Saturday, December 5, 2009

Obama jobs summit: "No money for jobs"

Obama jobs summit: “No money for jobs”

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Thursday’s White House summit on jobs was an open display of the callousness and indifference of President Barack Obama and the American corporate elite to the plight of the working class.

In the course of a two-hour “brainstorming” session with 130 corporate CEOs, government officials, trade union executives and economists, Obama flatly rejected any major new allocation of federal funds to create jobs and ruled out a second stimulus package. Two days after he announced an escalation of the deeply unpopular war in Afghanistan, which he said would cost $30 billion a year, Obama insisted at Thursday’s gathering that the government’s resources were too “limited” to finance job creation programs.

Instead, he appealed to the multi-millionaire CEOs in attendance to propose measures that would induce them to begin hiring workers. “What’s holding back business investment and how we can increase confidence and spur hiring?” he asked. “And if there are things that we’re doing in Washington that are inhibiting you, then we want to know about it.”

The CEOs of FedEx and Walt Disney—whose combined compensation last year surpassed $61.5 million—responded with demands for cuts in corporate taxes, a proposal that was widely seconded by the other business chiefs in attendance. Obama indicated that he would propose tax incentives for hiring new employees, the dismantling of business regulations and other measures that will do next to nothing to put jobless people back to work, but will further bolster the executives’ profits.

On Friday, Obama staged a town meeting in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a city devastated by the closure of its steel mills. In an attempt to give his jobs policy a populist gloss, he mildly criticized the banks for not lending to small businesses and consumers and took some rhetorical shots at the insurance companies. However, he had nothing substantive to propose.

Later on Friday, there were reports that Obama might propose using for economic stimulus purposes some of the unallocated funds in the bank bailout Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)—a drop in the bucket compared to the scale of the jobs crisis—when he gives a speech on the economy next Tuesday.

Thursday’s jobs summit was intended as a public relations stunt to placate and disorient growing popular anger over mass unemployment and rising home foreclosures, hunger and poverty, and the refusal of the government to provide any serious relief. Instead, the event only underscored the oligarchic social interests represented by Obama and the entire political establishment.

In his opening remarks, Obama said that any steps to address the soaring jobless rate had “to face the fact that our resources are limited.” Government measures had to be “surgical,” he declared.

Obama was referring to the massive federal budget deficit of $1.4 trillion. He neglected to note that the major reason for the tripling of last year’s deficit and explosive growth of the national debt was a bailout of the banks that, according to the inspector general of TARP, has allocated up to $23.7 trillion in cash handouts, loans, debt guarantees and other subsidies to the financial elite.

Nor did he, or anyone else at the summit, choose to mention that compensation at the 23 biggest US banks, hedge funds and other financial firms is expected to top $140 billion this year.

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press and USA Today prior to the summit, Obama said, “It’s not going to be possible for us to have a huge second stimulus, because frankly, we just don’t have the money.”

The unstated premise of this claim is that nothing can be done that impinges on the wealth of the American financial aristocracy or threatens its stranglehold on the economy. Obama made a point of reiterating his support for the capitalist market, declaring, “I want to be clear: While I believe the government has a critical role in creating the conditions for economic growth, ultimately true economic recovery is only going to come from the private sector.”

This means that job creation must be totally subordinated to the profit interests of the corporations and banks. That translates into a policy which facilitates ever deeper cuts in wages and the institutionalization of sweat-shop conditions. There was no mention, let alone condemnation, of the wave of corporate wage-cutting that is driving down working class living standards—a situation that is intended to become a permanent feature of working class life in America, and, indeed, internationally.

In a posting on his blog on the eve of the summit, Robert Reich, labor secretary in the Clinton administration, spelled out in fairly frank terms the implications for workers of the economic crisis and the policies of the government. He said that the current recession had accelerated a “structural change” in the economy.

“The basic assumption that jobs will eventually return when the economy recovers is probably wrong,” he wrote. “Under the pressure of this awful recession, many companies have found ways to cut their payrolls for good. … This means many Americans won’t be rehired unless they’re willing to settle for much lower wages and benefits.”

In lieu of a federal public works program or even a modest tax on financial transactions, both of which the administration opposes, Obama once again promoted alternative energy and “green” investment as a cure-all for mass unemployment. This bit of charlatanry reached the point of absurdity with the claim that providing incentives for homeowners to weatherize their houses—what some at the summit dubbed “cash for caulkers”—would represent a major step in addressing the jobs crisis.

Like all of Obama’s other proposals, “cash for caulkers” will have a negligible impact on unemployment, but it will provide a substantial windfall for particular business interests. One of the most enthusiastic proponents of this idea at the summit was the chief executive of the home improvement giant Home Depot.

In his closing remarks, Obama placed emphasis on driving up US exports. “If we just increased our share of exports to Asia by 1 percent,” he said, “that’s about a quarter million jobs right there. If we increased it by 5 [percent], that’s a million jobs. That fills a big hole; it doesn’t cost money.

“So we are going to be scouring federal regulations, restrictions, et cetera that are inhibiting export growth.”

The union executives at the summit were eager to jump on this bandwagon, in order to push their reactionary agenda of trade war and economic nationalism. Teamsters President James Hoffa attacked government trade policies as insufficiently protectionist.

Even taken on its own terms, an increase of 1 million jobs would make only a small dent in the nearly 8 million jobs that have already been wiped out since the recession began.

What Obama did not explain, moreover, is that expanding exports is central to the global strategy of the US ruling elite for offloading the crisis of American capitalism onto its economic rivals, and that the heart of this strategy is a permanent reduction in the living standards of the American working class.

The Obama administration is committed to a policy of using mass unemployment as a weapon to bring the social position of American workers more in line with that of super-exploited workers in rising Asian economies such as China and India. By means of wage-cutting, speedup and cuts in social programs such as Medicare and Social Security, the US is to be turned into a cheap labor center for exports to the world market.

This is the class war agenda that underlies Obama’s cynical and duplicitous posturing at the jobs summit.

The United Nations' Role in Peace and War.

The United Nations' Role in Peace and War.

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Some times the New York Times does the right thing. This morning the Editorial (December 1, 2009) condemned the Swiss referendum vote to prohibit the construction of minarets on Mosques throughout the country. And on the Op. Ed. Page Bob Herbert quoted Eisenhower “ I hate war, as only a soldier who has lived it can, as one who has seen its brutality, it futility, its stupidity.” He added, and “:every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”

And especially thank you Professor Chossudovsky for this opportunity to speak in Montreal. And to listen, and to learn from audience reaction and comments.

As you may have guessed – this is not intended to be a ‘feel good’ review of the UN. We are here to think, and consider something different, something better. Something representative, something respectful of international law: committed to equality of nations and people. An organization that really believes in a single standard of behaviour and treatment for all... and not double standards as of now.

The New York Times Editorial of 21 November suggested that readers should not be too critical of President Obama’s recent visit to China... as he still trying to restore America’s moral authority! My first thought was: Restore what moral authority?


My second was: that the restoration concept – should absolutely apply to the United Nations! And in particular to the Security Council responsible for global Peace and Security. It is to that Council we should look for secular moral authority, global leadership, respect for international law and for management of global peaceful co-existence. But we don’t - do we?

Before diving into the business of restoration - let’s look at how the UN is viewed today:

First – there is the UN of people’s unrealistic expectations – how we want the UN to be: to act: to represent us caring people! - a UN to bring good will, and wellbeing to people-kind everywhere.

We want it to be the UN of the Preamble - “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war... to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small... to establish... justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law... to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom... and for these ends to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security...


I believe most of us want a UN set apart and distinct from the ugly politics of the G-8, the EU, NATO, US/UK and the wars illegally pursued by UN Member States such as in the Congo, Chechnya, Gaza, Georgia, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, Afghanistan... as we meet tonight.

Ugly politics have undermined the Preamble – in fact, they have neglected the entire word and spirit of the UN Charter!

Sadly this perfect UN does not exist. Nor does its moral authority.

The Second perception is: the UN of the ‘Masters of the Universe’! The five veto powers and permanent members of the Security Council – the so called victors of the Second World War. The old boys club of 1945. The five States that have corrupted the UN Charter. And corrupted the work of the UN. Applying double-standards, and disregard for law - they have made the organisation primarily serve their best interests rather than serve its mandate.

I refer to the five most dangerous Member States that together manufacture and sell some 85% of military arms, including nuclear weapons, and so called weapons of mass destruction. This is the UN of the arms dealers - the most disreputable and yet profitable business on earth.

And tragically and quite bizarrely – these arms dealers are the same Member States that the UN Charter entrusts with maintaining Peace and Security around the world! I trust you see the disconnect? The incompatibility? - the mind boggling reality of nuclear powers and weapons salesmen being responsible for peaceful co-existence?! It’s madness!

Perception number three: Is the UN of the Secretariat, the Secretary-General - the servant of the member states. The Secretary-General is the administrative leader of the UN family of Agencies, Programmes and organizations. This is the so-called UN System that takes instructions from the member states – the share holders – some from the permanent five and some from the 191 member states of the General Assembly who subsist under the shadow of the Permanent Five. Politically driven orders come directly - such as my personal experience in Iraq when I headed up[ the UN Humanitarian Programme - or via Member State boards, councils, assemblies, committees etc.

I can argue this is proper – the stake holders have rights! What it does however is remind us that despite the words of the Preamble to the Charter... “We the peoples” - the UN is an organization of States, NOT people. Real people actually have limited input. Sometimes via NGOs affiliated in a variety of ways. The bottom line however - is the State – your State and my State. And mostly States think not with heart or mind, or guided by any moral standard (except for Canada of course!)... but with the sensitivity only of self-interest, power, and ambition. This-self interest reaches a high art form when it comes to the five veto powers of the Security Council. And self-interest is not endorsed in the UN Charter!


As Bill Clinton and Madame Albright liked to say – the United Nations is there to further the best interests – of

US foreign policy. However, to be fair, other States undoubtedly see it much the same way, but are more discrete! And lack ambitions and military capacity for global empire!


And now we have President Obama – who wants to work with the United Nations and be a player rather than to dominate and control. Sounds good – we await the reality as he expands the war in Afghanistan, keeps Bagram airbase prison full of the tortured and uncharged, finishes off the destruction of Iraq, refuses to end the occupation of Okinawa, has the thick skin to criticize China for human rights abuses when America itself has a deplorable record, and now militarily threatens Iran! Not exactly the sort of new player we had hoped for perhaps! But let’s keep our fingers crossed...

Let me add in the context of UN perception number three - that the Programmes, Agencies, bodies of the UN do good work everyday all over the world - WHEN not instructed by the Masters of the Universe to do otherwise - such as:

the unwillingness of the World Health Organisation to deal honestly with the appalling dangers of military usage of Depleted Uranium. I am sure you have seen the latest data from Fallujah? Where child mortality has sky rocketed and birth deformities – two heads, no limbs – are increasingly common. Women are now afraid to get pregnant. Believe me, the horrors of Fallujah today will be faced by the rest of us tomorrow - if we do not ban the use of Depleted Uranium. There is world movement afoot; the website is www.bandepleteduranium.org

OR the weak mandate and capacity provided for the UN Environmental Programme to anticipate, manage environmental/climate calamities world wide. We know about the disappointments of Kyoto, and now Copenhagen looks very tough going. Although we now see movement from China and the US, the UN – needs independent oversight authority re climate change policies and implementation if Copenhagen is to be different from Kyoto.

Or the IAEA – the Atomic Energy Agency - whose objective expert advice is too often set aside by the Security Council when military aggression is more politically attractive, or simply ideal for empire building. Or in respect of some nuclear states – such as Pakistan, Israel and India
– IAEA is allowed no role at all!

OR when the IMF/World Bank bullies the poor and indebted countries to further diminish their expenditures for education, social services, housing, health care – the very basic human rights of us all. The critical expenditures if poor countries are ever to strive to catch up, for human equality and wellbeing. Who do the WB and IMF serve? – their limited share holders – not those in most need.

Or lack of attendance at the recent FAO meeting in Rome on “food” – in a world where now over one billion face starvation and billions more face constant hunger – something that should shame us all. It does shame us all.


From our OECD countries – the rich and the richer – the only leader in attendance was – Mr Berlusconi, Prime Minister of the host country! The Pope made the best statement. Where was the leadership of the North?


Where were the Big Five? Is food shortage - not an issue of humanity, of peace and security? In an environment of less fresh water, declining food production in the South, the dangers of genetically altered seeds and new agro-imperialism – why were we not represented at the highest levels? Is it because we are busy looking after ourselves?

However, as I have said and despite this political interference and negligence - good work happens everyday! These UN technical organizations are staffed with good minds, good intentions although limited budgets. They work with NGOs and civil society all over the globe, particularly in the developing countries.


Regarding UN humanitarian assistance - UNRWA in

Gaza feeds some 80% of the entire population as Palestinians struggle, and often fail to survive under the genocidal blockade of Israel. A blockade the US supports, and the EU and the Arab states enable - as they stand by and watch life and expectations come to an end.


Despite UN Agencies – UNICEF, UNWRA and others on the ground – the human catastrophe grows as Egypt blocks the exit at Raffah as they did earlier this year when thousands of refugees tried to escape civilian bombing with white phosphorus, DU. And today they block Palestinian students going out and food and other basic supplies coming in.


The Security Council? It has fiddled as

Gaza and its people literally burned. And still is unwilling to demand that Gaza be opened to world-wide assistance, freedom, democracy, hope, opportunities. A glaring failure to act. A glaring failure of corruption of its mandate – a Council held hostage by a few.


Let us hope that the Free Gaza Movement ships can soon break the Israeli stranglehold, and allow Palestinians to breathe, work, live and grow.


And soon let’s hope the UN Security Council reads the Goldstone Report, and has the courage to act upon it, and accepts its responsibilities for protecting the Palestinians of Gaza - the victims of what has been described as a “perfect” genocide.

Whether it is Gaza, or the work of the World Food Programme which now feeds countless millions every day – the self-serving UN of the Security Council is always a political danger. The danger of resorting to Sanctions, or military aggression, before peaceful resolution, proper dialogue, is sincerely attempted. Politically driven R2P is mockery of humanitarian needs. The politics of the Council makes a mockery of the Charter.


How very good it was recently to see

China refuse Obama’s request for war on Iran and suggest instead non-violent resolution - via dialogue and negotiation. Sadly, on Friday last, the news indicated that Russia and China were coming around to the idea of imposing UN sanctions. I trust they would not support the “crippling sanctions” that Sec. of State Clinton wishes to have imposed – having have learned nothing from the deadly UN sanctions on Iraq, it appears.


Crippling or otherwise - UN Sanctions on

Iran and the people of Iran would constitute “collective punishment”. And collective punishment is in violation of international law. Sanctions are a form of warfare – that can kill communities - that kill children - slowly as those of you familiar with Iraq are aware. There is no justification – there never can be justification for killing the people of Iran.


Maybe your perceptions are not the same as mine. But that is my experience and perception of the UN at work today. Good, very good, and very bad; very dangerous and absolutely unacceptable. A Charter corrupted; self-interest dominant. The very few in control. UN failure in peace and security only too common. International Law in the service of some, not all.


We all remember the day the UN Security Council under US/UK leadership refused to allow the Arms Inspector Hans Blix finish his work in Iraq, because the opportunities for war, the very smell of profits, was too much for Bush and Blair to resist. Such is leadership in democracies which are manipulated by capitalism. Often led it seems by the Christian born-again who have forgotten their man - was a socialist who spoke of love, not warfare.


To enable the

Iraq invasion - the Charter was abused and misinterpreted. No one bought the Bush/Blair nonsense about defense. Forty-five minutes from London! Article 51 which allows for rightful defense to imminent threat - clearly did not apply.

And now the UN Security Council is faced with expansion by Britain and the US, and maybe the reluctant NATO - of the war on the people of Afghanistan. I expect no action by the Council, but expanded war raises a question: when the majority of citizens in a democracy are opposed to war or expanded warfare, is it legitimate?


And who is responsible? How can the citizens be held responsible - as they must be - when democracies determine to undertake a war of aggression? Many would say there are no non-combatants in a democracy pursuing aggressive warfare. Otherwise what is the shared responsibility of democracy all about?

As war expands again, how did we reach this state of weakness, failure in the Security Council. When did the rot start? We could begin in 1945, but allow me to take you back to the 1920s, when Churchill and his man Harris set about frustrating Kurdish dreams of independence. Using bi-planes they decided to employ “terrorism” (you know - as in “Shock and Awe” on Baghdad in early 2003). They decided to bomb civilians in the Kurdish towns and villages of northern Iraq. As you well know, Churchill and Bomber Harris continued these infamous tactics when they killed hundreds of thousands of civilians by firebombing Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden etc.


Since then, the UN Security Coucil has watched passively as matters have further deteriorated. Now we see military regimes kill civilians with sophisticated aircraft, or Predator drones in

Afghanistan, Pakistan and Gaza – using massive bunker busters, cluster munitions, white phosphorous or depleted uranium on children, women and men. They bomb the media - such as Al Jazeera offices in Baghdad and Kabul. Professor Chossudovsky and I met with an Al Jazeera cameraman - Sami Al Haj - recently in Malaysia as he described 7 years of abuse and torture in the Guantanimo cages - to a “peoples” war crimes Commission.


In

Gaza, civilians and UN staff members have been attacked and killed. Along with UN food warehouses, schools and health clinics. I learned last week from a UN colleague in Jerusalem that - having completely destroyed the American International School from the air - the Israeli army found it necessary to bulldoze the playground - swings and slides - of the Primary School. Is that not incomprehensible violence and punishment of children? Extraordinary! And equally extraordinarily, the UN Permanent Members of the Security Council made sure nothing was done... nothing... to stop the killings. Genocide can be astonishing in its thoroughness! And its continuation - as we meet here in warm and safe Montreal - as winter arrives in Gaza crushing the children of Gaza.


Why did I mention Churchill? Because he - together with Stalin and Roosevelt – were the authors of the UN Charter. It was they who demanded the strangled hold, the control that the Five Permanent seats-with-veto-power - provide.


Do I need to tell you about Stalin? No - let’s not go into his human rights record - you are all familiar with his brutal and deadly ethnic cleansing practices. After some twenty million lost in the war itself, many millions more killed in the

Soviet Union. A human catastrophe that is difficult to envisage.


As for

Roosevelt, it now appears to many that he so wanted to join Churchill in the war that the attack on Pearl Harbour was “facilitated” in order to trigger American entry into the war in Europe.


Despite the reservations and finally the resignation of the Admiral of the Pacific Fleet, US warships remained vulnerable out in the middle of the Pacific. The Admiral begged

Roosevelt to withdraw the fleet to California. Intelligence was available on the impending attack. Churchill celebrated when Pearl Harbour was hit.

In short, we had these three very hard men in 1944-45 to which we can add Chiang Kai Chek and Charles de Gaulle – to make 5. They led the same 5 countries that created and hold to this day - some 65 years later - veto power, and permanent seats, that control the UN Security Council.


Let’s look at the consequences of having midwives of this questionable caliber:


The damage to the credibility of the UN; how it functions, or fails to function has been huge. How it is perceived around the globe, particularly by those not represented in any way by the Magic Five is often negative. And often confused – UN or US? – unclear!


I refer primarily to the South, the poor and the poorest. The majority. And I refer to some sovereign states unlucky to sit on oil, mineral wealth and perhaps water and other resources that are required by the rich, and the militarily powerful. Some of us are ruthless in the manner we gobble up the natural finite resources of other sovereign states. The “somewhat” or theoretical democracies seem able to justify to themselves wars of aggression, plus exploitation, rape, and pillage – of course they may prefer to use words like development, investment and trade!

The UN Security Council delays, compromises, and ultimately acquiesces to Big Five wishes. As happened during the lead in to the totally illegal invasion of Iraq by American and British forces in early 2003.


The Government examination that has recently started in

London - while better than nothing - has no authority.


And the UN? - compromised and further diminished. Those States which could have vetoed that invasion did not make the gesture of rejection as required by the Charter. The Charter was ravaged, but the

US and UK got away with it. No censure. No suspension from the Security Council. No compensation to be paid, or reparations? ... nyet!


What about the application of double standards?

Iraq illegally invades Kuwait and all hell breaks lose, although Baghdad was ready to negotiate a peaceful retreat. Capitalist greed for Iraqi oil, and opportunity for war, the desire for strategic presence in the Region - set that peaceful possibility aside real quickly. And like the UN Gulf War of 1991, state terrorism again, atrocities committed and the terror of military occupation and killing began, and continues.


Meanwhile, Iraqi reparations to

Kuwait so far has reached some 60 billion dollars and continues. Meanwhile Viet Nam waits for its first penny! Reparation payments to Iraq? Don’t think so! – again that is double standards at work.


I lived and worked for the UN in

Baghdad under UN Sanctions in 1997-98 – and it was a safe city. Today following massive bombing, occupation and a puppet Government - assassination and ethnic cleansing is a daily event! And some 100,000 American mercenaries run wild – killing outside of both domestic or international law. Has the Council spoken? ... no.


So if the Security Council is “fixed”, where is the UN International Criminal Court? – it is hog-tied like prisoners en route to

Guantanimo Bay. The Prosecutor has little power. Otherwise he would be knocking on 10 Downing Street! The US failed to ratify ICC and Blair still awaits domestic prosecution. The Old Boys of the Big Five are protected. So ICC works on Taylor and Vladovic, and other small war criminals. Again that is a double standard at play – the familiar Achilles heel of the United Nations.

The list of Security Council failures is long, and I do not intend to drag you threw it. I have already - from the start tonight - touched in passing on the consequences of self-interest, inequality amongst member states, and the profits of war, and consumption of natural resources.


I take it that we all remember, how in Srebrenicia, UN peacekeepers stood by as the massacre of some 7,000 Muslim men and boys took place. The Council failed to prevent ethnic cleansing.


In

Rwanda, none of us can forget the massacres that took place as a few thousand UN troops were in the country forbidden by the Council to lift a finger. Although some did assist under a courageous Canadian General who has described it in detail. Who set off the genocide? Still an open question. Meantime, I understand Rwanda has become English speaking! Strangely the same outcome that war had in Cambodia and Viet Nam!

In Afghanistan, we have witnessed an invasion and occupation, with endless civilian loss of life - grow out of hysteria in the days after 9/11. The UN Security Council endorsed revenge on the people of Afghanistan. But were they involved? I don’t think so. I do not recall that the money, the pilots, the brains behind this terrible act of defense – came from Afghanistan. Were Afghans flown out of the US by Bush within hours of 9/11? Not that I recall. Unfortunate Afghanistan – just another opportunity for war?


The country of

Iraq has been destroyed, as in Fallujah that I mentioned already – in terms of cultural, social, economic and infrastructural integrity and wellbeing. What more can I say? The Council kept quiet.


In

Gaza this very year we have witnessed similar total destruction. Again the UN Security Council has failed to halt violence.


We cannot pass without expressing concern over the rise of NATO as a new and dangerous aggressive force outside its region. And we have to regret the UN role in expanding NATO capacity and reach.


And we cannot neglect the threats to

Iran of attack. Without solid evidence of military intentions for nuclear power, Iran is under threat of military attack from Israel and the USA. The Security Council is being bulldozed yet again into acquiescence. The similarity to the lead up to the invasion of Iraq is frighteningly familiar.


The pre-emptive concept is again in play and there is no provision for that ‘game’ under international law.


Iran

regardless of its internal struggles is a sovereign state with the right to defend itself. It is currently surrounded by American and Israeli nuclear war heads. Were Iran to seek nuclear defensive weapons, a case could be made, as per a deterrent. But not by me.


To expect a sovereign state of such vulnerability and dignity to accept the UN/EU demands that its nuclear fuel be processed overseas by the very countries now threatening its security and sovereignty - is of course unreal.


The Security Council must recognize

Iran’s perfect right to nuclear power and to ensure via the IAEA that such power is only for peaceful purposes. Of course you could ask why should Iran be inspected when the US refuses to be inspected? And Israel denies any knowledge of its nuclear arsenal? ... could that be double standards again!


The Council needs to demand and make conditional for

Iran’s inspection compliance that the Americans and Israelis stand down, and that Israel gives up its nuclear weapons. And demand that all nuclear powers disarm – including the Five Permanent Members - another crime of omission by the Big Boys – well, of course – they are the one and the same! A little conflict of interest - you might say!

OK what can we do about changing the UN, and the Security Council in particualar?

For a number of years I have been proposing at University and public meetings reform of the SC. Discussion to this end in the GA has been ongoing for some 15 years. Changes made have been miniscule and growth of real power has been limited to proposing Germany, Italy and Japan be promoted to Big Boy status. That is ridiculous. Why? Because the Council is already dominated by the North, and I include China in the North. What the Council needs is balance – that is, balance between the North and South. We need the majority of the world’s people to be represented. Is that rocket science? Don’t think so but quelle horreur! I can hear that old colonialist Churchill spinning ... at the very thought!


And is it appropriate for the Permanent Five to select the States they fancy? Don’t think so. My view is that Council representation should be Regional, not country and that each Region should select its representative State to sit – five years before turnover to another. And the selected country would speak for, on behalf of the whole – the Region itself. This would seem to require within-region consultation before major decisions – and why not? Consultation might prevent the errors of haste - as in the Council’s approval three days after 9/11 to endorse invading

Afghanistan.


Thus you can visualise for Central and

Latin America, Costa Rica might be selected – small with no military power – but when small Costa Rica speaks on the Security Council – the world would know that Latin America and the Caribbean is speaking. Now would have clout. That would mean something. That would be the voice of the South.


Or closer to home, lets consider

North AmericaCanada, United States and Mexico. One permanent seat – rotating membership. Do you think that Canada could represent the US and Mexico – why not? We would be ahead, unless of course Canada now has plans to take over the world! Might not be a comfortable seat for Canada, but it would force DC to talk to Ottawa before any hyperventilation.


The same model would work for Sub-Sahara Africa; North Africa and the Middle East; South East Asia and Australia/NZ; South Asia and so on.

Europe - the EU -now with two Old Boys would drop to one rotating permanent seat.


With this globally representative system, with the loss or at least reduction of Nuclear Powers and the inclusion of the majority – the countries of the South – I believe we would see different decisions. Do you think

South Asia and North Africa and Middle East permanent seats would have endorsed the invasion of Afghanistan? or the destruction of Iraq. I do not think so!


With this Reform, do you agree that pressure to disarm and destroy Nuclear Weapons might be greater? Do you agree that pressure to address climate change, rising waters, would also be greater? With poverty represented around the table would you not hope that the rights of the poor and poorest would be properly addressed for the first time.


Do you think that Food, Food Security, Human security would be better considered and solutions found? Do you think that influence over the World Bank, IMF would not be more people-friendly? More developmental and less punitive?


The possibilities for enhanced decision making are endless. There would be new ownership of the United Nations, and hope and perhaps a new beginning. Less self-serving control, less presence of the military powerful and less corruption of international law and the UN Charter?

I know, you think I am some crazy aging optimist! Am I sincerely hopeful? Yes, because we have seen a change recently. And our potential friend and player President Obama has recognized that the G-20 format must stay in place. That means the South has been acknowledged properly for the first time. To see Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa, India and Indonesia and other represented – all formerly colonial subjects - that is something revolutionary.


Now some of you are unhappy because the G-20 is the rich G-8 all over again... just bigger. Yes... it does have the rich countries of the South on board. But I reckon the additions to the G-8 bring in more than 4 billion human beings. Now that is positive change!


My interest is to use the G-20 breakthrough for the purposes of UN Security Council reform. And why would the Five Old Boys accept this kind of dilution of power in the UN Security Council? Because it is their interest to do so. They are beginning to recognize power in the South, and they know the UN is becoming irrelevant, and to sustain the Security Council – the same South must be seated.

With new seating in the Council, I believe double standards as of now will be much less likely. I see the provisions of the Charter and international law being respected. Because second class countries, and second class peoples would be no more. There would be full representation on matters of Peace and Security – for the first time ever!


The little countries that the Big Boys like to bully, even invade and to sell the rubbish of weapons... will now be around the table. That may constrain the arms dealers, the empire builders and those who feel able to steal the sovereign rights and natural resources of those not militarized. That is good stuff.


But again, let me ask why would the five Veto Powers agree to reform? Because they understand that Geo-political power has already moved away from the Council to the G-8. Now they have seen the G-20 enhance that geo-political power and further diminish the role of the Council. They fear that critical global initiatives in the coming years will not come from the UN but from the G-20 where the world is represented – both geographically and in terms of North/South balance.


Meantime, the Council is becoming largely reactive – dealing with individual country issues rather than global concerns which are intimately linked to Peace and Security. Their very mandate is in danger!


Fearing redundancy and irrelevance, old

Europe has become the new EU which has grown into the largest economic block on earth. More important, despite the dangers of NATO, Europe with a history of war has become a Europe at peace. Meantime, the SC has been stagnant and is in danger of being set aside unless it becomes representative, and dare I suggest it : democratic – no more veto power – but a new sense of responsibility, supported by the goals but within the constraints of the Charter and international law. No more double standards of approach.


To complete this revolution we would need to have real people represented more in the UN dialogue and halls of consideration, and participation. Full NGO and civil society representation must be integrated. We would need to see greater respect for international law, human rights, rights of the child amongst other legal provisions.

For war crimes of the kind we have seen in recent years – I refer to the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza. And the internal crimes being committed in Sudan and the Congo – the UN needs to make the ICC work. Prosecution of domestic leadership war crimes, crimes against humanity should be pursued by domestic laws and courts. However, failing that the machinery of the International Criminal Court must be used.


The War Crimes Commissions and Tribunals in which Michel Chossudovsky and I participate would be redundant if the double standards protecting those in the

US and UK were found to be unacceptable and if the ICC had teeth. Dictators or democrats, leaders must understand and accept that they must govern within the provisions of domestic and international law. The Peoples Courts – the Tribunals of Russell, Brussels, Dublin and Kuala Lumpur – are the only substitute we have to show the criminology of leadership. Until the ICC functions properly, leadership will feel above the law and that is unacceptable.

I know I am pushing my luck and testing your patience, but in closing I want to mention Perdana - the Criminalisation of War, and everything to do with warfare.


Without taking away the right of defense, which Gandhi and Perdana respect – this philosophy calls for the achievement of peace through promoting peace and not glorifying warfare.


How?

by declaring that killing in war is the same as in peace and deserves prosecution, including leaders who take nations to war;

by establishing that all commercial, financial, industrial and scientific activities that support war should be considered criminal;

by fully accepting the principles of the UN Charter for peaceful termination of disputes;

by ensuring that public servants and those in the medical, legal, scientific, and educational fields promote peace and campaign against war;

by demanding that the media oppose war, its glorification and promote the ethos of non violence;

by requiring all religious leaders to condemn warfare and promote peaceful solutions.

That is Perdana.

The reformed and restored Security Council must be bound by the same philosophy. Any decision to use sanctions or other kinds of military force compatible with the Charter should be firstly recognised as failure to apply Articles 1 and 2. Secondly, the decision must be forwarded by the Security Council to the GA, and approved by two-thirds of the General Assembly before implementation. Even the new expanded Council would need the constraint of majority approval by a revitalised General Assembly, well stocked with civil society representation.

If we can reform the Security Council as described above, there will be progress and change. But if the UN member states cannot accept the Perdana philosophy to promote peaceful coexistence, the UN is doomed. If the UN is there to benefit only the few - it is not a valid entity. The United Nations must change quickly to serve the best interests of all.

US prepares Fallujah-style offensive in Afghanistan

US prepares Fallujah-style offensive in Afghanistan

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About 1,000 Marines attacked an area in southern Afghanistan controlled by insurgents on Friday, in the US-led occupation’s first major offensive since President Obama announced that he would send 30,000 more soldiers to the war.

The attack on the largely abandoned city of Now Zad comes in preparation for an assault on a larger and more populous city, Marja, which the US military says is a center of Taliban resistance in Helmand province. The commander of the operation in Now Zad, Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, said the model for the coming attack on Marja will be the US destruction of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, in 2004, in which thousands of civilians were killed. It is not clear when such an attack might take place.

On Friday morning, hundreds of soldiers were flown from the north into the Now Zad valley in Helmand province, while a second force moved on foot from the south in an offensive dubbed “Cobra’s Anger.” British forces launched an ancillary attack from the east. About 150 Afghan soldiers were reportedly attached to the operation, which involved helicopters and MV-22 Osprey aircraft.

ABC News footage showed unopposed US forces flattening buildings with heavy artillery fire. The pro-US governor of the province, Daood Ahmadi, said on Friday that so far the bodies of four Taliban fighters have been found as a result of the operation. (The Pentagon and the Kabul government routinely describe all those killed by US military operations as Taliban.) There were no reports of NATO casualties.

Coming only three days after Obama announced his 30,000 soldier “surge” to Afghanistan—most of which will be sent to the south of the country—the attack in Helmand is a precursor to the sort of operations that will take place in the coming years’ fighting in Afghanistan. Cobra’s Anger shows that Obama’s war strategy will be characterized by the use of overwhelming violence to terrorize and intimidate the Afghan population.

“There is no question that this is meant to be a signal to the Taliban in terms of what the Taliban can expect in upcoming days in terms of how this strategy will be implemented,” said Steven Chao, Al Jazeera correspondent in Afghanistan.

The short-term tactical aim of the operation, military spokesmen claim, is to destroy Taliban “safe havens,” to cut off north-south and east-west supply lines, and to root out “more than 100 hardline insurgents” from the Now Zad area.

The insurgents of Now Zad, though small in number, were able in the summer to entrench themselves in “positions so solid that a fixed frontline runs just a few hundred yards (meters) north of the Marines” in their Marines’ Forward Operating Base, the Associated Press reports.

Neither the British, who were stationed in the area for years, nor the Americans have been able to hold Now Zad. “British troops who were once stationed there left graffiti dubbing the town ‘Apocalypse Now-Zad,’ a play on the title of the 1979 Vietnam War movie Apocalypse Now,” according to the AP. “The British base was nearly overrun on several occasions with insurgents coming within yards (meters) of the protection wall. The area was handed over in 2008 to the Marines, who have struggled to reclaim much of the valley.”

Before the US invasion in 2001, there were 30,000 inhabitants in the city of Now Zad, a center of poppy cultivation for the opium trade. Now, it is a “ghost town,” and “virtually empty,” according to press accounts.

Taking the Now Zad area is preparation for an assault on Marja, a large town in the region where many Afghans fled in the wake of Marine attacks on their villages this summer—attacks that were made possible by Obama’s ordered dispatch of 21,000 more soldiers after his inauguration.

The Marines, including Gen. Nicholson, “have made no secret that, together with the Afghan national army, they plan to rout the Taliban from Marja in a sweep akin to that of the November 2004 battle of Fallujah, Iraq,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Marja is that last major sanctuary in Helmand province, the last place where the enemy has freedom of movement,” Nicholson told the LA Times. “We’re going to take that away from him.” Elsewhere Nicholson has called Marja a “cancer in Helmand.”

“Marja is much larger than Fallujah and split up with irrigation canals that will make troop and vehicle movements difficult,” the LA Times writes. “Also, it is heavily populated, raising the specter of civilian casualties if the Marines begin a vigorous house-by-house assault.”

Nicholson was a regional commander with the Marines when the US military attacked and destroyed Fallujah, during which thousands of civilians were trapped and subjected to an intense bombardment that included the use of the chemical weapon white phosphorus, which burns through clothing and skin on contact. The onslaught destroyed about 70 percent of the city’s structures.

Like Marja today, Fallujah was singled out because it was a center of resistance to the US occupation of Iraq. The horrific attack on the city, one of the great war crimes of modern history, served as a collective punishment to its residents and as an object lesson to the rest of Iraq, and indeed the world, in what becomes of those who resist the dictates of American imperialism. (See “Fallujah and the laws of war”.)

That the US military is openly preparing a Fallujah-style attack on Marja should be taken as a warning. In the coming years, the Obama administration’s “surge” will produce a bloodbath and war crimes in Afghanistan that will surpass those perpetrated by the Bush administration on Iraq. It is urgent that the working class in the US and other NATO countries mobilize against Obama’s offensive—and against those “left” forces who supported his election and now remain silent in the face of his administration’s crimes.

Obama has also recently authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to expand its use of Predator drone attacks in Pakistan, the New York Times recently wrote in a favorable piece on the destructive assassination program. The missile attacks have killed hundreds in the past two years—at least 400 by the CIA’s unofficial tally. The real figure is likely close to 1,000.

In gross violation of international law and the sovereignty of Pakistan, the drones carry out missile strikes against alleged Taliban and Al Qaeda supporters. The flights are operated from consoles resembling video game machines at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. While the US—which officially denies the existence of the attacks—claims that those killed are almost all Taliban or Al Qaeda, it provides not a shred of evidence to back up these assertions.

Washington’s stepped-up drone attacks and its dragooning of Islamabad into launching full-scale military operations against the tribes of its border regions have destabilized Pakistan and provoked a wave of terrorist attacks.

The latest of these came Monday when four militants using grenades and automatic weapons targeted a mosque used by Pakistan’s top generals at Friday prayers, killing 36 with guns and grenades before blowing themselves up. Among the dead were two generals and several other army officers.

The brazenness of the assault took Pakistan’s government and military brass by surprise. It took place in a highly fortified area of the city Rawalpindi, which is the headquarters of Pakistan’s military and a large suburb of Islamabad, and was the third such attack in Rawalpindi in two months. On October 10, a group of gunmen attacked army headquarters. A day-long battle ensued that killed 23, including the militants.

More than 400 have died in militant attacks across Pakistan since October.

US economy remains devastated despite improved jobs figures

US economy remains devastated despite improved jobs figures

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The US economy lost fewer jobs in November than in any other month since the recession began, according to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department. But overall economic conditions continue to worsen for the majority of the population, with wages falling and no return to normal job conditions in sight.

The Labor Department said the economy lost 11,000 jobs last month, nearly one tenth the amount that was lost in October. The department also said that the unemployment rate, which is calculated using a different measure, fell to 10.0 percent, down from 10.2 percent in October. The last time the US economy added jobs was in December 2007. About 100,000 jobs need to be added per month to keep up with new entrants into the labor force.

The Obama administration will no doubt use the better-than-expected employment report to strengthen its claims that there should be no major government initiative to create jobs. At the “job summit” held Thursday at the White House, Obama said that “ultimately true economic recovery is only going to come from the private sector.”

Job declines in the construction, manufacturing, and information sectors were offset by a sizable increase in temporary hiring. The construction sector lost 27,000 jobs last month, while IT lost 17,000 and manufacturing lost 41,000 jobs. The country has lost some 2.1 million manufacturing jobs over the past two years, with the vast majority coming in durable goods manufacturing.

Economists were quick to warn against drawing overly optimistic conclusions from the news. “It is like a patient after having collapsed with a heart attack sitting up and taking a breath―nothing more than that,” Allen L. Sinai, the founder of the research firm Decision Economics, told the New York Times.

Sinai continued, “Things are getting better, but a one-month respite, frankly, means nothing in the context of the worst labor market ever seen since the 1930s.”

Earlier this week, Paul Krugman of the Times noted, “The chances of a relapse into recession seem to be rising,” citing the fact that the impact of the stimulus measures taken by the Obama administration, including the “cash for clunkers” program, is likely to fade. He added that “the rise in manufacturing production is to a large extent an inventory bounce―and this, too, will fade out in the quarters ahead.”

Even by the relatively optimistic predictions of the Federal Reserve, the unemployment rate will remain at 8 percent, nearly double its 2000 level, two years from now. By 2012, the Fed expects the unemployment rate to be no less than 7 percent.

Many economists expect even worse conditions. David Rosenberg, chief economist for Canadian wealth management firm Gluskin Sheff, told the Associated Press that the unemployment rate is likely to peak at 12 percent, claiming that economists who say that the unemployment rate will not go much higher are “borderline delusional.”

While most figures in the employment report showed a moderate improvement, the prospects for the long-term unemployed worsened significantly. The number of people who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more grew by 293,000 to 5.9 million. Meanwhile, the percentage of unemployed people who have been out of work that long grew by 2.7 percentage points to 38.3 percent.

The number of unemployed reached 15.4 million last month, more than double the number in December 2007. This figure is much larger than the population of Greece, Cuba, Belgium, or Portugal.

Earlier this week, the Labor Department released its October metropolitan unemployment rate survey, showing that jobless rates increased in every metropolitan area in the US. There were 15 areas where the unemployment rate was at least 15 percent, with El Centro, California registering 30 percent out of work.

Certain groups are disproportionately affected by the high jobless rates: 26 percent of teenagers looking for work are unemployed, as are 15.6 percent of blacks and 12.7 percent of Hispanics. Another 2.4 million people would like to work, but have given up looking.

Average hourly earnings increased by .01 percent in November, reaching $18.74. In the past year, average hourly earnings grew by 2.2 percent, while average weekly earnings (which are affected by reduced hours) grew by 1.6 percent. But these gains have been offset by rising prices, which grew by 2.8 percent over the past 10 months. In real terms, average weekly wages have fallen by about 1 percent over the past year.

As a direct result of falling wages, productivity grew by 8.1 percent in the third quarter, the highest level in six years, according to figures recently updated by the Labor Department.

These wage figures hint at the broader process at work behind the latest unemployment report. Whatever high level the unemployment rate eventually reaches, the fundamental fact is that the US ruling class is using joblessness to drive down workers’ wages and do away with benefits.

American companies, under pressure of the crisis and the necessity of cutting costs to stay in business, have found ways to permanently eliminate positions. The health and retirement plans that companies have cut will not come back, nor will wages rise at any point in the near future.

Anger Over Afghan Surge Fuels Country-Wide Protests

Obama's War Speech Woke the Sleeping Giant -- Anger Over Afghan Surge Fuels Country-Wide Protests

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CODEPINK issued an alert on Thursday, December 3, about the President's West Point speech on Afghanistan and his failure to respond to the many voices calling for peace. We asked people to email the White House to voice their concerns.

The alert had been out for three minutes when the phone rang. My assistant Mark answered, then turned to me and said, "The White House is calling."

I picked up the phone, and discovered it was Jayne in the President's Office of Public Engagement. "How did you feel about the President's speech?" she asked thoughtfully.

I told her I was feeling horrible, that I disagreed with almost everything he said. I said he didn't have the courage to be in his own body as he delivered the words that would cause the deaths of so many and that if he was willing to couch his position in so many untruths then I couldn't believe anything he said--even about why we were there. Really, we are going to send 100,000 troops, over 100,000 contractors and 100 billion dollars to deal with 100 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan? It reminds me of an Afghan woman's tirade to me when I was there, "You want me to believe that the most powerful nation in the world is being held hostage by those skinny, lice covered, illiterate, dirty men in those craggy hills of this broken country?"

Jayne said, "I totally hear what you are saying." She indicated that the President has told them to stay open to all opinions and she understood I might feel that way. And then she came to the purpose of her call. "I want to keep our lines of communication open, but I can't do it if I can't work. I have an email from your list hitting my box every second and can't get any work done. Can you do something about that so our communication can be more productive? Can you send out another alert with a better address?"

I quickly looked at my computer to see how many emails had been sent out from our list and read the most recent:

You have failed the critical test of both a Commander-in-Chief, and of a man: In escalating our eight-year-long military effort to subdue or occupy Afghanistan you have demonstrated neither judgment and integrity nor courage. You have sentenced to death countless Afghans, Americans and others, on our side all duped over and over again by the cynical, high-powered sales pitch attached to our disastrous misadventures in the Middle East, a war which may well be fatal to the republic itself, all to save your political image. -- Arthur Wagner

I was transfixed and couldn't help reading more and more of the heartfelt messages.

Obama. There's such a thing as being "too late," as MLK warned. Be now. Be courage. Be for us. Be not for corporate oil/gas/coal and defense machines. Be a father. Be for children, schools and universities. Be for parks and swimming pools. Be for jobs and living wages and food on the table. Be for roofs overhead and safe streets. Be for renewable energy and clean air. Be for fish and frogs, not poisoned by acid rain and pesticides. Be for children in dirt villages where U.S. tanks roam. Be for stopping cluster bombs. Be for returning Iraqi refugees to their homes. Be not for dominion. Be a peacemaker. -- Sharon Rose

It was working! Impassioned CODEPINKers all over the globe were being heard inside the White House!

"There is nothing I can do," I told Jayne, "but maybe in your email program you could create a folder they all go to. I assume your system is that sophisticated." I kept reading the messages that continued to fly onto the web page.

We need this money at home. My husband has been unemployed for over a year and we'd have no health insurance except I have it through a job as a university professor, even though I'm retired and lost over a third of my retirement money in the last year. Still we are far better off than most of my fellow citizens. Take care of our own children, elderly, incapacitated, and the soldiers already wounded in these appalling wars--and don't get any other U.S. boys and girls hurt! -- (Dr.) Sandra E. Drake

Jayne thanked me and says next time she will consult with us to make our communications work better.

Instead of sending 30,000 troops, how about sending 30,000 Peace Corps workers? That would employ some of our own, work on building up the Afghanistan infrastructure (helping create jobs, building schools and hospitals), and maybe the culture would move toward self-sufficiency and have less hatred of us. Fight hate and terrorism with love and constructive help! -- Karen Snyder

I thanked her and said I hoped she would pass the passion of the CODEPINK members on to Obama.

Our war in the border regions is being fought by drone assassinations. A man at the control sits in front of a screen in Las Vegas, and fires when he has a certain shot. To a primitive mind (but not only to a primitive mind), this experiment on a country not our own has the trappings a video game played in hell. But the procedure was here embraced by the president in the antiseptic idiom of a practiced technocrat. He gave no sign of the effects of such killings by a foreign power out of reach in the sky. To assassinate one major operative, Baitullah Mehsud, as Jane Mayer showed in a recent article in the New Yorker, 16 strikes were necessary, over 14 months, killing a total of as many as 538 persons, of whom 200-300 were by-standers. The total number of Muslims killed by Americans in revenge for the attacks of September 11th now numbers more than a hundred thousand. Of those, few were members of Al Qaeda, and few harbored any intention, for good or ill, toward the United States before we crossed the ocean as an occupying power. -- Brad Martin

There were more people protesting in the streets this week than we have seen in a long time: at least 80 communities rose up. I asked Jayne to thank the President for waking the sleeping giant and assured her that we will do all we can to make sure he does not get the money from Congress to escalate this senseless war.

Please do not send our children off to die. Would you ever do the same to yours? -- Catron Booker

In October, Jodie Evans hand-delivered a petition to Obama from Afghan women against the surge. To read more of the letters to Obama and to send your own, click here.

More info: Check out the coverage on some of the local protests from this week: In Lansing, Michigan, Bozeman, Montana, and Hackensack, NJ

Jodie Evans is a co-founder of Codepink: Women For Peace.