JSoc: Obama’s secret assassins

12 Feb

Naomi Wolf: On making change
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 3 February 2013 14.00 GMT

The president has a clandestine network targeting a ‘kill list’ justified by secret laws. How is that different than a death squad?

The film Dirty Wars, which premiered at Sundance, can be viewed, as Amy Goodman sees it, as an important narrative of excesses in the global “war on terror”. It is also a record of something scary for those of us at home – and uncovers the biggest story, I would say, in our nation’s contemporary history.

Though they wisely refrain from drawing inferences, Scahill and Rowley have uncovered the facts of a new unaccountable power in America and the world that has the potential to shape domestic and international events in an unprecedented way. The film tracks the Joint Special Operations Command (JSoc), a network of highly-trained, completely unaccountable US assassins, armed with ever-expanding “kill lists”. It was JSoc that ran the operation behind the Navy Seal team six that killed bin Laden.

Scahill and Rowley track this new model of US warfare that strikes at civilians and insurgents alike – in 70 countries. They interview former JSoc assassins, who are shell-shocked at how the “kill lists” they are given keep expanding, even as they eliminate more and more people.

Our conventional forces are subject to international laws of war: they are accountable for crimes in courts martial; and they run according to a clear chain of command. As much as the US military may fall short of these standards at times, it is a model of lawfulness compared with JSoc, which has far greater scope to undertake the commission of extra-legal operations – and unimaginable crimes.

JSoc morphs the secretive, unaccountable mercenary model of private military contracting, which Scahill identified in Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, into a hybrid with the firepower and intelligence backup of our full state resources. The Hill reports that JSoc is now seeking more “flexibility” to expand its operations globally.

JSoc operates outside the traditional chain of command; it reports directly to the president of the United States. In the words of Wired magazine:

“JSoc operates with practically no accountability.”

Scahill calls JSoc the president’s “paramilitary”. Its budget, which may be in the billions, is secret.

What does it means for the president to have an unaccountable paramilitary force, which can assassinate anyone anywhere in the world? JSoc has already been sent to kill at least one US citizen – one who had been indicted for no crime, but was condemned for propagandizing for al-Qaida. Anwar al-Awlaki, on JSoc’s “kill list” since 2010, was killed by CIA-controlled drone attack in September 2011; his teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki – also a US citizen – was killed by a US drone two weeks later.

This arrangement – where death squads roam under the sole control of the executive – is one definition of dictatorship. It now has the potential to threaten critics of the US anywhere in the world.

The film reveals some of these dangers: Scahill, writing in the Nation, reported that President Obama called Yemen’s President Saleh in 2011 to express “concern” about jailed reporter Abdulelah Haider Shaye. US spokespeople have confirmed the US interest in keeping him in prison.

Shaye, a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a, had a reputation for independent journalism through his neutral interviewing of al-Qaida operatives, and of critics of US policy such as Anwar al-Awlaki. Journalist colleagues in Yemen dismiss the notion of any terrorist affiliation: Shaye had worked for the Washington Post, ABC news, al-Jazeera, and other major media outlets.

Shaye went to al-Majala in Yemen, where a missile strike had killed a group that the US had called “al-Qaida”. “What he discovered,” reports Scahill, “were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs … some of them bearing the label ‘Made in the USA’, and distributed the photos to international media outlets.”

Fourteen women and 21 children were killed. “Whether anyone actually active in al-Qaida was killed remains hotly contested.” Shortly afterwards, Shaye was kidnapped and beaten by Yemeni security forces. In a trial that was criticized internationally by reporters’ groups and human rights organizations, he was accused of terrorism. Shaye is currently serving a five-year sentence.

Scahill and Rowley got to the bars of Shaye’s cell to interview him, before the camera goes dark (in almost every scene, they put their lives at risk). This might also bring to mind the fates of Sami al-Haj of al-Jazeera, also kidnapped, and sent to Guantánamo, and of Julian Assange, trapped in asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy.

President Obama thus helped put a respected reporter in prison for reporting critically on JSoc’s activities. The most disturbing issue of all, however, is the documentation of the “secret laws” now facilitating these abuses of American power: Scahill succeeds in getting Senator Ron Wyden, who sits on the Senate intelligence committee, to confirm the fact that there are secret legal opinions governing the use of drones in targeted assassinations that, he says, Americans would be “very surprised” to know about. This is not the first time Wyden has issued this warning.

In 2011, Wyden sought an amendment to the USA Patriot Act titled requiring the US government “to end practice of secretly interpreting law”. Wyden warns that there is now a system of law beneath or behind the law that we can see and debate:

    “It is impossible for Congress to hold an informed public debate on the Patriot Act when there is a significant gap between what most Americans believe the law says and what the government is using the law to do. In fact, I believe many members of Congress who have voted on this issue would be stunned to know how the Patriot Act is being interpreted and applied.

    “Even secret operations need to be conducted within the bounds of established, publicly understood law. Any time there is a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the government secretly thinks the law says, I believe you have a serious problem.”

I have often wondered, since I first wrote about America’s slide toward fascism, what was driving it. I saw the symptoms but not the cause. Scahill’s and Rowley’s brave, transformational film reveals the prime movers at work. The US executive now has a network of secret laws, secret budgets, secret kill lists, and a well-funded, globally deployed army of secret teams of assassins. That is precisely the driving force working behind what we can see. Is fascism really too strong a word to describe it?

• This article originally referred to Scahill and Rowley’s documentary as Secret Wars; this was amended to Dirty Wars at 5.20pm ET on 3 February. The phrase “US kill list” in the subhead was also amended to “kill list” in order to remove possible ambiguity

Time to Face the Truth about Iran

12 Feb

The Islamic Republic has survived for so long because its basic model is, according to numerous surveys, what a majority of Iranians actually want, write Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett.

Middle East Online

Fifty years ago, during the Cuban missile crisis, the United States faced what is frequently described as the defining challenge of the Cold War. Today, some argue that America is facing a similarly defining challenge from Iran’s nuclear activities. In this context, it is striking to recall President John Kennedy’s warning, proffered just months before the missile crisis, that “the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” Half a century later, Kennedy’s warning applies all too well to America’s discussion — it hardly qualifies as a real debate — about how best to deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

For more than thirty years, American analysts and policy-makers have put forward a series of myths about the Islamic Republic: that it is irrational, illegitimate and vulnerable. In doing so, pundits and politicians have consistently misled the American public and America’s allies about what policies will actually work to advance US interests in the Middle East.

The most persistent — and dangerous — of these myths is that the Islamic Republic is so despised by its own people that it is in imminent danger of overthrow. From the start, Americans treated the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 as a major surprise. But the only reason it was a surprise was that official Washington refused to see the growing demand by the Iranian people for an indigenously generated political order free from US domination. And ever since then, the Islamic Republic has defied endless predictions of its collapse or defeat.

The Islamic Republic has survived because its basic model — the integration of participatory politics and elections with the principles and institutions of Islamic governance and a commitment to foreign policy independence — is, according to polls, electoral participation rates and a range of other indicators, what a majority of Iranians living inside the country want. They don’t want a political order grounded in Western-style secular liberalism. They want one reflecting their cultural and religious values: as the reformist President Mohammad Khatami put it, “freedom, independence and progress within the context of both religiosity and national identity.”

That’s what the Islamic Republic, with all its flaws, offers Iranians the chance to pursue. Even most Iranians who want the government to evolve significantly — for example, by allowing greater cultural and social pluralism — still want it to be the Islamic Republic. After Iran’s 2009 presidential election, when former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi lost to the incumbent president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Western elites and Iran “experts” portrayed the Green Movement that morphed out of Mousavi’s campaign as a mass popular uprising poised to sweep away the Islamic Republic. But the Greens, even at their height, never represented anything close to a majority of Iranians, and within a week of the election, their social base was already contracting. The fundamental reason was that, after Mousavi failed to substantiate his charge of electoral fraud, the Greens’ continued protests were no longer about a contested election, but a challenge to the Islamic Republic itself — for which there was only a negligible constituency.

While many Westerners prefer to believe that the Greens did not fade because of their own weaknesses, but because of cruel suppression by an illegitimate regime, this does not hold up to scrutiny. In the fifteen months preceding the shah’s 1979 departure, his troops gunned down thousands of protesters — and the crowds demanding his removal kept growing. In 2009, police brutality unquestionably occurred in the course of the government’s response to post-election disturbances. The government itself acknowledged this — for example, by closing a prison where some detainees were physically abused and murdered, and by indicting twelve of that prison’s personnel (two were later sentenced to death). But fewer than 100 people died in the clashes between demonstrators and security forces after the 2009 election, and still the Greens retreated and their base shrank.

Western human rights groups estimate that 4,000 to 6,000 Iranians were arrested in connection with protests following the 2009 election. More than 90 percent were released without charge. As of 2010, Western human rights organizations did not dispute official Iranian figures that about 250 were convicted of crimes stemming from the unrest, with perhaps 200 other cases still pending. Most were pardoned by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; most who were not are free on bail pending appeals. According to a survey by Craig Charney, a former pollster for Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela, most Iranians saw their government’s response to the unrest as legitimate.

Notwithstanding the Islamic Republic’s staying power, American policy elites and Iran “experts” with no direct connection to the on-the-ground reality inside the country continue to advance the myth of the Islamic Republic’s illegitimacy and fragility, with the idea that if we just believe in it enough, we will somehow sweep away the challenge Iran poses. Today, this myth comes in two interlocking versions: that sanctions are “working” to promote US objectives vis-à-vis Iran, and that the Arab Awakening has left it isolated in its own neighborhood.

* * *

Many commentators now posit that the economic hardships caused by the sanctions will soon prompt Iranians to rise up and force fundamental change in their country — or at least compel their government to make the concessions demanded by Washington. But those making this argument have never explained why the economy is so much worse today than it was in the 1980s, when Iran lost half its GDP during the war with Iraq — and yet even then, its population did not rise up to force fundamental change or concessions to hostile powers.

Indeed, there is no precedent anywhere for a sanctioned population mobilizing to overthrow the government and replace it with one that would adopt the policies preferred by the sanctioning foreign power. Even in Iraq, where crippling sanctions were imposed for more than a decade, killing more than 1 million Iraqis (half of them children), the population did not rise up to overthrow Saddam Hussein. In the end, Saddam was displaced only by a US invasion — and even after that, Iraqis did not set up a pro-American, secular, liberal government ready to subordinate Iraq’s sovereignty and national rights to Washington’s preferences.

Last year, Western pundits hyperventilated about “hyperinflation” in Iran, arguing that a sharp devaluation in the country’s currency would turn the people against the government. This assessment, like so many similar projections before it, proved fanciful. The Iranian rial has been overvalued for more than a decade, underwriting the rising consumption of imported goods by upper-class Iranians that has cost the economy billions of dollars, hurt prospects for farmers and domestic manufacturers, and constrained Iran’s non-oil exports. The recent devaluation of the rial has aligned its nominal value with its real value; as the rial has dropped, Iran’s non-oil exports have expanded significantly. At the same time, the government is disbursing its foreign exchange holdings to defend a lower exchange rate for essential imports like food and medicine.

While no one in Iran is immune from the impact of currency devaluation, the rural poor and those involved in export-oriented sectors are in a relatively advantageous position. There are no discernible food shortages; stores of all sorts are fully stocked, with significant customer traffic. Shortfalls are emerging in some imported medicines. This, however, is not because of currency devaluation. Rather, it is a function of the US-instigated banking sanctions that, contrary to official US rhetoric about their “targeted” nature, make it difficult for Iranians to pay for Western medical and pharmaceutical imports, even though selling such items to Iran is technically allowed under US sanctions regulations. Certainly, anyone who has walked the streets of Tehran recently (as we did in December) can see that Iran’s economy is not collapsing, and anyone who has talked with a range of Iranians inside the country knows that the sanctions will not compel either the Islamic Republic’s implosion or its surrender to US demands on the nuclear issue. There is no constituency — among conservatives, reformists or even what’s left of the Green Movement — prepared to accept such an outcome.

Sanctions advocates continue to claim that it’s different this time, partly because a “demonstration effect” from the Arab Awakening will reinforce the impact of sanctions to break the Islamic Republic’s back. In Tehran, however, policy-makers and analysts see the Arab Awakening as hugely positive for the Islamic Republic’s regional position. They judge – correctly — that any Arab government that becomes more representative of its people’s beliefs, concerns and preferences will be less enthusiastic about strategic cooperation with the United States, let alone Israel, and more open to the Islamic Republic’s message of foreign policy independence.

More particularly, one hears in Washington that, because of the Arab Awakening, Tehran is going to “lose Syria,” its “only Arab ally,” with dire consequences for Iran’s regional position and internal stability. This observation underscores just how deeply US elites are in denial about basic political and strategic trends in the Middle East. Iranian policy-makers do not believe that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be overthrown (at least not by Syrians). But even if Assad felt compelled at some point to cede Damascus, he and his forces would almost certainly still control a significant portion of Syria. Under these circumstances, Syria is hardly likely to become an ally of the West. Indeed, any plausibly representative post-Assad government would not be more pro-American or pro-Israel than the Assads have been, and it might even be less keen about keeping Syria’s border with Israel quiet. Unless Assad were replaced by a Taliban-like political structure — which would be at least as anti-American as it was anti-Shiite and anti-Iranian — the foreign policy of post-Assad Syria would be, on most major issues, just fine for Iran. But the US fixation on undermining the Islamic Republic by encouraging Saudi-backed jihadis to fight Assad will ultimately damage US security, just as US support for Saudi-backed jihadis did in Afghanistan and Libya.

More significant, American elites have been slow to grasp that, today, the Islamic Republic’s most important Arab ally isn’t Syria; it’s Iraq — the first Arab-led Shiite state in history, an outcome made possible by the US invasion and occupation. Likewise, America’s political class has been reluctant to acknowledge that the strategic orientation of Egypt — a pillar of US Middle East policy for more than thirty years — is now in play. While certainly not uniformly pro-Iranian, post-Mubarak Egypt is clearly less reflexively pro-American. Before meeting with President Obama, the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, traveled last year to Beijing, where he met with both outgoing President Hu Jintao and incoming President Xi Jinping, and to Tehran, where he met with President Ahmadinejad. Iranian military ships now go through the Suez Canal — something that Washington could have vetoed just two years ago. Because of these developments, Iran doesn’t “need” Syria today in the same way it once did.

American elites have a hard time facing these facts. What Washington misses above all is that Tehran does not need Arab governments to be more pro-Iranian; it just needs them to be less pro-America, less pro-Israel and more independent. Because US elites miss this critical point, they miss a broader reality as well: that the Arab Awakening is accelerating the erosion of Washington’s strategic position in the Middle East, not Tehran’s. Rather than deal with this, Americans continue to embrace the logic-defying proposition that the same drivers that are empowering Islamists in Arab countries will somehow transform the Islamic Republic into a secular liberal state.

But reality is what it is. Consider the strategic balance sheet: on the eve of 9/11, just over a decade ago, every Middle Eastern government — every single one — was either pro-American (e.g., Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf Arab monarchies, and Tunisia), in negotiations to realign toward the United States (Qaddafi’s Libya) and/or anti-Iranian (Saddam’s Iraq and the Taliban’s Afghanistan). Today, the regional balance has turned decisively against Washington and in favor of Tehran.

This has occurred not because Iran fired a single shot, but because of elections that empowered previously marginalized populations in Afghanistan, Egypt, Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey. In all of these places, governments have emerged that are no longer reflexively pro-American and anti-Iranian. This is a huge boost to the Islamic Republic’s strategic position.

Some commentators claim to see signals from Iran that suggest it will finally be forced by sanctions and the Arab Awakening to make those concessions on the nuclear issue that the United States and Israel have long demanded. But what these commentators put forward as evidence of imminent Iranian concessions is nothing new. Unlike others in the Middle East, Iran was an early signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And the Islamic Republic has for years been willing to negotiate with America and others about their concerns over its nuclear activities — so long as it would not have to concede internationally recognized sovereign and treaty rights.

In the early 2000s, the Islamic Republic negotiated with the “EU-3” (Britain, France and Germany), suspending uranium enrichment for nearly two years to encourage progress in the talks, at a time when it had installed far fewer centrifuges and was enriching only at the 3 to 4 percent level required to fuel power reactors. The United States refused to join those talks until Tehran agreed to forsake its right to internationally safeguarded enrichment and to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure.

In 2010, Iran made commitments to Brazil and Turkey that it would give up most of its then-current stockpile of 3 to 4 percent enriched uranium and, in effect, forgo enrichment at the near 20 percent level needed to fuel a research reactor making medical isotopes for cancer patients. In return, Tehran asked for an internationally guaranteed fuel supply for the reactor and recognition of its right to enrich. Once again, Washington rejected this public opening to negotiate a meaningful nuclear deal.

Still, Iran continues to be interested in an agreement — perhaps one restricting its near 20 percent enrichment in return for new fuel for its research reactor and substantial sanctions relief or, preferably, a more comprehensive accord. In this regard, the nuclear issue is quite simple: if the United States accepts Iran’s right to enrich on its own territory under international safeguards, there could be a deal — including Tehran’s acceptance of more intrusive verification and monitoring of its nuclear activities and limits on enrichment at the near 20 percent level.

But the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, refuses to acknowledge Iran’s nuclear rights. In the wake of Obama’s re-election, there is no evidence his administration is rethinking that approach; senior US officials say their goal remains a suspension of Iran’s enrichment-related activities. The administration may offer Tehran bigger material incentives for substantial nuclear concessions (as if the Iranians were donkeys to be manipulated with economic carrots and sticks). But Washington remains unwilling to address the Islamic Republic’s sovereign rights and core security concerns, for that would mean acknowledging it as a legitimate political entity representing legitimate national interests. As long as this is the case, there won’t be a deal.

* * *

Even if Tehran won’t surrender to American diktats and the Islamic Republic doesn’t collapse, a critical mass of US policy elites argue that continuing the current mix of sanctions and faux diplomacy is worthwhile, because this will persuade Iranians, other Middle Easterners and Americans that the failure to reach a deal is the Iranian government’s fault. And that, it is held, will justify the ultimate “necessity” of US military strikes.

Americans should have no illusions about the consequences of an overt, US-initiated war against the Islamic Republic. Using American military power to disarm another Middle Eastern state of weapons of mass destruction it does not have, even as Washington stays quiet about Israel’s arsenal of about 200 nuclear weapons, would elevate already high levels of anti-American sentiment in the region, threatening our remaining allies there and rendering their cooperation with the United States virtually impossible. American military action against the Islamic Republic would have no international legitimacy. The larger part of the international community (120 of the UN’s 193 member states are part of the Non-Aligned Movement, which recently elected the Islamic Republic as its chair) is already on record that it would consider an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities illegal. There will be no UN Security Council authorization for such action; Washington will have no allies save Israel and (perhaps) Britain.

Starting a war with Iran over the nuclear issue would ratify the US image, in the Middle East and globally, as an outlaw superpower. This prospect is even more dangerous to America’s strategic position today than it was after the invasion of Iraq. Just a few years ago, the United States was still an unchallenged superpower. Other countries’ views did not matter much; especially in the Middle East, Washington could usually impose its requirements on compliant governments whose foreign policies were largely unreflective of their own peoples’ opinions.

Today, as more countries with increasingly mobilized publics seek greater independence, their views on regional and international issues — as well as the views of their people — matter much more. Therein lies the real challenge posed by the Islamic Republic, a challenge that Washington has yet to meet squarely: How does the United States work with an Iran — or an Egypt, for that matter — acting to promote its interests as it sees them, rather than as Washington defines them? America needs better relations with Tehran to begin improving ties with the growing number of Islamist political orders across the Middle East, which is essential to saving what’s left of the US position in the region. It also needs Tehran’s help to contain the rising tide of jihadi terrorism in the region — a phenomenon fueled by Saudi Arabia and Washington’s other ostensible Arab allies in the Persian Gulf. Iran is a critical player for shaping the future not only of Iraq and Afghanistan, but Syria as well. More than ever before, American interests require rapprochement with the Islamic Republic. Continued US hostility only courts strategic disaster.

Flynt Leverett is professor of international affairs at Penn State. Hillary Mann Leverett is senior professorial lecturer at American University. Together, they write the Race for Iran blog. Their new book is Going to Tehran: Why the United States Needs to Come to Terms With the Islamic Republic of Iran (Metropolitan Books).

Copyright © 2013 The Nation — distributed by Agence Global
First Published: 2013-02-11

Good riddance, sex abuse victims tell Pope

12 Feb

Written by  Tribune
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 00:00

WASHINGTON — Pope Benedict XVI did nothing to punish pedophile priests or Church seniors who looked the other way, according to US and Irish victims hoping his successor will focus on fighting sex abuse.

Barbara Blaine, founder and president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, called the outgoing Pope’s record “dismal.”

“He has made lofty statements. He has not matched those statements with deed or action. Under his reign, the children remained at risk,” Blaine said.

In recent years, the United States and Ireland have been among several countries rocked by successive sex scandals involving members of the Catholic clergy and Church higher-ups accused of covering up abuses.

This month, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez was forced under court order to release files on presumed cases of pedophilia involving some 100 clergymen.

Last year, Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia was sentenced to three to six years in prison for having hidden cases of sexual abuse and allowing at least two predatory priests to remain in posts in which they had contact with minors.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops says that since 1950, more than 6,100 priests have been accused of pedophilia. Some 16,000 victims have been identified, and $2.5 billion have been spent on damages or rehabilitation therapy.

“This is not a US problem, this is a global problem,” Blaine said, stressing that the solution is “at the footsteps of Pope Benedict.”

“Even now in these next two weeks, he could take simple measures that would have wide-ranging positive impact to protect children and our Church across the globe.”

The Pope, who plans to resign on Feb. 28, could publish the names of predatory priests on the Internet, as 30 American bishops have, or order bishops to report all cases of sexual abuse to the police, Blaine said.

“I’m very happy that the pope is resigning because he really did not do very much about clergy sexual abuse,” said Robert Hoatson, president of victims aid group Road To Recovery.

“The next Pope has to tackle this issue. This is the most important issue because it concerns children, and it is a worldwide problem and the Pope has to commission a group of expert to determine what has to be done to solve this problem.

“And if it means firing all the bishops that have covered up, so be it.”

He worried that the Church will “keep everything covered up” unless it is ordered to reveal information about abuses.

In Ireland, the victims group Survivors of Child Abuse also welcomed word that the pope is stepping down.
“This Pope had a great opportunity to finally address the decades of abuse in the Church but at the end of the day, he did nothing but promise everything and in the end, he ultimately delivered nothing,” said spokesman John Kelly.

“The Church needs to acknowledge that all of this happened. They need to acknowledge that they allowed the devil inside and had him reside there for 50 years.

“The Church cannot move on,” he added. “This Pope’s tenure has been plagued by scandals and that will continue unless the Pope addresses the root causes and that can only start from the top.” AFP

100,000 take part in street protests in Ireland against austerity

12 Feb

100,000 take part in street protests in Ireland against austerity days after government deal;Union leaders claim Irish taxpayers are paying 42 percent of Euro bank debt
By
PATRICK COUNIHAN,
IrishCentral
Published Sunday, February 10, 2013,

Trade union officials have claimed that over a hundred thousand people marched against austerity in Ireland on Sunday.
Image
Public disquiet was evident on streets across the country less than 24 hours after the government formalised a promissory note deal with the European Central Bank.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has claimed the marches were a success despite the Government’s hard-won bank debt deal according to the Irish Times.

The paper reports on the various rallies to protest at spending cuts imposed by the banking crisis.

Trade union marches took place in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Sligo and Waterford.

Officials have claimed that 60,000 attended the Dublin protest although police offer a smaller figure of 25,000.

Congress general secretary David Begg told protestors that the campaign against the debt burden will continue until the European authorities fully honour the agreement reached last July to separate bank debt from sovereign debt.

He said: “There will be no more stoic little pixie heads and no more Mr nice guy.”

Begg added: “Congress will begin campaigning with 60 million trade union members in the European Trade Union Confederation.

“A situation where Irish people are paying 42 per cent of the European bank debt burden is unfair.”

Begg claimed to the Irish Times that around 100,000 people had taken in the series of demonstrations organised around the country today by the Irish trade union movement.

Demonstrators heard some dissenting voices claim the protests were ‘tokenism.’

Others said people need to ‘hear some real leadership from the trade union movement on how it’s going escalate resistance to austerity.’#

Power, Privilege and Climate Change: A Tale of Two Presidents

10 Feb

By Joseph Nevins

February 10, 2013 “Yahoo” — As I watched a video of Barack Obama delivering his second inaugural address last month, and listened to his call to “respond to the threat of climate change” lest we “betray our children and future generations,” I could not help but think of another president.

Indeed, the very holding of the event at which Obama spoke is one indication why it is not to the occupant of the White House that those concerned global warming should look for inspiration, but to someone else. After all, there is something disconcerting about hearing about the need to fight climate change—to reduce the gargantuan greenhouse gas-related footprint of the United States in other words—at a huge event that was both unnecessary and expensive. Obama was already president of the United States, so why another inauguration?

No doubt, the answer illustrates how the nation-state relies to a significant degree on performances to reproduce itself. This is especially the case in countries such as the United States where the benefits that the state actually delivers to its citizenry are increasingly meaningless in terms of everyday wellbeing. In a country in which more than 20 percent of its children live below the official poverty line, for example, approximately half of discretionary U.S. government spending is dedicated to its enormous, global military apparatus and what is called “homeland security.” (Under a Nobel Peace Prize-winning president, U.S. military spending rivals that of all the rest of the world’s countries combined.)

But the event is also a manifestation of U.S. wealth and power. As one historian stated in endorsing Obama’s decision to hold the inauguration, to “let it roll,” a U.S. president “is part of the most elite club in the world,” and a second-term president “the most elite within the most-elite club.”

Such elitism is costly: while the final price tag of the inauguration won’t be known for months, it will certainly be many tens of millions of dollars. According to The Economist, security alone for what it called “the three days of revelry” totaled around $100 million.

It is also ecologically expensive. With an estimated 800,000 people in attendance, for instance, large numbers of the celebrants traveled long distances by ground transport and airplane—adding tens of thousands of tons of greenhouse gases to the Earth’s atmosphere in the process.

Compare such consumption and priorities to another head of state, one profiled late last year in The New York Times: President José Mujica of Uruguay. Mujica, reports the Times,“lives in a run-down house on Montevideo’s outskirts with no servants at all. His security detail: two plainclothes officers parked on a dirt road.” He hangs his laundry on a clothesline outside his home.
Image
As part of Mr. Mujica’s effort, he says, to make his country’s presidency “less venerated,” he sold off a presidential residence in a resort city on Uruguay’s Atlantic coast. He also refuses to live in Uruguay’s presidential mansion, one with a staff of 42. Instead, he has offered the opulent abode as a shelter for homeless families during the coldest months.
Image
The leftist president sees such practices as necessary for the proper functioning of a democracy, a goal which requires, reports the Times in paraphrasing him, that “elected leaders . . . be taken down a notch.” He also explains his austere life style by drawing on the words of Seneca, the Roman court-philosopher Seneca: “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, who is poor.”

José Mujica’s net worth when he took office in 2010 was $1,800. While his official presidential salary is about $108,000 per year, he donates 90 percent of it, mostly to a program for expanding housing for the poor. This leaves him with a monthly income comparable to a typical Uruguayan. As Mujica is quick to say, “I do fine with that amount; I have to do fine because there are many Uruguayans who live with much less.”

Barack Obama, by contrast, lives in luxury—in the White House—and also takes in $400,000 annually as president. That, combined with his royalties from book sales, gave him and his wife an income of $1.7 million in 2010. The Obamas, as they typically do, also donated a portion of their income—about 14 percent—but kept enough to maintain their position among the “one percent” nationally, and by easy extension, globally.

Given these differences, it is hardly surprising that Obama embraces the interlocking interests of U.S. capital, empire, and militarism (how else can one credibly explain, for example, the many hundreds of U.S. military bases that litter the planet?), and the rampant consumption they entail. With less than five percent of the world’s population, the United States consumes about a quarter of the world’s fossil fuels. The Pentagon, which devours more than 300,000 barrels of oil per day, an amount greater than that consumed by any of the the vast majority of the world’s countries, is the planet’s single biggest consumer.

Such factors might explain why Obama’s soaring rhetoric about global warming in his inauguration speech only very indirectly and weakly, at best, indicates, why human-induced climate destabilization might be happening. If one employs a very generous interpretation of his words, his invocation of the need for “sustainable energy sources” would seem to suggest the fossil fuel use is to blame. But he offers nothing beyond this. There is no indication of who is responsible for its use, thus implying, by default, that all the planet’s denizens are equally culpable, not the small slice of the Earth’s population that consumes the lion’s share.

Mujica has much more of substance than his U.S. counterpart to say on this front. Uruguay’s president laments that so many societies consider economic growth a priority, calling it “a problem for our civilization” because of the demands on the planet’s resources. Hyper-consumption, he says, “is harming our planet.” he is also highly doubtful that the world has enough resources to allow all its inhabitants to consume and produce waste at the level of Western societies. Were such levels to be reached, it would probably lead to “the end of the world,” he guesses.

In a speech to UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro last June, the man who many in the media dub “the poorest president in the world,” insisted that “the challenge ahead of us . . . is not an ecological crisis, but rather a political one.” Pointing to a “model of development and consumption, which is shaped after that of affluent societies,” societies ruled by the dictates of the capitalist market, Mujica said it was “time to start fighting for a different culture.” Arguing that the assault on the environment was a symptom of a larger disease, he asserted that “the cause is the model of civilization that we have created. And the thing we have to re-examine is our way of life.”

Given the position he occupies, and the interests he serves, it is almost impossible even to imagine Barack Obama—or any U.S. president of today—uttering these words, advocating living simply, or doing with a lot less in the name of equity. And the interests he serves are a big part of the problem.

In an era of climate change and other ecological crises, it is these interests that humanity must confront. In this regard, José Mujica’s willingness to live by example and, through his words, offer a larger structural critique—while insisting that the everyday and the systemic are inherently linked—is not only inspiring, but instructive.

Joseph Nevins teaches geography at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. His books include Dying to Live: A Story of US Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid (City Lights Books, 2008) and Operation Gatekeeper and Beyond: The War on “Illegals” and the Remaking of the US-Mexico Boundary (Routledge, 2010). ICH

How I Reached my Breaking Point Ten Years Ago Today

7 Feb

By Simon Black

February 07, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – Exactly ten years ago to the day, I was in the Kuwaiti desert waiting for George W. Bush to ‘make his decision’.

You may remember the circumstances. Ever since labeling Iraq, Iran, and North Korea the ‘Axis of Evil’ in January 2002, the President had been gradually advocating war with Iraq based on the threat of nuclear weapons.

We knew it was going to happen. At the time, I was a rising intelligence officer, my head still filled with ideals of national duty from my time at West Point.

One of the generals that I served under gathered together his officers in early 2002 and said, “We’re going to war. It’s not a question of IF, but WHEN.”

By late summer of that year, my unit was ordered to Kuwait to pre-position assets and begin gathering boots on the ground intelligence. So every time Mr. Bush would say “I haven’t made a decision yet,” I winced from the heavy stench of his BS.

But still, I held out hope.

It all came crashing down ten years ago today. On February 5, 2003 Colin Powell, four-star general turned US Secretary of State, made a case to the United Nations that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Now, I won’t bother delving into the inaccuracies of the intelligence he presented. In Powell’s own words, making that presentation to the UN was “the lowest point in [his] life” and a “lasting blot on his record.”

For me, it was pivotal. At that instant, I knew without doubt that my government had reprehensibly lied through its teeth. And if they were lying about this… what else were they lying about?

Everything, it turned out.

The event set me down a path on which I never looked back. The fraud of the Iraq War soon led to the frauds of previous wars, our monetary system, taxes, the global banking system, the national balance sheet, the police state, etc.

It all unraveled so quickly, and I soon realized that I was not living in a free country… that all the loud, bombastic nonsense and pledges of allegiance were illusions masking modern day serfdom.

The subsequent ten years have only reinforced this trend. The political and banking elite have given us more war, inflation, and epic financial crises. They’ve turned Western civilization into a giant police state. And they’ve managed to brainwash the great masses so effectively that the people are crying out for more.

And yet, there are solutions.

After an emotional, gut-wrenching awakening, I traveled to more than 100 countries looking for freedom and opportunity. I learned that awareness, prudent planning, and global thinking can rebuild much of our stolen liberty.

Quite simply, you don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. History shows that when governments enter a period of terminal decline, they try to control EVERYTHING– wages, prices, borders, money supply, foreign exchange, private property, etc.

Of course, these tactics never work and only hasten the decline, as everyone from Emperor Diocletian of ancient Rome to Argentina’s modern day President Cristina Fernandez [will] have learned.

As destructive as these politicians are, though, they’re easy to defeat. Individuals who take action early have plenty of options to buy precious metals, move a portion of their savings abroad to a stable banking jurisdiction, and scout out locations overseas in case they ever need to get out of dodge.

These steps make sense no matter what. It’s hard to imagine that you’ll be worse off for shipping a few physical ounces of gold abroad, having some savings stashed away in a healthy foreign bank, or taking control of your retirement account.

However if it’s a bumpy road ahead– gold criminalization, capital controls, pension fund confiscation, etc.– you’ll be well ahead of the crowd.

I had to reach my breaking point before taking these steps. Fortunately I was early. Most people either ignore the writing on the wall… or they won’t do anything until it’s too late and there are no more options. I’m willing to bet that you’re different.

This article was originally posted at Sovereign Man

© Copyright 2012 Sovereign Man, All rights reserved

Obama Grants Himself License To Kill

7 Feb

This is the power claimed by kings and tyrants

By Andrew P. Napolitano

February 07, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – After stonewalling for more than a year federal judges and ordinary citizens who sought the revelation of its secret legal research justifying the presidential use of drones to kill persons overseas – even Americans – claiming the research was so sensitive and so secret that it could not be revealed without serious consequences, the government sent a summary of its legal memos to an NBC newsroom earlier this week.

This revelation will come as a great surprise, and not a little annoyance, to U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon, who heard many hours of oral argument during which the government predicted gloom and doom if its legal research were subjected to public scrutiny. She very reluctantly agreed with the feds, but told them she felt caught in “a veritable Catch-22,” because the feds have created “a thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”

She was writing about President Obama killing Americans and refusing to divulge the legal basis for claiming the right to do so. Now we know that basis.

The undated and unsigned 16-page document leaked to NBC refers to itself as a Department of Justice white paper. Its logic is flawed, its premises are bereft of any appreciation for the values of the Declaration of Independence and the supremacy of the Constitution, and its rationale could be used to justify any breaking of any law by any “informed, high-level official of the U.S. government.”

The quoted phrase is extracted from the memo, which claims that the law reposes into the hands of any unnamed “high-level official,” not necessarily the president, the lawful power to decide when to suspend constitutional protections guaranteed to all persons and kill them without any due process whatsoever. This is the power claimed by kings and tyrants. It is the power most repugnant to American values. It is the power we have arguably fought countless wars to prevent from arriving here. Now, under Obama, it is here.

This came to a boiling point when Obama dispatched CIA drones to kill New Mexico-born and al-Qaida-affiliated Anwar al-Awlaki while he was riding in a car in a desert in Yemen in September 2011. A follow-up drone, also dispatched by Obama, killed Awlaki’s 16-year-old Colorado-born son and his American friend. Awlaki’s American father sued the president in federal court in Washington, D.C., trying to prevent the killing. Justice Department lawyers persuaded a judge that the president always follows the law, and besides, without any evidence of presidential law breaking, the elder Awlaki had no case against the president. Within three months of that ruling, the president dispatched his drones and the Awlakis were dead. This spawned follow-up lawsuits, in one of which McMahon gave her reluctant ruling.

Then the white paper appeared. It claims that if an American is likely to trigger the use of force 10,000 miles from here, and he can’t easily be arrested, he can be murdered with impunity. This notwithstanding state and federal laws that expressly prohibit non-judicial killing, an executive order signed by every president from Gerald Ford to Obama prohibiting American officials from participating in assassinations, the absence of a declaration of war against Yemen, treaties expressly prohibiting this type of killing, and the language of the Declaration, which guarantees the right to live, and the Constitution, which requires a jury trial before the government can deny that right.

The president cannot lawfully order the killing of anyone, except according to the Constitution and federal law. Under the Constitution, he can only order killing using the military when the U.S. has been attacked or when an attack is so imminent that delay would cost innocent lives. He can also order killing using the military in pursuit of a declaration of war enacted by Congress.

Unless Obama knows that an attack from Yemen on our shores is imminent, he’d be hard-pressed to argue that a guy in a car in the desert 10,000 miles from here – no matter his intentions – poses a threat so imminent to the U.S. that he needs to be killed on the spot in order to save the lives of Americans who would surely die during the time it would take to declare war on the country that harbors him, or during the time it would take to arrest him. Under no lawful circumstances may he use CIA agents for killing. Surely, CIA agents can use deadly force defensively to protect themselves and their assets, but they may not use it offensively. Federal laws against murder apply to the president and to all federal agents and personnel in their official capacities, wherever they go on the planet.

Obama has argued that he can kill Americans whose deaths he believes will keep us all safer, without any due process whatsoever. No law authorizes that. His attorney general has argued that the president’s careful consideration of each target and the narrow use of deadly force are an adequate and constitutional substitute for due process. No court has ever approved that. And his national security adviser has argued that the use of drones is humane since they are “surgical” and only kill their targets. We know that is incorrect, as the folks who monitor all this say that 11 percent to 17 percent of the 2,300 drone-caused deaths have been those of innocent bystanders.

Did you consent to a government that can kill whom it wishes? How about one that plays tricks on federal judges? How long will it be before the presidential killing comes home?

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. Judge Napolitano has written eight books on the U.S. Constitution.

See also –

Obama regime kills 5 people in Pakistan: : At least five persons were killed when a US drone targeted a house located at Spinwam of North Waziristan on Wednesday, Geo News reported.