think we had managed to obtain a Congress and a President like these are? The public had to be fooled by the aristocrats’ propaganda, and the ‘news’ media had to help aristocrats fool them about it, because the ‘news’ media receive their funding from aristocrats, both as their owners and as their advertisers. The public are just pawns on their chessboard. This is what became of democracy: it’s merely the residual verbal shell — ‘democracy’ — an Orwellian opposite of the original meaning.)

As Obama told the mega-bank chiefs on 27 March 2009 in private, “I’m protecting you … My Administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

He’s going to teach those granny-bank-account “pitchforks,” and such, a thing or two about “the one indispensable nation.” Namely: those people in it, the public, are dispensable, even if not quite as much so as are the people his forces are slaughtering (ethnically cleansing) in southeast Ukraine and other such places, where the ‘real riffraff’ live. The people in those areas are punished and killed for the crime of living where “the right people” want them simply to be gone (preferably dead, but otherwise refugees in Russia, until the ICBMs kill them).

“Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.” But it’s long since gone, and is now aiming to clear out land elsewhere, especially southeast Ukraine, to place nuclear missiles there.

America’s ‘entrepreneurs’ have work to do, across the globe; and all the charred remains of the nuclear ‘victory’ will be passed on to their proud heirs.

It’s the new American way, the way of ‘entrepreneurs’ — a.k.a. “the aristocracy” — but actually only the ‘entrepreneurs’ who have been able to grab the most, who are billionaires. Only insiders can apply for admission. Outsiders can apply for a job, nothing more.

Obama had it all figured out. Everything else from him was just an act. He is the personification of cynicism, and of lies.

If you don’t think so, then how do you explain this, and this, and this, and this? Are those just innocent tragedies; and, if not, then who was the most indispensable person toward causing them to happen — causing them to be imposed by the Ukrainian Government that Obama’s coup imposed upon Ukraine? Obama’s decisions were essential in order to empower the people who are perpetrating this extermination-campaign, which is the bait intended to draw Vladimir Putin into a Ukrainian conflict so as to provide a pretext for an American nuclear attack against Russia — as if Russia doesn’t have even more of a legitimate national-security interest in its Ukrainian neighbor than the U.S. had in its Cuban neighbor in 1962, when we rightly threatened nuclear war over that type of provocation.

If the next U.S. President protects Obama from criminal prosecution for Ukraine like Obama protected Bush from criminal prosecution for Iraq, then the U.S. is hopelessly a lawless nation, no democracy at all.

Unfortunately, the nuclear bombs in the war that Obama and the other stooges of America’s aristocracy are building up to, will not be targeted against themselves and their psychopathic (often billionaire) sponsors. Those people will instead have their bomb-shelters, and their corporate jets.

Oligarchs are foreign to a democracy. Consequently, their servants in government, especially America’s current and former President, are foreign to the U.S. Constitution, and to their Oath of Office, and thus to this country, irrespective of their technical citizenship as ‘American.’ They should both be brought up on charges of treason against the United States of America; for, if they are not, then truly democracy is ended in this country, with no hope of restoration, and America’s Presidents are not subject to American Law, but instead stand above it, beyond it, and immune from it. That makes them dictators, but for whom, and against whom? The record speaks for itself.

Reader-comments to this commentary, pro-and-con, are invited regarding this conclusion, especially because a public forum to discuss this severe matter is needed now — a turning-point in American, and (sad to say), perhaps also (if a nuclear attack occurs) a turning-point in global history. That’s the case regardless of which side of this debate one is on. The fundamental character of this country is at stake now. The public should have a say in it (if that’s still even possible, given that 99% of the media are in the hands of oligarchs — the very same aristocrats who benefit from the status-quo).

Nuclear war is a serious matter, and the American Government must immediately halt their plan to provoke it. The time to force a halt to that is now, or else it will be never. Every step we get closer to nuclear war makes reversing the direction, which is toward war, even more difficult, and less likely, and makes nuclear war even likelier than it was before.

If the public is to take charge (assuming that doing so is still possible), it will happen sooner rather than later.

The public discussion will begin now, if it begins at all.

We’re close to the precipice. Will the public remain quiet?

———-

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

Posted in Business / Economics, Energy / Environment, General, Politics / World News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

The Great Generic Drug Rip-Off

Big Pharma has followed the only avenue left to reap billion-dollar profits: jack up the price of generics.

What happens when rapacious cartels run out of billion-dollar-profit products? They jack up the price of what was previously low-cost. And why are they able to raise prices by 388% to 8,000% at will? Because they can. That’s the whole point in having a cartel that is enabled and enforced by the cartel’s toadies and apologists in the central state (federal government): price increases can be imposed on the government and the private sector at will.

I was alerted to the extraordinary price increases in widely used generic drugs by Ishabaka (M.D.), who forwarded this fact sheet issued by the office of Senator Bernie Sanders: (Chart is reproduced below)

Staggering Price Increases for Generic Drugs

“Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and Senator Bernard Sanders sent letters to 14 drug manufacturers requesting information about the escalating prices of generic drugs used to treat everything from common medical conditions to life-threatening illnesses. Data was provided by the Healthcare Supply Chain Association (HSCA) on recent purchases by group purchasing organizations (GPOs) of ten generic drugs.”

Here are Ishabaka’s comments:

“I’d like to focus on the top one – doxycycline. This is a very effective antibiotic for pneumonia, bronchitis, and sexually transmitted diseases (chlamydia and gonorrhea). Throughout my medical career, it has been a cheap generic drug I used all the time. It’s cost has gone up from $20 a prescription to over $1,600 a prescription in the last 12 months.

Low-income people used to be able to afford doxycycline, which would stop the spread of these serious, sometimes life-threatening infections. Now they can’t, and there is no drug as good as doxycycline available cheaply. I think this is an outrage. Imagine if a generic bottle of aspirin increased in price from $10 a bottle to $800 a bottle in 12 months – Americans would be marching in protest.”

Drug Use Average Market Price Oct. 2013 Average Market Price April 2014 Average Percentage Increase
Doxycycline Hyclate
(bottle of 500, 100 mg tablets)
antibiotic used to treat a variety of infections $20 $1,849 8,281%
Albuterol Sulfate
(bottle of 100, 2 mg tablets)
used to treat asthma and other lung conditions $11 $434 4,014%
Glycopyrrolate
(box of 10 0.2 mg/mL, 20 mL vials)
used to prevent irregular heartbeats during surgery $65 $1,277 2,728%
Divalproex Sodium ER
(bottle of 80, 500 mg tablets ER 24H)
used to prevent migraines and treat certain types of seizures $31 $234 736%
Pravastatin Sodium
(bottle of 500, 10 mg tablets)
used to treat high cholesterol and to prevent heart disease $27 $196 573%
Neostigmine Methylsulfate
(box of 10 1:1000 vials)
used in anesthesia to reverse the effects of some muscle relaxants $25 $121 522%
Benazepril/
Hydrochlorothiazide
(bottle of 100, 20-25 mg tablets)
used to treat high blood pressure $34 $149 420%
Isuprel
(box of 25, 0.2 mg/mL vials)
used to treat heart attacks and irregular heartbeat $916 $4,489 390%
Nitropress
(50 mg vial)
used to treat congestive heart failure and reduce blood pressure $44 $215 388%
Digoxin
(single tablet, 250 mcg)
used to treat irregular heartbeats and heart failure $0.11 $1.10 884%

The murky world of drug pricing is attracting some much-needed attention:

Lawmakers Look for Ways to Provide Relief for Rising Cost of Generic Drugs

For 30 years, generic medications helped make health care cheaper. Why is their cost surging?

What politicos and the mainstream media cannot dare state openly is obvious: the system of drug development and generic drug pricing/distribution is broken in the U.S., and the core cause is the cartel-like structure of Big Pharma and the rest of the healthcare system.

Though nobody in officialdom or the mainstream media can say this publicly, the reason for these outrageous increases is painfully obvious: As Big Pharma’s stable of billion-dollar drugs slip off patent, their profit pipeline is weakening.

The pipeline of potentially billion-dollar-profit drugs (so-called blockbuster drugs) is thin. So Big Pharma has followed the only avenue left to reap billion-dollar profits: jack up the price of generics, and push the government to pay the outrageous increases via Medicare and Medicaid and force the increases on private insurers and providers. If we just roll over and accept 8,000% increases, we deserve the corrupt, rapacious system we have.

Posted in General | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Torture Architect Tries to Justify Program … Fails Miserably

Torture and 9/11

One of the 2 main architects of the American torture program – Air Force psychologist James Mitchell (who personally waterboarded detainees) – still claims that torture produced actionable intelligence:

Mitchell, who admitted he is “biased,” said valuable intelligence was obtained, particularly in the case of Abu Zubaydah, who Mitchell said provided interrogators with the operational structure of al Qaeda that the CIA continues to rely upon.

The claim is not entirely surprising.  As shown below, Abu Zubaydah was the poster boy for the alleged necessity and effectiveness of the torture program.

There’s just one wee little problem with his claim …

The Washington Post documents that Abu Zubaydah was literally crazy – as he had suffered a serious head injury years before 9/11 – and that the FBI agent involved in interrogating Abu Zubaydah and reviewing documents at his house (Daniel Coleman) said that everyone knew that Abu Zubaydah was an unreliable source for information.

This is confirmed by the the New Yorker. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ron Suskind writes that interrogator Coleman advised a top FBI official at the time:

“This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.”

Indeed, the government has since backed away from all claims that Abu Zubaydah had any role in Al Qaeda or 9/11. For example – in September 2009 – the U.S. government admitted in writing in a court proceeding that Abu Zubaydah had never been a member or associate or supporter of al-Qaeda, was not involved in 9/11, and had no prior knowledge of 9/11:

The Government has not contended in this proceeding that Petitioner [Abu Zubaydah] was a member of al-Qaida or otherwise formally identified with al-Qaida.

Respondent [The United States Government] does not contend that Petitioner was a “member” of al-Qaida in the sense of having sworn a bayat (allegiance) or having otherwise satisfied any formal criteria that either Petitioner or al-Qaida may have considered necessary for inclusion in al-Qaida. Nor is the Government detaining Petitioner based on any allegation that Petitioner views himself as part of al-Qaida as a matter of subjective personal conscience, ideology, or worldview.

The Government has not contended in this proceeding that Petitioner had any direct role in or advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

***

The Government has not contended that Petitioner had any personal involvement in planning or executing either the 1998 embassy bombings… or the attacks on September 11, 2001.

And yet Abu Zubaydah is a centerpiece of the government’s entire narrative about 9/11, torture and spying.

Kevin Ryan – who has interviewed 9/11 Commissioner Lee Hamilton, Abu Zubaydah’s attorney and other knowledgeable people – documents how central Abu Zubaydah is to the 9/11 Commission Report (footnotes omitted; see original for documentation):

The 9/11 Commission (falsely) called Zubaydah an “al Qaeda lieutenant.” The Joint Congressional inquiry did the same, calling him “al-Qa’ida leader Abu Zubaydah,” and the “Bin Ladin lieutenant captured in March 2002.” As late as 2006, the Justice Department’s Inspector General report on the 9/11 attacks called Zubaydah a “Bin Laden lieutenant.”

When Zubaydah was captured, in March 2002, U.S. government officials touted him as the biggest catch of the War on Terror, at least until the capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM). FBI Director Robert Mueller stated that Zubaydah’s capture would help deter future attacks. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said that Zubaydah could provide a treasure-trove of information about al-Qaeda. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld claimed that Zubaydah was “a man who knows of additional attacks”, who has “trained people to do this”, and was a big fish who had a fountain of knowledge.

The extensive allegations against Zubaydah went on and on, and included that he was:

  • along with KSM, one of “Al Qaeda’s top operational managers” – “Counterterrorism Czar”Richard Clarke, in his book Against All Enemies
  • “sinister” and “there is evidence that he is a planner and a manager as well. I think he’s a major player.” – Former State Department director of counter-terrorism, Michael Sheehan
  • “extremely dangerous” and a planner of 9/11. – State Department legal advisor John B. Bellinger III in a June 2007 briefing.
  • a trainer, a recruiter, understood bomb-making, was a forger, a logistician, and someone who made things happen, and made “al-Qaeda function.” – Former CIA station chief, Bob Grenier
  • “a close associate of UBL’s [i.e. Bin Laden], and if not the number two, very close to the number two person in the organization. I think that’s well established.” -Donald Rumsfeld
  • “a very senior al Qaeda official who has been intimately involved in a range of activities for the al Qaeda.” – Donald Rumsfeld
  • a “very senior al Qaeda operative.” – Donald Rumsfeld
  • a “key terrorist recruiter and operational planner and member of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle.” – White House spokesman Ari Fleischer
  • someone whose capture was a “very serious blow” to al-Qaeda and therefore one of al-Qaeda’s “many tentacles” was “cut off.” – White House spokesman Ari Fleischer
  • one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.” –President George W. Bush
  • one of al-Qaeda’s top leaders” who was “spending a lot of time as one of the top operating officials of al Qaeda, plotting and planning murder.” –President George W. Bush
  • “al Qaeda’s chief of operations.” – President George W. Bush
  • “one of the top three leaders” in al-Qaeda. – President George W. Bush
  • someone whose interrogation “led to reliable information”, a “prolific producer” of information, with whom originated roughly 25 percent of the information on al Qaeda that came from human sources. – [National Security Agency Director] Michael Hayden
  • one of three individuals “best positioned to know about impending terrorist atrocities.” – Michael Hayden

As the myth of Zubaydah grew, it was reported that he was –

  • “worth a ton of guys at Gitmo.”
  • a “senior bin Laden official” and the “former head of Egypt-based Islamic Jihad.”
  • “played a key role in the East Africa embassy attacks.”
  • listed as a “trusted aide” to bin Laden with “growing power.”
  • in control of al-Qaeda.
  • an aide of bin Laden who ran training camps in Afghanistan and “coordinated terror cells in Europe and North America.”
  • a “key terrorist recruiter, operational planner, and member of Osama Bin Laden’s inner circle.”
  • bin Laden’s CEO”, and “a central figure in Al Qaeda
  • Bin Laden’s “travel planner.”
  • “one of a handful of men entrusted with running the terrorism network in the event of Osama bin Laden’s death or capture.”
  • a senior bin Laden lieutenant who was believed “to be organizing al Qaida resources to carry out attacks on American targets.”
  • the fourth ranking member of al Qaeda behind Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Muhamed Atef.
  • someone who knew the identities of “thousands” of terrorists that passed through al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan
  • a colleague of Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber.
  • one of bin Laden’s top planners of terrorist operations who knew of al Qaeda plots and cells.
  • the “connection between bin Laden and many of al-Qaida’s operational cells.”
  • the source of information that UAL Flight 93 was intended to hit the White House.

Because we now know that Zubaydah was never an al Qaeda operative, or even an al Qaeda associate, we are forced into the stunning realization that all of this was false. The questions that should arise from that realization include: How much of what we know about al Qaeda, and how much of the War on Terror, was built on the torture testimony of a man who clearly could not have known anything about al Qaeda at all? [We’ve already documented that Cheney, Rumsfeld and the boys are guilty of war crimes for falsely using 9/11 as a justification for the Iraq war, and noted that Cheney admits that he lied about 9/11.]

***

But as we know now, the CIA reportedly told Abu Zubaydah during his interrogation that they discovered he was not an al-Qaeda fighter, partner, or even a member. Still, KSM and Bin Alshibh were caught and tortured too.

***

Given the apparent “mistakes” related to Zubaydah being represented as an al Qaeda leader, there appears to be some serious revision required in the official account of 9/11. However, realistically, at this late date the information attributed to Zubaydah cannot likely be untangled from the official myth behind the War on Terror and the associated actions of the U.S. government. That’s because the torture of Zubaydah was used in support of unprecedented policy changes and actions.

  • President Bush personally used the perceived value of Zubaydah’s capture and torture to justify the use of the CIA’s torture techniques as well as the detention of suspects in secret CIA prisons around the world.
  • The U.S. government used the questionable intelligence obtained from Zubaydah in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. Officials stated that the allegations that Iraq and al-Qaeda were linked through training people on the use of chemical weapons came from Zubaydah. There was no independent verification of these claims.
  • Zubaydah’s torture testimony was also used to justify the use of military tribunals, moving the trial of alleged al Qaeda suspects out of the open civil courts. President Bush asked Congress in a speech in September 2006 to formulate special rules in order to try Abu Zubaydah via military commission in Guantanamo Bay. In fact, in late April 2002 less than one month after Abu Zubaydah’s capture, Justice Department officials stated Abu Zubaydah “is a near-ideal candidate for a tribunal trial.” Ironically, Zubaydah may be the only leading suspect to never face trial.
  • In addition to justifying the use of illegal torture techniques, the Bush administration used Zubaydah’s capture as justification to accelerate its domestic spying program. The claim was that it would allow quick action on the phone numbers and addresses seized during Zubaydah’s capture.

As the Senate torture report notes:

“At times Abu Zubaydah was described as ‘hysterical’ and ‘distressed to the level that he was unable effectively to communicate’. Waterboarding sessions ‘resulted in immediate fluid intake and involuntary leg, chest and arm spasms’ and ‘hysterical pleas’. In at least one waterboarding session, Abu Zubaydah ‘became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.’”

And Guardian editor Alex Koppelman points out that the Senate torture report shows that Abu Zubaydah became as compliant as a trained dog after being repeatedly tortured … and yet they still kept torturing him:

Abu Zubaydah was so compliant he was basically a trained dog and still they kept torturing him.

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How can the cases for torture or mass surveillance stand when poster boy Abu Zubaydah was as nutty as a fruitcake years before 9/11? And then they kept on torturing him until he totally lost his mind and became like a brain-dead, trained dog?

The Other Main Sources of Information Were Also Unreliable

Abu Zubaydah was not an isolated case …

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (“KSM”) – the self-confessed “mastermind” of 9/11, the other main source for the 9/11 report – also confessed to crimes which he could not have committed.

He later said that he gave the interrogators a lot of false information – telling them what he thought they wanted to hear – in an attempt to stop the torture. We also know that he was heavily tortured specifically for the purpose of trying to obtain false information about 9/11 – specifically, that Iraq had something to do with it.

(Interestingly, Abu Zubaida – the crazy guy discussed above – was the one who fingered KSM as an Al Qaeda mastermind in the first place.)

And the other sources for the 9/11 report were tortured, too ..

Susan J. Crawford – the senior Pentagon official overseeing the military commissions at Guantánamo – told Bob Woodward:

We tortured Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture.

The chief lawyer for Guantanamo litigation – Vijay Padmanabhan – said that torture of 9/11 suspects was widespread.

According to NBC News:

  • Much of the 9/11 Commission Report was based upon the testimony of people who were tortured
  • At least four of the people whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report have claimed that they told interrogators information as a way to stop being “tortured”
  • One of the Commission’s main sources of information was tortured until he agreed to sign a confession that he was not even allowed to read

Moreover, the specific type of torture used was also expressly designed to create FALSE confessions.

And – as if that’s not bad enough – it’s hard to know what the tortured detainees really said.  Specifically, the 9/11 Commission Report was largely based on third-hand accounts of what tortured detainees said, with two of the three parties in the communication being government employees.

As the 9/11 Commission Report itself states:

Chapters 5 and 7 rely heavily on information obtained from captured al Qaeda members. A number of these “detainees” have firsthand knowledge of the 9/11 plot. Assessing the truth of statements by these witnesses-sworn enemies of the United States-is challenging. Our access to them has been limited to the review of intelligence reports based on communications received from the locations where the actual interrogations take place. We submitted questions for use in the interrogations, but had no control over whether, when, or how questions of particular interest would be asked. Nor were we allowed to talk to the interrogators so that we could better judge the credibility of the detainees and clarify ambiguities in the reporting.

In other words, the 9/11 Commissioners were not allowed to speak with the detainees, or even their interrogators. Instead, they got their information third-hand … where CIA interrogations were usually one of the links.  We know how honest CIA has been about all matters torture.

New York Times investigative reporter Philip Shenon Newsweek noted in a 2009 essay in Newsweek that the 9/11 Commission Report was unreliable because most of the information was based on the statements of tortured detainees:

The commission appears to have ignored obvious clues throughout 2003 and 2004 that its account of the 9/11 plot and Al Qaeda’s history relied heavily on information obtained from detainees who had been subjected to torture, or something not far from it.

The panel raised no public protest over the CIA’s interrogation methods, even though news reports at the time suggested how brutal those methods were. In fact, the commission demanded that the CIA carry out new rounds of interrogations in 2004 to get answers to its questions.

That has troubling implications for the credibility of the commission’s final report. In intelligence circles, testimony obtained through torture is typically discredited; research shows that people will say anything under threat of intense physical pain. [Top military interrogation experts agree.]

And yet it is a distinct possibility that Al Qaeda suspects who were the exclusive source of information for long passages of the commission’s report may have been subjected to “enhanced” interrogation techniques, or at least threatened with them, because of the 9/11 Commission….

Information from CIA interrogations of two of the three—KSM and Abu Zubaydahis cited throughout two key chapters of the panel’s report focusing on the planning and execution of the attacks and on the history of Al Qaeda.

Footnotes in the panel’s report indicate when information was obtained from detainees interrogated by the CIA. An analysis by NBC News found that more than a quarter of the report’s footnotes—441 of some 1,700—referred to detainees who were subjected to the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation program, including the trio who were waterboarded.

Commission members note that they repeatedly pressed the Bush White House and CIA for direct access to the detainees, but the administration refused. So the commission forwarded questions to the CIA, whose interrogators posed them on the panel’s behalf.

The commission’s report gave no hint that harsh interrogation methods were used in gathering information, stating that the panel had “no control” over how the CIA did its job; the authors also said they had attempted to corroborate the information “with documents and statements of others.”

But how could the commission corroborate information known only to a handful of people in a shadowy terrorist network, most of whom were either dead or still at large?

Former senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, a Democrat on the commission [one of the 9/11 Commissioners], told me last year he had long feared that the investigation depended too heavily on the accounts of Al Qaeda detainees who were physically coerced into talking. …

One of the primary architects of the 9/11 Commission Report – Ernest May – said in May 2005:

We never had full confidence in the interrogation reports as historical sources.

And as NBC News notes, the 9/11 Commission itself doubted the accuracy of the torture confessions, and yet kept their doubts to themselves

Government Cover-Up of Unreliability of Witnesses

Moreover, certain government personnel went to great lengths to cover up how unreliable the information was.

For example, the CIA videotaped the interrogation of 9/11 suspects, falsely told the 9/11 Commission that there were no videotapes or other records of the interrogations, and then illegally destroyed all of the tapes and transcripts of the interrogations.

9/11 Commission co-chairs Thomas Keane and Lee Hamilton wrote:

Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation.

What was on those tapes?  Remember, the specific type of torture used was also expressly designed to create FALSE confessions.  Is there evidence of that – coaching falsehoods – on the tapes?

Postscript: The 9/11 Commissioners publicly expressed anger at cover ups and obstructions of justice by the government into a real 9/11 investigation:

  • The Commission’s co-chairs said that the CIA (and likely the White House) “obstructed our investigation”
  • The Senior Counsel to the 9/11 Commission (John Farmer) – who led the 9/11 staff’s inquiry – said “At some level of the government, at some point in time…there was an agreement not to tell the truth about what happened“. He also said “I was shocked at how different the truth was from the way it was described …. The tapes told a radically different story from what had been told to us and the public for two years…. This is not spin. This is not true.”

And the Co-Chair of the official Congressional Inquiry Into 9/11 – and former head of the Senate Intelligence Committee – has “I think at simplest terms, there’s a cover-up. The 9/11 Report is a joke”

  • Former Deputy Secretary for Intelligence and Warning under Nixon, Ford, and Carter (Morton Goulder), former Deputy Director to the White House Task Force on Terrorism (Edward L. Peck), and former US Department of State Foreign Service Officer (J. Michael Springmann), as well as a who’s who of liberals and independents) jointly call for a new investigation into 9/11
  • Former Federal Prosecutor, Office of Special Investigations, U.S. Department of Justice under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan; former U.S. Army Intelligence officer, and currently a widely-sought media commentator on terrorism and intelligence services (John Loftus) says “The information provided by European intelligence services prior to 9/11 was so extensive that it is no longer possible for either the CIA or FBI to assert a defense of incompetence”

Some other examples of obstruction of justice into the 9/11 investigation include:

  • An FBI informant hosted and rented a room to two hijackers in 2000. Specifically, investigators for the Congressional Joint Inquiry discovered that an FBI informant had hosted and even rented a room to two hijackers in 2000 and that, when the Inquiry sought to interview the informant, the FBI refused outright, and then hid him in an unknown location, and that a high-level FBI official stated these blocking maneuvers were undertaken under orders from the White House. As the New York Times notes:

    Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who is a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, accused the White House on Tuesday of covering up evidence ….The accusation stems from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s refusal to allow investigators for a Congressional inquiry and the independent Sept. 11 commission to interview an informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who had been the landlord in San Diego of two Sept. 11 hijackers.

  • The chairs of both the 9/11 Commission and the Official Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 said that Soviet-style government “minders” obstructed the investigation into 9/11 by intimidating witnesses
  • The 9/11 Commissioners concluded that officials from the Pentagon lied to the Commission, and considered recommending criminal charges for such false statements
  • As reported by ACLU, FireDogLake, RawStory and many others, declassified documents shows that Senior Bush administration officials sternly cautioned the 9/11 Commission against probing too deeply into the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001
Posted in Politics / World News | 4 Comments

Ukraine’s Two Big Gas Deals Are Now Both Dry

Eric Zuesse

In June, Shell Oil halted its newly dug shale-gas wells at the Yuzivska gas field in southeastern Ukraine, and gave as the reason the civil war there, though only after Ukrainian Government troops had ousted the local residents (who had opposed fracking) was Shell even enabled to dig the wells, so Shell’s departure was puzzling. Then, on 19 June 2014, Igor Alexeev at the oilprce blog presented the reasonable hypothesis of  “The Real Reason Shell Halted Its Ukrainian Shale Operations”: “In reality, the truth may be closer to the fact that company is disappointed with the economic viability of what it once thought was a large shale deposit and is looking for a way out.”

The other big gas deal in Ukraine was with Chevron, and it was in the western part of the country, where there was and is no civil war. On Monday night 15 December 2014, Reuters headlined, “Ukraine says Chevron plans to pull out of $10 bln shale gas deal,” and reported that, “Chevron had told the government it was pulling out of the deal,” and that Chevron “declined to give further details.”

All of a sudden, the idea that Obama had taken over Ukraine in a bloody February coup in order to win Ukraine’s gas potential are beginning to sound a bit overblown, or else the White House, where Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and John Kerry’s friend and family-wealth-fund advisor Devon Archer were hired by a multibillionaire Ukrainian thug and gas-speculator Ihor Kolomoysky for the board of his Ukrainian gas-exploration company, must be very disappointed to have slaughtered so many people who live on the Yuzivska field, all for nothing.

Such are the risks of ‘entrepreneurship.’

Perhaps Obama and Kerry and other promoters of the coup and ethnic cleansing such as John McCain will now send a few flowers to funerals of at least a token number of the soldiers who are dying there so needlessly, and maybe even of some of the thousands of civilians in Ukraine’s southeast who have been killed by them — just to pay their respects, of course, not as any sort of commentary upon those U.S. officials’ sponsorship of the slaughters there. After all, Obama and Kerry and McCain aren’t Ukrainian officials. They’re just observers, and concerned American citizens regarding the misfortunes of America’s newest colony.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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PIGMEN WIN AGAIN

“The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they’re an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They’ve got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They’ve got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying ­ lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else.” - George Carlin

After the disgusting example of politicians of both spineless parties bowing down before Wall Street, the military industrial complex and corporate interests this weekend with the passage of a bloated pig of a spending bill totaling $1.1 trillion, how can anyone not on the payroll of the vested interests not admit there is only one party – and it serves only the interests of the wealthy business interests. Obama, champion of the common folk, signed this putrid example of political corruption and corporate capture of the American political system. For all the believers who voted for the red team in the November mid-terms, this is what you got – a bipartisanship screwing of the American people.

The entire episode has been nothing but Kabuki Theater. Both parties have proven to be nothing but puppets marching to the tune of Wall Street moneyed interests, while further entrenching the status quo by voting to allow more corporate influence over the election process. Each side of the aisle allowed just enough dissent to make it appear they might not reach an agreement. But at the end of the day Pelosi, Boehner, Reid and McConnell joined hands and gave it to the American public good and hard. And of course we had the candidates for president in 2016 Warren and Cruz playing to their constituents with speeches and maneuvers designed to make them look like fighters for the common man. It was nothing but a show, as they did nothing substantive to stop the bill from passing.

What this entire debacle has proven is that voting doesn’t matter. Your vote is meaningless. Political parties are nothing more than a front for the vested interests. The corrupt politicians are bought and sold by Wall Street and corporate interests. The bills are written by lobbyists for the vested interests. When a spending bill is over 1,700 pages, the purpose is to obscure, hide and insert provisions that will benefit those with money to influence the process at the expense of average Americans. None of the perpetrators in Congress actually read this bill. The public had no say regarding this bill. If this is what bipartisan cooperation looks like, I’ll take gridlock. The system has been so completely captured by those pulling the wires, they no longer even pretend to care what we think. They keep winning and care not about the consequences of their ruthless despicable pillaging.

Politicians decry money in politics when they are paraded onto the mainstream media talk shows. They profess to be men and women of the people, fighting for our rights. So how do they go about getting money out of politics? They dramatically expand the amount of money wealthy political donors can inject into the national parties, drastically undercutting the 2002 landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance overhaul. A wealthy donor who could only give a maximum of $32,400 this year to the Democratic National Committee or Republican National Committee can now give ten times as much – a total of $324,000. Do you think these wealthy donors might have ten times more influence over government policies, laws, regulations, and tax codes? Do you think these donors are contributing these funds to fight for the rights of average Americans making $50,000 per year? This change just further entrenches the rich vested interests. Your vote just became even more meaningless.

The most outrageous provision in the spending bill is Wall Street putting the American taxpayer on the hook for when their $250 trillion of derivatives of mass destruction blow up the worldwide financial system again. Elizabeth Warren, playing her part in this farce, feigns outrage, knowing it will pass anyway:

“Mr. President, Democrats don’t like Wall Street bailouts. Republicans don’t like Wall Street bailouts. The American people are disgusted by Wall Street bailouts. And yet here we are five years after Dodd-Frank with Congress on the verge of ramming through a provision that would do nothing for the middle class, do nothing for community banks, do nothing but raise the risk that taxpayers will have to bail out the biggest banks once again. You know, there is a lot of talk lately about how Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. There is a lot of talk coming from CitiGroup about how Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. So let me say this to anyone listening at Citi —I agree with you. Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. It should have broken you into pieces. If this Congress is going to open up Dodd-Frank in the months ahead then let’s open it up to get tougher, not to create more bailout opportunities.”

Senator Warren does hit at the heart of the matter. The Too Big To Fail banks should have been made too small to matter after they created the 2008 worldwide financial collapse. Congress should have reinstated Glass Steagall, the insolvent Wall Street banks should have been liquidated or sold off piece by piece, and the American taxpayer shouldn’t have had to pay one dime. Instead, those banks became bigger, more powerful, more arrogant, and more reckless. And now they are writing the laws supposedly regulating them. Regulatory capture at its finest.

Dodd-Frank was already a behemoth mess of a law, written by bank lobbyists, and so complex it was always destined to fail. The law that set up America’s banking system in 1864 ran to 29 pages; the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 went to 32 pages; the Banking Act that transformed American finance after the Wall Street Crash, commonly known as the Glass-Steagall act, spread out to 37 pages. Dodd-Frank was 848 pages long. One of the few beneficial sections of the law was the provision that required banks to “push out” their derivatives trading into separate entities not backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Essentially, this provision prohibited the Too Big To Trust Wall Street Banks from using the deposits of customers to gamble on derivatives, with no capital behind the gambling. Any Wall Street bank that wanted to trade derivatives had to do it in non-insured subsidiaries, and when these trades blew up in their faces, the banks would be solely on the hook. They prefer the they win you lose method.

This spending bill included language written directly by Citigroup and inserted by the politicians in the back pocket of Jamie Dimon and the rest of the Wall Street cabal. Dimon showed no shame as he personally called lawmakers to insist they pass this bill with the gutting of Dodd Frank. Wall Street bankers can now gamble with the deposits of their clients without impunity generating obscene insider profits, and when they inevitably blow up the financial system again the American taxpayer will be on the hook for the losses. In a shocking development, the members who voted for the spending bill had received vastly more political contributions (bribes) than those who voted no. Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund and a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, concisely sums up the goal of this provision:

“It is because there is a lot of money at stake. They want to be able to take big risks where they get the upside and the taxpayer gets the potential downside.”

And there will be downside. Like Captain Renault in Casablanca, Jamie Dimon and the rest of the Wall Street CEOs will be shocked to find there has been gambling going on in their upstanding institutions of finance, as they cash their $10 million bonus checks. The markets are already overvalued, built on a foundation of debt, and rigged by the Wall Street scumbags. They make Bernie Madoff look like an upstanding citizen. It seems awfully coincidental this provision was inserted into the 1,700 page bill just as the markets have begun to tremor. Wall Street wouldn’t be preparing for another earthquake, would they? The fact that Obama signed this bill is a reflection of him being a spineless toady figurehead, doing the bidding of the ruling class.

The Republicans have run against Obamacare since the day it was passed in 2009. They have threatened to overturn it, de-fund it, and scale it back. This spending bill fully funds Obamacare just as it was passed. Dozens of Republicans voted for a spending bill that fully funds the program they despise. Obama recently subverted the U.S. Constitution once again with his latest executive order allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. and enjoy our wonderful welfare system. The Republicans were morally outraged and their response was to fund Obama’s executive order to the tune of $2.5 billion. There’s $948 million for the Department of Health and Human Service’s unaccompanied children program — an $80 million increase. The department also gets $14 million to help school districts absorbing new immigrant students. And the State Department gets $260 million to assist Central American countries from where of the immigrant children are coming.

So much for principles, ethics, and courage. You see bipartisanship in Congress means that one side will agree to fully fund the welfare state as long as the other side will fully fund the warfare state, while both sides do whatever Wall Street instructs them to do. Neither side cares that the National Debt increases by $2.5 billion per day. That’s what the Fed is for. The neo-cons in the Republican party were happy, as their dreams of World War III come closer to fruition. There’s $1.3 billion for a new Counterterrorism Partnership Fund; $5 billion for military operations to combat the Islamic State, including $1.6 billion to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces (I thought we already trained them once before); $500 million for a Pentagon-led program to train and equip vetted Syrian opposition fighters; $810 million for ongoing military operations in Europe, including requirements that at least $175 million is spent in support of Ukraine and Baltic nations. And you were worried about Defense cuts. The military industrial complex will never allow their profits to decline. If we run out of real enemies, we just make them up out of thin air – ISIS, or go back to the Cold War playbook and declare Russia to be an imminent threat to our safety and security.

Despite running $800 billion actual (not the BS reported deficits) annual deficits, the political hacks of the ruling party still funnel $3.1 billion per year to Israel, $1.3 billion to the dictator in Egypt, and $1 billion to our puppets in Jordan. This hyper-interventionism in the affairs of countries around the globe, either through military intervention, supplying arms, overthrowing elected leaders, or funding dictators has destabilized the entire world. Russia is not the aggressor on the world stage, as portrayed by the mouthpieces for the state in the mainstream corporate media. The American empire has created the conditions for havoc, disarray and war to flourish. Someone will ultimately do something stupid and the fury of hell will be unleashed across the globe. And it is our fault.

You’ll be happy to know the trucking industry still has some pull in Congress. Their drivers will be allowed to work 82 hours per week, versus the far too restrictive 70 hours per week. When you are driving your economy car on the interstate and that 18 wheeler is barreling down on you from behind, thank Congress when the drowsy dude behind the wheel is working his 81st hour of the week. And if you were a hard working middle income blue collar worker in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets and were promised a pension, tough luck. Hidden inside the bill was a haircut for pensions. This provision allows the promised pension benefits of up to 1.5 million workers and retirees to be cut. It affects the pooled pension plans — called multi-employer plans — of mostly union workers across a bunch of companies, where it looks like the plans won’t be able to cover full benefits in coming decades.

Could it be any clearer that we are nothing but lowly peasants and the aristocracy inhabiting the protected luxury skyscrapers suites in New York City and the government buildings in Washington D.C. have nothing but contempt and scorn for our plight, as they gorge themselves like pigs at the trough of working people’s wealth? They use taxes and inflation to siphon your savings and earnings, rig the markets so they always win, write the laws to favor themselves, and use the mass media and the police surveillance state to crush dissent, control the message and intimidate the masses. The ruling class fears the masses and continues to prepare for a coming conflict. Within the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2015, passed this week, was written a new section that grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American.

Sec. 309 authorizes “the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of nonpublic communications, including those to and from U.S. persons. The section contemplates that those private communications of Americans, obtained without a court order, may be transferred to domestic law enforcement for criminal investigations. Sec. 309 provides the first statutory authority for the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of U.S. persons’ private communications obtained without legal process such as a court order or a subpoena. The administration currently may conduct such surveillance under a claim of executive authority, such as E.O. 12333. However, Congress never has approved of using executive authority in that way to capture and use Americans’ private telephone records, electronic communications, or cloud data.

The majority of American people still believe they live in a democracy where their vote matters. Sadly, they are living in a delusional fantasy world, as they actually live in a corporate fascist welfare/warfare surveillance state run by one party of vested corporate interests. Until consent is withdrawn and the pigmen are violently confronted, nothing will change. The existing social order will be swept away within the next fifteen years as this Fourth Turning reaches its bloody conclusion. You may think we are all equal under the law, but Orwell knew that some are more equal than others. Can you distinguish the pigs from the men?

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”George Orwell, Animal Farm

“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”H.L. Mencken

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US Government Officials Admit: We’ll Torture Again, Unless You Prosecute Us

Prosecute … Or They Will Do It Again

CIA chief John Brennan told Congress the CIA will torture again … the White House need only ask:

We are not contemplating at all getting back into the interrogation program,” Brennan said.

As for the future, he said, “I defer to future policymakers.”

Cheney say he’d “do it again in a minute”  (Cheney’s out of office, but there are many hardliners with similar mindsets.  Indeed, the mainstream media still treats Cheney like royalty … and he’s left many followers in place … and still controls policy up to a point).

And Bush-era legal memos “authorizing” torture are apparently still in effect.   As Gregg Levine notes this week:

The post-9/11 torture program is dated to a September 17, 2001, Memorandum of Notification (MON, aka the “Gloves Come Off” finding) — notably a day after Vice President Dick Cheney’s TV appearance with Tim Russert, where Cheney and Russert blithely concurred it was time for the US to embrace the “dark side” — which was used as cover and as the foundation for subsequent findings by the Bush Administration’s legal team.

But that 2001 finding doesn’t have an expiration date, and there is no evidence of an Obama-era finding that directly controverts the Gloves Come Off memorandum. In fact, there is evidence that the Obama administration continues to operate under that finding (or did until at least 2012).

The finding that authorized the torture program also authorized drone strikes without notable process or oversight. Just three days into office, Obama OK’d a strike inside Pakistan that reportedly killed 11 civilians, and over the course of 2009, the CIA — Obama’s CIA — conducted 52 drone strikes, killing hundreds.

The drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, in 2011, was launched without due process and again, under the legal cover of the 2001 MON. And, as has been noted by Marcy Wheeler, when the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2012 that Obama could withhold the language in legal findings that authorized the torture programs, it did so under the authority of that seminal memorandum.

In fact, in that 2nd Circuit ruling, the court made specific reference to an ongoing program: “We give substantial weight to the Government’s declarations, which establish that disclosing the redacted portions of the OLC memoranda would reveal the existence and scope of a highly classified, ACTIVE intelligence activity.”

***

By not releasing the full language of the torture memoranda, by not publicly issuing a new memorandum that finds the Bush-era rulings to be invalid and, indeed, to keep operating some programs under the authority granted by the people who are now publicly deemed responsible for authorizing torture, there is no assurance that another leader wouldn’t pick up where the Bush administration left off. Indeed, there is no assurance that, given some new terrorist attack or heinous provocation, the current president’s CIA wouldn’t return to the methods they practiced from at least 2002 to 2007 ….

Indeed, some types of torture are apparently continuing under the Obama administration. See this and this.

And the fact that the only CIA employee the Obama administration has prosecuted for torture is the whistleblower who revealed the torture program implies that torture will happen again.  Vox notes:

Attorney General Eric Holder … decided not to prosecute anyone for the CIA’s torture.

***

But the Obama administration has had a different attitude when it comes to those who revealed the existence of the CIA torture program. In 2012, the Obama administration charged former CIA official John Kiriakou for leaking classified information related to the torture program to reporters. Threatened with decades in prison, Kiriakou was forced to plead guilty and accepted a 30-month prison sentence. He’s in prison right now.

Prosecuting people who revealed the program, instead of the people responsible, makes it more likely that abuses like this will happen again.

Unless those who created, authorized and tried to justify torture are prosecuted, America will torture again:

[A leading American constitutional law expert, Erwin Chemerinsky, said] Perhaps most of all, criminal prosecutions are needed to make sure that this does not happen again. That would send a message to all government officials: Those who plan, authorize and engage in torture will be criminally punished.

***

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said …. “Unless this important truth-telling process leads to prosecution of the officials responsible, torture will remain a ‘policy option’ for future presidents.”

And see this and this.

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U.S. Taxpayers Now Alone in Financing Ukraine’s Ethnic Cleansing Campaign

IMF Says Ukraine Fails to Meet Conditions of the April 30th 2014 $17 Billion Loan

Eric Zuesse

The IMF has concluded that it was too optimistic when loaning Ukraine $17 billion at the end of April, and that the Ukrainian Government’s economic condition is far worse than the IMF expected, and also that the Government’s anti-corruption program is too weak to justify the planned loan-installments or “tranches” going to Ukraine. Therefore, “even providing the program of the next two tranches is open to question.”

However, this only confirms an earlier assessment, made public on October 28, about which Reuters headlined at the time, “Ukraine unlikely to receive IMF loan tranche this year: finance minister.” And this was already “after warning in September that if Ukraine’s conflict with the separatists runs into next year, the country may need as much as $19 billion in extra aid.” Ukraine has made clear that it will continue the war, and so the additional $19 billion will also need to be paid to Ukraine in order for its war against the “separatists” to continue.

This rejection comes as a severe disappointment to the Ukrainian Government, whose central bank chief said on November 16th, “I am still optimistic about us being able to do it [to receive the third tranche] this year.” Clearly, that expectation won’t be able to be met.

So, since Ukraine is nonetheless now gearing up, with American taxpayers’ money, to replace its weapons-supply that was used-up or destroyed in the war to-date, and also to build an immense new military graveyard for a planned 250,000 corpses of Ukrainian soldiers in the next and future rounds of invasions against the rebelling region in Ukraine’s (former) southeast, the IMF is basically quitting continued financing of that ethnic-cleansing campaign against the residents in that region. The EU has already quit funding it, other than a token half-billion-euro donation delivered on December 10th. Only the U.S. remains committed to funding it, by donating whatever weapons and military guidance are deemed necessary in order to conquer, and/or to expel, the pro-Russian residents in Ukraine’s former southeast. 98% of the U.S. House voted for it, and so did 100% of the U.S. Senate. At least 67% of the U.S. public are against it.

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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New Evidence that US Government Intentionally Lied Us Into Iraq War

Alleged Meeting Between 9/11 Hijacker and Iraqi Official Was Debunked by U.S. Intelligence Agencies Before It Was Trumpeted As War Justification … U.S. Pressured Czech Government to Lie

There is extensive evidence that the U.S. government intentionally lied us into the Iraq war.

Here’s a quick refresher:

  • Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind reported that the White House ordered the CIA to forge and backdate a document falsely linking Iraq with Muslim terrorists and 9/11 … and that the CIA complied with those instructions and in fact created the forgery, which was then used to justify war against Iraq. And see this

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (Carl Levin) provided a new piece of evidence this week:

Bush administration officials misled the nation in advance of the Iraq War ….

Levin will introduce a letter he received from CIA Director John Brennan, declassifying for the first time some details of a March 2003 CIA cable warning the Bush administration against references to the allegation that Mohammad Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, had met before the attacks in Prague, Czech Republic, with an Iraqi intelligence officer. He also introduced a translated excerpt from a book by the former head of Czech counterintelligence, describing U.S. pressure to confirm that the meeting took place. In fact, no such meeting occurred. And he called on Brennan to fully declassify the CIA cable.

***

On March 6, 2003, just two weeks before U.S. troops would cross the Iraqi border, President Bush held a prime-time televised press conference. In that press conference he mentioned the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks eight times, often in the same breath as Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. There was a concerted campaign on the part of the Bush administration to connect Iraq in the public mind with the horror of the Sept. 11 attacks. That campaign succeeded. According to public polls in the week before the Iraq war, half or more of Americans believed Saddam was directly involved in the attacks. One poll taken in September 2003, six months after we invaded Iraq, found that nearly 70 percent of Americans believed it likely that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. Americans who believed in a link between Iraq and 9/11 overwhelmingly supported the idea of invading Iraq. Of course, connections between Saddam and 9/11 or al Qaeda were fiction.

America’s intelligence community was pressed to participate in the administration’s media campaign. Just a week after the President’s prime-time press conference, on March 13, 2003, CIA field staff sent a cable to CIA headquarters, responding to a request for information about a report that Mohammad Atta, the leader of the Sept. 11 hijackings, had met in 2001 with an Iraqi intelligence official in the Czech capital of Prague. In stark terms, this CIA cable from the field warned against U.S. government officials citing the report of the alleged Prague meeting.

Yet the notion of such a meeting was a centerpiece of the administration’s campaign to create an impression in the public mind that Saddam was in league with the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. On multiple occasions, including national television appearances, Vice President Dick Cheney cited reports of the meeting, at one point calling it “pretty well confirmed.” Officials from Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, who set up a sort of rogue intelligence analysis operation, briefed senior officials with a presentation citing the Prague meeting as a “known contact” between Iraq and al Qaida.

***

Here is what the Vice President said on December 9, 2001, in an interview on “Meet the Press:” “It’s been pretty well confirmed that he [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack.”

Far from “pretty well confirmed,” there was almost no evidence that such a meeting took place. Just a single unsubstantiated report, from a single source, and a mountain of information indicating there was no such meeting, including the fact that travel and other records indicated that Atta was almost certainly in the United States at the time of the purported meeting in Prague.

It was highly irresponsible for the Vice President to make that claim. Calling a single, unconfirmed report from a single source “pretty well confirmed,” as he did on Dec. 9, 2001, was a reckless statement to make on such a grave topic as war, in the face of overwhelming doubt that such a meeting occurred.

Yet Vice President Cheney’s reckless statements continued, even as evidence mounted that there was no Prague meeting.

***

The Vice President made those statements in the face of a July 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency analysis, which reported that there was no evidence that Atta was in the Czech Republic at the time. He made those statements despite a Defense Intelligence Agency memorandum in August 2002 rejecting the claims by a rogue intelligence analysis shop at the Pentagon that the meeting was an example of a “known contact” between Iraq and al Qaida.

***

Tenet writes in his memoir that he had to object to the President that the speech went “way beyond what the intelligence shows. We cannot support the speech and it should not be given.”

***

The [recent] letter [from CIA director Brennan] contains no indication that he had asked the Czech government for its view, as he committed to do. But Director Brennan’s letter includes, and therefore finally declassifies, this very clear statement from the cable: “[T]here is not one USG [counterterrorism] or FBI expert that … has said they have evidence or ‘know’ that [Atta] was indeed [in Prague]. In fact, the analysis has been quite the opposite.

Again, that cable was sent to CIA headquarters on March 13, 2003 – a week before our invasion of Iraq. But the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, continued to suggest the meeting may have taken place.

***

There is a second recent revelation about how the “Prague meeting” progressed from unsubstantiated report to justification for war. It comes from Jiri Ruzek, who headed the Czech counterintelligence service on and after 9/11. Mr. Ruzek published a memoir earlier this year, which we have had translated from Czech. It recounts the days after the terror attack, including how his nation’s intelligence services first reported a single-source rumor of a Prague meeting between Atta and al-Ani, how CIA officials under pressure from CIA headquarters in turn pressured him to substantiate the rumor, and how U.S. officials pressured the Czech government when Czech intelligence officials failed to produce the confirmation that the Bush administration sought.

Mr. Ruzek writes, “It was becoming more and more clear that we had not met expectations and did not provide the ‘right’ intelligence output.” Mr. Ruzek goes on: “The Americans showed me that anything can be violated, including the rules that they themselves taught us. Without any regard to us, they used our intelligence information for propaganda press leaks. They wanted to mine certainty from unconfirmed suspicion and use it as an excuse for military action. We were supposed to play the role of useful idiot thanks to whose initiative a war would be started.”

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Open Letter to the World from a Blocked Ukrainian Parliamentarian

Eric Zuesse

The following letter, written months ago but unfortunately unpublishable in the Ukrainian dictatorship that was imposed in February, was finally posted publicly at the Russian fortruss website on Sunday, December 14th, by Elena Bondarenko, a member of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party:

 

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Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 11.02.55 AM

My friends, here is my declaration. I ask that you share it to the extent possible. If you can translate it into other languages, please do!

I, Elena Bondarenko, People’s Deputy from the Party of Regions, finding myself in opposition to the current power in Ukraine, wish to declare that this administration has resorted to direct threats of physical elimination of the opposition in Ukraine; has resorted to suspending the right of freedom of speech, in parliament and out, and is implicated in complicity in crimes not just against politicians, but even against their children. The everyday life of an opposition deputy is this: constant threats, unofficial ban from the airwaves, targeted persecution. Everyone who calls for peace is immediately branded as an enemy of the people, just as in 1930’s Germany, or in McCarthyite US.

A few days ago, Arseniy Avakov, the Minister of the Interior, an ardent adherent of the so-called Party of War of the Ukraine, said the following: “When Elena Bondarenko comes to the podium to speak, my hand automatically reaches for my gun.” This, I emphasize, are the words of a man entrusted with the supreme police power of the country. Further: exactly one week ago, Alexander Turchinov the Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, deprived me of the right to speak from the podium as a member of the opposition Party of Regions, only for this: I declared “Any power that commissions its army to bomb its peaceful cities, is criminal.” After which, he magnanimously gave the radical parliamentarians the option to call for shooting the opposition. Considering that my car was shot at last year, when the extremists were already arming with weapons, [a fact on record with the police, on my complaint] such threats aimed at me must be taken seriously.

Further, I will inform everyone, who does not already know it, that the current leadership is covering up those who dared to raise a hand against the son of another opposition politician, Vladimir Oleinik. Ruslan Oleinik, performing his duties as regional prosecutor, was beaten up at his office, endangering his health, and even his life. Di they investigate the beating of a prosecutor performing his duty? No. Did they investigate the monstrous pressure on the leader of the opposition? No. Instead, this administration fired the prosecutor! Every day, from his colleagues I learn of beatings of their aides, of attacks on their companies, of threats, yes, even attacks, on their lives, their health, their property.

The Ukrainian media is completely sanitized from this information, and the typical Ukrainian has no idea that a criminal struggle is taking place against the opposition, and that the constitutional right of free speech is suppressed in every way. The journalists who overcome their fear and work honestly are subject to attack by nationalist mobs, but the organizers and participants of these pogroms are not punished, even when they are recorded on videos and photographs.

I call upon those international organizations that proclaim their support of democratic principles not just to notice this declaration, but to involved in this struggle for the preservation and respect for the democratic rights and freedoms of the citizens of Ukraine.

The methods of the junta in their struggle for power, or rather, for the establishment of a Ukrainian dictatorship, have nothing to do with any concept of “democracy.” If the international community does nothing in the face of these egregious acts, it will look like complicity and silent approbation of all these crimes which are being committed in Ukraine. The free world will lose an outpost, Ukraine. All who fight for democracy, rule of law, and the rights of man, together, can achieve a lot. But only together can we stop the junta and the fratricidal war in Ukraine.

With my respect,

People’s Deputy of Ukraine, Elena Bondarenko

 

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

 

 

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We’re Not Exceptional, We’re Isolated

This weekend I participated in an interesting exercise. A group of activists staged a debate in which some of us argued that peace and environmental and economic justice are possible, while another group argued against us.

The latter group professed to not believe its own statements, to be dirtying itself with bad arguments for the sake of the exercise — in order to help us refine our arguments. But the case they made for the impossibility of peace or justice was one I hear often from people who at least partially believe it.

A core of the U.S. argument for the inevitability of war and injustice is a mysterious substance called “human nature.” I take belief in this substance to be an example of how thoroughly U.S. exceptionalism pervades the thinking of even those who oppose it. And I take exceptionalism to mean not superiority over but ignorance of everybody else.

Let me explain. In the United States we have 5 percent of humanity living in a society dedicated to war in an unprecedented manner, putting over $1 trillion every year into war and preparations for war. Going to the other extreme you have a country like Costa Rica that abolished its military and thus spends $0 on war. Most nations of the world are much closer to Costa Rica than to the United States. Most nations of the world spend a small fraction of what the United States spends on militarism (in real numbers or per capita). If the United States were to reduce its military spending to the global average or mean of all other countries, suddenly it would become difficult for people in the United States to talk about war as “human nature,” and going that last little bit to complete abolition wouldn’t look so hard.

But isn’t the other 95 percent of humanity human now?

In the United States we live a lifestyle that destroys the environment at a far greater pace than do most human beings. We flinch at the idea of radically reducing our destruction of the earth’s climate — or, in other words, living like Europeans. But we don’t think of it as living like Europeans. We don’t think of it as living like South Americans or Africans. We don’t think about the other 95 percent. We propagandize them through Hollywood and promote our destructive lifestyle through our financial institutions, but we don’t think about people who aren’t imitating us as humans.

In the United States we have a society with greater inequality of wealth and greater poverty than in any other wealthy nation. And activists who oppose this injustice can sit in a room and describe particular aspects of it as part of human nature. I’ve heard many do this who were not faking their beliefs.

But imagine if the people of Iceland or some other corner of the earth got together and discussed the pros and cons of their society as “human nature” while ignoring the rest of the world. We’d laugh at them, of course. We might also envy them if we listened long enough to catch on to what they supposed “human nature” to be.

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