Friday, May 29, 2009

US: Army base ordered on stand-down after multiple suicides

Army base ordered on stand-down after multiple suicides

By Naomi Spencer

Go To Original

Members of the 101st Airborne Division were ordered to suspend regular operations at the Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Army base Wednesday after the suicide toll rose to 11 for the year.

The stand-down, termed the “Second Suicide Stand-Down Event,” by acting top commander Brig. Gen. Stephen Townsend, was prompted by two suicides on base last week. Fort Campbell, which leads the Army in base suicides, instituted a similar stand-down in March that was effective across the entire Army. The current, base-specific stand-down is in effect until Friday.

Speaking to the 25,000 personnel stationed at the base, Townsend told soldiers not to hide suicidal feelings and to assist others to get help. He ordered soldiers to complete part of a suicide prevention program in the next few days.

The Army’s reported number of active-duty soldier suicides has climbed every year of the Afghanistan and Iraq occupations. In January, the suicide rate surpassed the combat death toll.

So far this year, the Army lists 64 confirmed or suspected cases in which troops have taken their own lives. This comes atop a record 133 confirmed suicides reported by the Army in 2008, an increase over another record-breaking year in 2007, when at least 115 active-duty personnel killed themselves. Suicides in other branches of the military, such as the Marines, are also on the rise.

The 101st Airborne is a heavily deployed division, particularly for operations in Afghanistan. Its three combat brigades have been redeployed to Iraq for at least three tours.

According to a May 28 Associated Press report, Fort Campbell’s 4th Brigade has just returned from a 15-month tour in Afghanistan. Such deployments have inflicted deep psychological trauma on troops and strain on military families. Head chaplain Col. Ken Brown commented to the AP, “We’ve been at war at this installation for seven years.... I think that has a cumulative effect across the force.”

The latest suicides come as the Obama administration escalates US operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. By the end of the year, the number of US personnel in the region will reach some 68,000.

The stand-down order is not likely to prevent suicide, according to mental health experts who were interviewed by the cable news channel CNN. Dr. Mark Kaplan, a military suicide researcher who has worked for the Veterans Administration on prevention programs, said, “It sounds like an order.... I’m not sure that a command like this is going to alter the course of somebody who is on a trajectory of self-harm.” Kaplan noted that far from encouraging treatment for mental or emotional problems, the military fosters a social and professional stigma around psychological disorders.

Individuals are ordered into violent situations, where they witness or participate in horrifying acts. Soldiers charged with imposing an occupation on a hostile population are subject to a culture of brutality, paranoia, suspicion of civilians, and hatred.

Although deeply disturbed by their experiences, soldiers are under pressure to hide their trauma from their peers and families. Soldiers come back from tours to financial and relationship strains at home and are pressured to redeploy, in some cases even after being diagnosed with mental disorders. They suppress trauma with alcohol and pills for stress and insomnia, which frequently compound psychological instability.

“More often than not, these are individuals who’ll get liquored up, so to speak, and have access to a gun and die from a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Kaplan told CNN. The stand-down order was “the equivalent of ‘Just Say No’ to prevent drug abuse,” mental health expert Bill Lichtenstein at Columbia University added.

Mental disorders are extremely common among combat veterans. Currently, about one in five military personnel who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan—300,000 in all—have post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, according to a 2008 Rand Corp. study. The study estimated that only slightly more than half sought any treatment.

At the same time, the military issues blanket prescriptions for active-duty soldiers. A recent Army mental health survey reported that 12 percent of soldiers in Iraq and 17 percent in Afghanistan were taking antidepressants, anxiety medication or sleeping medications.

Torture photos: US soldiers raped, sodomized Iraqi prisoners

Torture photos: US soldiers raped, sodomized Iraqi prisoners

By Tom Eley

Go To Original

In an interview with the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph published Wednesday, former US General Antonio Taguba said that photographs the Obama administration is seeking to suppress show images of US soldiers raping and sodomizing Iraqi prisoners. Taguba, who conducted the military inquiry of prisoner abuse at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 after some photos of US soldiers torturing prisoners became public, said that among the photos are images of soldiers raping a female prisoner, raping a male detainee, and committing “sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and phosphorescent tube,” according to the Telegraph.

Gen. Taguba said even the description of the photos is explosive. “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency,” Taguba said. “The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it.”

Taguba’s revelations expose the deceit of President Barack Obama’s claim, used to justify the photos’ suppression, that they “are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib.” In all, it is believed that there are some 2,000 photographs depicting about 400 cases of US military personnel torturing Iraqis and Afghans at seven military prisons. The Bush administration, and now Obama, have sought to block publication of the images.

Obama also claimed that “the most direct consequence of releasing them...would be to inflame anti-American public opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.” While this may likely be true, the criminal nature of the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is already well known by the nations’ populations, who have died and been made refugees in the hundreds of thousands since being invaded in 2003 and 2001, respectively. Indeed, this claim only exposes the true nature of the US occupations: they have never been about establishing democracy, but aimed at stamping out resistance to US control of the strategically important nations through mass bloodletting and terror, the historical modus operandi of every imperialist occupying power.

However, the central reason Obama has chosen to fight the photos’ release is that top US generals announced their opposition to their publication. The generals’ intervention came in the midst of increasingly open dissension from the ranks of the military-intelligence apparatus over Obama’s handling of “the war on terror.” After Obama released four Bush administration legal memos justifying torture, a campaign, spearheaded by Bush Vice President Dick Cheney, was launched, appealing to the military brass and spies. Obama responded by promising he would block any investigation of the previous administration’s carefully crafted and controlled torture policies. He then reversed an earlier decision to not appeal a judge’s ruling in response to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) freedom of information lawsuit launched in 2004, which demanded the release of dozens of the torture photos.

An Obama Pentagon spokesman denied that the suppressed images depict rape, while a carefully worded statement seemed to indicate other photos depict precisely such actions. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Telegraph “has completely mischaracterized the images.... None of the photos in question depict the images that are described in that article.” Whitman did not specifically deny Taguba’s claims.

Obama claims that the torture depicted in the photographs was committed by “a small number of individuals,” and that those “involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken.” Here we may safely assume Obama is referring to a small handful of rank-and-file soldiers.

But what of the high-ranking officers who oversaw, endorsed and most likely ordered the torture and rape of prisoners? If there are 2,000 photographs of prisoner torture that fell under the control of the Pentagon, how many more cases were not photographed? It is clear that the torture and rape of prisoners went far beyond the actions of “a few bad apples.” This torture and sexual humiliation of prisoners—up to and including rape—can only be described as the systematic policy of the US military and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), sanctioned at the highest levels of government. Indeed, the generals’ opposition to further publication of the photos is likely based in part on their own association with the crimes.

The policy of torture came from higher still, however, as recently released Justice Department legal memos and other evidence show. Various forms of torture, including forced nudity and sexual humiliation were studied, justified, and individually approved by top White House and congressional officials. A US Senate Armed Services Committee report issued in April reveals that Bush Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld personally approved 15 “harsh interrogation” methods. A version of Rumsfeld’s document was used, verbatim, at Abu Ghraib, according to the report. (See “Bush, top cabinet officials monitored torture of detainees”)

In his Telegraph interview, Taguba solidarized himself with Obama’s decision to suppress the photos. Taguba’s own investigation in 2004 was in fact a partial cover-up. He later admitted that he was ordered to confine his investigation to low-ranking military police, although he was aware that high-ranking generals had “extensive knowledge” of the torture. And though he was aware of the photographic evidence of torture and rape at the time, Taguba’s report made no mention of them.

Because his report was not a total whitewash, however, the Bush administration forced the major general into retirement in 2007. He has since described the actions of the Bush administration in Iraq as war crimes. “There is no longer any doubt that the current administration committed war crimes,” Taguba wrote in the forward for a report by Physicians for Human Rights. “The only question is whether those who ordered torture will be held to account.”

The photographic evidence of rape substantiates evidence Taguba gathered in his investigation, which only became public due to another freedom of information lawsuit. For example, in a sworn deposition Kasim Mehaddi Hilas said he witnessed US military personnel raping a boy. “I saw [a US military translator rape] a kid, his age would be about 15 to 18 years. The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets. Then when I heard screaming I climbed the door because on top it wasn’t covered and I saw [the soldier] who was wearing the military uniform, putting his **** in the little kid’s **** and the female soldier was taking pictures.”

The sworn deposition also described the anal rape of prisoners with phosphorescent tubes and police clubs, as well as the use of wire in sexual torture.

The rape of Iraqi boys by US military personnel is corroborated by other evidence. Journalist Seymour Hersh, who played a critical role in breaking the Abu Ghraib story in 2004, has evidently seen all of the photos, and is aware of video footage depicting rape. He has not written publicly on their content, but a 2004 speech he gave to the ACLU indicates the sheer horror of the US military’s methods:

“Some of the worst things that happened you don’t know about, okay?” Hersh said. “The women were passing messages out saying, ‘Please come and kill me, because of what’s happened,’ and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst, above all, of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It’s going to come out.” In another speech, quoted by Rick Pearlstein, Hersh spoke of “horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run.”

The unfathomable crimes depicted in the photos arise inexorably from the project of aggressive wars based on lies. As such, they are the flip side of the conspiracy against the democratic rights of the American people. Both arise from the deepening crisis of US capitalism, which the ruling elite seeks to offset by seizing hold of key resources and strategic advantage over its rivals.

One can only react with horror. Contained in the stories and images of the torture of defenseless prisoners, some of them boys and women, is the true face of US imperialism, which finds no crime beneath its dignity in its effort to subjugate Iraq and Afghanistan. Just as the Vietnam War conjures up images of napalmed children fleeing US soldiers, and Nazi Germany invokes images of emaciated prisoners near death, the images of sexual torture will forever be associated with the American “war on terror.”

In acting to suppress the images and protect the torturers, Obama has made himself an accomplice in these crimes. Moreover, in the absence of criminal investigation, there is every reason to believe that similar crimes continue in Iraq and Afghanistan today.

Indeed, the American ruling class is now engaged in an acrimonious debate over whether or not to openly embrace torture and other illegal aspects of the war on terror—the position advocated by Cheney—or to construct a quasi-legal framework within which similar policies can be carried forward—the position advocated by Obama.

Wall Street throws General Motors into bankruptcy

Wall Street throws General Motors into bankruptcy

Go To Original

The events of the past few days have demonstrated the naked class interests behind the Obama administration’s “restructuring” of the auto industry and its plan to throw General Motors into bankruptcy.

On Thursday a group of major bondholders, including some of the largest financial institutions in America, agreed to a Treasury Department’s offer to accept a stake of up to 25 percent in GM once the automaker emerges from bankruptcy.

The deal with key bondholders—along with drastic wage and benefit concessions being imposed on GM workers—is part of the administration’s plan for the “orderly” bankruptcy of the century-old industrial icon, which includes plans to eliminate a third of its remaining workers and factories, along with hundreds of dealerships.

The bondholders hold about 20 percent of GM’s $27 billion in unsecured debt. Given the near collapse of the company, however, their debt cannot fetch more than a few pennies on the dollar in the open market. Nevertheless, they have demanded concession after concession from the US Treasury Department and a massive, publicly financed payoff. Earlier this week, they rejected the administration’s offer of a 10 percent share, knowing full well their action would drive the company into bankruptcy and possible liquidation.

The bondholders are made up of several hedge funds and large investment firms specializing in the “distressed debt market,” including Fidelity Investments, Research & Management, Loomis, Sayles, the Pacific Investment Management Company and Franklin Resources Inc. According to New York Times business columnist Andrew Sorkin, “G.M. bonds have been changing hands rapidly, suggesting that some hedge funds have been plowing into them, gambling that these investments soon will be worth even more.”

In a statement to investors, the financial institutions said the “revised offer” was the “best alternative for bondholders,” and added that US Treasury plans to give additional funds to GM, “vastly improving the balance sheet of the company and substantially increasing its equity value.”

Several bondholders are holding out for an even better deal from the bankruptcy judge, while still others reportedly stand to make a profit from the collapse of the company because their investments are protected by credit default swaps with Wall Street insurers.

From the beginning, the Obama administration’s intervention in the auto crisis has amounted to another plundering of public assets and assault on the working class. In a watershed event, it is carrying out the quasi-nationalization of the auto industry—taking control of 72.5 percent of GM—in order to protect the interests, not of the workers or society at large, but of the most powerful sections of the financial elite at the expense of the working class.

The achievements won by auto workers over decades of struggle—living wages, medical care, retirement benefits, college education for their children—have long been seen by America’s financial elite as an obstacle to its profits. The Obama administration is seeking to use its assault on auto workers to set the stage for a sweeping attack on the jobs and living standards of every section of the working class and thereby organize a “recovery” of the US economy based on austerity and poverty for working people and vastly increased profits for the wealthy.

The filthy character of this entire process is underscored by the role of Steven Rattner, the head of Obama’s auto task force, who profited from his investments in Chrysler and GMAC, the lending arm of General Motors. Rattner, a private equity manager whose net worth is estimated to be at least $608 million, held a million dollars in shares of Cerberus Capital Management, which bought Chrysler and GMAC, according to a federal financial disclosure. The Treasury Department claims Rattner has sold any investments that represented a “conflict of interest.”

As head of the task force, Rattner—who owns a Fifth Avenue apartment in Manhattan, an airplane and a horse farm—has demanded auto workers accept a massive and permanent reduction in their living standards, including, for example, the immediate elimination of dental and optical care for hundreds of thousands of retired workers and their dependents.

The ruthlessness with which the Wall Street investors defend their interests stands in stark contrast to the manner in which the United Auto Workers has willingly accepted the destruction of GM workers’ jobs, living standards and working conditions.

“Faced with this dire situation and realizing failure to meet the government requirements would surely mean the end of General Motors, your bargainers painstakingly put together modifications to the collective bargaining agreement to satisfy the Treasury Auto Task Force,” the UAW declared in a summary of its concessions contract. It continued, “We realize the proposed viability plan requires painful, unprecedented sacrifices from UAW members.”

The agreement sanctions the destruction of 23,000 of the remaining 62,000 UAW jobs, along with concessions on wages, bonuses, break time, holidays, work rules and retiree medical benefits. These will save the company $1.5 billion and bring labor costs on a par with or below those of nonunion workers at US plants operated by Toyota and other international companies.

While the bondholders fight tooth and nail for their interests, the UAW gives away the achievements won by workers through generations of bitter struggle and sacrifice. To understand why this is the case requires more than pointing to the congenital spinelessness and corruption of the UAW officialdom.

Over the last several decades, the UAW apparatus has developed material interests separate from and directly antithetical to those of the workers it claims to represent. The income and assets of the army of functionaries has increased—now totaling $1.2 billion—even as the membership has fallen by two-thirds. In the restructuring of the auto industry the UAW is functioning as an auxiliary of the Wall Street financial institutions and a labor police force to impose the most ruthless conditions of exploitation on its dues-paying “members.”

In return, the Obama administration has handed the UAW billions in GM shares, giving the organization up to a 20 percent ownership stake in GM, along with a seat on the corporate board of directors. From this position, the UAW will have a direct financial stake in the further slashing of labor costs in order to boost the value of their shareholdings.

As the UAW contract summary stated, “With a greatly improved balance sheet, as well as with the significant restructuring of business operations, there is a realistic prospect that the stock in the new company will represent significant value in the future.”

The starting point of any serious struggle by auto workers is the recognition that the UAW is not a “union” in any meaningful sense of the word, but a corporatist syndicate, which represents social interests that are deeply hostile to those of the workers. The working class not only owes no allegiance to this organization, it has to throw it out of the factories and build new organizations of struggle, based on its own class interests.

The revival of the powerful traditions of class struggle, with which auto workers are historically identified, requires a new political perspective, based on the international unity of the working class, a political break with the Democrats and capitalist politics as a whole and the fight for the socialist reorganization of economic life.

‘Settlement’ exposes politician-financier corruption

‘Settlement’ exposes politician-financier corruption

By Jaimeson Champion

Go To Original

Carlyle Group, the world’s second largest private equity corporation, agreed on May 14 to pay $20 million as part of an out-of-court settlement for its role in the “pay-to-play” corruption scandal involving public pension funds. The out-of-court settlement shields all Carlyle executives from any criminal liability.

Carlyle is a private equity firm that enjoys close connections to the Bush family and a number of other prominent politicians. It is one of a handful of financial firms that have been ensnared by an investigation launched by the New York State attorney general. Begun more than two years ago, the investigation has now spread to a host of other states as it has become apparent that the trail of corruption extends far beyond the Empire State.

The unfolding investigation has exposed the process whereby private equity corporations bribe politicians with campaign contributions and direct kickbacks. Once in office, the politician steers public pension funds toward investing with the private equity corporation that backed his or her campaign.

Hank Morris, a top aide to former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, was recently indicted for an alleged role in the scandal. Morris allegedly received at least $15 million in kickbacks from investment firms like Carlyle Group and Quadrangle Group in return for giving the firms access to the retirement funds of public employees.

Quadrangle Group was co-founded by Steven Rattner, who is currently overseeing the attack on autoworkers as head of President Barack Obama’s auto task force. Rattner was serving as a senior executive at Quadrangle during the years the company was allegedly paying kickbacks to Hank Morris and others.

As part of the settlement, Carlyle Group has agreed to sign on to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Public Pension Code of Conduct. The code will place restrictions on campaign contributions from financial firms to politicians who control public pension funds.

Cuomo said of the code, “This is a revolutionary agreement. It ends pay-to-play. It bans the selling of access. It puts the political power brokers out of business.” (Bloomberg, May 15)

If only it were that easy. While Cuomo claims victory over corporate corruption and audaciously claims to be putting “the political power brokers out of business,” the reality is that his settlement with Carlyle amounts to an ineffectual slap on the wrist. The watered-down code will do little to end the symbiotic relationship between corporations and politicians.

The settlement allows Carlyle to essentially sweep serious allegations of corruption under the rug in return for the $20 million payment. While $20 million is an almost-unimaginable fortune for the hundreds of thousands of city and state employees whose retirement funds Carlyle gained access to, for Carlyle itself, $20 million is a drop in the bucket. Carlyle is a financial behemoth with a war chest of more than $85.5 billion.

Carlyle received more than $878 million in investments from the New York State Common Retirement Fund alone. Carlyle extracted “management and incentive” fees totaling $37.5 million from the retirement fund. (ABC, May 14)

When discussing the investigation at a recent press conference, Cuomo likened some of the political players involved in the scandal to Boss Tweed, the infamously corrupt New York City politician from the mid-nineteenth century. Before proclaiming that his new code of conduct agreement will put an end to pay-to-play scandals, Cuomo should ponder the fact that the same kind of corruption that was taking place more than 150 years ago is still going on today.

Under capitalism, politicians are paid representatives of the banks and corporations. They enable the unceasing assault by the corporations and banks against the workers and oppressed. Politicians served this role in the early stages of capitalism in Boss Tweed’s day, and they serve this role in modern global capitalism.

The results of Cuomo’s investigation are yet another confirmation that a tiny minority of billionaire politicians, bankers and bosses are perpetrating a perpetual rip-off of the workers and oppressed. They are robbing us from the cradle to the grave.

The same politicians who hand out the retirement funds of public employees to private equity corporations are slashing budgets for public education and social services for children and youth. They are the same politicians who are overseeing the trillion-dollar, taxpayer-financed bailouts of the banks and corporations. And they are the same politicians and corporations that are fighting in tandem against pro-worker legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act.

For the workers and oppressed, the pension fund scandal is additional proof that faith in capitalist politicians is misplaced. The power for true and lasting change lies not in the empty rhetoric of capitalist politicians, but rather in the mass worker-led movements that are out in the streets struggling for social and economic justice.

Workers will be gathering for a People’s Summit in Detroit on June 14-17 to strategize and plan ways to strengthen the mass struggle against the corporations and banks and their political enablers. For more information visit www.bailoutpeople.org.

Is Larry Summers Taking Kickbacks From the Banks He's Bailing Out?

Is Larry Summers Taking Kickbacks From the Banks He's Bailing Out?

By Mark Ames

Go To Original

Is Larry Summers taking kickbacks from the banks he’s bailing out?

Last month, a little-known company where Summers served on the board of directors received a $42 million investment from a group of investors, including three banks that Summers, Obama’s effective “economy czar,” has been doling out billions in bailout money to: Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley. The banks invested into the small startup company, Revolution Money, right at the time when Summers was administering the “stress test” to these same banks.

A month after they invested in Summers’ former company, all three banks came out of the stress test much better than anyone expected -- thanks to the fact that the banks themselves were allowed to help decide how bad their problems were (Citigroup “negotiated” down its financial hole from $35 billion to $5.5 billion.)

The fact that the banks invested in the company just a few months after Summers resigned suggests the appearance of corruption, because it suggests to other firms that if you hire Larry Summers onto your board, large banks will want to invest as a favor to a politically-connected director.

Last month, it was revealed that Summers, whom President Obama appointed to essentially run the economy from his perch in the National Economic Council, earned nearly $8 million in 2008 from Wall Street banks, some of which, like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, were now receiving tens of billions of taxpayer funds from the same Larry Summers. It turns out now that those two banks have continued paying into Summers-related businesses.

According to filings obtained for this story, Summers first joined the board of directors of Revolution Money back in 2006 (when it was called “GratisCard”), the same year that Summers was forced to resign as president of Harvard after his disastrous tenure. Revolution Money/GratisCard was a startup headed by former AOL chief Steve Case. Revolution Money billed itself as the Next Big Thing in online payment, “PayPal meets Mastercard,” according to their own pitch.

In September 2007, Revolution Money announced that it had raised $50 million from a group of investors including Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank. Some found the investment strange even then, because normally big banks don’t get involved in seeding small startups -- that’s the domain of venture capitalists, not mega-banks. Especially not in September, 2007, when these same megabanks were Chernobyling their way into full-fledged balance-sheet meltdown.

What seems clear is that at least part of Revolution Money’s success in raising funds is due to their star-studded board of directors -- which included not only Larry Summers, but also the notorious Frank Raines, the former Fannie Mae chief whom Time Magazine named to its “25 People To Blame For The Financial Crisis” list. Raines is still a board member.

Over the next year and a half, Revolution Money didn’t quite live up to its promise of competing with PayPal or Visa/Mastercard. At least some of this could be attributed to the difficulty of starting up an online credit card company in the middle of a triple-cluster credit crunch, banking crisis and recession. But there is also evidence that the company wasn’t run well. Another one of Steve Case’s “Revolution” brand startups, “Revolution Health,” (which also features a star-studded board of directors including Carly Fiorina, Colin Powell, and several future-Obama Administration officials) essentially folded last autumn when it was sold to Everyday Health last September and merged into that company’s operations.

In spite of all of this, on April 6, 2009, Revolution Money announced the happy news: it had just successfully raised $42 million dollars in the most difficult market since the 1930s. The investors? Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley -- bankrupt institutions that Larry Summers was transferring billions in bailout funds to.

At the very same time that these three megabanks were pouring millions into Summers’ former company, Obama’s economic team, starring Larry Summers, was subjecting these same banks to a “stress test” to decide how deep in shit these same banks really were. The banks wanted the government to fudge the results for obvious reasons -- who wants the world to know how deep of a hole you’ve dug for yourself?

When the stress test results were finally released, the banks all came out with glowing reports that beat expectations and caused plenty of skepticism.

In an interview for this article, William Black, a former bank regulator who exposed the $160 billion Savings & Loan scandal and its ties to powerful U.S. Senators, remarked,“Summers wasn’t hired [by Revolution Money] for his expertise because he doesn’t have relevant expertise in this kind of credit card operation.”

“He’s not a techie. He doesn’t have business expertise," Black said. "So this is solely someone hired for the name and contacts because he’s politically active and politically connected. And that’s made all the more clear by the fact that Frank Raines was put on the board at a time when he was pushed out in disgrace from Fannie Mae. Why? Because of his political connections.”

And it worked, as the recent investment shows.

“That’s the pattern of this entity,” said Black, “Which hasn’t been doing well financially and desperately needs to get money from others, and has been able to get money from banks at a time when [these same banks] largely stopped lending to productive enterprises. But with this politically-connected entity [Revolution Money], they’re happy to dump money.”

According to a company spokesperson, Summers resigned from the board of directors at Revolution Money this January, just three months before the banks invested. On one of Revolution Money’s main websites, Revolution Money Exchange, you could still see Summers' name still listed as a director when this story was filed

(Oddly, company filings obtained for this article show that Summers wasn’t even on Revolution Money’s board of directors in 2007-8, even though both he and Revolution Money repeatedly stated that he was on the board, and only served on GratisCard’s board in 2006, “c/o Revolution GC Holdings LLC.”)

Whatever the case, Summers was pushing Revolution Money as recently as last September, in an interview with Portfolio magazine:

“I've enjoyed being involved with a number of smaller companies such as the Revolution Money venture, which has a potentially very exciting credit-card technology, using credit and debit technology, using the internet that, in a sense, brings together bricks and clicks by providing both a capacity for regular retail transactions and also for online.”

Whether or not Summers has a personal interest in the company, it still stinks that a company where the head of the National Economic Council served on the board of until just a few months ago subsequently received millions in investment funds from banks Summers bailed out. Taxpayer dollars went into these banks, and from the banks into the Summers-connected firm, a firm he was hired onto precisely because his connections could bring in this kind of money.

His involvement wasn’t just incidental—if you look at the press releases, Larry Summers’ name is always touted as part of its selling point -- one press release in 2007 refers to Summers as “Legendary.”

Moreover, Summers’ longtime chief of staff, Marne Levine, who also served as Summers’ chief of staff when he was in Treasury under Clinton and again at Harvard, joined Summers at Revolution Money, serving as “Director of Product Management.”

Black pointed out another sleazy aspect of Revolution Money's pitch: it proudly boasted in late 2007 that it would make it easier than ever for people with low credit ratings to find access to lines of credit. In other words, Revolution Money billed itself as the ultimate ghetto loan shark.

According to a 2007 press release, the same one boasting of “Legendary” Larry Summers, “Unlike most bank credit card issuers who are limited to a narrow scope of credit approval guidelines specific to their bank, RevolutionCard seamlessly utilizes multiple partners to achieve unparalleled consumer approval rates.”

Nineteen months later, Larry Summers, now in control of the economy, told Meet The Press, “We need to do things to stop the marketing of credit in ways that addicts people to it and so that our households are again savings, and families are again preparing to send their kids to college, for their retirement and so forth.”

So once again, Larry Summers creates a problem that the rich profit from, then is put in charge of “fixing” it after vulnerable Americans have been picked clean.

Whether or not the three bailed-out banks’ investment in Revolution Money last month represents some kind of bribe or kickback or even the appearance of corruption is almost secondary, because the shameless cronyism is the problem, and this is the reason why America is in the horrible mess today.

“Polite society was supposed to impose social pressures to make sure this wasn’t tolerated,” Black said. “Like the old phrase about hogs being slaughtered. But now the hogs get even wealthier, even fatter.”

Everything about Summers, from his horrible track record in the developing world in the 1990s to the sleaze and plunder he’s overseeing in the White House should make us terrified. Hell, he even looks like some old Batman villain: Summers, whose trademark bullfrog neck was enough of a distraction before Obama brought him into the White House, has seen his gelatinous layers of neck-fat swell up like an amphibian guarding its eggs ever since he took control of the economy.

Get this monster out of the White House now, before he devours us all.

US Army moves to DEFCON 2

US Army moves to DEFCON 2

Go To Original

Sources close to MiNa claim the US Army has moved their alert level to Defcon 2. This was initiated by the alarming situation in North Korea. The US Army has over 35,000 troops stationed in South Korea, well within reach of North Korean convential weapons.

North Korea has the largest artillery force (can be equipped with nuclear warheads) in the world, which adds more to the already tense situation.

Earlier today, N. Korea's leader Kim Jong issued threaths to the South Korean and US Navy ships for coming too close to North Korea's territorial waters. The South Koreans and the Americans, may be positioning themselves for a preemptive strike.

What is DEFCON?

The defense readiness condition (DEFCON) is a measure of the activation and readiness level of the United States Armed Forces. It describes progressive postures for use between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commanders of unified commands. DEFCONs are matched to the situations of military severity.


Standard peacetime protocol is DEFCON 5, descending in increasingly severe situations. DEFCON 1 represents expectation of actual imminent attack, and is not known to have ever been declared. During the Cold War, DEFCON 1 was feared because it would most likely precede an all-out nuclear war.

In a national state of emergency, seven different alert conditions known as LERTCONs can be issued. They consist of five Defense Conditions and two Emergency Conditions (EMERGCONs).

DEFCON 5
This is the condition used to designate normal peacetime military readiness. An upgrade in military preparedness is typically made by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and announced by the United States Secretary of Defense.

DEFCON 4
This refers to normal, increased intelligence and the heightening of national security measures.

DEFCON 3
This refers to an increase to force readiness above normal. Radio call signs used by American forces change to currently classified call signs. This was reached after 9/11.

DEFCON 2
This refers to a further increase in force readiness just below maximum readiness. The most notable time it was declared was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, although the declaration was limited to Strategic Air Command. It is not certain how many times this level of readiness has been reached.

DEFCON 1
This refers to maximum readiness. It is not certain whether this has ever been used, but it is reserved for imminent or ongoing attack on US military forces or US territory by a foreign military power.

Indictment Alleges Trafficking in Foreign Workers

Indictment alleges trafficking in foreign workers

By MARK MORRIS

Go To Original

A huge human trafficking ring based in Kansas City allegedly lured hundreds of foreign workers into low-paying jobs illegally and turned them into “modern-day slaves,” federal officials announced Wednesday.

Three area employment firms controlled by a Mission resident brought the workers into the United States and forced them to live in substandard conditions, an indictment announced Wednesday alleged.

Occasionally cramming eight workers into a small apartment and making some sleep on the floor or on air mattresses, the employment companies provided the workers under contract to construction firms and hotels, resorts and casinos in 14 states.

Those construction businesses and hotels were assured that their contract workers were being paid prevailing wages. But the employment firms allegedly paid the workers only a fraction of what they deserved and heaped on thousands of dollars in fees, making it impossible for them to quit or even afford a plane ticket home.

“The indictment alleges that this criminal enterprise lured victims to the United States under the guise of legitimate jobs and a better life, only to treat them as modern-day slaves under the threat of deportation,” said James Gibbons, acting special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in a written statement.

Wednesday’s federal indictment accused 12 people and the three companies of racketeering, visa fraud, marriage fraud, identity theft and other counts in a scheme that allegedly involved forced labor trafficking and immigration violations. The conspiracy allegedly started in 2001.

One of the charges, fraud in foreign labor contracting, has never been used before in the United States.

The grand jury returned the 90-page, 45-count indictment in secret on May 6. Prosecutors announced it on Wednesday after authorities arrested eight defendants the day before. Don Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said investigators still were serving search warrants Wednesday and had begun interviewing some of the workers.

Workers determined to be victims of human trafficking become eligible for federal medical, counseling, food and housing services, Ledford said. Trafficking victims also may apply to remain in the United States legally.

Most of the workers came from Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines, Ledford said.

The enterprise — based out of companies headquartered in Kansas City, Mission and Overland Park — allegedly employed hundreds of illegal aliens as construction workers and as cleaners and housekeepers at hotels, resorts and casinos in Missouri, Kansas, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, South Carolina and Wyoming.

Those named in the indictment: Abrorkhodja Askarkhodjaev, 30, Nodir Yunusov, 22, Rustamjon Shukurov, 21, citizens of Uzbekistan living in Mission; Ilkham Fazilov, 44, Nodirbek Abdoollayev, 27, citizens of Uzbekistan living in Kansas City; Viorel Simon, 27, Alexandru Frumasache , 23, citizens of Moldova living in Kansas City, Kan.; Kristin Dougherty, 49, of Ellisville, Mo.; Andrew Cole, 53, of St. Charles, Mo.; Abdukakhar Azizkhodjaev, 49, a citizen of Uzbekistan living in Panama City, Fla.; and Sandjar Agzamov, 27, and Jakhongir Kakhkharov, 29, citizens of Uzbekistan who recently left the United States.

Three companies controlled by Askarkhodjaev also were charged: Giant Labor Solutions LLC, headquartered in Kansas City; Crystal Management Inc. in Mission; and Five Star Cleaning LLC in Overland Park.

Here’s how the alleged scheme worked, according to prosecutors and federal court records:

The companies used the Internet to solicit foreign workers with offers of employment in the United States and then charged them up to $5,000 for transportation and to process their visa applications.

Once in the United States, the workers were required to pay exorbitant prices to live in apartments rented by the companies.

“The defendants . . . required them to reside together in crowded, substandard and overpriced apartments,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Whitworth.

Complaints about living conditions often drew a sharp response, the indictment alleged.

“The enterprise often threatened to cancel the immigration status of foreign nationals who requested permission to seek alternative housing,” the indictment alleged.

The employment companies also closely monitored the workers’ incoming mail, having it forwarded to their offices, the indictment alleged.

The workers often served at some of the best-known hotels in the area, including the Westin Crown Center hotel and the Doubletree Hotel, which had been assured that the workers were being paid prevailing hourly wages and were properly documented.

Instead, the indictment alleged that the employment companies paid some workers on an illegal commission basis, giving them about $3.50 for each hotel room they cleaned. The companies then kept the remaining wages, any overtime owed and payroll taxes.

The workers also saw their earnings potential sapped by fees for uniforms, visa extensions and transportation to their job sites.

The conspirators assessed a fee of up to $2,500 if the worker wanted to moonlight at a second job, and threatened to charge the families of the workers a $5,000 fee if they returned to their home country.

“These fees, combined with the lack of payment for hours worked…often resulted in the foreign national workers receiving a paycheck with negative earnings,” the indictment alleged.


The details
Indicted: 12 people, three area businesses

Charges: Racketeering, labor fraud, marriage fraud, visa fraud, mail fraud, identity theft, harboring illegal aliens, money laundering, extortion

Victims: Hundreds

States where they worked: 14

Alleged proceeds: At least $6 million

Unemployment Increase Continues to Propel Foreclosure Crisis

About 12 percent of U.S. homeowners late paying or foreclosed

Go To Original

One of eight U.S. households with a mortgage ended the first quarter late on loan payments or in the foreclosure process in a crisis that will persist for at least another year until unemployment peaks, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Thursday.

U.S. unemployment in April reached its highest rate in more than a quarter century and is still rising, helping propel mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures to record highs.

Such economic weakness drove up foreclosures of prime fixed-rate loans, which are made to the most creditworthy borrowers. The foreclosure rate on those loans doubled in the last year and represented the largest share of new foreclosures in the first three months of this year.

"We clearly haven't hit the top yet in terms of delinquencies or the bottom of the housing market," Jay Brinkmann, the association's chief economist, said in an interview.

The pace of defaulting mortgages jumped despite various moratoriums and government steps to cut home loan rates.

Rates on 30-year mortgages averaged 5.00 percent in March, 5.13 percent in February and 5.05 percent in January, according to home funding company Freddie Mac. A year earlier, the average monthly rates were bumping up closer to 6 percent.

"The housing market depends on the employment situation," Brinkmann said, "and we don't expect unemployment to bottom out until the middle of next year, so then normally housing would not recover until after employment recovers."

A record 12.07 percent of loans on one-to-four unit residences were at least one payment late or in the foreclosure process, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.

Prime fixed-rate loans comprise 65 percent of the $9.9 trillion in outstanding first mortgages, according to the industry group.

Foreclosure actions were started on an all-time high 1.37 percent of first mortgages in the quarter, a record increase from 1.08 percent the prior quarter.

"It's an important reminder that just because the housing market was one of the causes of recession ... it won't be the first sector of the economy to return to normal," said Jed Kolko, associate director of research at the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco.

Federal mortgage modification and refinance programs will keep delinquencies and foreclosures from spiking even more than they would otherwise, housing analysts said.

"Even if the recession officially ended soon, in the sense of GDP turning positive again, the continued rising unemployment rate and the re-set of existing adjustable-rate mortgages would continue to aggravate both foreclosures and delinquencies," Kolko said.

The share of loans in the foreclosure process rose to a record 3.85 percent from 3.30 percent in the fourth quarter and 2.47 percent a year earlier.

California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada accounted for nearly half of the new foreclosure activity in the quarter and half of the increase in prime fixed-rate foreclosure starts.

Those severely hit states, the biggest winners in the five-year housing boom earlier this decade, continue to worsen as recession overtakes problems spawned by lax lending standards.

"Every job loss, every divorce, every incident like that is going to be turning into a foreclosure because they are so far under water with the homes already," Brinkmann said.

When a house is "under water," its price has fallen below the size of the mortgage.

Average U.S. home prices swooned more than 32 percent in March from the 2006 peak, according to Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller indexes.

Foreclosures mounted in the first quarter even though various temporary moratoriums were in place to delay the failure of distressed loans.

The freezes artificially tempered new foreclosures before federal loan modification programs took root.

But loans that had already been modified often re-defaulted in the quarter, Brinkmann said. Foreclosure actions also were taken on vacant homes, which make up as much as 40 percent of the properties with failing mortgages, he added.

Some loan servicers also began the foreclosure process on borrowers who clearly did not qualify under the various mortgage fixes, he said.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the delinquency rate dipped to 8.22 percent from 8.63 percent.

The bankers' group noted that the late payment rate always declines in the first quarter due to seasonal factors and said that after such adjustments, the rate jumped to a record 9.12 percent.

Fear and Looting in America: Are We Really Out of Money?

Fear and Looting in America: Are We Really Out of Money?

Go To Original

"Well, we are out of money now..." President Obama, May 25, 2009

Depends on the definition of "we".

We got into this crisis because Wall Street invented and pedaled fantasy financial instruments that turned out to be junk. While their party lasted, those complex derivatives were a gold mine for the largest financial institutions. According to the New York Times, the profits from the nine largest commercial banks "from early 2004 until the middle of 2007 were a combined $305 billion. But since 2007, those banks have marked down their valuations on loans and other assets by just over that amount." In other words, the profits weren't real.

When the fantasy finance bubble burst and all the fictional profits disappeared, the banks headed straight for mass bankruptcy. Had the government not intervened, many, if not all of them would have gone under, taking the world economy with them. To prevent a total meltdown, we've forked over several trillion dollars in bail outs, loan guarantees and stimulus funds.

But let's back up a bit. What happened to the $305 billion of 2004 through 2007 bank profits that have since vanished from the banks' balance sheets? About half were paid out in compensation to executives, managers and traders. Yes, amazing as it may seem, when you work for a large financial institution you can be paid massive sums even if your work ends up producing nothing -- not even just nothing, but a negative result. All those autoworkers who are being blamed for the miseries of GM and Chrysler? They actually did make cars that are still transporting people. But the Wall Street players, who took home billions for supposedly making valuable financial instruments, were actually making economic weapons of mass destruction. And you can bet that much of their billions are safely parked in off-shore accounts and other low/no tax investments. In a sane and fair world, we would be thinking about how to get it back to help pay for the costs of cleaning up the toxic financial mess.

In a more general way, the bubble boom produced by those fantasy financial instruments helped create a slew of billionaires. As Obama likes to point out, "This is America. We don't disparage wealth. We don't begrudge anyone for achieving success." But is there some limit beyond which success spills into obscene accumulation? At the very least we should be careful not to lose sight of how much money billionaires possess. In researching The Looting of America we tracked the wealth of the super-rich.

In 1982, the top 400 individuals held an average net worth of $604 million each (in 2008 dollars). By 1995, their average wealth jumped to $1.7 billion. And in 2008, the 400 top winners averaged $3.9 billion each.... The total for the 400 high rollers adds up to a cool $1.56 trillion. That's equal to about 10 percent of the entire gross domestic product of the US...

We certainly could have a heated argument about how much of this wealth derived from the derivative-driven boom that just went bust. A case could be made that much of this money is ill-gotten since it came from artificial financial instruments that were rated improperly, or came from artificially leveraged transactions that now have crashed the system as a whole. An even more contentious fight would break out if we discussed whether there is any justification for allowing that such sums to accumulate in the hands of the few, no matter how worthy any of these individuals may be. And we could have us a row asking whether or not a democracy can really survive with so much wealth in the hands of so few people. But surely we can all agree that those top 400 are sitting on a huge pile of money, while our country is going deeply into debt to fix a financial system that has contributed mightily to their enrichment.

Here's a dangerous thought. What if we had a very steeply progressive wealth/income tax that reduced the net worth of the super-rich to "only" about $100 million each? You wouldn't be suffering if you had $100 million kicking around. Now do the math: The 400 richest x $100 million each would equal $40 billion. That would leave about $1.52 trillion to help pay back the country for the Wall Street meltdown that we, our children and their children will be subsidizing.

Maybe we're not so out of money after all.

West Plots To Supplant United Nations With Global NATO

West Plots To Supplant United Nations With Global NATO

by Rick Rozoff

Go To Original

Ten years ago it first became evident to the world that moves were afoot in major Western capitals to circumvent, subvert and ultimately supplant the United Nations, as the UN could not always be counted on to act in strict accordance with the dictates of the United States and its NATO allies.

At that time in 1999 the NATO alliance was waging what would become a 78-day bombing war against Yugoslavia in flagrant contravention of the United Nations and of international law in general.

As two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the five permanent members being the main victorious World War II allies, with the People's Republic of China having replaced the Republic of China (Taiwan) in 1971 and with Russia as the successor state to the Soviet Union - exactly China and Russia, not being NATO members states, opposed that war and in several other instances the use of sanctions and military force against nations targeted for both by the West.

The first indication that the United Nations was marked for marginalization, selective application (and exploitation) or even de facto dissolution, however, occurred three years earlier in 1996 when the United States single-handedly browbeat the other fourteen then members of the Security Council to depose Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and replace him with Kofi Annan, who the preceding year had been appointed UN special envoy to NATO and authorized the NATO bombing in Bosnia behind the back of Boutros-Ghali.

Boutros-Ghali was deprived of the traditional second term for not authorizing NATO's bombing of Bosnian Serb targets in 1995 and for speaking the truth about the deadly Israeli bombing of a refugee camp in Qana, Lebanon in the following year when 106 civilians were killed and 116 injured.

As former Clinton and Bush administrations' National Security Council counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke acknowledged:

"[Madeleine] Albright and I and a handful of others (Michael Sheehan, Jamie Rubin) had entered into a pact together in 1996 to oust Boutros-Ghali as Secretary General of the United Nations, a secret plan we had called Operation Orient Express, reflecting our hope that many nations would join us in doing in the UN head.

"In the end, the US had to do it alone (with its UN veto) and Sheehan and I had to prevent the President from giving in to pressure from world leaders and extending Boutros-Ghali's tenure, often by our racing to the Oval Office when we were alerted that a head of state was telephoning the President. In the end Clinton was impressed that we had managed not only to oust Boutros-Ghali but to have Kofi Annan selected to replace him." [1]

By 1999, however, even having a UN secretary general handpicked and forced upon the world by Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright wasn't sufficient to meet NATO's requirements as it finalized plans for its first war, the Operation Allied Force aerial assault against Yugoslavia.

The US and its Alliance allies could not be assured of gaining a majority of votes in the 15-member Security Council to authorize the war and even if successful in that regard could not be certain that Russia, China or both would not veto the resolution.

So the United Nations, whose procedures and requirements for 54 years had been observed even in the breach, was now disregarded, downgraded and severely if not mortally wounded, not yet having recuperated from the blow of ten years ago.

American and NATO subordinate Annan officiated over the debasement and humiliation of the organization he headed and never once criticized NATO's waging war without a United Nations mandate and in open defiance of the institution.


Guarantor Of Peace Versus World's Only Military Alliance


The Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations identifies the purpose of the UN's founding in 1945 as being "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind" and "to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest." [2]

To accentuate and complete the message that NATO had launched its post-Cold War transformation from Euro-Atlantic military bloc to self-designated and sole international arbiter of conflicts within and between nations and of the authorization of extraterritorial military force, with the concomitant usurpation of the role of the United Nations, on April 23-24 NATO held its 50th anniversary jubilee summit in Washington D.C.

Unveiling what it called its new Strategic Concept, the summit also issued a Washington Declaration which inter alia stated "We are charting NATO's course as we enter the 21st century" and "We pledge to improve our defence capabilities to fulfill the full range of the Alliance's 2lst century missions." [3]

Video clips and photographs of the summit at the time revealed what 21st Century NATO was intended to become: With the US's Bill Clinton and Britain's Tony Blair at the center of other world leaders, the flags of nearly fifty nations - nineteen full NATO member states, 25 Partnership for Peace affiliates and others - decked the auditorium. As did the NATO flag, a facsimile of a compass with its four arms pointed to north, south, east and west.

The message could not have been more clear, more irrefutable: A new world organization, an expanded version of a Western military bloc, was replacing that which had emerged from the smoldering ruins of a war that had cost over fifty million human lives.

NATO lost no time and spared no effort in implementing its plans for the new millennium. In addition to its military deployment in Bosnia the bloc continued its occupation of the Serbian province of Kosovo.

In 2001 it inaugurated a military deployment in Macedonia, Operation Allied Harmony, after armed invasions of the nation by an extremist offshoot of the NATO-allied Kosovo Liberation Army based in Kosovo, and later in the year it participated in the American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan where NATO continues its first ground war almost eight years later.

It insinuated itself into the Darfur region of western Sudan in 2005 and thus was simultaneously engaged in operations in three continents in that year.

Or as then State Department Deputy Assistant for European Affairs and later US ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker said of 2005, NATO was "engaged in eight simultaneous operations on four continents." [4]

In the last five years of the 20th Century and the first five of the 21st NATO had evolved from a regional alliance based in Western Europe to a global force contending with the United Nations for the number and geographical range of the missions it was conducting.

That expansion in both extent and essence was not limited to frequently overshadowing and nullifying the role of the UN, but has also been a component in undoing the entire post-World War II order of which the UN was the cornerstone.

Results Of World War II Undone: Inauguration Of Post-Post-Yalta World

In early May of 2005 US President George W. Bush paid what the State Department must have intended as a "freedom crusade" tour to the capitals of two former Soviet republics, Latvia and Georgia.

The choices were deliberately selected to antagonize Russia, which has borders with both, as Latvia has disenfranchised millions of the minority residents of the country who are 40% of the total, especially ethnic Russians and other Slavs (Europe's only "non-citizens"), and has permitted the rehabilitation of Nazi Waffen SS veterans as "defenders of the nation," and Georgia has been a thorn in Russia's side since its formerly US-based head of state Mikheil Saakashvili came to power on the back of the "rose revolution" of late 2003 with the assistance of US governmental and non-governmental funds and direction. That antagonism reached a breaking point last August with the five-day war between Georgia and Russia.

Bush overtly baited Russia in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi with comments like "Before there was a purple revolution in Iraq or an orange revolution in Ukraine or a cedar revolution in Lebanon, there was a rose revolution," [5] "In recent months, the world has marvelled at the hopeful changes taking place from Baghdad to Beirut to Bishkek [Kyrgyzstan]," [6] and that thanks to Georgia, "freedom is advancing to the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and around the world," [7] as an image of his face was projected onto a giant screen in the background.

Earlier in the Latvian capital of Riga Bush delivered a blunt and unprecedented attack on the Yalta Conference of 1945 and its aftermath. The historical meeting of Britain's Winston Churchill, the US's Franklin Roosevelt and the Soviet Union's Josef Stalin in February of that year was denounced by Bush with such characterizations of the summit as constituting one of "the injustices of our history," which "followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact," and that "the legacy of Yalta was finally buried, once and for all" in 1991. [8]

This animus against the post-World War II system that evolved out of the Yalta and later Potsdam conferences remained a recurring motif for Bush, who in his last appearance as US president at a NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania in 2008 denounced "the bitter legacy of Yalta" and to demonstrate what the post-post-Yalta era was intended to be added, "I spoke those words on the soil of a nation on the Baltic. Today, on the soil of a Black Sea nation, I have come to see those words fulfilled. The NATO alliance that meets here this week now stretches from the shores of Klaipeda [Lithuania] to the beaches of Neptun [Romania].

"[O]ur Alliance must also decide how to respond to requests by Georgia and Ukraine to participate in NATO's Membership Action Plan. These two nations
inspired the world with their Rose and Orange revolutions....

"As NATO allies fight...in Iraq and Afghanistan, our Alliance is taking on other important missions across the world. In the Mediterranean, NATO forces are patrolling the high seas...as part of Operation Active Endeavor. In Kosovo, NATO forces are providing security and helping a new democracy take root in the Balkans....NATO is no longer a static alliance....It is now an expeditionary alliance that is sending its forces across the world...." [9]

To understand the nature of this abiding, visceral, monomaniacal hostility toward what with a comparable degree of venom Zbigniew Brzezinski for years has contemptuously derided as the post-Yalta world, excerpts from a column by Indian journalist Siddharth Varadarajan immediately after Bush's Riga speech of 2005 are quoted below.

"[Bush's] attack on Yalta shows the U.S. is not interested in cooperative security.

"Historians of the Cold War will not have missed the significance of President George W. Bush choosing Riga as the venue for his speech on Saturday repudiating the 1945 Yalta Agreement.

"[W]hen Mr. Bush said in Riga that Yalta was 'one of the greatest wrongs of history' because it traded the freedom of small nations for the goal of stability in Europe, he was not merely echoing Cold War dogma. He was also sending out a message to the world — and particularly to Great Powers like Russia and China — that the era of collective security established at
Yalta and later, at the United Nations, is decisively over. And that if the restraints placed by this system ever come in the way of U.S. national interests, they will be brushed aside." [10]

Varadarajan included in his piece this quote from President Franklin Roosevelt on March 1, 1945 on the meaning of Yalta as it was understood at the time:

"The Crimea Conference was a successful effort by the three leading Nations to find a common ground for peace. It ought to spell the end of the system of unilateral action, the exclusive alliances, the spheres of influence, the balances of power, and all the other expedients that have been tried for centuries — and have always failed. We propose to substitute for all these, a universal organisation in which all peace-loving nations will finally have a choice to join." [11]

The universal organization Roosevelt referred to only 42 days before his death was the United Nations, which would come into existence formally on October 24, 1945.

On the very day that Bush traduced Yalta and its legacy in Latvia, his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said on the same topic, "I am deeply convinced that the essence of the 1945 Yalta accords was as follows: The anti-Hitler coalition's leaders strove to build a new international system that would prevent the revival of nazism, and that would shield the world from destructive global conflicts," explicitly mentioning the United Nations Organization and its Charter. [12]

Bush's statement in Riga, "the significance of the venue" having been pointed out above, was calculatingly delivered in the capital of a country that has witnessed a disturbing revival of Nazi revisionism, apologetics, nostalgia and rehabilitation in recent years. Animosity toward the Yalta principles, including their most enduring institutional embodiment, the United Nations, means preferring in some manner what preceded the Yalta conference to what came after it. That either means the state of affairs in Europe before World War II or - that during the war years of 1939-1945.

Von Sponeck's Warning: Subverting The United Nations From Within

This past February Hans von Sponeck, former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, wrote a probing indictment called The United Nations and NATO for a Swiss Journal.

It it he warned that "The world of the 192 UN member states has come to a fork in the road. One way leads to a world focused on the well being of society, conflict resolution and peace, i.e. to a life of dignity and human security with social and economic progress for all, wherever they may be as stated in the United Nations Charter. Down the other road is where the nineteenth century 'Great Game' for power will be further played out, a course which, in the twenty-first century, will become more extensive and dangerously more aggressive than ever.

"This road supposedly leads to democracy, but in truth it is all about power, control and exploitation." [13]

Contrasting explicitly what the above excerpt had done tacitly, he remarked of his former employer and its would-be replacement:

"A comparison of the mandates of the United Nations and of NATO shows clearly how opposed the purposes of these two institutions are. In the 63 years of its existence, the United Nations mandate has remained the same.

"The United Nations was created to promote and maintain worldwide peace. NATO exists to assure the self-interest of a group of 26 UN member countries." [14]

In a section of his article titled "21st century NATO incompatible with UN Charter," von Sponeck added, "In 1999, NATO acknowledged that it was seeking to orient itself according to a new fundamental strategic concept. From a narrow military defense alliance it was to become a broad based alliance for the protection of the vital resources" needs of its members. Besides the defense of member states' borders, it set itself new purposes such as assured access to energy sources and the right to intervene in 'movements of large numbers of persons' and in conflicts far from the boarders of NATO countries. The readiness of the new alliance to include other countries, particularly those that had previously been part of the Soviet Union, shows how the character of this military alliance has altered."

"[T]he United Nations monopoly of the use of force, especially as specified in Article 51 of the Charter, was no longer accepted according to the 1999 NATO doctrine.

"NATO's territorial scope, until then limited to the Euro-Atlantic region, was expanded by its member to encompass the whole world in keeping with a strategic context that was global in its sweep." [15]

In a following section named "UN-NATO-accord: incompatible with UN Charter," he exposed a clandestine accord signed between the secretaries general of NATO and the United Nations, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Ban Ki-moon, respectively, on September 23, 2008, which "took place without any reference to the United Nations Security Council.

"In the generally accepted agreement of stated purposes, one reads of a
'broader council' and 'operative cooperation, for example in 'peace
keeping in the Balkans and in Afghanistan. Both secretaries general committed themselves to acting in common to meet threats and challenges.

"The UN/NATO accord is anything but neutral and will thus not remain without serious consequences." [16]

Shortly after the unauthorized pact signed behind the backs of the UN Security Council, in addition to the General Assembly, by NATO chief Scheffer and Ban, who has proven to be as obsequious toward and obedient to the interests of the West as his predecessor had been, the Russian press reported:

"Russia’s representative to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, said that in the document there is not a single word on the UN's leading role in ensuring stability in the world.

"NATO and the United Nations have signed a new cooperation accord on prerogatives for UN member states - but have angered Russia by not telling them about it in advance." [17]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was similarly caught off guard and indignant alike, stating ""We knew that the UN and NATO secretariats were
drawing up an agreement. And we assumed that before the signing, its draft should be shown to the member states. But it never happened," accusing Scheffer and Ban of operating secretly and in violation of UN norms.

"The Russian minister said that he discussed the problem with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. 'I did not hear any reasonable explanations. It surprised me,' said Lavrov....'We asked the leadership of the two secretariats what it might mean. We're awaiting answers.'" [18]

Another Russian report added, "Russia has recently vented its displeasure over what it called the ‘furtive signature’ of a cooperation agreement between the secretariats of the United Nations and NATO, which took place late last month. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov complained that this country, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, was not even consulted on the matter.

"Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said recently that Moscow and other UN members had not been consulted on the essence of the UN-NATO cooperation agreement, although, he said, the document contained clauses that concern the prerogatives of UN member states." [19]

A third source referred to Russian Foreign Minister spokesman Andrei Nesterenko who, in stressing that the surreptitious pact was "riding roughshod over Moscow's interests," affirmed that "a big question mark currently hangs over the professional skills of some UN officials, who try to involve the UN Secretary-General in covert activities." [20]

An Azerbaijani news source added, "If the agreement, signed in September, is only confirming the status quo, it can be surprising why the information about it was not published on the NATO website, which even has a special section called 'NATO’s relations with the United Nations.' This fact perpetuates Russia’s perception of NATO as a hostile bloc." [21]

In a news dispatch titled "UN and NATO team up behind Russia’s back," Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin - who was himself not informed of the backroom deal - said "NATO should fully acknowledge the UN's universal role and not try to substitute UN functions." [22]

In the article discussed earlier, Hans von Sponeck asked "Is the United Nations accord with NATO - a military alliance with nuclear weapons - in contradiction with Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, which requires that conflicts be resolved by peaceful means? Can UN and NATO actions be distinguished when three of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are also NATO members? How can future violations of international law by NATO be legally prosecuted? Is an institution like NATO, which in 1999, without a UN mandate, unlawfully bombed Serbia and Kosovo, a suitable partner for the United Nations?" [23]

And in a section entitled "UN mandate makes NATO obsolete," he finished with "Any evaluation of the UN/NATO pact must take into account that NATO is a relic of the Cold War; that NATO, as a Western alliance, is regarded with considerable mistrust by the other 166 United Nations member states; that a primary NATO aim is to assert, by military means, its energy and power interests in opposition to other United Nations member states and that the United States, a founding member of the NATO community, in the most unscrupulous ways, has disparaged the United Nations and broken international law.

"It is urgent that one or several member states petition the International Court of Justice to rule on the interpretation of the UN/NATO pact of 23 September 2008, in conformity with the Courts statutes.

"The people of the world have a right to request such a ruling and a right to expect an answer." [24]


Think Tank Origins: NATO Undermining The UN From Inside And Out


The current US permanent representative (ambassador) to NATO is Netherlands-born Ivo Daalder, who like so many others of his type cut his foreign policy teeth in the Balkans in the 1990s. In fact he was the director for European Affairs on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton, where he was in charge of Bosnia policy. Although a Clinton appointee Daalder criticized his chief during the 1999 war against Yugoslavia, calling for a ground invasion of the country in addition to the devastating air war.

The day after President Barack Obama announced the selection of Daalder for the NATO post, a news account from his homeland described him as a "liberal hawk" who was "a signatory to the January 2005 Project for a New American Century letter to Congress urging an increase in the number of troops in Iraq. The Project for a New American Century is a neoconservative think-tank linked to the American Enterprise Institute, where much of the foreign policy of the Bush administration originated.

"He often wrote about the right (or duty) of the international community to use military and humanitarian action to intervene in countries that fail to meet their responsibilities." [25]

At the time of his nomination Daalder was a Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at The Brookings Institution. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The day after the Dutch feature appeared, the print edition of Russia Today
television had this to say:

"Barack Obama's administration sees NATO as the nucleus for a global
organization of democracies that will eventually replace the United Nations, believes an influential Russian newspaper [Kommersant].

"Washington wants NATO to expand by inviting counties like Australia, Japan, Brazil and South Africa and become a global organization tackling not only security issues but also epidemics and human rights....The next US Ambassador to NATO Ivo H. Daalder is a great supporter of this idea.

"Daalder, an expert at the Brookings Institution and a foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama during the election campaign, is a strong proponent of the so-called Concert of Democracies.

"The idea, coined by the think-tank Princeton Project on National Security, is that the United Nations is outdated...." [26]

The source added that "Daalder believes that NATO is a prototype of the proposed concert, being an alliance of democracies with a long success record, and can be extended to the new global organization" and that "a source in the White House [says] that Vice President Joe Biden is among the supporters of the Concert of Democracies." [27]

As the American magazine Newsweek reported late last year under the headline Fighting Wars of Peace, "Vice President-elect Joe Biden called during the campaign for imposing a no-fly zone in Darfur and, a year earlier, advocated committing 'U.S. troops on the ground' if necessary. And Hillary Clinton, the incoming secretary of state, was a forceful advocate of the interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo during her husband's administration.

"[A]s Ivo Daalder, [a] prominent Obama adviser, and Robert Kagan have pointed out, between 1989 and 2001 America dispatched significant military force to foreign hot spots so often — once every 18 months — that intervention became something of a standard weapon of U.S. foreign policy, and one with bipartisan support." [28]

The genesis of the "war for peace" Concert of Democracies concept under NATO auspices and in opposition to the UN, at least as far as Daalder is concerned, may have been in a "guest" column in the Washington Post over five years ago called An Alliance of Democracies and co-authored by Daalder and James Lindsay, then vice president and director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In the article Daalder and his colleague leave no doubt as to which institution global NATO stands in opposition to:

"An immediate problem is that the United Nations lacks the capability to make a difference. Its blue-helmeted troops can help keep the peace when warring parties choose not to fight. But as we learned in the Balkans, they cannot make peace where none exists. And as we saw in the 12 years preceding the Iraq war, the United Nations cannot enforce its most important resolutions. The deeper problem is that these reform proposals do not go to the heart of what ails the organization: It treats its members as sovereign equals regardless of the character of their governments.

"The idea of sovereign equality reflected a conscious decision governments made 60 years ago that they would be better off if they repudiated the right to meddle in the internal affairs of others. That choice no longer makes sense.

"Today respect for state sovereignty should be conditional on how states behave at home, not just abroad.

"We need an Alliance of Democratic States. This organization would unite nations with entrenched democratic traditions, such as the United States and Canada; the European Union countries; Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia; India and Israel; Botswana and Costa Rica." [29]

Analogous demands have been voiced over the past few years by former Spanish prime minister Jose Aznar, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and spokesman James Appathurai and US Republican Party candidates in last year's presidential election Rudolph Giuliani and John McCain, alternately identified as an alliance, a concert or a league of democracies. In 2007 the now deceased US congressman Tom Lantos, at the time chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said that "NATO should seriously consider expanding into a global alliance including democratic countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Israel," and posed the rhetorical query "Would it not make the (NATO) Supreme Allied Commander feel more comfortable about upcoming global crises if he would have a NATO of a global reach?" To which the commander identified, Gen. Bantz John Craddock, replied: "From a best military advice perspective, it would indeed
be enormously helpful to have more democratic, peace-loving nations as part of the alliance." [30]

The advocates of the ultimate "coalition of the willing" call for expanding NATO from its current 28 full members, 22 Partnership for Peace states in Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia, seven Middle Eastern and North African nations in the Mediterranean Dialogue, six Persian Gulf countries covered under the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and several individual Contact Countries - in total over a third of the nations in the world - into a comprehensive, worldwide political-economic-military bloc with members in six of the world's seven continents and with its eye set on the remaining one, Antarctica.

The nations targeted for the NATO-led Alliance of Democracies include Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa and South Korea inter alia.

From Design To Execution: Ivo Daalder

Daalder would follow up on this initiative two and a half years later, this time in a forum generously provided him by the International Herald Tribune, sister publication of the New York Times, the other main pillar of the American "free press," and co-written by the Council on Foreign Relations' James Goldgeier.

The piece in question, "For global security, expand the alliance," states:

"NATO must become larger and more global by admitting any democratic state that is willing and able to contribute to the fulfillment of the alliance's new responsibilities.

"Other democratic countries share NATO's values and many common interests - including Australia, Brazil, Japan, India, New Zealand, South Africa and South Korea - and all of them can greatly contribute to NATO's efforts by providing additional military forces or logistical support...."

The contribution is urgent because "NATO militaries are stretched thin by the many new missions they are called on to perform in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in the Sudan, Congo and other parts of Africa."

The column raised the stakes to a degree that is deeply unsettling, fraught as they are with the threat of nothing less than world war.

"Collective defense, enshrined in Article 5's dictum that an attack on one member is an attack on all, must remain at the core of an expanded alliance as it has in the past. For the United States, such commitments
elsewhere would not be novel, as it already guarantees, either formally or informally, the security of countries such as Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

"[A]ll NATO members contributed to the grand coalition that reversed Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which is not even a democracy. If Australia or Japan were attacked, would the European democracies simply shrug their shoulders?" [31]

Far more is involved than the deployment of troops, warships and warplanes to all parts of the globe on the arbitrary decision of the major NATO partners, as unparalleled a danger to the world as that is.

In speaking of Washington's ongoing global missile shield program - one that could neutralize the potential for nations, Russia and China come immediately to mind, to maintain a deterrent or retaliation capacity and thus serve as an invitation for a first strike - in March of 2007 US Assistant Secretary of State John Rood asserted that planned interceptor missile sites in Poland and the Czech Republic "would be integrated with existing radar sites in the United Kingdom and Greenland as well as missile defense interceptors in California and Alaska," adding that at the time some fourteen nations were already involved in the plans, including "Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, India, Japan, the Netherlands and Ukraine. Taiwan is also participating....

"[There] is a cooperative understanding among the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Israel, Italy and Denmark to conduct government-to-government and industry-to-industry missile defense cooperation." [32]

The correlation between the non-NATO nations mentioned as members of a concert or alliance of democracies under NATO leadership and those being integrated into the global interceptor missile system is striking.

While still US State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs and before being appointed Ivo Daalder's predecessor as ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker said:

"[A]s NATO is active in places like Afghanistan or Iraq or Darfur, we are working together with countries that share NATO’s values and that are capable of contributing to security, such as Australia or New Zealand or South Korea or Japan, and we would like to find ways to cooperate with these countries....

"Some countries which, from a geographic standpoint, see themselves as front line states, have a high interest in theater missile defense, and other countries say it’s something we ought to do....For the U.S. there is no such thing as theater missile defense because we look at missile defense in a global scale...." [33]

The complement to the above, popularly referred to as Star Wars or Son of Star Wars, is an even more dangerous threat: Space war.

Last November Russia, as it has routinely done for years at UN General Assembly meetings, urged "UN member-states to join the moratorium on the deployment of weapons in outer space."

The nation's ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, pointed out that "it is on Russia’s initiative that the UN General Assembly has been adopting resolutions, for many years now, aimed at the prevention of an arms race in space.

"The only one who objected to the adoption of this resolution was the United States – this was earlier this year." [34]

Another report revealed that "Washington does plan to deploy its ABM system
elements in near-Earth orbits, and it is only Russia that can counter such plans.

"In the United Nations 166 countries have voted for the Russia-proposed resolution on measures to ensure transparency and build up confidence in space activities." [35]

As with questions of war and peace, the United Nations is used by the US and its allies solely to punish weaker nations and if the UN would ever begin to function as it was designed to - including attempting to prevent the militarization of space - it will be bypassed and rendered powerless by a NATO-led "Alliance of Democratic States."

As recently as a few days ago Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on the sidelines of the foreign ministers meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Damascus, Syria, "express[ed] his country's worries over giving NATO an international mission where it will be able to interfere anywhere in the world without permission from the Security Council, affirming that this is very negative and can undermine the basis of international law and the UN Charter." [36]


NATO No Alternative To United Nations


Conceived during the waning days of the world's most destructive and deadly war and born two months after the only use to date of nuclear weapons, the United Nation's still bears its birth marks. 74 years later the five chief victors of World War II remain the only permanent members of the Security Council and alone have veto power. Three of them are founding members of NATO and all five are nuclear powers, hardly representative of the world community.

Not a single nation in Africa, South (indeed all of Latin) America and Oceania have such status.

Also, the 192-member General Assembly has largely been shunted aside in favor of the five permanent and ten rotating members of the Security Council, not to mention events of major world importance being conducted by the secretary general and other officials behind the backs of even permanent members of the Security Council as with last September's agreement with NATO.

The General Assembly represents humanity not only on a day-to-day basis but in a more substantive and legitimate manner than ten of its 192 members on the Security Council at any given time. It must play a larger role in all deliberations.

A revived, robust, empowered and democratized UN must shift focus from a disproportionate emphasis on negotiating trade, treaty and other agreements in service to world commerce and in ceding vast tracts of the earth to interested parties under suspicious circumstances, as with the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon and 2.2 million square kilometers of the resource-rich Antarctic Ocean to Australia recently, to what needs to be its main objective: Exerting all efforts to eliminate forever the scourge of war.

The record of the past thirteen years under the stewardship of Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon has been abysmal. Three major wars have been conducted by the United States and its NATO allies, the first against a founding member of the UN, Yugoslavia, while the organization made no meaningful efforts to prevent or halt them once started and has even legitimized them after the fact with assorted resolutions. Even UN resolutions following unauthorized wars are trampled on, as with the recognition by most NATO members of the illegal secession of Kosovo from Serbia last February, flagrantly contradicting UN Resolution 1244 which commits the UN to "Reaffirming the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other States of the region, as set out in the Helsinki Final Act...."

However, even with its manifold problems, the United Nations was intended to prevent the replication of the horrors of World War II which ended only two months before its creation. The world would hardly gain by having it further weakened, sidelined and in effect reduced to a hollow shell by an expanding military bloc that has already waged wars on two continents and set its sights on penetrating and dominating the entire world.

Notes

1) Richard Clarke, Against All Enemies, 2004
2) Charter of the United Nations, Preamble
http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter/preamble.shtml
3) NATO International, May 23, 1999
4) U.S. Department of State, May 4, 2006
5) Agence France-Presse, May 10, 2005
6) Agence France-Presse, May 11, 2005
7) Agence France-Presse, May 10, 2005
8) Washington Post, May 8, 2005
9) USA Today, April 1, 2008
10) The Hindu, May 9, 2005
11) Ibid
12) Russian Information Agency Novosti, May 7, 2005
13) Current Concerns (Switzerland), February 13, 2009
http://www.currentconcerns.ch/index.php?id=711
14) Ibid
15) Ibid
16) Ibid
17) Russia Today, October 9, 2008
18) Ibid
19) Voice of Russia, October 13, 2008
20) Voice of Russia, October 9, 2008
21) Trend News Agency, October 14, 2008
22) Russia Today, October 9, 2008
23) Current Concerns, February 13, 2009
24) Ibid
25) NRC Handelsblad, March 12, 2009
26) Russia Today, March 13, 2009
27) Ibid
28) Newsweek, December 13, 2008
29) Washington Post, May 23, 2004
30) Reuters, June 23, 2007
31) International Herald Tribune, October 12, 2006
32) UNIAN (Ukraine), March 5, 2007
33) U.S. State Department, February 24, 2006
34) Voice of Russia, November 20, 2008
35) Voice of Russia, November 1, 2008
36) Syrian Arab News Agency, May 24, 2009