Friday, October 2, 2009

Imperialist interests drive US focus on Iran, Afghanistan

Imperialist interests drive US focus on Iran, Afghanistan

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The Obama administration began a much-publicized internal review of US policy in Afghanistan Wednesday, which is expected to culminate in the dispatch of as many as 40,000 additional US troops to the war.

On the following day, in Geneva, the US government held its first direct talks with Iran in 30 years, on the sidelines of a six-power meeting with Iran whose purpose is to threaten Tehran with economic sanctions and direct military action if it does not bow to US-inspired demands to scrap its alleged nuclear weapons program.

Media attention on the region has focused largely on the day-to-day events—the disputed Iranian and Afghan presidential elections, the steady growth of American and NATO casualties in the war against Taliban and other anti-occupation guerrilla forces in Afghanistan, and the supposed discovery of a secret Iranian nuclear facility, which was given sensationalized coverage in the American media last week.

But there is little or no analysis of the real driving forces of American intervention in southwestern Asia, which can only be understood historically. For three decades, under Democratic and Republican administrations—under Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush the second, and now Obama—American imperialism has plunged ever more deeply into the Middle East and the region west, south and east of the Caspian Sea.

In the post-World War II period, American domination of the oil resources of the Persian Gulf was dependent on three strategic pillars: Saudi Arabia, the largest single oil producer; the state of Israel, a US-financed and US-armed ally in formerly Arab Palestine; and the Shah of Iran, whose savage dictatorial rule was cemented in a CIA-backed coup in 1953 and backed by a flood of American weapons and advisers.

The overthrow of the Shah in the February, 1979 Iranian revolution destroyed one of these bastions, creating a strategic crisis for US imperialism which continues to this day. The Shah had served as the gendarme of the Gulf and a key ally against the Soviet Union. Saudi Arabia was too weak militarily and Israel too small and isolated to play these roles.

The initial US response was the issuance of the “Carter doctrine,” which authorized American military intervention against any threat to oil supplies from the Persian Gulf. This was combined with stepped-up intervention on both flanks of the new Islamic Republic of Iran—Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Afghanistan, a campaign of political provocation and subversion against the pro-Soviet government in Kabul provoked a reactionary invasion by Moscow in November 1979, achieving the goal set by Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, of involving the Soviet military in a protracted, bloody stalemate, which he described enthusiastically as “Russia’s Vietnam.”

In Iraq, the Carter administration goaded the regime of Saddam Hussein, who had only recently come to power, to invade Iran, with the goal of seizing the oil fields of the southern province of Khuzistan, which has a large Arab population. A colossal bloodbath followed over the next eight years. The Iran-Iraq War took a million lives, and Washington aided both sides to keep the fighting going as long as possible.

It is worth recalling, given the subsequent US-led propaganda campaigns against both Iraq and Iran over “weapons of mass destruction,” that it was the United States and its European NATO allies who supplied Iraq with the chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein used against both Iranian troops and his own Kurdish-speaking citizens. The special envoy sent by the Reagan administration to Baghdad to conduct its dealings with the Iraqi dictator was the future US defense secretary under George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld.

In 1990, when Hussein invaded Kuwait, the first Bush administration seized the opportunity to mobilize an enormous American military force in Saudi Arabia and then annihilate much of the Iraqi military. Washington still hesitated, however, to go all the way to Baghdad, both because it wanted the Iraqi regime as a counterweight to Iran, and because a full-scale invasion was thought too risky, since it would involve the projection of American military power nearly to the border of the Soviet Union.

The collapse of the USSR in December 1991 gave a new and dangerous impetus to American intervention in the Middle East and Central Asia. Washington now saw the possibility of gaining strategic positions and access to resources in considerable parts of the region that had been effectively outside the orbit of imperialism since the Russian Revolution.

The result was a series of initiatives by American imperialism along the entire southern periphery of the former Soviet Union:

* 1991-92—the dismemberment of Yugoslavia
* 1995—NATO intervention in Bosnia
* 1998—US bombing of Iraq
* 1999—NATO bombing of Serbia and occupation of Kosovo
* 2001—invasion of Afghanistan and overthrow of the Taliban
* 2003—invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein
* 2003-2004—instigation of “color” revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine
* 2007-2008—Bush’s military “surge” in Iraq
* 2009—Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan and renewed pressure on Iran

There is a political and strategic logic to these interventions, which continue and escalate regardless of the episodic internal disputes within the American political establishment, or the transitions from administration to administration, from Democratic to Republican and back. What is involved is not merely the decisions of various individuals who occupy the top positions in the White House, Pentagon and State Department, but fundamental concerns common to the entire ruling class.

Definite material economic interests are certainly at stake: first and foremost, access to the oil and natural gas reserves of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Basin, by far the largest in the world. Much of American diplomacy throughout this region has been directed at establishing pipeline connections that would bring these energy resources to the market bypassing Russia, the former regional hegemon, and a hostile Iran.

On a broader historical plane, the projection of American military power into southwest Asia has an even more ominous and reactionary significance. American capitalism is a declining world power, a fact which is underscored by the central role played by Wall Street in the financial collapse of September-October 2008. The US ruling class seeks to offset the erosion of its economic power by the increasingly reckless and provocative use of its still dominant military power.

Thus, the election of Barack Obama eleven months ago, aided by an appeal, however limited, to the antiwar sentiments of American working people, has produced no change of any substance in American foreign policy. The erstwhile critic of the Iraq war maintains an army of occupation in that country, still numbering over 140,000 soldiers. The supposed advocate of dialogue with Iran has set an effective deadline of December for economic sanctions that would be the equivalent of a blockade (an act of war), or outright military assault. And his administration has already escalated the war in Afghanistan by sending an additional 21,000 troops, while the general whom Obama selected to run that war is demanding 40,000 more.

The Anglo-US Drive into Eurasia and the Demonization of Russia

The Anglo-US Drive into Eurasia and the Demonization of Russia

Reframing the History of World War II

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As tensions mount between the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on one side and Moscow and its allies on another, the history of the Second World War is being re-framed to demonize Russia, the legal successor state and largest former constituent republic (pars pro toto) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.). In 2009, the U.S.S.R. and the Nazi government of Germany started being portrayed as the two forces that ignited the Second World War.

The historicity behind such a narrative is incorrect and nothing can be further from the truth in regards to Moscow. The security of the European core of the Soviet Union was the main objective of the Kremlin as well as the recovery of lost territory. The Soviet government was also aware of war plans against the Soviet Union. Adolph Hitler thought Britain would join Germany in war against the Soviets, even until the latter part of the Second World War.

This discourse in itself is part of a broader roadmap to control Eurasia through the encirclement of any rival powers, such as Russia and China. To understand the geo-politics and strategic nature of the encirclement of Russia and China by the U.S. and NATO, as well as the Eurasian alliance being formed by Moscow and Beijing as a counter-measure, one must look at the historic Anglo-American drive to cripple and contain any power in Eurasia.

Geography is the basis of the social evolution of traditional power, whether in feudal societies or in industrial societies. For example the property ownership of the landed class, which originally was the nobility, gave rise to the factory system. The rise of financial power is somewhat different, but yet it is also tied to geography.

The United States, India and Brazil are all “natural great powers” — a term coined herein. Natural great powers are states that are bound, with time, to develop or evolve into major hubs of human production because of their geographic configuration or nature’s blessings. In the Eurasian landmass, above all others, there are three states that we can call natural great powers; these states are Russia, China, and India. They have large territories and vast resources and, due to the two former factors, possess great human capacity that can lead to major productivity.

Without human capacity, however, geography and resources are meaningless, and therefore any impairment of population growth or social development through war, civil strife, famine, political instability and/or economic instability can obstruct the emergence of a natural great power. This is exactly what has been happening in the Russian Federation and its earlier predecessors, the U.S.S.R. and the Russian Empire, for the last two hundred years - from the numerous episodes of civil war, the First World War, and the Second World War, to the Yeltsin era and the problems in Caucasia. This is also why the declining population of Russia is a major worry for the Kremlin. If left undisturbed, such nation-states like China and Russia, would dominate the global economy and, by extension, international politics.

This is exactly what Anglo-American foreign policy has been trying to prevent for almost three centuries, first strictly under British clout and then later through combined British and American cooperation. In Europe, the containment policy was first applied to France for centuries and later, after German unification under Prince Otto von Bismarck, to Germany. Later the policy was expanded in scope to all Eurasia (the proper geographic extension of Europe or the “Continent”, as the British called it).

Part of this policy included the prevention of Russian access to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea or the Persian Gulf, which would threaten British trade and eventually maritime supremacy. This is one of the main reasons that the British and French played Czarist Russia and Ottoman Turkey against one another and militarily supported the Ottoman Empire in the Crimean War, when the possibility of Russia, under Catherine II, gaining Ottoman territory on the Mediterranean Sea seemed real.

Why did the Soviets and Chinese Bear the Brunt of the Burden in the Second World War?

The U.S.S.R. and China suffered the greatest material, demographic and overall losses in the Second World War. A quantitative comparative overview and cross-examination of the casualty figures of Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union and China will show the staggering differences between the so-called “Western Allies” and the so-called “Eastern Allies.”

Britain suffered 400,000 casualties and the U.S. suffered just over 260,000 casualties. U.S. civilian casualties were virtually non-existent and no U.S. factories were even touched. On the other hand, the U.S.S.R. had about 10 million military casualties and 12 to 14 million civilian casualties, while China had about 4 to 5 million military casualties and civilian casualties that have been estimated in the range of 8 to 20 million deaths.

Suffering can not be qualified or quantified, but much is overlooked in regards to the Soviet Union and China. Without question the Soviet Union and China lost the greatest ratio of their populations amongst the major Allies. In many cases the casualties of the series of civil wars in the Soviet Union (which saw foreign involvement and even intervention) and the casualties of the Japanese invasion of China (30 million people, starting before 1939) are not counted as Second World War casualties by many historians in Western Europe and the Anglosphere.

Most the fighting in the Second World War also took place in the territories of China and Russia. Both Eurasian giants also faced the greatest destruction of infrastructure and material loss, which set their development back by decades. The agricultural and industrial capacity of China alone was cut in half. The Axis, specifically Germany and Japan (two economic rivals of the U.S. and Britain), also were crippled. In contrast, the U.S. was virtually untouched, while Britain as a state was totally depended on U.S. patronage. [1]

U.S. Economic Expansion: Global Wars and the Growth of U.S. Industrial and Economic Might

Both the First World War and the Second World War managed to eliminate any economic rivalry or challenge to U.S. corporations. While Europe and Asia were ravaged by war, the U.S. inversely grew economically. U.S. industrial might grew by leaps and bounds, while the industrial capacities of Europe and Asia were destroyed by both Allied and Axis sides in the Second World War and by the Allies and the Central Powers in the First World War.

By the end of the the Second World War, the U.S. literally owned half the global economy through loans, American foreign investment and war debts. U.S. economic expansion and the American export boom were unprecedented in the scale that took place during the period from 1910-1950, all of which was tied to the Eurasian warscape. Also, it was also only the U.S. that had the economic resources to rebuild the economies and industrial capacities of Europe and Asia, which it did with strings attached. These strings involved favourable treatment of U.S. corporations, preferential trade with the U.S., and the setting up of U.S. branch plants.

1945 was the beginning of Pax Americana. Even much of the foreign aid provided by the U.S. government (with the approval of Congress), to facilitate the reconstruction of European states, flowed back into the private bank accounts of the owners of U.S. corporations, because American firms were awarded many reconstruction-related contracts. War had directly fuelled the industrial might of the United States, while eliminating other rivals such as the Japanese who were a major economic threat to U.S. markets in Asia and the Pacific.

Just to show the extent of the American objectives to handicap their economic rivals one should look at the handling of Japan from 1945 till about October 1, 1949. After the surrender of Tokyo to the U.S. on the U.S.S. Missouri and the start of the American occupation and administration of Japan, the Japanese economy began to rapidly decline because of the calculated neglect of the U.S. through the office of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP). In economic terms, the Japanese case was initially very similar to that of Anglo-American occupied Iraq.

In late-1949 all this began to change. Almost overnight, there was literally a complete change, or a flip-flop, in U.S. policy on Japan. It was only after October 1, 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was declared by Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China that the U.S. began to allow Japan to recover economically, so as to use it as a counter-weight to China. As a side note, in a case of irony, the quick change in American policy regarding Japan allowed the U.S. to overlook the Japanese policy of not allowing foreign investment, which is one of the reasons for the economic success of Japan and one of the reasons why the financial elites of Japan form part of the trilateral pillar of the global economy along with the elites of the U.S. and Western Europe.

The “Open Doors” Policy of the Anglo-American Establishment

Anglo-American elites also made it clear that they wanted a global policy of “open doors” through the 1941 Atlantic Charter, which was a joint British and American declaration about what post-war international relations would be like. It is very important to note that the Atlantic Charter was made before the U.S. even entered the Second World War. The events and description above was the second clear phase behind the start of modern neo-liberal globalization; the first phase was the start of the First World War. In both wars the financial and corporate elite of the U.S., before the entry of the U.S. as a combatant, had funded both sides through loans and American investment, while they destroyed one another. This included the use of middlemen and companies in other countries, such as Canada.

The creation of the U.S. Federal Reserve in 1913, before the First World War and the U.S. domestic (not foreign, because of the regulations of other states) de-coupling of the gold standard from the U.S. dollar in 1933, before the Second World War, were required beforehand for the U.S. domination of other economies. Both were steps that removed the limits and restrains on the number of U.S. dollars being printed, which allowed the U.S. to invest and loan money to the warring states of Europe and Asia.

Norman Dodd, a former Wall Street banker and investigator for the U.S. Congress, who examined U.S. tax-exempt foundations, revealed in a 1982 interview that the First World War was anticipated by U.S. elites in order to further manage the global economy. [2] War or any form of large-scale traumatic occurences are the perfect events to use for restructuring societies, all in the name of the war effort and the common good. Civil liberties and labour laws can be suspended, while the press is fully censored and opposition figures arrested or demonized, while corporations and governments merge in close coordination and under the justification of the war effort. This was true of virtually all sides in the First World War and the Second World War, from Canada to Germany under Adolph Hitler.

In contrast to the views of its own citizens, the American government was never really neutral during both the First World War and the Second World War. The U.S. was funding and arming the British at the start of the Second World War. Also before the American entry in the Second World War, the U.S., Canada, and Britain started the process of joint war planning and military integration. Before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941 the U.S. and Canada, which was fighting Germany, on August 17, 1940 signed the Ogdensburg Agreement, which was an agreement that spelled out joint defence through the Permanent Joint Board of Defence and joint war planning against Germany and the Axis. In 1941, the Hyde Park Agreement formally united the Canadian and American war economies and informally united the U.S., Canadian, and British economies. The U.S. and British military command would also be integrated. In part, the monetary arrangement that was made through these war transactions between the U.S., Canada, and Britain would become the basis for the Bretton Woods formula.

Also, the empires of Britain, France, and other Western European states were not dismantled just due to the fact that they were all degraded because of the Second World War, but because of Anglo-American economic interests. The imperialist policies of these European states made it mandatory for their colonies to have preferential trade with them, which went against the “open doors” policy that would allow U.S. corporations to penetrate into other national economies, especially ones that were ravaged by war and thus perfect for U.S. corporate entrance.

The Reasons for the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact

Britain and the U.S. also deliberately delayed their invasion of Western Europe, calculating that it would weaken the Soviets who did most the fighting in Europe’s Eastern Front. This is why the U.S. and Britain originally invaded North Africa instead of Europe. They wanted the Third Reich and the Soviet Union to neutralize one another.

The German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact or the Ribeentrop-Molotov Pact caused shock waves in Europe and North America when it was signed. The German and Soviet governments were at odds with one another. This was more than just because of ideology; Germany and the Soviet Union were being played against one another in the events leading up to the Second World War, just as how previously Germany, the Russian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire were played against one another in Eastern Europe [3]

This is why Britain and France only declared war on Berlin, in 1939, when both the U.S.S.R. and Germany had invaded Poland. If the intentions were to protect Poland, then why only declare war against Germany when in reality both the Germans and the Soviets had invaded? There is something much deeper to be said about all this.

If Moscow and Berlin had not signed a non-aggression agreement there would have been no declaration of war against Germany. In fact Appeasement was a deliberate policy crafted in the hope of allowing Germany to militarize and then allowing the Nazi government the means, through military might, to create a common German-Soviet border, which would be the prerequisite to an anticipated German-Soviet war that would neutralize the two strongest land powers in Europe and Eurasia. [4]

British policy and the rationale for the non-aggression pact between the Soviets and Germans is described best by Carroll Quigley. Quigley, a top ranking U.S. professor of history, on the basis of the diplomatic agreements in Europe and insider information as an professor of the elites explains the strategic aims of British policy from 1920 to 1938 as:

[T]o maintain the balance of power in Europe by building up Germany against France and [the Soviet Union]; to increase Britain’s weight in that balance by aligning with her the Dominions [e.g., Australia and Canada] and the United States; to refuse any commitments (especially any commitments through the League of Nations, and above all any commitments to aid France) beyond those existing in 1919; to keep British freedom of action; to drive Germany eastward against [the Soviet Union] if either or both of these two powers became a threat to the peace [probably meaning economic strength] of Western Europe [and most probably implying British interests]. [5]

In order to carry out this plan of allowing Germany to drive eastward against [the Soviet Union], it was necessary to do three things: (1) to liquidate all the countries standing between Germany and [the Soviet Union]; (2) to prevent France from [honouring] her alliances with these countries [i.e., Czechoslovakia and Poland]; and (3) to hoodwink the [British] people into accepting this as a necessary, indeed, the only solution to the international problem. The Chamberlain group were so successful in all three of these things that they came within an ace of succeeding, and failed only because of the obstinacy of the Poles, the unseemly haste of Hitler, and the fact that at the eleventh hour the Milner Group realized the [geo-strategic] implications of their policy [which to their fear united the Soviets and Germans] and tried to reverse it. [6]

It is because of this aim of nurturing Germany into a position of attacking the Soviets that British, Canadian, and American leaders had good rapports (which seem unexplained in standard history textbooks) with Adolph Hitler and the Nazis until the eve of the Second World War.

In regards to appeasement under Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and its beginning under the re-militarization of the industrial lands of the Rhineland, Quigley explains:

This event of March 1936, by which Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland, was the most crucial event in the whole history of appeasement. So long as the territory west of the Rhine and a strip fifty kilometers wide on the east bank of the river were demilitarized, as provided in the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pacts, Hitler would never have dared to move against Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. He would not have dared because, with western Germany unfortified and denuded of German soldiers, France could have easily driven into the Ruhr industrial area and crippled Germany so that it would be impossible to go eastward. And by this date [1936], certain members of the Milner Group and of the British Conservative government had reached the fantastic idea that they could kill two birds with one stone by setting Germany and [the Soviet Union] against one another in Eastern Europe. In this way they felt that two enemies would stalemate one another, or that Germany would become satisfied with the oil of Rumania and the wheat of the Ukraine. It never occurred to anyone in a responsible position that Germany and [the Soviet Union] might make common cause, even temporarily, against the West. Even less did it occur to them that [the Soviet Union] might beat Germany and thus open all Central Europe to Bolshevism. [7]

The liquidation of the countries between Germany and [the Soviet Union] could proceed as soon as the Rhineland was fortified, without fear on Germany’s part that France would be able to attack her in the west while she was occupied in the east. [8]

In regards to eventually creating a common German-Soviet, the French-led military alliance had to first be neutralized. The Locarno Pacts were fashioned by British foreign policy mandarins to prevent France from being able to militarily support Czechoslovakia and Poland in Eastern Europe and thus to intimidate Germany from halting any attempts at annexing both Eastern European states. Quigley writes:

[T]he Locarno agreements guaranteed the frontier of Germany with France and Belgium with the powers of these three states plus Britain and Italy. In reality the agreements gave France nothing, while they gave Britain a veto over French fulfillment of her alliances with Poland and the Little Entente. The French accepted these deceptive documents for reason of internal politics (...) This trap [as Quigley calls the Locarno agreements] consisted of several interlocking factors. In the first place, the agreements did not guarantee the German frontier and the demilitarized condition of the Rhineland against German actions, but against the actions of either Germany or France. This, at one stroke, gave Britain the right to oppose any French action against Germany in support of her allies to the east of Germany. This meant that if Germany moved east against Czechoslovakia, Poland, and eventually [the Soviet Union], and if France attacked Germany’s western frontier in support of Czechoslovakia or Poland, as her alliances bound her to do, Great Britain, Belgium, and Italy might be bound by the Locarno Pacts to come to the aid of Germany. [9]

The Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 1935 was also deliberately signed by Britain to prevent the Soviets from joining the neutralized military alliance between France, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. Quigley writes:

Four days later, Hitler announced Germany’s rearmament, and ten days after that, Britain condoned the act by sending Sir John Simon on a state visit to Berlin. When France tried to counterbalance Germany’s rearmament by bringing the Soviet Union into her eastern alliance system in May 1935, the British counteracted this by making the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 18 June 1935. This agreement, concluded by Simon, allowed Germany to build up to 35 percent of the size of the British Navy (and up to 100 percent in submarines). This was a deadly stab in the back of France, for it gave Germany a navy considerably larger than the French in the important categories of ships (capital ships and aircraft carriers), because France was bound by treaty to only 33 percent of Britain’s; and France in addition, had a worldwide empire to protect and the unfriendly Italian Navy off her Mediterranean coast. This agreement put the French Atlantic coast so completely at the mercy of the German Navy that France became completely dependent on the British fleet for protection in this area. [10]

The Hoare-Laval Plan was also used to stir Germany eastward instead of southward towards the Eastern Mediterranean, which the British saw as the critical linchpin holding their empire together and connecting them through the Egyptian Suez Canal to India. Quigley explains:

The countries marked for liquidation included Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, but did not include Greece and Turkey, since the [Milner] Group had no intention of allowing Germany to get down onto the Mediterranean ‘lifeline.’ Indeed, the purpose of the Hoare-Laval Plan of 1935, which wrecked the collective-security system by seeking to give most Ethiopia to Italy, was intended to bring an appeased Italy in position alongside [Britain], in order to block any movement of Germany southward rather than eastward [towards the Soviet Union]. [11]

Both the Soviet Union, under Joseph Stalin, and Germany, under Adolph Hitler, ultimately became aware of the designs for the planning of a German-Soviet war and because of this both Moscow and Berlin signed a non-aggression pact prior to the Second World War. The German-Soviet arrangement was largely a response to the Anglo-American stance. In the end it was because of Soviet and German distrust for one another that the Soviet-German alliance collapsed and the anticipated German-Soviet war came to fruition as the largest and deadliest war theatre in the Second World War, the Eastern Front.

The Origins of the Russian Urge to Protect Eurasia

With this understanding of the Anglo-American strategic mentality of weakening Eurasia the ground can be paved for understanding the Russian mentality and mind frame for protecting themselves through protecting their European core and uniting Eurasia through such organizations as the Warsaw Pact, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and such Russian policies as the Primakov Doctrine and allying Moscow with Iran and Syria.

As spheres of influence were carved in Europe, it was understood that Greece would fall into the Anglo-American orbit, while Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia would fall within the Soviet orbit. Due to this understanding the Red Army of the Soviet Union watched as the Greek Communists were butchered and the British militarily intervened in the Greek Civil War. The reason for these agreements involving spheres of influence in Europe was that the Soviets wanted a buffer zone to protect themselves from any further invasions from Western Europe, which had been plaguing the U.S.S.R. and Czarist Russia.

In reality, the Cold War did not start because of Soviet aggression, but because of a long-standing historic impulse by Anglo-American elites to encircle and control Eurasia. The Soviet Union honoured its agreement with Britain and the U.S. not to intervene in Greece, which even came at the expense of Yugoslav-Soviet relations as Marshal Tito broke with Stalin over the issue. This, however, did not stop the U.S. and Britain from falsely accusing the Soviets of supporting the Greek Communists and declaring war on the Soviets through the Truman Doctrine. This move was a part of the Anglo-American bid to encircle the Soviet Union and to control Eurasia. Today this policy, which existed before the First World War and helped spark the Second World War, has not changed and Anglo-American elites, such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, still talk about partitioning Russia, the successor state of the Soviet Union.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a Research Associate for the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) specilizing in geo-politics and strategic issues.

NOTES

[1] British elites, however, had managed to incorporate themselves into the economic livelihood of the U.S., forming an Anglo-American elite and effectively separating themselves from the interests of the majority of British citizens.

[2] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a “New Middle East”, Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG),
November 18, 2006.

[3] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, The “Great Game”: Eurasia and the History of War, Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), December 3, 2007.


[4] China at this time was already being limited by Japan and before that by combined Japanese, Russian, and Western European policies. This would leave Germany and the U.S.S.R. as the two main threats to Anglo-American interests.

[5] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden (San Pedro, California: GSG & Associates Publishers, 1981), p.240.

[6] Ibid., p.266.

[7] Ibid., p.265.

[8] Ibid., p.272.

[9] Ibid., p.264.

[10] Ibid., pp.269-270.

[11] Ibid., p.273.

US Senate panel votes down "public option" for health care

US Senate panel votes down “public option” for health care

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The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday voted down two amendments that would have provided a “public option” in an overhaul of health care. The action makes it highly unlikely that the option will be included in any final legislation approved by the full Senate.

President Barack Obama has pointed to the Baucus bill, named after Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, as the plan most closely tailored to the administration’s proposals for a restructuring of the health care system.

In his address to Congress last month and in numerous public appearances, Obama has made it clear that the public option is only one aspect of any health care plan, and that he would be willing to sign legislation that does not include it.

In the two votes, a number of Democrats, including Senator Baucus, joined with Republicans to reject the inclusion of a government-run option in an insurance “exchange” along with private insurers, where individuals and families without health insurance would be mandated to purchase coverage or pay a fine.

While the public option has been attacked as “socialized medicine” and a “government takeover” of health care, Obama has assured Congress that, if passed, it would at most account for only about 5 percent of coverage and would pose no challenge to insurance company profits. In any case the discussion of a public option is mainly being used to conceal the reactionary essence of the overhaul plan, which is aimed at limiting access to health care, gutting Medicare and Medicaid and slashing health care costs for big business.

If legislated, it would most likely serve as a dumping ground, providing sub-standard coverage for those unable to obtain other insurance. The Finance Committee’s rejection of even the fig leaf of a public option is an indication of the degree to which the entire official debate over health care is being dictated by the insurance companies and pharmaceuticals, who will not allow even the pretence of a challenge to their private control of the health care market.

The first amendment, by Senator Jay Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, was rejected by a 15 to 8 vote, with five Democrats joining all Republicans on the panel to vote against it.

Under Rockefeller’s proposed public option, the government would set what it pays doctors, hospitals and other providers. In an at times contentious exchange, Democrats joined with Republicans on the committee to oppose the measure.

Baucus led the opposition, saying, “My job is to put together a bill that gets 60 votes,” to avoid a Republican filibuster. “Now, I can count, and no one has been able to show me how we can count up to 60 votes with a public option in the bill…. I fear if this provision is in the bill as it comes out of this committee, it will jeopardize real, meaningful, health care reform.”

The Baucus plan has never included a public option, including instead a proposal for privately run non-profit health care “cooperatives” that would differ little from private insurers and would charge similar premiums.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the committee, attacked the public option, saying it would have undue advantage over private insurers, and “would ultimately force private insurers out of business.” He added, “Government is not a fair competitor. It’s a predator.”

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah called the option “a Trojan horse for a single-payer system,” paving the way for a government control of health care.

Rockefeller countered that it “would simply guarantee there is at least one health insurance plan in the exchange…that ordinary Americans can afford and count on.” He continued demagogically, “It acts as a counterweight to the way I would characterize health insurance companies—I love to use the word ‘rapacious.’”

Democrats on the Senate committee joining Baucus to vote down the Rockefeller amendment included Bill Nelson of Florida, a former state insurance commissioner, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Thomas Carper of Delaware.

Senator Charles Schumer of New York put forward the second amendment for a public option, which was defeated 13 to 10. Under this option, the government plan would negotiate payment rates with health care providers.

Senators Nelson and Carper both voted for the Schumer amendment, while Chairman Baucus and Senator Lincoln voted with Republican committee members against both amendments.

On Wednesday the Finance Committee voted down two Republican-sponsored amendments to the Baucus bill. The first, put forward by Orrin Hatch, would have “codified” and made permanent existing bans in the health care legislation on the use of federal funds for abortion, except in cases of rape, incest and saving the life of the mother.

The committee also rejected an amendment proposed by Chuck Grassley that would have required individuals to have government-based identification when applying for Medicaid, a measure, which in addition to barring undocumented immigrants, would likely deter significant numbers of citizens and legal immigrants from obtaining coverage.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said Wednesday that he expects debate on the health care legislation to begin before the full Senate the week of October 12. The Finance Committee bill must be brought together with the legislation proposed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which includes a version of the public option.

Fox News reported that senior Senate Democratic aides have said that Reid will not support including a public option in the blended Senate bill. Any Senate bill will have to be reconciled with House legislation.

House leaders met behind closed doors Wednesday to continue discussion on merging the work of three separate House committees into one final bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, has stated that she intends to include some form of the public option in the House bill.

In a concession to House Democrats who have opposed including a government-run option, House leaders are reportedly considering a proposal similar to the amendment proposed by Sen. Schumer, where the government plan would negotiate payment rates directly with health care providers, instead of tying them to the low rates used by Medicare.

While it is possible that this or some other diluted version of the public option will be included in the House bill, it is unlikely anything resembling a government-run option will be included in a bill hashed out between the House and Senate to send to Obama to sign.

CNN’s David Gergen commented on the House deliberations, “I think the real question now is whether they can come up with some sort of watered-down proposal that will get them partway there, and they may get enough Democrats to get it passed. But I think it will be tough going.”

The White House has backed away from openly stating the specifics of what should be included in any final bill, except to say that it must be deficit neutral, that the price of the legislation should not exceed $900 billion over 10 years, and that it should be financed through hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

Commenting on the public option at a town hall meeting in Colorado August 15, Obama stated, “The public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of health care reform.” He is unlikely to intervene in the congressional debate to rescue it.

After months of debate between politicians, who in the main represent various sections of the health care industry and corporate America, a health care restructuring bill is coming into shape. Far from overcoming the inequities in the present for-profit system it will only intensify them, leaving tens of millions of working people with substandard care, while the affluent will still be guaranteed the best coverage money can buy.

Under the Baucus bill, rules prohibiting insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and imposing limits on payments to sick patients would not apply to more than 70 million people working at “large” companies that self-insure.

These are companies with more than 50 workers where the employer pays health care claims out of its revenue rather that utilizing a private insurer. Workers are often not even aware that their employer operates this way, because outside companies are used for billing.

Sen. Rockefeller raised in this week’s debate on the Baucus bill, “They can be cut off; there are no caps.”

Erin Shields, a spokeswoman for Baucus’s office, commented in a statement, “Health care reform is about building on what works in our system and fixing what doesn’t,”—i.e., defending corporate profits at all costs.

Rhetorical Tax Evasion

Rhetorical Tax Evasion

The IRS says it will fine or jail you for not paying Obama's mandate levy.

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President Obama's effort to deny that his mandate to buy insurance is a tax has taken another thumping, this time from fellow Democrats in the Senate Finance Committee.

Chairman Max Baucus's bill includes the so-called individual mandate, along with what he calls a $1,900 "excise tax" if you don't buy health insurance. (It had been as much as $3,800 but Democrats reduced the amount last week to minimize the political sticker shock.) And, lo, it turns out that if you don't pay that tax, the IRS could punish you with a $25,000 fine or up to a year in jail, or both.

Under questioning last week, Tom Barthold, the chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, admitted that the individual mandate would become a part of the Internal Revenue Code and that failing to comply "could be criminal, yes, if it were considered an attempt to defraud." Mr. Barthold noted in a follow-up letter that the willful failure to file would be a simple misdemeanor, punishable by the $25,000 fine or jail time under Section 7203.

So failure to pay the mandate would be enforced like tax evasion, but Mr. Obama still claims it isn't a tax. "You can't just make up that language and decide that that's called a tax increase," Mr. Obama insisted last week to ABC interviewer George Stephanopoulos. Accusing critics of dishonesty is becoming this President's default argument, but is Mr. Barthold also part of the plot?

In the 1994 health-care debate, the Congressional Budget Office called the individual mandate "an unprecedented form of federal action." This is because "The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States."

This coercion will be even more onerous today because everyone will be forced to buy insurance that the new taxes and regulations of ObamaCare will make far more expensive. Too bad Mr. Obama's rhetorical tax evasion can't be punished by the IRS.

Nurses file lawsuit over mandatory flu vaccine

Nurses file lawsuit over mandatory flu vaccine

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SEATTLE - A union representing 16,000 registered nurses in Washington state has filed a federal lawsuit against MultiCare Health System for implementing a mandatory flu vaccination policy.

"This new policy will force nurses to get the flu vaccination or to wear face masks as a condition of employment and may result in the firing of nurses who do not comply with the policy," the union said in a statement.

The lawsuit, filed by the Washington State Nurses Association, seeks an injunction to stop the policy from being implemented at both Tacoma General and Good Samaritan hospitals.

The nurses' union said in a statement that it supports a voluntary vaccination program, but that any mandatory policy should be overseen by the state or federal government.

"Any mandatory vaccination policy should be implemented on a federal or state level, not through a patchwork of hospital-by-hospital policies," said Judy Huntington, executive director of the nurses' association.

The union said it was in the midst of negotiating a flu prevention program it they learned from the nurses that MultiCare had unilaterally implemented a mandatory vaccination policy.

"MultiCare’s unilateral implementation of this policy blatantly ignores their legal obligation to bargain with the union," said Barbara Frye, the association's assistant executive director of labor relations.

"Their refusal to bargain and to cease and desist forced us to take this extraordinary measure to seek relief from federal court," she said.

The union said MultiCare’s proposed plan would require unvaccinated nurses to wear a surgical mask at all times while on duty even though there is a lack of research showing that masks actually prevent flu transmission.

Judge orders release of Cheney interview with FBI

Judge orders release of Cheney interview with FBI

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A federal judge ruled Thursday that the FBI must publicly reveal much of its notes from an interview with former Vice President Dick Cheney during the investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA operative.

Cheney agreed to be interviewed by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald in June 2004 during the investigation of the leak of Valerie Plame's identity after her husband publicly criticized the Bush administration. Both the Bush and Obama administrations said they wanted to keep the interview confidential because future presidents, vice presidents and their senior staff may not cooperate with criminal investigations if they know what they say could became public.

But U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled there was no justification to withhold the entire 67 pages of FBI records documenting Fitzgerald's interview since the Plame leak investigation has concluded. He said that limited parts could be withheld to protect national security and private communications between the president and vice president.

The Justice Department told Sullivan in a hearing this summer that if he ordered the documents released, they would appeal and seek to withhold them until the matter is resolved. The Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling Thursday.

Plame's identity was leaked to news organizations after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, criticized the Bush administration's prewar intelligence on Iraq in 2003.

The leak touched off a lengthy inquiry that led to Cheney's former top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, being convicted on charges of obstruction of justice and lying to investigators. During his trial, jurors found that Libby lied to the FBI and a grand jury about his conversations with reporters. Then-President George W. Bush commuted Libby's sentence, and Libby never served prison time.

Libby was the only person charged in the case. No one was charged with leaking Wilson's name.

Libby told the FBI in 2003 that it was possible that Cheney ordered him to reveal Plame's identity to reporters. The prosecutor in that case, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, said in his closing remarks at Libby's trial that there was a "cloud" over Cheney's role in the case.

In July 2008, the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Justice Department seeking records related to Cheney's interview in the investigation. The Justice Department said there were two sets of notes taken by FBI agents during the interview and a report summarizing it, but declined to turn over the records. CREW filed a lawsuit in August.

CREW executive Melanie Sloan said in a statement that the group hopes the Obama administration will reveal the entire record in the interest of transparency.

"The American people deserve to know the truth about the role the vice president played in exposing Mrs. Wilson's covert identity," Sloan said. "High-level government officials should not be permitted to hide their misconduct from public view."

The Justice Department said the documents were exempt since they were part of a law enforcement matter and their release could interfere with future cases. They said the White House not cooperate if they know what they say could become available to their political opponents and late-night comics like those on "The Daily Show," who would ridicule them.

They also said the interview contained classified material and that presidential communications were shielded to allow candor with the president and his advisers.

Dangerous Missile Battle In Space

Dangerous Missile Battle In Space

Fifth Act In U.S. Missile Shield Drama

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Wars have brought untold horrors upon Europe over the centuries, especially the two world wars of the last one. Until now, though, the continent has been spared the ultimate cataclysm of a missile war.

Though twenty years after the end of the Cold War recent news articles contain reports that would have been shocking even during the depths of the East-West conflict in Europe that followed World War II.

A dispatch quoting a Finnish defense official two days ago bore the title "US could launch missiles from the Baltic Sea" and a U.S. armed forces website yesterday spoke in reference to proposed missile shield plans of "a big, complex, dangerous battle in the space over Europe."

On September 28 a feature called "BMD fleet plans Europe defense mission" appeared in the Navy Times which reported that "Ballistic-missile defense warships have become the keystone in a new national strategy....Rather than field sensors and missiles on the ground in Poland and the Czech Republic, the U.S. will first maintain a presence of at least two or three Aegis BMD ships in the waters around Europe, starting in 2011." [1]

This development is in keeping with U.S Pentagon chief Robert Gates' presentation of September 17 in which, confirming President Obama's announcement to replace and supplement his predecessor's project of placing ten ground-based interceptor missiles in Poland and a complementary radar installation in the Czech Republic, he laid out a three-step strategy to enhance (his word) U.S. missile shield plans in Europe.

In a Defense Department briefing with Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright, Gates explained the logic behind the shift.

"Over the last few years, we have made great strides with missile defense, particularly in our ability to counter short-and-medium-range missiles. We now have proven capabilities to intercept these ballistic missiles with land-and-sea-based interceptors supported by much-improved sensors.

"These capabilities offer a variety of options to detect, track and shoot down enemy missiles. This allows us to deploy a distributive sensor network rather than a single fixed site, like the kind slated for the Czech Republic, enabling greater survivability and adaptability." [2]

That is, as Russian officials have over the past two years openly stated that the stationary missile radar facility intended for the Czech Republic and silo-based missiles planned for Poland would be targeted by their own missiles if the U.S. went ahead with the deployments, mobile and rapidly deployable alternatives would have, in Gates' terms, "greater survivability and adaptability."

Land-based facilities are easy to monitor and, if the suspicion arose that they would be part of an imminent first strike attack, neutralize.

Sea-based, air-based and spaced-based surveillance and missile deployments would be harder - if not impossible - to track and to take out.

Referring to the hitherto exclusively ship-based Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), which nineteen months ago proved capable of shooting down a satellite in space, Gates offered further details:

"We have...improved the Standard Missile 3, the SM-3, which has had eight successful flight tests since 2007. These tests have amply demonstrated the SM-3's capability and have given us greater confidence in the system and its future....In the initial stage, we will deploy Aegis ships equipped with SM-3 interceptors, which provide the flexibility to move interceptors from one region to another if needed."

The second stage of the Pentagon's updated European missile shield program will entail the basing of "upgraded, land-based SM-3s."

"Consultations have begun with allies, starting with Poland and the Czech Republic, about hosting a land-based version of the SM-3 and other components of the system," Gates revealed.

In language that progressively reflected what sounds like plans to withstand a first - or second strike - in Europe's first missile war, Gates added, "Over time, this architecture is designed to continually incorporate new and more effective technologies, as well as more interceptors, expanding the range of coverage, improving our ability to knock down multiple targets and increasing the survivability of the overall system.

"This approach also provides us with greater flexibility to adapt to developing threats and evolving technologies...."

The threat repeatedly invoked by the Pentagon chief was, of course, Iran. The inverted logic of the earlier George W. Bush administration program, of which Gates himself was a major architect, ran something like this: Missiles in Poland and an X-band long-range radar installation in the Czech Republic would protect the continental United States from Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles, which the nation neither possesses nor, as both Gates and Obama themselves conceded on September 17, was likely to in the foreseeable future.

But once the U.S. went ahead with the deployments Iran could target both sites with medium-range missiles, the argument continued. So America pledged to station 96 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles in batteries manned by U.S. soldiers who would be based in Poland for the first time.

Thus Poland and the Czech Republic were transformed from sites for missile shield deployments to allegedly protect the U.S. to potential targets that needed to be protected by...the U.S.

The Patriot missiles in Poland, which are still slated to be sent and activated there, can no longer be presented as protecting American ground-based interceptor missiles in that nation, as that plan was officially scrapped twelve days ago. So why are they going to be deployed in spite of that?

The Patriot deployment was never intended to defend Poland against Iranian attacks, but to counter Russian plans to station mobile short-range missiles in its non-contiguous territory of Kaliningrad, which borders Poland, in response to what Russia necessarily viewed as a threat to its strategic missile forces. Bluntly put, U.S. ground-based missiles in Poland could be part of a system to destroy whatever long-range missiles Russia had left after a U.S. and NATO first strike.

As adviser to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Slawomir Nowak, was quoted on September 24 as admitting, "We were never really threatened by a long-range missile attack from Iran." [3]

Six days afterward Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski confirmed that 96 Patriot missiles will be deployed in his nation as scheduled and, moreover, will be armed.

As their deployment can no longer exploit the pretext of defending U.S. long-range missile sites from imaginary Iranian "preemptive" attacks, its purpose is demonstrated to be the what missile shield opponents have always asserted it was: To "protect" Poland from Russia.

The Polish newspaper that first revealed the shift in U.S. missile designs in Europe weeks before the event, the Gazeta Wyborcza, reported on September 25 some details of the new system as it will affect Poland:

"The concept would include a stationary rocket battery and possibly a number of mobile interceptor launchers. This might be a supplement to the envisaged American system of SM-3 naval based anti-rockets. Polish military experts say that equally important would be US military presence in Poland, which would provide an additional security guarantee." [4]

What mobile missile launchers ready for practically overnight deployment to Russia's neighbor might look like was indicated at last month's annual Space and Missile Defense Conference held by the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville, Alabama where the prototype of a nearly 50,000-pound "two-stage interceptor designed to be globally deployable within 24 hours" [5] to be stationed as needed at NATO bases throughout Europe was presented by the arms manufacturer eager to produce it, Chicago-based Boeing Company.

In his September 17th briefing at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Gates also announced plans to "deploy new sensors and interceptors, in northern and southern Europe." He tactfully did not specify where in the north and south of the continent the "capabilities...to detect, track and shoot down enemy missiles" would be placed, but their likely destinations are not hard to determine.

The former head of the Russian Strategic Missile Force, General Viktor Yesin, commented last week on one probability:

"Now we only need to be sure that the U.S. plans with regard to strengthening the ABM capability will not create a situation where warships armed with such systems will be moved from the North and Mediterranean seas to the Black Sea, which would pose a threat to Russia's strategic nuclear forces." [6]

An analyst from the same country, Sergei Roy, gave vent to similar apprehensions in a roundtable discussion in Russia Profile on September 25:

"If anything, that episode [projected U.S. radar in the Czech Republic to be aimed at Russia and not Iran], like so many others in recent history, should teach Russians to view any U.S. move in ABM defense (as in any other 'defense' area) with sober caution rather than credulous enthusiasm. My first idea on hearing of Obama opting for sea-based Standard-3 anti-missiles instead of those in Poland was: 'hey, which sea?' If it’s the Mediterranean and the North Sea, that’s OK, but what about the Black Sea or, God forbid, the Baltic? Those missiles will be much closer to Russia, while still in international waters or those of Ukraine or Georgia (why not Estonia’s, then?), and who will give a written guarantee that they are strictly anti-missile missiles? What about those early warning radar stations? Will they be based in Israel and Turkey – or in Georgia and/or Ukraine?" [7]

The Gazeta Wyborcza last month broke the news that the Pentagon intended to shift major missile shield emphasis to the Balkans, Israel and Turkey. Subsequent reports have focused on the South Caucasus nations of Georgia and Azerbaijan as locations for the extension of missile interception networks closer to Iran and to Russia's southern border.

The Navy Times report cited at the beginning of this piece discussed the transfer of missile shield hardware and priority to the Balkans, the Black Sea region and the Middle East and mentioned as an example the USS Stout, an Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer. Last summer the ship had been deployed for naval maneuvers in the Eastern Mediterranean with Israel and Turkey [Operation Reliant Mermaid] and then moved into the Black Sea in its first deployment as part of the Pentagon's Aegis sea-based interceptor missile system. The USS Stout visited NATO members Bulgaria and Romania and NATO candidate nation Georgia while on the Black Sea mission. While visiting the third country it participated in a joint military exercise with its host's navy directly south of Abkhazia, which could be the site of a fresh Caucasus war at any moment.

At least as far back as February of 2008, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency director of the time, Lieutenant General Henry Obering, spoke of adding a third interceptor missile component to those intended for Poland and the Czech Republic, saying that "The powerful, 'forward based' radar system would go in southeastern Europe, possibly in Turkey, the Caucasus or the Caspian Sea region...." [8]

So the expansion of the American and NATO missile interception system along a new trajectory that starts in the Balkans and progresses along Russia's southern border and eastward towards China's is nothing new.

The implementation of it currently being witnessed is new. And dangerous. Innovations in the interceptor missile system devised by the Pentagon will place greater emphasis on "ballistic-missile defense warships" to be deployed and moved around "in the waters around Europe." [9]

"Europe there will be a need for more, modernized cruisers capable of firing the SM-3 and more advanced missiles to come. This might have an effect on the ultimate Navy build program." [10]

As one American missile expert phrased it, the commanders of such vessels have been put "on a par with [ballistic-missile submarine] commanders."

The Pentagon's project of stationing as many as 100 SM-s, initially, on ships off the coasts of European nations and on their territory could lead to a situation in which "a BMD captain could be responsible for a big, complex, dangerous battle in the space over Europe, needing to fire dozens of missiles to try to destroy dozens of attackers." [11]

The immediate reference was to Iran, again, but with implications for Russia as missile killer ship deployments in the Baltic and Black Seas would not be limited to or even primarily directed at Iran.

In a September 27 news article from an Icelandic source called "US could launch missiles from the Baltic Sea" spokesperson for the Department of Strategic and Defence Studies at Finland's National Defence University, Commander Juha-Antero Puistola, stated "If the idea is to create this type of mobile platform, then some of the ships can well be placed in the Baltic. The Aegis cruisers have always been moved wherever needed." [12]

On the following day Russian ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin stated that the U.S. "missile defense program is becoming less predictable with missile shield elements deployed in the Arctic as the worst-case scenario...." [13]

An earlier article in this series - U.S. Missile Shield Plans: Retreat Or Advance? - pointed out that "The major drawback [for the U.S.] of ground-based missiles in Poland is that they would be fixed-site deployments. For several years now Russia has warned that it was prepared to base Iskander theater ballistic missiles in its Kaliningrad region, which borders Poland, should Washington deploy its missiles to that nation." [14]

Rogozin shared that perspective in acknowledging "We knew for sure that there would be ten interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in Czech Republic, and that we wpuld have our Iskander [missiles] in the Kaliningrad Region...now the U.S. missile elements are to be based on U.S. cruisers, and you can never tell where they will be tomorrow." [15]

Why he has been so tardy in realizing the threat of U.S. ship- and submarine-based missile and anti-missile plans in the Arctic Ocean is puzzling, as the National Security Presidential Directive of January 9, 2009 made no attempt to disguise the White House's and the Pentagon's intentions in that respect. Toward the beginning of the document it is stated:

"The United States has broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region and is prepared to operate either independently or in conjunction with other states to safeguard these interests. These interests include such matters as missile defense and early warning; deployment of sea and air systems for strategic sealift, strategic deterrence, maritime presence, and maritime security operations; and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight." [16]

NATO held its first-ever top-level meeting - attended by its secretary general, its two top military commanders and the chairman of its Military Committee - on the Arctic seventeen days after the U.S. National Security Directive was released and also broadcast in no equivocal terms interest in expanding its presence into what it called the High North.

A plan that was outlined yesterday by Rogozin as follows:

"The ice would retreat, it would melt, which means that NATO would definitely be present in the Arctic. They have been planning it for a long time, and under very bad circumstances the U.S. strategic missile defense would arrive there on board these ships." [17]

An insightful and penetrating commentary appeared in The Nation of Pakistan on September 26 which linked U.S. President Obama's speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 23 with his statements on missile defense six days earlier.

The author, Shireen M. Mazari, wrote that "many of us have been living with these periodic highs at the declaratory level on the issue of nuclear arms control and disarmament - till we realize they are merely a rhetorical facade to hide away the growing nuclear arsenals of the nuclear weapon states."

And if White House pledges to reduce or even eliminate nuclear weapons sound something less than sincere - Ronald Reagan's 1983 Star Wars speech included a proclaimed commitment "to lower the level of all arms, and particularly nuclear arms" - than so do American pronouncements that the nation's global missile interception system will eliminate or even diminish the threat of dangerous and perhaps catastrophic confrontations.

The Pakistani writer added:

"So there will be no BMD [Ballistic Missile Defense] placements in Poland and the Czech Republic but there will be BMD systems placed on highly mobile sea platforms to counter a largely imagined threat to Europe and the US from Iran.

"Of course, these ships can be moved easily from the Mediterranean to the Gulf or Indian Ocean so Pakistan would also come into this BMD target loop - again with India being helped in the development and acquisition of BMD as part of its strategic military alliance with the US.

"BMD has also undermined deterrence which was sustained through mutual
vulnerabilities.

"Now BMD has focused attention on nuclear war fighting, thereby increasing the danger of nuclear weapons being used in war.

"Unfortunately, while Obama may call for nuclear disarmament, his policy on BMD betrays this rhetoric." [18]

The preceding paragraphs are as terse yet comprehensive a summation as can be found of the threat the U.S.'s new flexible, mobile and technologically advanced international missile shield strategy presents for raising rather than lowering world tensions, for dropping the threshold of a U.S. and allied missile war being launched because of the perceived invulnerability of the aggressor and, the ultimate worst-case scenario, for nuclear war whether intended or not. A nuclear war which would transform Europe and much of the rest of the world into a gigantic necropolis.

Notes

1) Navy Times, September 28, 2009
2) U.S. Department of Defense, September 17, 2009
3) Reuters, September 24, 2009
4) Polish Radio, September 25, 2009
5) Reuters, August 20, 2009
6) Izvestia, September 22, 2009
7) Russia Profile, September 25, 2009
8) Reuters, February 12, 2008
9) Navy Times, September 28, 2009
10) Defense Procurement News, September 18, 2009
11) Navy Times, September 28, 2009
12) Ice News, September 27, 2009
13) Russian Information Agency Novosti, September 28, 2009
14) Stop NATO, September 17, 2009
15) Russian Information Agency Novosti, September 28, 2009
16) http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/nspd/nspd-66.htm
17) Russian Information Agency Novosti, September 28, 2009
18) Shireen M Mazari, The facade of nuclear disarmament
The Nation, September 26, 2009

Pipelineistan's Ultimate Opera

Pipelineistan's Ultimate Opera

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Back before email, a world traveler who wanted to keep in touch and couldn't just pop into the nearest Internet café, might drop you a series of postcards from one exotic locale after another. Pepe Escobar, that edgy, peripatetic globe-trotting reporter for one of my favorite on-line publications, Asia Times, has been doing just that for TomDispatch readers as he explores the geography that undergirds our civilization, the pipelines that crisscross Eurasia through which flow energy -- and trouble. This, then, is his third "postcard" from what he likes to call Pipelineistan. The first in March began laying out a great, ongoing energy struggle across Eurasia via an embattled energy corridor (and a key pipeline) that runs from the Caspian Sea to Europe through Georgia and Turkey -- and the Great Game of business, diplomacy, and proxy war between Russia and the U.S. that has gone with it.

In May, he plunged eastward into tumultuous Central and South Asia and the devolving battleground that, in Washington, goes by the neologism AfPak (for the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of operations). Now, he heads west toward Europe and another developing struggle, this time over just how natural gas from the Caspian Sea will reach Europe. Think of this as a story that lurks under so many other stories. For instance, this very day, the representatives of Russia, Germany, China, France, Britain, and for the first time, the United States, will be sitting down with Iran's representative in Geneva for what's billed as an historic exchange. On the table -- and in global headlines -- will be the Iranian nuclear program, a previously secret Iranian nuclear site, Iranian medium-range missile tests, sanctions of various sorts, the possibility of future attacks on that country's nuclear establishment, and so on. What won't be in the headlines, or the accompanying reams of analysis, is the approximately 15% of the world's natural gas deposits Iran controls. As it happens, for the Europeans and the Russians (and so for Washington), that's the story hidden under the Iranian imbroglio, which is why we need Pepe Escobar. Tom

Jumpin' Jack Verdi, It's a Gas, Gas, Gas

Iran and the Pipelineistan Opera
By Pepe Escobar

Brussels -- Oil and natural gas prices may be relatively low right now, but don't be fooled. The New Great Game of the twenty-first century is always over energy and it's taking place on an immense chessboard called Eurasia. Its squares are defined by the networks of pipelines being laid across the oil heartlands of the planet. Call it Pipelineistan. If, in Asia, the stakes in this game are already impossibly high, the same applies to the "Euro" part of the great Eurasian landmass -- the richest industrial area on the planet. Think of this as the real political thriller of our time.

The movie of the week in Brussels is: When NATO Meets Pipelineistan. Though you won't find it in any headlines, at virtually every recent NATO summit Washington has been maneuvering to involve reluctant Europeans ever more deeply in the business of protecting Pipelineistan. This is already happening, of course, in Afghanistan, where a promised pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India, the TAPI pipeline, has not even been built. And it's about to happen at the borders of Europe, again around pipelines that have not yet been built.

If you had to put that Euro part of Pipelineistan into a formula, you might do so this way: Nabucco (pushed by the U.S.) versus South Stream (pushed by Russia). Be patient. You'll understand in a moment.

At the most basic level, it's a matter of the West yet again trying, in the energy sphere, to bypass Russia. For this to happen, however -- and it wouldn't hurt if you opened the nearest atlas for a moment -- Europe desperately needs to get a handle on Central Asian energy resources, which is easy to say but has proven surprisingly hard to do. No wonder the NATO Secretary General's special representative, Robert Simmons, has been logging massive frequent-flyer miles to Central Asia over these last few years.

Just under the surface of an edgy entente cordiale between the European Union (EU) and Russia lurks the possibility of a no-holds-barred energy war -- Liquid War, as I call it. The EU and the U.S. are pinning their hopes on a prospective 3,300-kilometer-long, $10.7 billion pipeline dubbed Nabucco. Planning for it began way back in 2004 and construction is finally expected to start, if all goes well (and it may not), in 2010. So if you're a NATO optimist, you hope that natural gas from the Caspian Sea, maybe even from Iran (barring the usual American blockade), will begin flowing through it by 2015. The gas will be delivered to Erzurum in Turkey and then transported to Austria via Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary.

Why, you might ask, is the pipeline meant to save Europe named for a Verdi opera? Well, Austrian and Turkish energy executives happened to see the opera together in Vienna in 2002 while discussing their energy dilemmas, and the biblical plight of the Jews exiled by King Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar), a love story set amid a ferocious struggle for freedom and power, swept them away. Still, it's a stretch to turn aluminum tubes into dramatic characters.

Of course, the operatic theater here isn't really in the tubing, it's in the politics and strategic implications that surround the pipeline. In Eastern Europe, for instance, Nabucco is seen not as a European economic or energy project, but as a creature of Washington, just like the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey that President Bill Clinton and his crew backed so vigorously in the 1990s and which was finally finished in 2005. For those who have never believed the Cold War is over -- the Eastern Europeans among them -- once again it's the good guys (the West) against the commies... sorry, the Russians... at an energy-rich OK Corral.

The Great Borderless Gas Bazaar

Russia's answer to Nabucco is the 1,200-kilometer-long, $15 billion South Stream pipeline, also scheduled to be finished in 2015; it is slated to carry Siberian natural gas under the Black Sea from Russia to Bulgaria. From Bulgaria, one branch of the pipeline would then run south through Greece to southern Italy while the other would run north through Serbia and Hungary towards northern Italy.

Now, add another pipeline to the picture, the $9.1 billion Nord Stream that will soon enough snake from Western Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany, which already imports 41.5% of its natural gas from Russia. The giant Russian energy firm Gazprom holds a controlling 51% of Nord Stream stock; the rest belongs to German and Dutch companies. The chairman of the board is none other than former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Put this all together and Russia, with its pipelines running in all directions and firmly embedded in Europe, spells trouble for Nabucco's future and frustration for Washington's New Great Game plans to contain the Russian energy juggernaut. And that's without even mentioning Ukhta which, chances are, you've never heard of. If you aren't in the energy business, why should you have? After all, it's a backwater village in Russia's autonomous republic of Komi, 350 kilometers from the Arctic Circle. Built by forced labor, it was once part of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag archipelago. By 2030, however, you'll know its name. By then, a pipeline from remote Ukhta will be flooding Europe with natural gas and the village will be one of Nord Stream's key transit nodes.

While Nabucco as well as South Stream remain virtual, Nord Stream is a Terminator on the run. By 2010, it will be tunneling under the Baltic Sea heading for Germany. By 2011, it should be delivering the goods and a second pipe -- 12 meters wide, 100,000 tubes long -- will be under construction to double its capacity by 2014. Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller pulls no punches: this, he says, will be "the safest and most modern pipeline in the world."

How can Verdi lovers possibly compete? In the middle of a global recession, Gazprom is spending at least $20 billion to conquer Europe via Nord and South Stream. The strategy is a killer: pump gas under the sea directly to Europe, avoiding messy transit routes across troublesome countries like Ukraine. No wonder Gazprom, which today controls 26% of the European gas market, is expected to have a 33% share by 2020.

In other words, in many ways, the Nabucco versus South Stream energy war already looks settled. Nabucco is, at best, likely to be a secondary pipeline, incapable, as Washington once hoped, of breaking the EU away from energy dependence on Russia.

Brussels, predictably, is in its usual multilingual policy mess. Most bureaucrats at its monster, directive-churning body, the European Commission, publicly bemoan the "pipeline war." On the other hand, Ona Jukneviciene, chairwoman of the committees at the European Parliament dealing with Central Asia, admits that Nabucco cannot be the only option.

As for Reinhard Mitschek, managing director of the Nabucco consortium, he tries to put a brave face on things when he stresses, "we will transport Russian gas, Azeri gas, Iraqi gas." As for the top European official on energy matters, Andris Piebalgs, he can't help being a pragmatist: "We'll continue to work with Russia because Russia has energy resources."

From a business point of view, it's tough to argue with South Stream's selling points. Unlike Nabucco, it will offer cheaper, all-Russian natural gas that won't have to transit through potential war zones, and while Nabucco will always deliver limited amounts of Caspian natural gas to market, South Stream, given Russian resources, will have plenty of room to increase its output.

The fact is that, as of now, Nabucco still has no guaranteed sources of gas. In order for the gas to come from energy-rich Turkmenistan, to take but one example, the Turkmen leadership would have to break a deal they've already made with Russia, which now buys all of that country's export gas. There's no way that Moscow is likely to let one of the former Soviet Republics do that easily. In addition, both Russia and Iran could well be capable of blocking any pipeline straddling the floor of the Caspian Sea.

Gazprom will pay to build South Stream, and then distribute and sell gas it already controls to Europe; Nabucco, on the other hand, has to rely on a messy consortium of six countries (Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Germany) simply to finance one-third of its prospective costs, and then convince wary international bankers to shell out the rest.

The Pentagon does the Black Sea

So what does Washington want out of this mess? That's easy. Rewind to then-prospective Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her Senate confirmation hearings on January 13, 2009. There, she decried Europe's dependence on Russian natural gas and issued an urgent call for "investments in the Trans-Caspian energy sector." Think of it as a signal: The new Obama administration would be as committed to Nabucco as the Bush administration had been.

What is never spelled out is why. Enter the Black Sea, that crucial geo-strategic stage where Europe meets the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Enter, thus, Bulgaria, home to a new Pentagon air base in Bezmer, one of six new strategic bases being built outside the U.S. and as potentially important to Washington's future games as the stalwart air bases in Incirlik, Turkey, and Aviano, Italy have been in the past. (Aviano was the key U.S./NATO base for the bombing of the Bosnian Serbs in 1995 and the 78-day bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999.)

With the Pentagon's bases already creeping within a stone's throw of Southwest and Central Asia, it doesn't take a genius to imagine the role Bezmer might play in any future attack on Iran (something the Russian defense establishment has already taken careful note of). With both Romania and Bulgaria now part of NATO, Article 5 of the alliance's charter now applies. NATO can take action "in the event of crises which jeopardize Euro-Atlantic stability and could affect the security of Alliance members."

In this way, Pipelineistan meets the American Empire of Bases.

Young Turks and Wily Russians

Why is everyone so damn hooked on Central Asian oil and gas? Elshad Nasirov, deputy chairman of the state-owned Azerbaijani oil company SOCAR, sums the addiction up succinctly enough: "This is the place where there is oil and gas in abundance. It is not Arab, not Persian, not Russian, and not OPEC."

It's the Caspian and, unfortunately for Europe, the region could, in energy terms, turn out to be not the caviar for which it's renowned but so many rotten fish eggs. No one knows, after all, whether the EU will ever be able to buy Iranian gas via Nabucco. No one knows whether the Central Asian "stans" have enough gas to supply Russia, China, and Turkey, not to mention India and Pakistan. No one knows whether any of their leaders will have the nerve to renege on their deals with Gazprom.

Ever since a 2008 British study determined that Turkmenistan may have natural gas reserves second only to Russia on the planet, the European Commission has been on a no-holds-barred tear to lure that country into delivering some of its future gas directly to Europe -- and not through the Russian pipeline system either. Turkmenistan's inscrutable leader, the spectacularly named Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, just has to say the word, but despite the claims of EU officials that he has agreed to send some gas Europe-wards, he's never offered a public word of confirmation. No wonder: with Nabucco unbuilt and a pipeline from his country to China still under construction, Turkmenistan can play Pipelineistan games only with Russia and Iran. In fact, Russia essentially controls the flow of Turkmen gas for the next 15 years.

Should Gurbanguly someday say the magic word -- and assuming the Russians don't throw a monkey wrench into the works -- he can marry Turkey, as the key transit country, with the EU and let them all sing Verdi till the sheep come home. In the meantime, angst is the name of the game in Europe (and so in Washington).

A declassified dossier from the FSB, the Russian heir to the KGB, is adamant: considering Nabucco's shortcomings, "Russia will remain the primary supplier of energy to Europe for the foreseeable future." Call it a matter of having your gas and processing it, too. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been making the point for years. If Europe tries to snub it, Russia will simply build its own liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants, to facilitate storage and transport, and sell its LNG all over the world.

Anyway it's worth paying attention to what the St. Petersburg State Mining Institute (where Putin earned his doctorate) has to say. According to the institute, Russia has only 20 years' worth of its own natural gas reserves left. Since Russia plans to sell up to 40% of its gas abroad, "Russian" gas may in the future actually mean Central Asian gas. All the more reason for the Russians to make sure that those massive Turkmen and other reserves flow north, not west.

Whatever Washington thinks, the Europeans know that energy independence from Russia is, in reality, inconceivable. Bottom line when it comes to natural gas: Europe needs everything -- Nord Stream, South Stream, and Nabucco. The bulk of the natural gas in this Pipelineistan maze may well turn out to be Central Asian anyway and a substantial part could be Iranian, if the Obama administration ever normalizes relations with Iran.

That, then, is the current state of play in the European wing of Pipelineistan. Russia seems to have virtually guaranteed its status as the top gas supplier to Europe for the foreseeable future. But that brings us to Turkey, a key regional power for both the U.S. and the EU. As President Obama has recognized, Turkey is both a real and a metaphorical bridge between the Christian and Muslim worlds. It is also an ideal transit country for carrying non-Russian gas to Europe and is now playing its own suitably complex Pipelineistan game.

Chances are that, like Ukhta in far off Siberia, you've never heard of Yumurtalik either. It's a fishing port squeezed between the Mediterranean Sea and the Taurus mountains, very close to Ceyhan, the terminal for two key nodes of Pipelineistan: the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline from Iraq and the monster BTC pipeline. Turkey wants to turn Yumurtalik-Ceyhan into nothing less than the Rotterdam of the Mediterranean.

Even as it dreams of future EU membership, however, Turkey worries about antagonizing Moscow. And yet, being aboard the Nabucco Express and already fully committed to the functioning BTC pipeline puts the country on a potential collision course with Russia, its largest trading partner. Of course, this does not displease Washington.

On the other hand, the Turkish leadership draws ever closer to Iran, which provides 38% of Turkey's oil and 25% of its natural gas. Ankara and Tehran also have geopolitical affinities (especially in fighting Kurdish separatism). Together, they offer the best alternative to the Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Georgia) in terms of supplying Europe with Iranian natural gas. All this, of course, drives Washington nuts.

Needless to say, the Nabucco consortium itself would kill to have Iran as a gas supplier for the pipeline. They are also familiar with realpolitik: this could happen only with a Washington-blessed solution to the Iranian nuclear dossier. Iran, for its part, knows well how to seduce Europe. Mohammad-Reza Nematzadeh, managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), has insisted Iran is Europe's "sole option" for the success of Nabucco.

Is Russia just watching all this gas go by? Of course not. In October 2007, Putin signed a key agreement with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: If Iran cannot sell its gas to Nabucco -- a likelihood given the turbulence of American domestic politics and its foreign policy -- Russia will buy it. Translation: Iranian gas could end up, like Central Asian gas, heading for Europe as more "Russian" gas. With its European and Iranian policies at cross-purposes, Washington will not be amused.

When Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to "rethink Nabucco" if the tricky negotiations for Turkey to enter the EU drag on forever, EU leaders got the message (as much as France and Germany may be against a "Europe without borders"). Pragmatically, most EU leaders know very well that they need excellent relations with Turkey to one day have access to the Big Prize, Iranian gas; and that puts Europe's energy and EU membership inclinations at loggerheads.

Last July in Ankara, Nabucco was formally launched by an inter-governmental agreement. The representatives of Turkey, Austria, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary were there. Obama's special Eurasian envoy, Richard Morningstar (a veteran of the BTC adventure), was there as well. The Central Asian stans were not there.

But crucially, Gurbanguly, ever the showman, finally made an entrance without ever leaving Turkmenistan, (almost) uttering the magic words in a meeting with his ministers in the capital, Ashgabat, on July 10th: "Turkmenistan, staying committed to the principles of diversification of supply of its energy resources to the world markets, is going to use all available opportunities to participate in major international projects -- such as, for example, [the] Nabucco project."

At the Vienna headquarters of Nabucco the mantra remains: this is "no anti-Russian project." Still, everyone knows that Russia's leaders are eager to kill it, and not a soul from Brussels to Vienna, Washington to Ashgabat, knows how to link Central Asia to Europe via a non-Russian pipeline, at the cost of more than $10 billion, without some assurance that Turkmeni, Kazakh, Azerbaijani, and/or Iranian natural gas will be fully (or even partially) on board. Who would be foolish enough to invest that kind of money without some guarantee that hundreds of miles of aluminum tubes won't remain empty? You don't need Verdi to tell you this is one hell of a quirky plot for a global opera.

The G-20 Announces a "New World Order"

The G-20 Announces a "New World Order"

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A new world order is emerging at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh with a decision by the group to become the premier coordinating body on economic issues. Radio Free Europe, Sep. 26, 2009

The world's most exclusive public club, the G-20, met last week in Pittsburgh for "the opportunity to take stock of the progress made and discuss further actions to assure a sound recovery from the global economic and financial crisis." The G-20 consists of finance ministers and senior banking officials from the world's 20 largest economies. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner were there for the United States. But the real action comes from the gathering's function as an informal summit for attending heads of state.

The Pittsburgh Summit focused on changing the regulations governing the world's financial institutions and processes In addition to rewriting the rule book, the "new world order" announced that the G-20 is now the "premier coordinating body on economic issues" which will benefit the wealthiest interests in each member country.

But it was more than just about making the banks behave. In cooperation with U.S. and foreign law enforcement agencies, Pittsburgh police and unidentified law enforcement agents unveiled some new programs for citizens. These had nothing to do with much needed jobs and health care, barely mentioned at the meeting. Rather, the G-20 premiered the "sonic cannon," a device designed to cause serious pain from ultra shrill sonic waves beamed at those exercising their rights of freedom of speech and assembly.

Law enforcement used the more traditional techniques like the citizen "grab and snatch." This maneuver has four rapid stages: unidentified law enforcement officials show up in an unmarked car; grab a random citizen; shove him into a car against his will; and drive off, all without a word of explanation.

The "snatch and grab" (left, video). The "sonic cannon" (right, video) was deployed and emitted these exact words: "Pittsburgh Chief Police: This is an unlawful assembly. I order all those assembled to immediately disburse. You must leave the immediate vicinity. If you remain in this immediate vicinity, you will be in violation of the Pennsylvania crimes code, no matter what your purpose is."

There were no criticisms of police actions from the G-20 leaders, many of whom preside over nominally democratic states. That's probably because there were no questions from the press.

The power salon has been functioning since 1975 when a smaller, even more exclusive group met at the request of the then President of France, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. The G-8 leaders convened to manage the economic and social impact of rapidly rising oil prices. One year later, prices dipped briefly then nearly tripled after the Iranian Revolution.

Over the years, the world's financial leaders met periodically, building the franchise, until the Pittsburgh Summit at which the new magic number of 20 nations was announced, the G-20.

At an April G-20 meeting in London the focus was on "Stability, Growth, Jobs." A look at the four working groups from that meeting shows two focused on international finance and two on international financial organizations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The ongoing economic struggle of billions of people didn't deter key G-20 figure Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke from announcing that the worldwide recession is "very likely over." Of course, there's a qualifier. It will be a jobless recovery which raises the question, just exactly who will be recovering?

The Epitome of Failure

An objective judgment on the promises of the London G-20 meeting, growth and jobs, shows a complete failure by the group. The world's economy continues to slide into oblivion with no remaining bright spots except for Wall Street bankers and others who caused the crisis. The largest U.S. and European financial groups have cash and credit guarantees of a potential $23.7 trillion (annotation) to preserve their market positions and executive perks. These guarantees were enabled by the actions of some of the very same leaders attending the Pittsburgh conference. It's a tight circle.

One sixth of the world population suffers from hunger largely due to unemployment, high food prices, and the high cost of borrowing due to the current financial crisis. Unemployment is increasing around the world complicated by a largely unmentioned structural jobs shortage. A report from the International Labor Organization shows that unemployment has grown to 190 million worldwide with an estimated 50 million more to join them in 2009. Rates of "working poverty" are expected to hit 1.3 billion people worldwide.

Even if the job market improves, the struggle to buy basic necessities will continue to pose a challenge for the vast majority of citizens. In the United States, for example, there has been no real increase in per capita income for the past nine years and few net new non government jobs.

The people who brought the world to this state of decline and struggle are still in charge. They're fixing the very problems they created.

What's their solution?

Change the way banks are regulated.

Sowing the Wind

The U.S. can no longer finance the military presence overseas without major debt. Foreign wars are simply not affordable. The banking system is in critical condition, unable to recover except on a superficial level. The neglect of domestic concerns in the United States and the ongoing drain of wealth from the middle, working and lower class have virtually eliminated taxation and the treasury as a viable source of real funds.

Undeterred, the United States government has begun yet another war it cannot afford in Afghanistan before even beginning to end the occupation of Iraq. At the same time, the government has issued trillions of dollars in cash and credit for a banking sector with many banks technically broke.

The rest of the world continues to struggle despite optimistic talk at the summit. Japan remains in a recession after nearly two decades and has just begun a faltering recovery. In Germany, there are fears of deflation. China may have exhausted credit and protectionist fixes in an attempt to avoid a major slump. Spain's unemployment figure will reach 20% soon.

More to the point of globalization, there are 1.3 billion "working poor" (p. 39) earning $2.00 (two dollars) a day concentrated in South, East, and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Does the G-20 recovery plan include these subsistence workers? When is it their turn to "recover?"

What's the response by the world's leaders? Regulatory reform of banking and finance will save us. If we only have better banking rules, they argue, we will somehow be able to generate enough dollars to keep the key enterprises going - financial and military dominance - while something may come along to help with concerns like jobs, health, and increased income.

Here's what they're really saying: it's time to fix a new set of rules that allow the game to continue in some form that will protect accumulated wealth and maintain those in power.

While the leaders and their finance ministers workout the latest scheme to produce a balance sheet that won't generate laughter and derision, they must ponder the finite limitations of their economies. Unlike the exuberance of the 1950's with the assumption of limitless energy in the form of oil, there's an awareness that the fuel underlying the entire scheme is increasingly more difficult and expensive to extract. Concerns about diminishing returns from exploration and extraction are mixed with notions that there may be an end to the affordability of oil given the voracious appetite of two of the new G-20 members, China and India.

But the leaders can sit in repose at their elegantly catered conference dinners with the comfort that although they may not be the managers of a perpetual scheme of "growth" for their incredibly wealthy patrons, they will certainly transition to the role managing the chaos caused by their efforts. Their street level operatives unveil new technologies and techniques at each G-20 conference to discourage those who seek to disagree by public assembly and free speech. When the G-20 is in town, basic political rights here and overseas are suspended. It's time for the beat down.

The heavy handed, technically brutish suppression of public protest are a form of instructive theater that engenders a feeling of helplessness for many who might otherwise be motivated to resist. This in turn perpetuates order and protection for the G-20's ongoing acts of greed and incompetence inflicted upon the vast majority of citizens in the nations they represent. If they quiet the voice of the people long enough, the leaders may even begin to think that the voices never existed in the first place. They can ignore what they've forgotten, the will of those they govern.