Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mass layoffs at UPS, Lockheed Martin: US loses 85,000 jobs in December

US loses 85,000 jobs in December

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The US economy lost 85,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department reported Friday, the same day new major layoffs were announced by UPS and Lockheed Martin.

The ongoing destruction of jobs in what the Obama administration has touted as an economic “recovery,” is indicative of a social disaster affecting ever wider layers of the population. Friday’s report comes on top of a whole battery of recent reports showing the widespread growth of hunger, homelessness, and poverty.

The complacent talk of economic recovery and the promotion by the Obama administration of the supposed success of its policies reveal both its callous indifference to the social crisis and a deliberate policy of maintaining a high level of unemployment to weaken the resistance of the working class to attacks on its wages, working conditions and standard of living.

The December jobs report closed out an abysmal year for US workers. Job losses in 2009 totaled more than 4.2 million, and the average official unemployment rate was 9.3 percent, up from 5.8 percent in 2008—an increase of more than 60 percent. More than 15.3 million American workers are now officially unemployed, 3.9 million more than when the year began. Since December 2007, upwards of 8 million jobs have been lost.

Over the decade, the US lost 1.6 million private sector jobs and added only 400,000 jobs overall—even as the population grew by almost 10 percent—the first time since the Great Depression that the economy actually shed jobs over a ten-year period, according to Floyd Norris of the New York Times. To have kept pace with population growth, the economy would have had to generate between 12,000,000 and 15,000,000 jobs since 2000.

The official jobless rate remained at 10 percent in December, but the broader “U-6” measure of unemployment, which takes into account those who have fallen out of the workforce or are employed part-time involuntarily, increased to 17.3 percent, or more than one in six US workers, close to the record high reached in October.

The percentage of the jobless without work for six months or longer, 39.8 percent, set a new high mark in records dating back to 1948. In all, 661,000 workers fell out of the US labor force in December, the largest decline in nearly 60 years, and the labor market participation rate fell to a 25-year low of 64.6 percent from 64.9 percent in November. Had these workers been counted, the official unemployment rate would have increased to 10.4 percent. For 2009 as a whole, the US workforce shrank by 1.5 million workers, the first annual decline since 1951.

The Labor Department revised its November jobs report upwards from a loss of 11,000 to a net gain of 4,000 jobs. But this was more than offset by a 16,000-job downward revision for October, raising job losses in that month to 111,000.

More major job cuts were announced on Friday. The defense contractor Lockheed Martin said it would cut another 1,200 jobs and United Parcel Service (UPS), the world’s largest parcel delivery firm, said it would cut 1,800 management positions.

UPS reported higher-than-predicted profits along with its latest job cuts announcement. Its stock rose rapidly in response, with Standard & Poor’s upgrading UPS shares from “hold” to “buy” and the Wall Street Journal calling them “hot.” UPS had already eliminated 15,000 jobs in 2009 and ceased contributions to its employees’ 401(k) retirement accounts.

Wall Street shrugged off the worse-than-expected jobs report, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing the day slightly higher after falling in the morning.

The coupling of increased share prices with layoffs, jobs cuts and pay and benefit freezes has become commonplace in recent months. “While companies typically defend such moves as necessary to prepare for more challenging business conditions in the future, the layoffs they carry out often serve to grow profits for shareholders,” the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) pointed out Tuesday, listing a number of major corporations that have reaped hefty profits while paring down their workforces.

Yet the negative jobs report, in conjunction with bleak data from the housing market in recent days, has raised fears among economists that the US is heading for a “double dip” recession, in which an apparently recovering economy slips back into contraction.

The sectors of the economy experiencing the most job losses cast further doubt on the touted “recovery.” Job losses continued to mount in construction, which is closely tied to the housing and commercial real estate markets, and in manufacturing, which would appear to belie claims of a “bounce” in that sector. And the retail sector declined in December by 10,000 jobs, in spite of better-than-predicted consumer spending.

The government sector also lost jobs. This points once again to the inadequate character of the Obama administration’s stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), funds from which have been used to help plug holes in state budgets. Given the dire budgetary situation confronting state and local governments, it is likely that government jobs will be shed at a far higher rate in the coming months—more still after the impact of the stimulus begins to wane in the summer.

Temporary jobs grew for the fifth consecutive month, the economy adding 47,000 short-term positions in all. Some commentators view this as an indication that employers may be preparing to hire full-time workers, a scenario dependent upon continued improvement in business conditions.

The average work week remained at the near historic low of 33 hours. The work week must expand markedly before any sustained improvement in labor market conditions, analysts say. “Firms have plenty of scope to expand hours before adding new workers,” commented Sal Guatieri, an economist with BMO Financial Group.

Among demographic groups, blacks saw a sharp increase in unemployment to 16.2 percent from 15.6 percent in November and 12.1 percent one year ago. The teenage unemployment rate rose to 27.1 percent in December from 26.8 in November and 20.8 in 2008. Among black teenagers the unemployment rate was at 48.4 percent. When taken together with their labor market participation rate of just 27.5 percent, this means that only 14.2 percent of black teens have jobs.

The US December jobs report was mirrored by worse-than-expected data from Europe, also released Friday. The Eurozone saw the official unemployment rate rise to over 10 percent for the first time since the introduction of the common currency in 2002, according to Eurostat.

In France, unemployment increased to 10 percent, in Italy it held steady at 8.3 percent, in Germany it was 7.6 percent. In Spain, the fourth largest Eurozone economy, the unemployment rate was 19.4 percent, behind Latvia (22.3 percent) for the worst mark in Europe. Among Spanish workers under the age of 25, the unemployment rate stood at a staggering 43.8 percent.

The Obama administration met the latest US jobs report with scarcely concealed indifference. President Obama counseled that the “the road to recovery is never straight” but that the economy “is still pointing in the right direction,” as he announced a measure that would hand over $2.3 billion in tax credits to manufacturers to put in place “green technologies.” These would fund 180 projects and would create a grand total of 17,000 jobs, according to the administration.

Christina Romer, Obama’s chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, called the December job losses a “slight setback” when “compared with the unexpectedly good report for November.” Romer added that the report “underscores the need for responsible actions to jump-start private-sector job creation.” Romer’s references to “responsible actions” and “private-sector job creation” serve notice that the administration is not contemplating any new government stimulus or public works program.

All indications are that for America’s workers, 2010 will be even worse than 2009.

The Labor Department report confirmed the consensus view that the official unemployment rate in 2010 will remain close to, or above, 10 percent. Even should job growth occur, it would have the effect of driving up the official unemployment rate by drawing back into the hunt for jobs, and thus into the official workforce, “discouraged workers” who had given up looking.

To reverse the unemployment rate, economic growth would have to be more rapid than the 4 percent gross domestic product increase predicted by many economists for the fourth quarter of 2009, and the economy would have to add well over the 100,000 to 150,000 new jobs monthly necessary to keep pace with population growth.

It is an article of faith among economists that any sustained recovery will require a steady increase in consumer spending. Yet stagnating wages—the average hourly wage increased but three cents in December—are offset by increases in the cost of living.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) reported the average price for a gallon of gasoline in the US hit $2.70 on Thursday, the highest price in 15 months. Stressed consumers sharply cut back their debt in November, according to a Friday report from the Federal Reserve. Seasonally adjusted consumer debt declined by 8.5 percent, $17.49 billion in all, with most of the drop-off coming in credit card debt. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a decline of $3.9 billion.

The December jobs report comes on the heels of recent data showing a sudden contraction in pending home sales, an increase in foreclosures, and a sharp increase in personal bankruptcies.

US-China rivalry intensifies

US-China rivalry intensifies

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Last year, it was fashionable to talk of an emerging “G2”. The US, the world’s largest economy, and China, its rising rival, would come together to resolve global problems—in particular, the international economic crisis wracking capitalism.

Those illusions have rapidly evaporated this year, as the Obama administration signals a far harder line toward China with a series of provocative moves, including the sale of advanced weapons to Taiwan and a planned meeting with the Dalai Lama. These significant symbolic steps follow the imposition of hefty US tariffs on a range of Chinese goods, from steel pipes and steel-grate to tyres.

Beijing has already protested over the Taiwan arms sale and will certainly do the same if Obama meets the Dalai Lama. US officials expect that Chinese President Hu Jintao will not attend Obama’s nuclear security summit in April and may end bilateral military dialogue with the US. Relations are likely to deteriorate further as the US pushes ahead with new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programs—a move that Beijing has publicly opposed.

Washington is no doubt driven by a growing sense that its economic and strategic interests are being increasingly blocked by Beijing. Obama’s much-vaunted trip to China last November was widely regarded as a failure: his call for an appreciation of the yuan against the dollar was ignored and in return he received a lecture on the need for financial rectitude to ensure China’s continued purchase of US bonds. At the Copenhagen climate summit, the US was opposed by a bloc led by China that pointedly snubbed Obama when he arrived to pull together a deal.

These tensions are rooted in the rapidly changing relations between the major economic powers, driven by the globalisation of production. The US remains the world’s no. 1 economy but is confronted by a dynamic rival. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the US GDP was eight times that of China; a decade later the figure was down to four times. This year China is likely to overtake Japan to become the world’s second largest economy. In 2009 China passed the US as the world’s largest auto market and producer. Two decades ago, a car industry barely existed in China.

The global financial crisis that erupted in 2008 has only served to underscore the vulnerability of the US and the rise of Chinese capitalism. While the US and European economies contracted in 2009, China contributed more than 50 percent of global economic growth. Last year China overtook Germany to become the world’s largest exporter. While major Western banks had to be bailed out, the seven largest Asian economies now hold $US4.6 trillion in foreign currency reserves—greater than the rest of the world combined.

A free trade agreement between China and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) came into effect on January 1—overnight creating the world’s third largest free trade zone after the EU and the North American Free Trade Association. Washington is not only excluded from this arrangement but has only a handful of bilateral deals of its own with countries in the region.

Driven by the need for raw materials, energy and markets, China is using its economic muscle to acquire assets, secure long-term contracts and boost its political standing through loans and aid in countries around the world. China’s outbound investment for mergers and acquisition in 2009 rose to $46 billion, five times the figure of $9.6 billion in 2005. In every region of the globe, from Central Asia to Africa and the Pacific, China’s economic expansion is challenging the US and European powers, and disrupting existing relations.

Barely hidden is the growing military rivalry. The US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its proxy war in Pakistan and threats against Iran are driven by Washington’s determination to dominate the key strategic regions of the Middle East and Central Asia, to the exclusion of its rivals, especially China. More broadly, the US has sought to encircle China with a series of alliances and bases, stretching from Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia and India to Afghanistan and Central Asia. China is responding by building its own military capabilities, including a blue-water navy to secure shipping routes to the Middle East and Africa, and a de facto partnership with Russia to counter US influence in Central Asia.

In a December 23 article, the Financial Times’s chief economic commentator Martin Wolf warned of the far-reaching consequences of the rise of China and the “disastrous loss of authority” of the US due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global financial crisis. “The noughties of the 21st century,” he commented, “now have the same fin de regime feeling as those of a century ago.”

The decline of Britain as world hegemon and the rise of rivals in the early twentieth century—particularly Germany and the United States—led to three decades of upheaval, including two world wars and the Great Depression, before the US emerged as the new dominant power. “Now we have a possibly even more difficult transition of power to manage,” Wolf declared.

Wolf had no proposals to offer other than a general prescription for international cooperation. He ended rather gloomily with an appeal for all countries to recognise the value of Benjamin Franklin’s maxim: “We must all hang together or assuredly we shall hang separately.” Wolf concluded: “Will that happen? Alas, I rather doubt it.”

This pessimistic tone reflects a recognition among more astute bourgeois observers that international rivalries are intensifying, not lessening. In the midst of World War I, Lenin in his farsighted pamphlet “Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism” explained the impossibility of a permanent agreement between the major powers to stabilise global capitalism. Any arrangement made at one point in time was necessarily upset by uneven rates of development among competing capitalist economies. The competition between declining powers and rising rivals was decided by war.

Today’s tensions are compounded by the fact that no country is in a position to play the role that the US did in creating a new equilibrium after World War II. China is an economic giant with feet of clay, riven by economic and social contradictions. Its economy is dependent on Western investment, technology and markets. China’s great economic “strength”—its vast pool of cheap labour—inevitably produces deep-seated social tensions. While its GDP is set to become second in the world, its per capita GDP was just $3,259 in 2008, 104th in the world, behind Iraq, Georgia and the Republic of Congo. It has the second largest group of dollar billionaires in the world behind the US, yet 150 million people live on $US1 or less a day. The abiding fear of the tiny Chinese elite is that its police-state measures will not contain the immense social explosion that is building up.

Amid the continuing global economic crisis, the rivalries will sharpen sooner rather than later. The world has entered into a convulsive new period of political upheaval and war. The only social force capable of offering humanity a progressive solution is the international working class. The same global processes that are exacerbating international tensions and leading to conflict have enormously strengthened the proletariat, whose historic task is the revolutionary overthrow of the bankrupt capitalist system and its outmoded division of the world into nation states, which is the root cause of war and the social catastrophes afflicting mankind.

U.S., NATO Expand Afghan War To Horn Of Africa And Indian Ocean

U.S., NATO Expand Afghan War To Horn Of Africa And Indian Ocean

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In parallel with the escalation of the war in South Asia - counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and drone missile attacks in Pakistan - the United States and its NATO allies have laid the groundwork for increased naval, air and ground operations in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden.

During the past month the U.S. has carried out deadly military strikes in Yemen: Bombing raids in the north and cruise missile attacks in the south of the nation. Washington has been accused of killing scores of civilians in the attacks in both parts of the country, executed before the December 25 Northwest Airlines incident that has been used to justify the earlier U.S. actions ex post facto. And, ominously, that has been exploited to pound a steady drumbeat of demands for expanded and even more direct military intervention.

The Pentagon's publicly disclosed military and security program for Yemen grew from $4.6 million in 2006 to $67 million last year. "That figure does not include covert, classified assistance that the United States has provided." [1]

In addition, "Under a new classified cooperation agreement, the U.S. would be able to fly cruise missiles, fighter jets or unmanned armed drones against targets in the country, but would remain publicly silent on its role in the airstrikes." [2]

On January 1 General David Petraeus, the chief of the Pentagon's Central Command, in charge of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as operations in Yemen and Pakistan, was in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and said of deepening military involvement in Yemen, "We have, it's well known, about $70 million in security assistance last year. That will more than double this coming year." [3]

The following day Petraeus was in the capital of Yemen where he met with the country's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to discuss "continued U.S. support in rooting out the terrorist cells." [4]

White House counterterrorism adviser (Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism) John Brennan briefed President Barack Obama on Petraeus' visit to Washington's new war theater and afterward stated "We have made Yemen a priority over the course of this year, and this is the latest in that effort." [5]

The alleged terrorist cells in question are identified by U.S. and other Western governments as being affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). However, on January 4 CNN reported that "A senior U.S. official cited a rebellion by Huti [Houthi] tribes in the north, and secessionist activity in the southern tribal areas" as of concern to Washington. [6]

The Houthis' confessional background is Shi'a and not Sunni Islam and the opposition forces in the south are led by the Yemeni Socialist Party, so attempts to link either with al-Qaeda are inaccurate, self-serving and dishonest.

In both the north and south the United States, its NATO allies - Britain and France closed their embassies in Yemen earlier this week in unison with the U.S. - and Saudi Arabia are working in tandem to support the Saleh government in what over the past month has become a state of warfare against opposition forces in the country. Saudi Arabia has launched regular bombing raids and infantry and armored attacks in the north of the country and, according to Houthi rebel sources, been aided by U.S. warplanes in deadly attacks on villages. Houthi spokesmen have accused Riyadh of firing over a thousand missiles inside Yemen, and in late December the Saudi Defense Ministry acknowledged that its military casualties over the preceding month included 73 dead, 26 missing and 470 wounded. In short, a cross-border war on the Arabian peninsula.

The West, though, has even larger plans for Yemen, ones which include integrating military operations from Northeast Africa to the Chinese border. Typical of recent statements by U.S. officials and their Western allies, last weekend British Prime Minister Gordon Brown disingenuously claimed that "The weakness of al Qaeda in Pakistan has forced them out of Pakistan and into Yemen and Somalia." [7]

Brown told the BBC on January 3 "Yemen has been recognized, like Somalia, to be one of the areas we have got to not only keep an eye on, but we've got to do more. So it's strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation, it's working harder on intelligence efforts." [8] It is up to Mr. Brown to explain why, if al-Qaeda has been "forced out" of Pakistan, he is adding soldiers to the U.S. and NATO surge that will soon bring combined Western troop numbers to over 150,000 in Afghanistan while intensifying deadly attacks inside Pakistan itself.

The British prime minister has also called for an international meeting on Yemen for later this month and announced that "The UK and the US have agreed to fund a counter-terrorism police unit in Yemen...." [9]

In Western news reports, or rather rumor peddling, Yemeni rebels are accused of supplying weapons to Somali opposite numbers and the second are reported to have offered fighters to the former.

In short the officially discarded but in fact revived and expanded "global war on terrorism" is now to be fought in a single theater of war that extends from the Red Sea to Pakistan. A joint endeavor by the Pentagon's Central and Africa Commands and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to build upon the consolidation of almost the entire European continent under NATO and Pentagon control and the ceding of the African continent to the new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). (Except for Egypt, an individual Pentagon asset and NATO Mediterranean Dialogue partner.)

In fact the Central Command was inaugurated by the Ronald Reagan administration in 1983 on the foundations of the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF) that his predecessor Jimmy Carter activated three years before. [10] The latter developed out of the Rapid Deployment Forces (RDF) launched directly to counter developments in Afghanistan and Somalia in 1979 (an integral component of the Carter Doctrine) and was deliberately designed to establish military control of the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Sea and the Western Indian Ocean.

Administrations may depart - George W. Bush and Tony Blair have left public office - and names may change - the global war on terror has been rechristened overseas contingency operations - but Washington's global geopolitical ambitions, limitless since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union in 1991, have only grown more universal and the military means employed for their realization more aggressive.

The White House and its European allies have of late resuscitated and inflated the al-Qaeda specter to a degree not witnessed since the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001.

Under the guise of protecting the American homeland from this shadowy and ubiquitous entity, the Pentagon is involved in military operations from West Africa to East Asia against among other decidedly non-Osama bin Laden-linked forces left-wing groups in Colombia, the Philippines and Yemen; Shi'a militias in Lebanon and Yemen; ethnic rebels in Mali and Niger; a Christian extremist rebellion in Uganda.

Like the infamous 19th century grave robbers William Burke and William Hare, paid so well to provide cadavers to the Edinburgh Medical College that, running out of corpses to sell, created them, al-Qaeda is a dependable villain to be evoked as needed.

Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia can be conflated with pirates in the Gulf of Aden to provide the pretext for a permanent NATO and allied European Union naval presence in a nexus that includes the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea leading into the Persian Gulf and most of the eastern coast of Africa.

The American component of the Greater Afghan War is Operation Enduring Freedom, which takes in Afghanistan, Cuba (Guantanamo Bay Naval Base), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Djibouti, which hosts some 2,500 U.S. military personnel in the Pentagon's first permanent base in Africa, is also the headquarters of the U.S.'s Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), set up in 2001 several months before Operation Enduring Freedom and overlapping with it in many respects. The CJTF-HOA, based in the French military base of Camp Lemonier, was transferred from the Pentagon's Central Command to its Africa Command on October 1, 2008 when AFRICOM was formally activated.

Its area of responsibility includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen. Its areas of interest are Comoros, Mauritius, and Madagascar. The last three are, like Seychelles, island nations in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. expanded Camp Lemonier to five times its original size in 2006 and troops from all branches of the U.S. armed services "use the base when not working 'downrange' in countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen." [11]

In announcing recently that "Yemen has received military equipment from the United States to aid the government's fight against the al-Qaeda network in the south of the country," a German news agency added this background information: "Yemen, in the 1990s, welcomed back Arab fighters who left Afghanistan after the fall of the Soviet Union." [12]

As with Afghanistan itself and other locations where the American military is fighting insurgent groups - the Philippines, Somalia and Yemen - the Pentagon is frequently confronting fighters funded, armed and trained by its own government in Pakistan from 1978-1992 under Operation Cyclone, the largest-ever CIA covert undertaking.

A 2008 edition of U.S. News & World Report, a magazine that can hardly be accused of being unfriendly to the White House and the Pentagon, wrote of the war in Afghanistan that "two of the most dangerous players are violent Afghan Islamists named Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, according to U.S. officials." [13]

An assessment repeated in the August 30, 2009 Commander's Initial Assessment of General Stanley McChrystal, commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The report, the basis for the White House increasing troop strength in the war theater to over 100,000, stated that "The major insurgent groups in order of their threat to the mission are: the Quetta Shura Taliban (05T), the Haqqani Network (HQN), and the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HiG)."

The U.S. News & World Report feature provided this background information:

"[T]hese two warlords — currently at the top of America's list of most wanted men in Afghanistan — were once among America's most valued allies. In the 1980s, the CIA funneled hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons and ammunition to help them battle the Soviet Army....Hekmatyar, then widely considered by Washington to be a reliable anti-Soviet rebel, was even flown to the United States by the CIA in 1985."

"U.S. officials had an even higher opinion of Haqqani, who was considered the most effective rebel warlord....Haqqani was also one of the leading advocates of the so-called Arab Afghans, deftly organizing Arab volunteer fighters who came to wage jihad against the Soviet Union and helping to protect future al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden." [14]

In the name of combating the very same bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the U.S. and its NATO allies are now, in addition to increasing combined military forces waging a war in Afghanistan now in its ninth year to over 150,000, more than the Soviet Union ever deployed to that nation:

Intensifying deadly drone missile, helicopter gunship and commando attacks inside neighboring Pakistan. A recent government report in that nation tabulated that 708 people had been killed last year in CIA drone attacks alone. Only five of those were identified as al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects. [14] On January 6 at least thirteen more were killed in a missile attack in the Pakistani tribal agency of North Waziristan.

Last month an American military newspaper reported that "A 1,000-strong Marine combat task force capable of rapidly deploying to hot spots could soon be at the disposal of the new U.S. Africa Command," which announcement came "just a few months after U.S. Special Forces staged a daring daylight raid deep inside southern Somalia" and after another Marine force "had already deployed in support of training missions in Uganda and Mali." [15]

In late October of last year NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was in the United Arab Emirates [UAE] to rally NATO's Istanbul Cooperation Initiative partners for a future confrontation with Iran. Addressing a conference on NATO-UAE Relations and Future Prospects of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, he expanded his mission to recruit the Persian Gulf monarchies for the ever-expanding Greater Afghan War. "We have a shared interest in helping countries like Afghanistan and Iraq to stand on their feet again, fostering stability in the Middle East...and preventing countries like Somalia and Sudan from slipping deeper into chaos." [16]

Two months earlier it was reported that "About 75 U.S. military personnel and civilians will be headed to the Seychelles islands in the coming weeks to set up...Reaper operations, which could start in October or November. U.S. Africa Command is calling the Navy-led mission Ocean Look.

"The U.S. will base the Reapers - to be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance - at Seychelles' Mahe regional airport...." [17] The Reaper is the Pentagon's newest "hunter-killer" unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) which is equipped with fifteen times the firepower and travels at three times the speed of its Predator forerunner, used to devastating effect in Pakistan and Somalia. Last October Somali rebels claimed to have shot down an American drone and local "residents routinely report suspected US drones flying over [their city]. The drones are believed to be launched from warships in the Indian Ocean." [18]

The permanent stationing of U.S. military forces in Seychelles is part of a pattern in recent years of basing American troops to man missile batteries, interceptor missile radar sites, air bases, counterinsurgency forward bases and other installations in countries where their presence would have been inconceivable even a few years ago: Afghanistan, Colombia, Bulgaria, Djibouti, Iraq, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Poland and Romania. A report of January 7 claims that the U.S. plans to establish an air base in Yemen in the Socotra archipelago in the Indian Ocean. [19]

Later it was revealed that "In addition to the Reaper UAVs, the U.S. military is also considering basing Navy P-3 Orion patrol aircraft in the Seychelles for a limited time. Like the Reaper, the Orion can survey a large region...." [20]

A Middle Eastern news source reported on this development as follows:

"The United States is taking its military venture in Africa to new levels amid suspicions that Washington could be advancing yet another hidden agenda.

"American operatives are expected to fly pilot-less surveillance aircraft over the Seychellois [Seychelles] territory from US ships off its coast, in what Washington claims are [deployments] meant to spy on Somali pirates....[S]imilar pretexts were used to justify the US invasion of Afghanistan, the missile attacks in Pakistan, and its waning military operations in Iraq....Washington has also started to equip Mali with USD 4.5 million worth of military vehicles and communications equipment, in what is reported to be an increasing US involvement in Africa." [21]

It did not take long for the U.S. to put the Reapers into operation. In late October Associated Press reported "U.S. military surveillance drones are patrolling off Somalia's coast for the first time....U.S. military officials say unmanned drones called Reapers, stationed in the island nation of Seychelles, are patrolling the Indian Ocean. [22]

"The developments come as the White House seeks grounds to establish a major military presence in Africa.

"The US military says it has deployed its drones ['the size of a jet fighter'], capable of carrying missiles to patrol waters off Somalia...." [23]

Washington's attempt to establish an Afghanistan-Pakistan-Somalia-Yemen connection is intimately connected with its plans for Africa as a whole. [24]

On January 4 a U.S. military website published this update:

"U.S. Africa Command has bolstered its anti-piracy forces with the recent addition of maritime patrol aircraft and more personnel in the Seychelles islands.

"The Navy last month deployed three P-3 Orion aircraft from the Maine-based VP-26 Tridents, along with 112 sailors, to the Seychelles to patrol the waters off East Africa....Patrol Squadron 26's insignia, a skull over a compass and two bombs or torpedoes that form an X, resembles the Jolly Roger flag, which symbolizes piracy." [25]

What sort of pirates the Pentagon is using as the pretext for its military buildup in the Horn of Africa and Eastern Africa as a whole was demonstrated last September when "Foreign troops in helicopters strafed a car...in a Somali town...killing two men and capturing two others who were wounded, witnesses said. U.S. military officials said American forces were involved in the raid."

"Two U.S. military officials said forces from the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command were involved." [26] The Joint Special Operations Command was headed up by Stanley McChrystal from 2003 to 2008. He has moved on from overseeing counterinsurgency operations in Iraq during those years to assuming control over all U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan.

A witness also reported that "the helicopters took off from a warship flying a French flag" [27] and a rebel source said "We are getting information that French army gunships attacked a car, destroying it completely and taking some of the passengers." [28]

French military forces remain in the former colony of Djibouti where they train for operations not only in Afghanistan but in several former African possessions. Troops, warplanes and armored vehicles from NATO nations - under the flags of NATO itself, the European Union, France and the United States - have intervened in civil and cross-border conflicts across the entire width of Africa over the past few years: Somalia, Djibouti-Eritrea, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Darfur region of Sudan and the Ivory Coast; from the Horn of Africa to the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea.

A report from last month provides some indication of the French role on the continent. Radio France Internationale described "French soldiers in Djibouti train[ing] for Afghanistan and keep[ing] an eye on Africa" with the following details:

"Twelve special forces commandos arrived first" and "the army...storm[ed] the beach....The exercise, seen as crucial for battle preparedness in a region infamous for its fractious politics, included all the country's military sectors - sea, land and air.

"As desert tanks zoomed onto the shore Mirage jets criss-crossed the open sky. Meanwhile, land troops were dispatched from the mouths of armoured personnel carriers and helicopters airlifted artillery guns onto the ground.

"'It's a show of force. It shows what France is able to do militarily,' said one army officer.

"In recent years French troops in Djibouti have been involved in a number of...military missions in Africa. They helped reinforce the UN brigade patrolling Cote d'Ivoire and last year provided logistical and tactical help to Djiboutian soldiers warding off an attack from neighbouring Eritrea.

"For the time being, the first theatre of combat these troops will see is Afghanistan, where France is part of the Nato contingent. The mountainous, arid countryside closely resembles Djibouti's own undulating moonscape.

"The troops taking part are a contingent of a 2,500-strong force based in Djibouti." [29]

In addition to intermittent armed clashes between troops from Djibouti and Eritrea, in the past weeks reports have surfaced of deadly fighting within Eritrea and between that nation and neighboring Ethiopia. Djibouti and Ethiopia are the West's client regimes and military proxies in the Horn of Africa and, as is demonstrated above, the integration of the South Asian and Northeast African war fronts is proceeding rapidly.

Starting in the autumn of 2008 NATO began what it calls counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and further into the Gulf of Aden, often in league with comparable deployments by the European Union, with which it shares warships, commanders and "common strategic interests" under the Berlin Plus and other arrangements. [30]

The NATO naval surveillance and interdiction operation in and near the Horn of Africa is an extension of its effective takeover of the entire Mediterranean Sea with Operation Active Endeavor [31] initiated in 2001 under the Alliance's Article 5 mutual military assistance clause and augmented by the blockade of Lebanon's Mediterranean coast by NATO nations' warships under UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) auspices that began after Israel's assault on the country in 2006. The latter's Maritime Task Force (MTF) "has hailed some 27,000 ships and referred nearly 400 suspicious vessels to Lebanese authorities for further inspection.

"Thirteen countries – Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Turkey – have contributed naval units to the MTF." [32]

The NATO and EU deployments in the Gulf of Aden are the first such naval operations in the region in both organizations' history and the EU's first in African coastal waters.

The expansion of military presence into the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea gives NATO nations control of waterways ranging from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Strait of Hormuz.

As veteran Indian diplomat and analyst M K Bhadrakumar described it in 2008, "By acting with lightning speed and without publicity, NATO surely created a fait accompli.

"NATO's naval deployment in the Indian Ocean region is a historic move and a milestone in the alliance's transformation. Even at the height of the Cold War, the alliance didn't have a presence in the Indian Ocean. Such deployments almost always tend to be open-ended.

"In 2007, a NATO naval force visited Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and Somalia and conducted exercises in the Indian Ocean and then re-entered the Mediterranean via the Red Sea in end-September." [33]

He added: "US officials are on record that Africom and NATO envisage an institutional linkup in the downstream.

"The overall US strategy is to incrementally bring NATO into Africa so that its future role in the Indian Ocean (and Middle East) region as the instrument of US global security agenda becomes optimal." [34]

Last August the chief of AFRICOM, General William Ward, said that Somalia was "a central focus of the U.S. military on the continent."

To indicate the scope of Pentagon plans in not only Somalia but the region, "General William Ward has pledged continued support to Somalia's transitional federal government....He made his remarks during a visit to Nairobi, Kenya, which is a key U.S. ally in the region.

"When asked about U.S. warnings to Eritrea against its alleged support of al-Shabab, the U.S. general condemned any outside support for the Somali rebels." [35]

U.S., British and other Western officials have been straining to establish (the most) tenuous connection between the so-called AfPak war front and the need for direct military intervention in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, as was seen earlier with the British prime minister's risible claim that NATO has been so successful in expelling alleged al-Qaeda elements from Pakistan that they have sought refuge in Somalia and Yemen. Rather than, more logically, in locations like Kashmir, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Similarly, Western governments are sparing no effort to fabricate or exaggerate links between the numerous armed conflicts in the Horn of Africa. Somali rebels are accused of supporting the government of Eritrea in its border conflict with Djibouti; they are also accused of offering fighters for the internal conflict in southern Yemen.

In return, Yemeni rebels are accused of providing arms for Somalia's al-Shabaab fighters and hovering over it all is the implication that Iran is sponsoring Arab Shi'a forces in Yemen's north.

There is a plethora of evidence, however, documenting genuine foreign intervention in the region: U.S. missile, bombing, helicopter and special forces attacks in Somalia and Yemen and coordination with the armies of Djibouti and Ethiopia in conflicts inside Somalia and with Eritrea. Saudi air and land assaults in Yemen with the resultant deaths of hundreds and displacement of thousands of civilians. French commando operations in Somalia and combat training in Djibouti for warfare in the area and beyond.

The true outside forces engaged in military actions are ignored in the West in favor of unsubstantiated contentions that the region is being inflamed by the same adversaries the U.S. and NATO are waging war against on the Indian subcontinent and that the villains in and near the Horn of Africa are, in addition to being the local al-Qaeda franchise, inextricably linked and moreover somehow tied with piracy operations. Such are the tortured logic and far-fetched subterfuges used to prepare Western publics for an escalation of military intervention over 3,000 kilometers across the Indian Ocean from the Afghanistan-Pakistan war theater.

NATO warships are bridging the two extremes. Last August the military bloc launched its second naval operation off the coast of Somalia the name of which, Ocean Shield, alone indicates the scope of the Alliance's objectives in the Africa-Asia-Middle East triangle. The mission includes military ships from Britain, Greece, Italy, Turkey and the U.S. and according to NATO "other countries are thinking of coming to reinforce the operation which could evolve at any moment." A NATO spokesman said at the time, "No timeframe has been set for this long-term operation, which will last as long as it's deemed necessary." [36]

The European Union is conducting a complementary mission, Operation Atalanta, "which has six frigates and works with fleets from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the U.S.-led coalition" and "operates in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean...from Somali territorial waters east to 60 degrees longitude, which runs south from the eastern tip of Oman and 250 miles east of the Seychelles." [37] Rear Admiral Peter Hudson at the fleet's command center in Britain announced last month that the operation may expand its range even further, taking in most of the western Indian Ocean.

Last September the commander of NATO's Maritime Group 2 in the Gulf of Aden met with officials of Somalia's Puntland autonomous region to plan operations.

In mid-December NATO made a direct link between its South Asian war and its expansion into the Indian Ocean by announcing it was considering dispatching AWACS surveillance aircraft to the second location. "Commanders are seeking to back up a five-ship counterpiracy task force with one of the airborne warning and control system surveillance planes, possibly sharing it with the allied International Security Assistance Force fighting in Afghanistan." [38]

On the first day of this year a Canadian news agency, in a feature titled "Canada to help defend Yemen from al-Qaida reinforcements," revealed that "A NATO spokeswoman said warships patrolling international shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden, which separates Somalia from Yemen, were aware al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-inspired armed group based in Somalia, had announced plans to send fighters to Yemen" and as a result "A Canadian warship involved in NATO-led counter-piracy operations off Somalia's coast now has an additional task...." [39]

Somalia and Yemen lie across from each other on either end of the Gulf of Aden where the Red Sea meets the Arabian Sea and the Mediterranean is connected with the Indian Ocean. An arc that effects the conjunction of three of the world's five most important continents. Territory too important for the United States, whose head of state last month proclaimed himself commander-in-chief of the world's sole military superpower, and what for the past decade has declared itself expeditionary and global NATO to leave untouched.

Notes

1) Reuters, January 1, 2010
2) Russian Information Agency Novosti, December 30, 2009
3) Reuters, January 1, 2010
4) CNN, January 4, 2010
5) CNN, January 2, 2010
6) CNN, January 4, 2010
7) Agence France-Presse, January 4, 2010
8) Xinhua News Agency, January 4, 2010
9) Press TV, January 3, 2010
10) Cold War Origins Of The Somalia Crisis And Control Of The
Indian Ocean
Stop NATO, May 3, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/cold-war-origins-of-the-somalia-crisis-and-control-of-the-indian-ocean/
11) Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, April 17, 2009
12) Deutsche Presse-Agentur, January 1, 2010
13) U.S. News & World Report, July 11, 2008
14) Ibid
15) Stars And Stripes, December 16, 2009
16) Al Arabiya, November 1, 2009
17) Stars and Stripes, August 29, 2009
18) Press TV, October 19, 2009
19) Press TV, January 7, 2010
20) Voice of America News, September 2, 2009
21) Press TV, October 21, 2009
22) Associated Press, October 23, 2009
23) Press TV, October 25, 2009
24) AFRICOM: Pentagon Prepares Direct Military Intervention In Africa
Stop NATO, August 24, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/africom-pentagons-prepares-direct-military-intervention-in-africa
AFRICOM Year Two: Seizing The Helm Of The Entire World
Stop NATO, October 22, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/10/22/africom-year-two-taking-the-helm-of-the-entire-world
25) Stars and Stripes, January 4, 2010
26) Associated Press, September 14, 2009
27) Ibid
28) Agence France-Presse, September 14, 2009
29) Radio France Internationale, December 11, 2009
30) NATO
http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_49217.htm
31) NATO http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_7932.htm
32) UN News Centre, August 31, 2009
33) Asian Times, October 20, 2008
34) Ibid
35) Voice of America News, August 21, 2009
36) Agence France-Presse, August 17, 2009
37) Bloomberg News, December 11, 2009
38) Bloomberg News, December 21, 2009
39) Canwest News Service, January 1, 2010

The American Elite - William Blum's Anti-Empire Report

The American Elite - William Blum's Anti-Empire Report

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Lincoln Gordon died a few weeks ago at the age of 96. He had graduated summa cum laude from Harvard at the age of 19, received a doctorate from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, published his first book at 22, with dozens more to follow on government, economics, and foreign policy in Europe and Latin America. He joined the Harvard faculty at 23. Dr. Gordon was an executive on the War Production Board during World War II, a top administrator of Marshall Plan programs in postwar Europe, ambassador to Brazil, held other high positions at the State Department and the White House, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, economist at the Brookings Institution, president of Johns Hopkins University. President Lyndon B. Johnson praised Gordon's diplomatic service as "a rare combination of experience, idealism and practical judgment".

You get the picture? Boy wonder, intellectual shining light, distinguished leader of men, outstanding American patriot.

Abraham Lincoln Gordon was also Washington's on-site, and very active, director in Brazil of the military coup in 1964 which overthrew the moderately leftist government of João Goulart and condemned the people of Brazil to more than 20 years of an unspeakably brutal dictatorship. Human-rights campaigners have long maintained that Brazil's military regime originated the idea of the desaparecidos, "the disappeared", and exported torture methods across Latin America. In 2007, the Brazilian government published a 500-page book, "The Right to Memory and the Truth", which outlines the systematic torture, rape and disappearance of nearly 500 left-wing activists, and includes photos of corpses and torture victims. Currently, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is proposing a commission to investigate allegations of torture by the military during the 1964-1985 dictatorship. (When will the United States create a commission to investigate its own torture?)

In a cable to Washington after the coup, Gordon stated — in a remark that might have had difficulty getting past the lips of even John Foster Dulles — that without the coup there could have been a "total loss to the West of all South American Republics". (It was actually the beginning of a series of fascistic anti-communist coups that trapped the southern half of South America in a decades-long nightmare, culminating in "Operation Condor", in which the various dictatorships, aided by the CIA, cooperated in hunting down and killing leftists.)

Gordon later testified at a congressional hearing and while denying completely any connection to the coup in Brazil he stated that the coup was "the single most decisive victory of freedom in the mid-twentieth century."

Listen to a phone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, April 3, 1964, two days after the coup:



MANN: I hope you're as happy about Brazil as I am.

LBJ: I am.

MANN: I think that's the most important thing that's happened in the hemisphere in three years.

LBJ: I hope they give us some credit instead of hell.1

So the next time you're faced with a boy wonder from Harvard, try to keep your adulation in check no matter what office the man attains, even — oh, just choosing a position at random — the presidency of the United States. Keep your eyes focused not on these "liberal" ... "best and brightest" who come and go, but on US foreign policy which remains the same decade after decade. There are dozens of Brazils and Lincoln Gordons in America's past. In its present. In its future. They're the diplomatic equivalent of the guys who ran Enron, AIG and Goldman Sachs.

Of course, not all of our foreign policy officials are like that. Some are worse.

And remember the words of convicted spy Alger Hiss: Prison was "a good corrective to three years at Harvard."

Mothers, don't let your children grow up to be Nobel Peace Prize winners

In November I wrote:
Question: How many countries do you have to be at war with to be disqualified from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize?

Answer: Five. Barack Obama has waged war against only Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. He's holding off on Iran until he actually gets the prize.
Well, on December 10 the president clutched the prize in his blood-stained hands. But then the Nobel Laureate surprised us. On December 17 the United States fired cruise missiles at people in ... not Iran, but Yemen, all "terrorists" of course, who were, needless to say, planning "an imminent attack against a U.S. asset".2 A week later the United States carried out another attack against "senior al-Qaeda operatives" in Yemen.3

Reports are that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Norway is now in conference to determine whether to raise the maximum number of wars allowed to ten. Given the committee's ignoble history, I imagine that Obama is taking part in the discussion. As is Henry Kissinger.

The targets of these attacks in Yemen reportedly include fighters coming from Afghanistan and Iraq, confirmation of the warnings long given — even by the CIA and the Pentagon — that those US interventions were creating new anti-American terrorists. (That's anti-American foreign policy, not necessarily anything else American.) How long before the United States will be waging war in some other god-forsaken land against anti-American terrorists whose numbers include fighters from Yemen? Or Pakistan? Or Somalia? Or Palestine?

Our blessed country is currently involved in so many bloody imperial adventures around the world that one needs a scorecard to keep up. Rick Rozoff of StopNATO has provided this for us in some detail.4

For this entire century, almost all these anti-American terrorists have been typically referred to as "al-Qaeda", as if you have to be a member of something called al-Qaeda to resent bombs falling on your house or wedding party; as if there's a precise and meaningful distinction between people retaliating against American terrorism while being a member of al-Qaeda and people retaliating against American terrorism while NOT being a member of al-Qaeda. However, there is not necessarily even such an animal as a "member of al-Qaeda", albeit there now exists "al-Qaeda in Iraq" and "al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula". Anti-American terrorists do know how to choose a name that attracts attention in the world media, that appears formidable, that scares Americans. Governments have learned to label their insurgents "al-Qaeda" to start the military aid flowing from Washington, just like they yelled "communist" during the Cold War. And from the perspective of those conducting the War on Terror, the bigger and more threatening the enemy, the better — more funding, greater prestige, enhanced career advancement. Just like with the creation of something called The International Communist Conspiracy.

It's not just the American bombings, invasions and occupations that spur the terrorists on, but the American torture. Here's Bowe Robert Bergdahl, US soldier captured in Afghanistan, speaking on a video made by his Taliban captors: He said he had been well-treated, contrasting his fate to that of prisoners held in US military prisons, such as the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. "I bear witness I was continuously treated as a human being, with dignity, and I had nobody deprive me of my clothes and take pictures of me naked. I had no dogs barking at me or biting me as my country has done to their Muslim prisoners in the jails that I have mentioned."5

Of course the Taliban provided the script, but what was the script based on? What inspired them to use such words and images, to make such references?

Cuba. Again. Still. Forever.

More than 50 years now it is. The propaganda and hypocrisy of the American mainstream media seems endless and unwavering. They can not accept the fact that Cuban leaders are humane or rational. Here's the Washington Post of December 13 writing about an American arrested in Cuba:
"The Cuban government has arrested an American citizen working on contract for the U.S. Agency for International Development who was distributing cellphones and laptop computers to Cuban activists. ... Under Cuban law ... a Cuban citizen or a foreign visitor can be arrested for nearly anything under the claim of 'dangerousness'."
That sounds just awful, doesn't it? Imagine being subject to arrest for whatever someone may choose to label "dangerousness". But the exact same thing has happened repeatedly in the United States since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. We don't use the word "dangerousness". We speak of "national security". Or, more recently, "terrorism". Or "providing material support to terrorism".

The arrested American works for Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), a US government contractor that provides services to the State Department, the Pentagon and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). In 2008, DAI was funded by the US Congress to "promote transition to democracy" in Cuba. Yes, Oh Happy Day!, we're bringing democracy to Cuba just as we're bringing it to Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2002, DAI was contracted by USAID to work in Venezuela and proceeded to fund the same groups that a few months earlier had worked to stage a coup — temporarily successful — against President Hugo Chávez. DAI performed other subversive work in Venezuela and has also been active in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other hotspots. "Subversive" is what Washington would label an organization like DAI if they behaved in the same way in the United States in behalf of a foreign government.6

The American mainstream media never makes its readers aware of the following (so I do so repeatedly): The United States is to the Cuban government like al-Qaeda is to the government in Washington, only much more powerful and much closer. Since the Cuban revolution, the United States and anti-Castro Cuban exiles in the US have inflicted upon Cuba greater damage and greater loss of life than what happened in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. Cuban dissidents typically have had very close, indeed intimate, political and financial connections to American government agents. Would the US government ignore a group of Americans receiving funds or communication equipment from al-Qaeda and/or engaging in repeated meetings with known leaders of that organization? In the past few years, the American government has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al-Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents' ties to the United States, evidence usually gathered by Cuban double agents. Virtually all of Cuba's "political prisoners" are such dissidents.

The Washington Post story continued:
"The Cuban government granted ordinary citizens the right to buy cellphones just last year." Period.
What does one make of such a statement without further information? How could the Cuban government have been so insensitive to people's needs for so many years? Well, that must be just the way a "totalitarian" state behaves. But the fact is that because of the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, with a major loss to Cuba of its foreign trade, combined with the relentless US economic aggression, the Caribbean island was hit by a great energy shortage beginning in the 1990s, which caused repeated blackouts. Cuban authorities had no choice but to limit the sale of energy-hogging electrical devices such as cell phones; but once the country returned to energy sufficiency the restrictions were revoked.
"Cubans who want to log on [to the Internet] often have to give their names to the government."
What does that mean? Americans, thank God, can log onto the Internet without giving their names to the government. Their Internet Service Provider does it for them, furnishing their names to the government, along with their emails, when requested.
"Access to some Web sites is restricted."
Which ones? Why? More importantly, what information might a Cuban discover on the Internet that the government would not want him to know about? I can't imagine. Cubans are in constant touch with relatives in the US, by mail and in person. They get US television programs from Miami. International conferences on all manner of political, economic and social subjects are held regularly in Cuba. What does the American media think is the great secret being kept from the Cuban people by the nasty commie government?
"Cuba has a nascent blogging community, led by the popular commentator Yoani Sánchez, who often writes about how she and her husband are followed and harassed by government agents because of her Web posts. Sánchez has repeatedly applied for permission to leave the country to accept journalism awards, so far unsuccessfully."
According to a well-documented account7, Sánchez's tale of government abuse appears rather exaggerated. Moreover, she moved to Switzerland in 2002, lived there for two years, and then voluntarily returned to Cuba. On the other hand, in January 2006 I was invited to attend a book fair in Cuba, where one of my books, newly translated into Spanish, was being presented. However, the government of the United States would not give me permission to go. My application to travel to Cuba had also been rejected in 1998 by the Clinton administration.
"'Counterrevolutionary activities', which include mild protests and critical writings, carry the risk of censure or arrest. Anti-government graffiti and speech are considered serious crimes."
Raise your hand if you or someone you know of was ever arrested in the United States for taking part in a protest. And substitute "pro al-Qaeda" for "counterrevolutionary" and for "anti-government" and think of the thousands imprisoned the past eight years by the United States all over the world for ... for what? In most cases there's no clear answer. Or the answer is clear: (a) being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or (b) being turned in to collect a bounty offered by the United States, or (c) thought crimes. And whatever the reason for the imprisonment, they were likely tortured. Even the most fanatical anti-Castroites don't accuse Cuba of that. In the period of the Cuban revolution, since 1959, Cuba has had one of the very best records on human rights in the hemisphere. See my essay: "The United States, Cuba and this thing called Democracy".8

There's no case of anyone arrested in Cuba that compares in injustice and cruelty to the arrest in 1998 by the United States government of those who came to be known as the "Cuban Five", sentenced in Florida to exceedingly long prison terms for trying to stem terrorist acts against Cuba emanating from the US.9 It would be lovely if the Cuban government could trade their DAI prisoner for the five. Cuba, on several occasions, has proposed to Washington the exchange of a number of what the US regards as "political prisoners" in Cuba for the five Cubans held in the United States. So far the United States has not agreed to do so.

Notes
  1. Michael Beschloss, Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes 1963-1964 (New York, 1997), p.306. All other sources for this section on Gordon can be found in: Washington Post, December 22, 2009, obituary; The Guardian (London), August 31, 2007; William Blum, "Killing Hope", chapter 27
  2. ABC News, December 17, 2009; Washington Post, December 19, 2009
  3. Washington Post, December 25, 2009
  4. Stop NATO, "2010: U.S. To Wage War Throughout The World", December 30, 2009. To get on the StopNATO mailing list write to r_rozoff@yahoo.com. To see back issues: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/
  5. Reuters, December 25, 2009
  6. For more details on DAI, see Eva Golinger, "The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela" (2006) and her website, posting for December 31, 2009
  7. Salim Lamrani, professor at Paris Descartes University, "The Contradictions of Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez", Monthly Review magazine, November 12, 2009
  8. http://killinghope.org/bblum6/democ.htm
  9. http://killinghope.org/bblum6/polpris.htm


William Blum is the author of:

    • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
    • Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
    • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
    • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

The United States Promotes Israeli Genocide Against the Palestinians

The United States Promotes Israeli Genocide Against the Palestinians

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As long ago as October 19, 2000, the then United Nations Human Rights Commission (now Council) condemned Israel for inflicting "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" upon the Palestinian people, most of whom are Muslims. The reader has a general idea of what a war crime is, so I am not going to elaborate upon that term here. But there are different degrees of heinousness for war crimes. In particular are the more serious war crimes denominated "grave breaches" of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Since the outbreak of the first Intifada in 1987, the world has seen those heinous war crimes inflicted every day by Israel against the Palestinian people living in occupied Palestine: e.g., willful killing of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army and by Israel's illegal paramilitary settlers. These Israeli "grave breaches" of the Fourth Geneva Convention mandate universal prosecution for the perpetrators and their commanders, whether military or civilian, including and especially Israel's political leaders. But I want to focus for a moment on Israel's "crimes against humanity" against the Palestinian people-as determined by the U.N. Human Rights Commission itself, set up pursuant to the requirements of the United Nations Charter. What are "crimes against humanity"? This concept goes all the way back to the Nuremberg Charter of 1945 for the trial of the major Nazi war criminals in Europe. In the Nuremberg Charter of 1945, drafted by the United States Government, there was created and inserted a new type of international crime specifically intended to deal with the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people:

Crimes against humanity: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

The paradigmatic example of "crimes against humanity" is what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jewish people. This is where the concept of "crimes against humanity" came from. And this is what the U.N. Human Rights Commission determined that Israel is currently doing to the Palestinian people: crimes against humanity. Expressed in legal terms, this is just like what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jews. That is the significance of the formal determination by the U.N. Human Rights Commission that Israel has inflicted "crimes against humanity" upon the Palestinian people. The Commission chose this well-known and long-standing legal term of art quite carefully and deliberately based upon the evidence it had compiled.

Furthermore, the Nuremberg "crimes against humanity" are the historical and legal precursor to the international crime of genocide as defined by the 1948 Genocide Convention. The theory here was that what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jewish people was so horrific that it required a special international treaty that would codify and universalize the Nuremberg concept of "crimes against humanity." And that treaty ultimately became the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Article II of the Genocide Convention defines the international crime of genocide in relevant part as follows:

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

As documented by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe in his seminal book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), Israel's genocidal policy against the Palestinians has been unremitting, extending from before the very foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, and is ongoing and even intensifying against the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza. Zionism's "final solution" to Israel's much touted "demographic threat" allegedly posed by the very existence of the Palestinians has always been genocide.

Certainly, Israel and its predecessors-in-law-the Zionist agencies, forces, and terrorist gangs-have committed genocide against the Palestinian people that actually started on or about 1948 and has continued apace until today in violation of Genocide Convention Articles II(a), (b), and (c). For at least the past six decades, the Israeli government and its predecessors-in-law-the Zionist agencies, forces, and terrorist gangs-have ruthlessly implemented a systematic and comprehensive military, political, and economic campaign with the intent to destroy in substantial part the national, ethnical, racial, and different religious (Jews versus Muslims and Christians) group constituting the Palestinian people. This Zionist/Israeli campaign has consisted of killing members of the Palestinian people in violation of Genocide Convention Article II(a). This Zionist/Israeli campaign has also caused serious bodily and mental harm to the Palestinian people in violation of Genocide Convention Article II(b). This Zionist/Israeli campaign has also deliberately inflicted on the Palestinian people conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction in substantial part in violation of Article II(c) of the Genocide Convention.

Article I of the Genocide Convention requires all contracting parties such as the United States "to prevent and to punish" genocide. Yet to the contrary, historically the "Jewish" state's criminal conduct against the Palestinians has been financed, armed, equipped, supplied and politically supported by the "Christian" United States. Although the United States is a founding sponsor of, and a contracting party to, both the Nuremberg Charter and the Genocide Convention, as well as the United Nations Charter, these legal facts have never made any difference to the United States when it comes to its blank-check support for Israel and their joint and severable criminal mistreatment of the Palestinians-truly the wretched of the earth!

The world has not yet heard even one word uttered by the United States and its NATO allies in favor of "humanitarian intervention" against Israel in order to protect the Palestinian people, let alone a "responsibility to protect" the Palestinians from Zionist/Israeli genocide. The United States, its NATO allies, and the Great Powers on the U.N. Security Council would not even dispatch a U.N. Charter Chapter 6 monitoring force to help protect the Palestinians, let alone even contemplate any type of U.N. Charter Chapter 7 enforcement actions against Israel - shudder the thought!. The doctrine of "humanitarian intervention" so readily espoused elsewhere when U.S. foreign policy goals are allegedly at stake has been clearly proved to be a joke and a fraud when it comes to stopping the ongoing and accelerating Israeli campaign of genocide against the Palestinian people.

Rather than rein in the Israelis-which would be possible just by turning off the funding pipeline-the United States government, the U.S. Congress, and U.S. taxpayers instead support the "Jewish" state to the tune of about 4 billion dollars per year, without whose munificence this instance of genocide - and indeed conceivably the State of Israel itself - would not be possible. What the world witnesses here is (yet another) case of "dishumanitarian intervention" or "humanitarian extermination" by the United States and Israel against the Palestinians and Palestine. In today's world genocide pays so long as it is done at the behest of the United States and its de jure or de facto allies such as Israel.

Of course miracles can always happen. But I anticipate no fundamental change in America's support for the Israeli campaign of genocide against the Palestinians during the tenure of the Obama/Clinton administration.

Wars "R" Us: Making the World Safe for American Domination

Wars "R" Us: Making the World Safe for American Domination

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In destructive economic systems, there is a feedback loop wherein it becomes self-confirming that greed and aggression lead to gains rather than acts that involve "playing by the rules", sharing profits, cooperating and helping others to prosper. As activities on Wall Street and in transnational corporations confirm, successful players are expected to produce income by any means possible, pay workers as little as required, charge as much as can be obtained for products and always tap into new markets for an enlarged customer base. It, also, requires a perception to be created that some newly devised product is desirable and must replace the older versions for which there is often built-in obsolescence.

In any case, new markets must always be found in order to raise financial yields. Any corporate manager who did not strive to develop them would quickly find himself in an unemployment office in addition to his being blacklisted by former colleagues.

Moreover, new stocks of resources, the raw materials from which products are made, must be tapped for global industries regardless of whether the people in the regions supplying these stores want to share them or not. In a similar vein, large scale commercial operations heavily rely on fossil fuels in the obtainment of raw resources, haulage of them to manufacturing sites, production of finished products and transportation of merchandise to market. So a steady source of petroleum must, also, be guaranteed.

This entire process, therefore, requires government leaders in support of their countries' industries to wrestle control of needed goods. Simultaneously, they have to convince the public that there are solid reasons to carry out assaults in resource rich regions of the world -- places like the Caspian Sea, with its oil estimates ranging up to about 200 billion barrels or 15% of total world reserves. Add to this treasure the fact that the Caspian Sea, also, is believed to contain 4% of the world's proven reserves of gas according to the Congressional Research Service, an organization supplying bipartisan information to Congress, in its report titled "Caspian Oil and Gas: Production and Prospects".



Indeed, its author Bernard A. Gelb, a specialist in industry economics, states: "There is a likelihood of relatively large reserves of crude oil and natural gas in the Caspian Sea region, and a consequent large increase in oil and natural gas production from that area. Because diversity of energy sources and energy security are considerations in Congressional deliberations on energy policy, this prospect could play a role in such discussions. However, there are obstacles to increases in Caspian Sea region production of oil and gas [such as Russia's and Iran's unwillingness to hand Caspian Sea resources over to U.S. control] that may slow development." He goes on to add: "However, Iran now can compete somewhat with the BTC pipeline through oil “swaps” that ultimately divert Caspian region oil away from Western, including U.S.,

markets. Iran has enlarged its tanker terminal at Neka on the Caspian Sea coast, enhancing its capacity to deliver Caspian oil to refineries for local consumption, with an equivalent amount of Iranian oil exported through Persian Gulf terminals." [1]

Put alternately, uncooperative countries, such as Iran and Venezuela, with assets coveted by western corporations give the perfect excuse to western governments to demonize them, threaten them and seek out destabilization of their regimes. All the same, the maligned nations will not let their reserves be plundered whether bullied or not by outside groups willing to use any means possible to obtain their prizes.

Further, full government support of corporate goals is nearly always available. After all, members of Congress want huge donations for reelection campaigns.

At the same time, it becomes quickly clear about whose interests they, ultimately, serve (rather than the public's) when government officials' desire for these contributions, lucrative future jobs after exiting public service and maximization of personal profits from their financial holdings are added into the mix. Indeed, "members of Congress invested nearly 196 million dollars of their own money in business that receive hundreds of millions of dollars a day from Pentagon". [2] So taken all together, these conditions provide plenty of motivation to keep the nation's war drums beating.

(http://www.allhatnocattle.net/iraq_mcdonalds1.jpg)

Therefore, wars are big business, most notably for investors and employees in the aerospace and defense industries. The related purposes, like the ones guiding most corporations, are hardly humanistic. Instead new sources of revenue, cheap resources from conquered lands, and new markets for products and services are the sine qua non.

Accordingly, the Pentagon and the corporations that supplies goods and manpower for wars have one general intention in mind and that is not even to win wars. Winning wars would mean that money-spinning contracts and growth of the organizations' national and global influence would shrink. Jobs, then, would disappear, high salaries would not be commanded and gargantuan earnings would cut back if wars were, actually, won and, thus, completed.

Instead, the intention is to strengthen control of regions and their resources, open up new markets for one's own country's products, continually advance into new territories to create the same outcome and, eventually, dictate assorted policies across the entire world. Consequently, the U.S.A., despite having a $12T federal deficit, aims to advance its ongoing plans to have full-spectrum dominance over the economies, territories, politics, military affairs and other entire governments on a full global scale and in support of American enterprises.


It, also, means that an all-out attempt to quell the Taliban will take place since Afghanistan and Pakistan are both needed to move the fossil fuels to emerging markets and ensure that central Asian economies are tied to U.S. corporate interests rather than those of Russia and China. On account, it is critical that both latter nations be blocked if western dominion over Asian markets for obtainment of raw resources and sales of final products, i.e., fossil fuels, are to result.



In the same vein, American citizens are not much of a consideration. After all, markets and remuneration for oil and other supplies might be superlative in India, China or other lands with advancing economies and plenty of money to spare. As such, concern over protection of us from terrorists (the latest justification for carrying out assaults abroad in lands like Yemen) and any desire to improve the lives of peoples in the U.S. or developing countries are minor considerations at best. Instead, it is far more on the mark to ask, as did Woodrow Wilson: "Is there any man, is there any woman, let me say any child here that does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry?"


So one winds up wondering whether a moment will ever arrive in which the public can, actually, identify this origin for wars and rise up in resistance to such a degenerate state of affairs. As an alternative, the populace can continue to equate support of war with a patriotic spirit, enthusiastically wave flags every time that there's a parade with tanks and other weaponry, and endorse far-away assaults with hardly a dissenting murmur. Meanwhile war activities, themselves, increasingly bankrupt the country morally and financially.

As such, it is useful to bear in mind that warfare almost exclusively concerns resources and trade except for religious rivalries and the small scale fighting of feudal lords. With the desire to gain ever greater advantages for oneself and one's own group by taking these away from other subjugated groups, campaigns have always been perpetuated under false pretexts, especially so when energy supplies are involved.

It follows, then, that any politician not exhibiting Woodrow Wilson's stark honesty on this point is both a liar and a propagandist with the ulterior motive to control public perception so there is advancement of war. This understanding, if nothing else, should be absolutely clear.

At the same time, the use of contractors all but guarantees that the sort of public backlash that occurred from so many troops having been killed and injured in Vietnam will not be repeated. If there exists no mandatory conscription due to freelancers being used, American citizens will feel less threatened by war even though they are paying an exorbitant amount for it and for the aid to far-away lands that the U.S. government wants to influence through bribes.

And the bribes keep coming. For example, a record State Department and foreign aid budget, amounting $49 billion, cleared the House last summer.

So is it surprising that some Americans are furious that universal single-payer healthcare, infrastructure repairs, WPA-style jobs and budget relief for insolvent States in the union aren't adequately provided? Is it flabbergasting that they are outraged over Israel receiving $2.4B in foreign aid (ostensibly used to buy weapons primarily manufactured by U.S. companies) in 2008 with an additional $30B promised over the next 10 years period? Should there be annoyance that many other countries receiving aid, i.e., Egypt ($1.7B in 2008), have the funds slated to purchase armaments ($1.3B of that Egyptian total) and have less than sterling human rights records? In any case, USAID's total assets amounted to $26.1 billion as of September 2009. This huge amount will, certainly, help guarantee that many U.S. agendas abroad will be heartily followed by others.

Moving to become a largely authoritarian militaristic state -- the U.S.A. shows little self-constraint as it forces its will, through a combination of buy-offs and assaults, wherever and however it pleases upon the rest of the world. As a result, it has to create a positive perception and ever larger gifts of money to acquire allies, certainly, fit the bill.

In addition, Americans no longer getting riled up because their sons were conscripted through a mandatory recruitment system, also, does so. Instead of a draft, the Pentagon will authorize, according to the Congressional Research Service, between 26,000 to 56,000 additional battlefield contractors in Afghanistan, which would total as a force between 130,000 to 160,000, or very nearly two for every single troop despite the added 30,000 troops recently authorized to ship off to Afghanistan.

In other words, outsourced war, while terribly expensive for taxpayers, seems the wave of the future as it doesn't foment comprehensive anti-war activism. As such, the act of killing will increasingly become a large scale, lucrative industry supported by U.S. taxes and overseas loans (most notably from China).

So if any unemployed American wants a job, all that he needs to follow is the money, which is increasing going into U.S. invasions largely carried out by private mercenaries. Besides, he has many options if he doesn't want to become an outworker.

For instance, he could join the armed forces, which offer plenty of opportunities for work since the U.S. government currently has over 1,000 military bases spread out across the world and roughly the same number on U.S. soil. He'd, also, have plenty of company as there, presently, exist 1,445,000 active-duty armed service members, 800,000 DOD civilian employees and 1.2 million National Guards, along with other reservists who are periodically tapped for Middle East ventures.

This vast setup translates to the U.S., with only 4% of the world's population, allocating more than $711B annually in military spending, which obviously burdens the taxpayer and removes funds from other programs that would, actually, serve human welfare at home and abroad. In addition, arrangement, obviously, does not lead to global security, nor the alleviation of poverty. If there is any doubt on these points, ask any Iraqi or Afghani his assessment.

Instead regions are destabilized, and the social and material structures that previously had contributed to human benefits largely are blown to smithereens. Even so, fighting insurgents, at least for the U.S.A., will continue to be a mainstay of foreign policy, as well as the U.S. economy, itself.

All in all, the following facts well lay out the course that, instead of heavy reliance on diplomacy, the U.S. leadership has chosen:
  • "US military spending accounts for 48 percent, or almost half, of the world’s total military spending
  • US military spending is more than the next 46 highest spending countries in the world combined
  • US military spending is 5.8 times more than China, 10.2 times more than Russia, and 98.6 times more than Iran.
  • US military spending is almost 55 times the spending on the six “rogue” states (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) whose spending amounts to around $13 billion, maximum. (Tabulated data does not include four of the six, as the data only lists nations that have spent over 1 billion in the year, so their budget is assumed to be $1 billion each)
  • US spending is more than the combined spending of the next 45 countries.
  • The United States and its strongest allies (the NATO countries, Japan, South Korea and Australia) spend $1.1 trillion on their militaries combined, representing 72 percent of the world’s total.
  • The six potential “enemies,” Russia, and China together account for about $205 billion or 29% of the US military budget."
"[T]he lion’s share of this money is not spent by the Pentagon on protecting American citizens. It goes to supporting U.S. military activities, including interventions, throughout the world. Were this budget and the organization it finances called the 'Military Department,' then attitudes might be quite different. Americans are willing to pay for defense, but they would probably be much less willing to spend billions of dollars if the money were labeled 'Foreign Military Operations.'” [3]

In any case, anyone choosing to enter military service should keep in mind that contracting companies often show little loyalty to U.S. troops, nor a sense of responsibility for their actions when involving civilians of war torn countries. This lapse in accountability is clearly demonstrated by the shootings and the recent dismissal of charges against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards for civilian deaths in Iraq. [4]

So instead, there increasingly exist situations in which depraved indifference to life is exhibited. One of many such circumstances is this one describing KBR's seemingly deliberate neglect to inform in a timely fashion about troop exposure to a highly poisonous chemical, sodium dichromate, at a site in Iraq overseen by KBR. In addition, KBR is fighting a reparatory lawsuit related to the incident. After all, any deserved payout for damage and death is to be avoided at all costs as remuneration would, absolutely, impact company earnings.

Concerning the event:

"What upsets some of the Guardsmen most of all is that, after serving their country faithfully, they believe the Army and KBR let them down by not fully acknowledging or investigating their exposure to the toxic chemical or their serious health problems. Some suffered for years and only recently have a possible explanation why."

"[Sodium dichromate] had been used by Iraqi workers prior to the war to prevent corrosion in the pipes at the plant. There were hundreds of bags at the chemical at the plant, some of them clearly labeled.

"The mission's official military name was Task Force RIO ('Restoration of Iraqi Oil'). KBR got the contract.

"Six years later, some of the Guardsmen assigned to provide security for Task Force RIO at the plant are dead, dying or suffering from serious health problems--including rashes, perforated septums and lung disease. One of the foremost experts in sodium dichromate, Dr. Herman Gibb, says the Guardsmen's symptoms are consistent with 'significant exposure' to the chemical.

"KBR argues that the company is not to blame. The company says it told the Army about the dangerous chemical as soon as it was identified at the plant. That, the company says, was on July 25, 2003.

"But, international KBR documents contradict that claim, and indicate that the company became aware of the chemical at the site two months earlier." [5]

Of course, one cannot expect mercenaries and outside contractors operating in war zones to care much about the lives of troops or others. After all, their main loyalty is not to the U.S. military, nor the U.S.A. as a whole, but to the companies that hired them and through which they are being paid to do whatever they are told.

Ben Heine/ MWC NEWS (http://www.mwcnews.net)

Aside from war zone contracting firms, many other transnational consortiums are doing equally well during the economic downturn, as the multimillion dollar bonuses given to management of these power houses continually remind. One such company is McDonald's. In fact, its balance sheet even indicates that it has been wildly prospering since the recession worsened.

With always more deforested land available around the globe, impoverished peoples looking to make a fast buck are more and more turning to cattle ranching and soy farming for animal feed. So therein lies plenty of breaks for McDonald's.

Not having to subsume the environmental costs for its policies, it and several other fast food syndicates are cornering the market in sales for families wanting to eat out, but without the funds to dine at more costly eateries. So for the first quarter of 2009, sales went up and earned an impressive $979.5 million, a nearly 4% increase. The rest of the year followed suit despite fears that a strengthening dollar might lower gains due to the exchange rate for other currencies collected at overseas' sites.

However, the company's management in Oak Brook, Ill really needn't have worried. After all, there are over 31,000 restaurants worldwide, with more than 1.5 million workers operating in 119 countries on six continents with over 47 million daily customers. So major losses would hardly be in the picture given that the majority of people around the world are now struggling to make ends meet.

At the same time, these stats are bound to change for the better when even more populations are inundated by American armed forces bent on subduing them, inadvertently destroying local businesses and creating opportunities for ever more McDonald's workers forced to accept minimum wages as an alternative to no job in their newly destroyed lands. Like their impoverished American counterparts, who've been stripped of good jobs with decent wages in the mad rush towards globalized industry, they too can find the satisfaction of a secure employment position with a low salary and, at the end of a weary day, a happy meal as an extra perk.

As McDonald's leadership surely must know, bringing "democracy" to developing nations, eventually, has a big payoff for American businesses focused on wiping out the small scale competition like Mom and Pop restaurants overseas. If one can endure patient waiting, the further openings will be a veritable whopper. It's just a matter of time.

In the end, wars are successful commercial enterprises. As a result, they are, progressively, becoming the foundation for the new American economy. Especially this is so as former jobs are not coming back to the American shores in that it's cheaper for transnational companies to outsource and offshore work.

In relation, the Second World War not only jump-started the American economy in the aftermath of the Great Depression, it provided lots of employment prospects for many subsequent years on account of the need to rebuild across whole continents and in their devastated cities like London, Dresden, Mukden (now Shenyang) and Ningbo. This is not the case this time around due to the heavy reliance on outside contractors, who more often than not don't reconstruct much well at all, as the U.S. soldier electrocutions on a base in Baghdad and the Task Force RIO poisonings clearly demonstrate. In other words, they often are potentially dangerous and largely useless.

This all in mind, any financial and other benefits from warfare will not uplift Main Street. Instead, they increasingly will serve the special interests of corporations. As such, the economic downturn will continue to deepen throughout the U.S.A. while thousands of foreigners in assault zones are maimed and murdered.

Consequently, all that we can hope is that Russia and China will persist in making improvements in their own nations and the lives of their citizens. It's obvious that, if they were to mimic America's squandering of money in ever enlarging wars, the outcome wouldn't be good at all.

[1] "Caspian Oil and Gas: Production and Prospects", CRS Report for Congress Received through the CRS Web, Bernard A. Gelb; Resources, Science, and Industry Division at Caspian Oil and Gas: Production and Prospects [http://italy.usembassy.gov/pdf/other/RS21190.pdf].

[2] FINANCE: U.S. Lawmakers Invested in Iraq, Afghanistan Wars - ... [http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41893].

[3] "In Context: US Military Spending Versus Rest of the World" and "The Billions for 'Defense' Jeopardize Our Safety", Center For Defense Information at World Military Spending — Global Issues [http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending].

[4] Blackwater Dismissal Risks Hurting Iraq Relations - WSJ.com [http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126229226969112429.html].

[5] NBC News Investigation: Toxic water in Iraq - The Daily ... [http://dailynightly.msnbc.msn.com/articles/2120353.aspx].